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3,000 years of dreaming

Iran's history is an astonishing tale of conflict and discontinuity. Parts of Michael Axworthy's account are more gripping than a novel

By Robert Irwin   July 2008

Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy (Hurst, £25)

In 1935, Reza Shah insisted that foreign governments, when communicating with him or his ministers, should no longer refer to his country as Persia and instead call it Iran. This was to differentiate his regime from that of the decadent Qajars of the 19th century. Moreover, the term “Iran” is a cognate of “Aryan,” and, of course, in the 1930s there was a lot of stress on Aryanism in Germany and elsewhere. Reza Shah was fascinated by Nazism, though Atatürk’s policies in Turkey were a closer model…

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