Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
|“||It would serve the Americans right if we emptied the prisons and let the subversives take power. They'd soon show Washington just how much they appreciate good old American values.||„|
|~ Pahlavi, mocking American values.|
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (26 October 1919;– 27 July 1980), also known as Mohammad Reza Shah , was the last Shah of Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979. Mohammad Reza Shah took the title Shahanshah ("King of Kings") on 26 October 1967. He was the second and last monarch of the House of Pahlavi. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi held several other titles, including that of Aryamehr ("Light of the Aryans") and Commander-in-Chief of the Iranian Armed Forces. His dream of what he referred to as a "Great Civilisation" in Iran led to a rapid industrial and military modernisation, as well as economic and social reforms.
Born in Tehran, to Reza Khan (later Reza Shah Pahlavi) and his second wife, Tadj ol-Molouk, Mohammad Reza was the eldest son of Reza Khan, who later became the first Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty, and the third of his eleven children. His father, a former Brigadier-General of the Persian Cossack Brigade, was of Mazandarani and Georgian origin. His father was born in Alasht, Savadkuh County, Māzandarān Province. Mohammad Reza's paternal grandmother, Noush-Afarin, was a Muslim immigrant from Georgia (then part of the Russian Empire), whose family had emigrated to mainland Iran after Iran was forced to cede all of its territories in the Caucasus following the Russo-Persian Wars several decades prior to Reza Khan's birth. Mohammad Reza's mother, Tadj ol-Molouk, was of Azerbaijani origin, being born in Baku, Russian Empire (now Azerbaijan).
Mohammad Reza was born along with his twin sister, Ashraf. However, Shams, Mohammad Reza, Ashraf, Ali Reza, and their older half-sister, Fatimeh, were not royalty by birth, as their father did not become Shah until 1925. Nevertheless, Reza Khan was always convinced that his sudden quirk of good fortune had commenced in 1919 with the birth of his son who was dubbed khoshghadam (bird of good omen). Like most Iranians at the time, Reza Khan did not have a surname and after the 1921 Persian coup d'état which deposed Ahmad Shah Qajar, he was informed that he would need a name for his house. This led Reza Khan to pass a law ordering all Iranians to take a surname; he chose for himself the surname Pahlavi, which is the name for the Middle Persian language, itself derived from Old Persian. At his father's coronation on 24 April 1926, Mohammad Reza was proclaimed Crown Prince.
Mohammad Reza came to power during World War II after an Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi. During Mohammad Reza's reign, the Iranian oil industry was briefly nationalized, under Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, until a US and UK-backed coup d'état in 1953 deposed Mosaddegh and brought back foreign oil firms. Under Mohammad Reza's reign, Iran marked the anniversary of 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire since the founding of the Achaemenid Empire by Cyrus the Great exe concurrent with this celebration, Mohammad Reza changed the benchmark of the Iranian calendar from the hegira to the beginning of the First Persian Empire, measured from Cyrus the Great's coronation. Mohammad Reza also introduced the White Revolution, a series of economic, social and political reforms with the proclaimed intention of transforming Iran into a global power and modernizing the nation by nationalizing certain industries and granting women suffrage.
Mohammad Reza gradually lost support from the Shia Islam clergy of Iran as well as the working class, particularly due to his strong policy of modernization, laïcité, conflict with the traditional class of merchants known as bazaari, relations with Israel, and corruption issues surrounding himself, his family, and the ruling elite. Various additional controversial policies were enacted, including the banning of the communist Tudeh Party and a general suppression of political dissent by Iran's intelligence agency, SAVAK. According to official statistics, Iran had as many as 2,200 political prisoners in 1978, a number which multiplied rapidly as a result of the revolution.
One major criticism of the Shah was his extensive decadence and corruption. From October 12 to 16 of 1971, the Shah hosted a massive celebration dedicated to the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire. Millions of dollars were spent to accommodate for many expensive and lavish festivities and infrastructure changes such as building a massive star-shaped city of tents, roads leading to the celebration, as well as a banquet that saw many royal world leaders consuming peacock breast and wine out of crystal glasses, an overall lavish celebration that, compared to the poverty of misery of nearby villages, was hard to ignore.
Several other factors contributed to strong opposition to the Shah amongst certain groups within Iran, the most significant of which were US and UK support for his regime, and clashes with leftists and Islamists. By 1979, political unrest had transformed into a revolution which, on 17 January, forced him to leave Iran. Soon thereafter, the Iranian monarchy was formally abolished, and Iran was declared an Islamic republic led by Ruhollah Khomeini. Facing likely execution should he return to Iran, he died in exile in Egypt on 27 July 1980, from complications of Waldenström's macroglobulinemia at the age of 60, whose president, Anwar Sadat, had granted him asylum. Due to his status as the last Shah of Iran, he is often known as simply "The Shah".