The Imperial Family of Iran was, for various reasons, a major focus of international attention in the 20th century, especially in the second half of it, during the reign of His Imperial Majesty The Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi. From a political point of view, the Shah of Iran was a man devoted to his people, determined to get his country into the 21st century as a leading nation of the Middle-Eastern world, where it would be as good to live as in any European country, in the words of the Shah himself. From a diplomatic point of view, His Imperial Majesty was one of those heads of state every other wanted to meet and he was definitely a friend of the West, with a special relationship with the United States of America. From a social point of view, the Imperial Family was one of the most appealing ones: the Shah had married his third wife, Farah Diba, who had finally given birth to an heir to the Peacock Throne, Crown Prince Reza Cyrus, and was one of the most beautiful and elegant women in the World. All these aspects made Iran a focus of interest and curiosity from half of the world.
However, it is now over 20 years since the Imperial Family were forced out of the country after an Islamic revolution broke out. The reasons for such are not liquid or easy to find. After the political turmoil of the post-World War years, Iran achieved stability and lived a period of great development, both economical and cultural, with major reforms that were destined to make of Iran a leading Middle East nation. The golden sixties
can thus perhaps be underlined as even more golden for Iran. The Shah was determined to make his country a modern one, and at one point there was little doubt that he would be able to do so. The White Revolution, as it was called, transformed and adapted Iran to the modern World. The Shah and his governments put a dramatic program of reforms in place, and the result was an almost unprecedented growth rate, with revenue from the oil exploration rising dramatically.
The help of the western states was certainly substantial, but the Shah’s plan was undoubtedly well formulated. It was a general plan, divided in different areas ranging from military reform to cultural reform, going through a great deal of economical adaptation. The Shah was determined to change the Iranian society and modernize it in every possible aspect. It could perhaps be summarized in a word: Occidentalise. The growth was immense but one day it did not go further. If the decade ranging from 1960 to the early 1970’s was of immense growth, the following decade would be a rather different one. The international situation was very different, with crisis after crisis. The political situation inside Iran became unsustainable and the Shah decided to change the political system by forming a official national party.
The growth was not only detained but also rudely forgotten, His Majesty’s role in the developments the previous decade was ignored and detracted. The final decline started perhaps in 1975, with the creation of the national party. It may be regarded as an error today, but it may have seemed the only solution to the Shah back in the mid-1970’s, to avoid the political turmoil, which was the result of the tensions between the extreme right and the extreme left. The result was, however, political chaos and huge violent demonstrations against the Shah and his family and repression from the authorities. These demonstration were many times jointly organized by Moslem radicals and left-wing radicals. Other reasons generally appointed by the scholars for the end of the Empire are the economical crisis of the late 1970’s and the poverty of the urban population of the country. After appointing a new government, the Shah and his family left the country in January 1979. In April came the formal end of the Persian Empire, which lasted for more than 2500 years, more than any other in the world that survived by then.
The question must be: what happened afterwards? Did Iran become a rich, powerful nation? Did Iran modernize? Did Iran become a country close to any European-style democracy? It was the very opposite and it is today generally acknowledged that the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini threw Iran many decades backwards. The following years were not only of turmoil but also of destruction of any reference to the Shah and the Imperial Family. Iran blackmailed the United States making hostages in the American Embassy (1979-1981) so that the American President would offer the Shah in exchange for the hostages. The diplomatic crisis assumed overwhelming proportions. The Shah’s death in the summer of 1980 was certainly a cruel end to a life devoted to Iran. The greatest cruelty was that His Majesty died knowing what his beloved homeland would become in the hands of the ayatollahs and he did blame the World’s greatest countries for allowing what was happening in Iran to actually continue.
It was necessary, we think, to make this reflection before looking back to 1967 and 1971, respectively the year the Shah was crowned and the year the 2500th anniversary of the Empire was lavishly celebrated. The Shah had vowed that he would not have his coronation until he had manage to bring domestic peace, stability and development to Iran and he kept his vow. It was during the years of stability and growth, when he was the same age his father was at his coronation but having reigned for over 25 years, that the unforgettable Coronation of Teheran took place, in October 1967. The preparations lasted for months and the final result was fantastic. For the first time in a millenary history the Shah’s wife, the Shahbanou or Empress of Iran was also crowned. The ceremony captured international attention for its symbolism, for its grandeur and for its delightful anachronism, making it seem a revival of the most ancient times. It is precisely in celebration of this most remarkable event that, 35 years later, we invite you to look back at an undoubtedly glittering royal event.
However, we decided to take the opportunity and enclose a review of the fascinating festivities of the 2500th anniversary of the Empire, in October 1971. Again held in a time of economic prosperity, the celebrations of the founding of the Empire by Cyrus the Great were the greatest proof of the results of the diplomatic efforts of the Shah: the number of heads of state or personal representatives that attended the event in Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Empire, was surely most impressive. The glitter of the event surely was as impressive as the guest list: the celebrations lasted for several days and included a grand gala banquet and a splendid parade to display various aspects of the Persian Empire.
Magnificence, glitter and majesty. These are some of the worlds that could be simultaneously used to describe these two glittering events of the Iranian Empire. It was a fascinating experience to look back at these events, and we hope our visitors will enjoy visiting as much as we did researching and preparing this website.
October 2002, the Editors