Today in Middle Eastern history: Iran becomes “Iran” (1935)

The Foreign Exchanges Companion

reza_shah_pahlavi Reza Shah

I don’t mean to seem obscure with that title, but it’s a historical oddity that the nation (kingdom, empire, whatever it was at any particular point in history) of Iran was never officially called “Iran” by anybody other than Iranians until 1935, even though most Iranians hadn’t ever called it anything but “Iran” for millennia. It took Reza Shah Pahlavi (d. 1944) to request, in December 1934, that as of the next Iranian New Year (Nowruz), all foreign governments should henceforth stop referring to his country as “Persia” and start calling it “Iran.” Sometimes you’ll see this related by Western writers as “Reza Shah changed the name of the country from Persia to Iran,” but that’s dumb and wrong, because, again, Iran was always the name of the country. “Persia” was what’s known as an “exonym,” which is the term used when a group, place, language…

View original post 855 more words