Reza Shah Pahlavi

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Reza Schah Pahlavi, (official, colored portrait 1931)

Reza Shah Pahlavi ( Persian رضا شاه پهلوی, DMG Reżā Šāh-e Pahlawī [ rezɔːˈʃɔːh-e pæɦlæˈviː ]), until December 5, 1925 Reza Chan , also Reza Khan ( Persian رضا خان[ reˈzɔː xɔːn ]), (born March 15, 1878 in Ālāscht / Savādkuh , Māzandarān , Iran ; died July 26, 1944 in Johannesburg , South Africa ) was the Shah of Iran from 1925 to 1941 . He began his military career as a simple soldier in the Persian Cossack Brigade and rose to become its commander-in-chief ( Sardar Sepah ). He began his political career as Minister of Defense in the cabinet of Seyyed Zia al Din Tabatabai . He later became under Ahmad Shah Prime Minister and, after his removal by the Iranian Parliament, the Shah of Persia.


Reza Chan Savadkuhi (Reza Chan von Savadkuh) comes from the simplest of backgrounds. He was born in 1878 in Ālāscht in the Savādkuh district of Mazandaran province as the son of Abbas Ali and his second wife Noushafarin. Savadkuh was an insignificant district high in the northern mountains of Iran, which had about 1000 inhabitants at the turn of the century. Abbas Ali died about three to six months after his son was born. His mother Noushafarin only survived her husband a few years. Reza spent his childhood in Tehran with his uncle Abolqasem Beig, a staff sergeant in the Persian Cossack Brigade .

Reza Shah Pahlavi with Pahlavi hat

Military career

His uncle enrolled Reza in the Persian Cossack Brigade in 1891 . Since he was only 14 years old, he initially worked as a temporary worker in the canteen or as an orderly for younger officers. At 15 he was assigned to an artillery unit as a simple soldier. After basic training, he served as a guard at the German, Dutch and Belgian embassies. In 1903 he joined an artillery unit, which was commanded by his uncle Kazem Aqa. In 1911, during the constitutional revolution , he served under the high command of Abdol Hossein Mirza Farmanfarma . He fought in a military unit against Salar al Doleh , the brother of Mohammed Ali Shah , who wanted to overthrow the constitutional monarchy created in 1906 under Ahmad Shah and its government. Obviously, Reza Chan proved himself in these fights, because he was promoted to first lieutenant .

During World War I , Iran was occupied by Russian, British and Ottoman forces. Reza Chan now held the rank of colonel . In 1918 he took part in a revolt against the commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade, Colonel Clerge, who was appointed by Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky . Accused of supporting the Bolsheviks, Clerge was deposed by Deputy Commander Starosselsky with the help of Reza Chan, the senior Iranian officer in the Hamadan branch of the Persian Cossack Brigade. In thanks for his support, Starosselsky promoted Reza Chan to Brigadier General ( Sartip ) in mid-1918 .

Reza Chan's birthplace in Alascht

After the October Revolution , the situation for the Russian officers in the Persian Cossack Brigade became problematic. Political support from Russia ceased after the Tsar's abdication. All officers only had private contracts with the Iranian government, which could be terminated at any time. In addition, in northern Persia Mirza Kutschak Khan worked closely with the Russian revolutionaries and in Gilan and Mazandaran a civil war had broken out between separatist movements and the central government. The British, who supported the White Army in Russia and were interested in a stable situation in Iran, negotiated with Reza Chan, among others, to replace the remaining Russian officers of the Persian Cossack Brigade and to replace them completely with British officers. Reza Chan refused and had all Russian officers in the unit he led replaced by Iranian ones by the end of 1920.

Political career

On February 21, 1921, Reza Chan marched to Tehran as commander of the Cossack Brigade unit stationed in Qazvin . With this bloodless coup on February 21, 1921 , the resignation of Prime Minister Sepahdar was forced. Reza Chan was first commander in chief of the Cossack Brigade ( Sardar Sepah ) and from May 1921 Minister of Defense in the cabinet of the new Prime Minister Seyyed Zia al Din Tabatabai . Under pressure from Ahmad Shah , Ahmad Qavam replaced him as Prime Minister on May 25, 1921 . Reza Chan, who remained Minister of Defense, initiated an extensive army reform, at the end of which there was no longer three independent military units, as was previously the case, but a new, unified Persian army. He initially formed the core by merging the Persian Gendarmerie and the Persian Cossack Brigade. With units of the Cossack Brigade he took action against Mirza Kutschak Khan , who had proclaimed an independent Soviet Socialist Republic from Iran in northern Persia . With the victory over the separatists in December 1921 and the preservation of the constitutional monarchy, Reza Chan gained considerable prestige.

Reza Chan as a soldier in the Persian Cossack Brigade

The army reform initiated by Reza Chan had its price. The strength of the force had grown to 34,000 men. Training and re-arming consumed considerable sums of money, which were financed by the APOC's concession fees. In December 1921, the integration of the gendarmerie and the Cossack brigade was formally completed. The further reform should be determined by a parliamentary commission. On January 5, 1922, Reza Chan announced the new structure of the army as decided by the parliamentary commission. The army was to comprise five divisions , stationed in Tehran, Tabriz, Hamadan, Isfahan and Mashad. Each division was to consist of 10,000 men and, in addition to five infantry units , each one cavalry , artillery and supply unit.

On January 24, 1922, Ahmad Shah dismissed Prime Minister Qavam on serious allegations of corruption and appointed Hassan Pirnia as his successor. Reza Chan also remained Minister of Defense in his cabinet. Abdolhossein Teymurtash was appointed Minister of Justice and later, under Reza Shah, he was to play an important role in the upcoming political and economic reforms. The most important task that Pirnia had set itself was a comprehensive judicial reform. It was also Pirnia who, after Morgan Shuster , recruited a US financial advisor and brought Arthur Millspaugh into the country. He also wanted to grant American Standard Oil an oil production license in northern Iran in order to reduce British influence on Iranian politics. The British protests, who would have liked to see the APOC involved in oil production in the north, did not fail to appear.

Reza Chan Sardar Sepah

In 1922 Reza Chan took action against other separatist movements and defeated Esmail Simko in Azerbaijan , who wanted to found an independent Kurdish state in western Iran. Reza Chan called for further funds to be able to act against the separatists in the south and east of the country. When these were denied to him, he submitted his resignation as Minister of Defense on October 7, 1922. Since Ahmad Shah was in Paris, he turned to Crown Prince Hassan Mirza, who, however, rejected his resignation. Prinia resigned after this cabinet crisis and Ahmad Qavam became prime minister again. In December 1922, Ahmad Shah returned to Iran after spending eleven months in Europe. Reza Chan received him in Bushehr with a military delegation and organized a troop parade in Tehran to inform the Shah about the status of the army reform. Ahmad Shah was visibly impressed.

Prime Minister Qavam's most important task was to conclude an agreement with the Soviet Union that would re-regulate relations between the Soviet Union and Iran as a follow-up to the 1907 Treaty of Saint Petersburg , which the Soviet government regarded as null and void after the First World War . The Soviet Union was primarily interested in an oil production license in northern Iran, but Qavam wanted to give it to American companies. After the failure of these contract negotiations, Qavam resigned on January 26, 1923. Hassan Mostofi became prime minister. Reza Chan also remained Minister of Defense in this cabinet. Mostofi met with considerable resistance in parliament, however, and after his draft budget for the coming year was rejected in parliament, Mostofi resigned and Hassan Pirnia became prime minister again. Reza Chan remained Secretary of Defense. This time, too, Pirnia's reign did not last long. He resigned on October 23, 1923.

prime minister

On October 26, 1923, Reza Chan became Prime Minister. Ahmad Shah appointed his brother, Crown Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza , as regent and left for Europe on November 2, 1923. At that time, Ahmad Shah could not have known that the end of the Qajar dynasty was near. On October 29, 1923, Mustafa Kemal Pasha proclaimed a republic in Turkey and abolished the caliphate . On April 20, 1924, the new Turkish constitution came into force, which abolished Sharia law . As early as January 20, 1924, an article appeared in a Turkish newspaper in which the form of government of the republic was also demanded for Iran.

Persia is to become a republic

The new cabinet under Prime Minister Reza Chan was not without controversy in Parliament , as it contained many new faces. However, the appointment of Mohammad Ali Foroughi as foreign minister was completely undisputed . Foroughi was considered very competent and should play a decisive role in further political development. On March 21, 1924, Reza Chan presented his vision of the future of Persia in parliament. After that, the monarchy was to be replaced by a republic . From his point of view, the political development in Turkey had paved the way for Iran as well. The majority in Parliament appeared to support this proposal. It took the political skills of a clergyman, Hassan Modarres , to unsettle the majority of MPs through delaying tactics, insulting accusations and political tactics so that in the end there was no vote on this question. After Modarres was slapped in the face by an MP who was for the republic during one of his insulting heckling, the case against the republic was decided. This slap in the face was a clear sign that the proponents of a republic had no respect for the clergy. A meeting on April 1, 1924 with the clergy in Qom was also a disappointment for Reza Chan. The three top clergymen, the Ayatollahs Abdul Hassan Isfahani, Abdolkarim Haeri Yazdi and Muhammad Husain Naini, wanted to see the monarchy maintained and rejected a republic. They feared that the secularization of Iran would advance in a republic and that the clergy would lose power and influence.

Reza Chan resigns

After Reza Chan failed with his plans to make Persia a republic, he decided on April 7, 1924 to resign as prime minister and also to give up the command of the army. Ahmad Shah, who was in Paris, sent a telegram to the President of Parliament saying: “Reza Khan has betrayed the government and the people of Iran. He has been dismissed as prime minister. ” The telegram from Ahmad Shah was read in parliament, which led to tumultuous scenes. The news of Reza Chan's dismissal spread like wildfire. Solidarity telegrams came in from all over the country asking Reza Chan to return. Local military commanders in the provinces also threatened to resign, whereupon parliament decided by 94 votes to 5 that Reza Chan must return and take over the post of prime minister again. On April 8, a delegation of MPs visited Reza Chan in his house and told him that Parliament had expressed its full confidence in him and that he could continue working as Prime Minister. Ahmad Shah recognized the parliamentary vote and informed the Crown Prince that he had instructed Reza Chan to put together a new cabinet.

Reza Chan becomes Prime Minister again

Prime Minister Reza Chan after Sheikh Chaz'al was arrested

On April 13, 1924, Reza Chan announced the composition of his new cabinet ( cabinet list of April 13, 1924 ) and resumed his office as Prime Minister. The most significant decision this year was the disempowerment of Sheikh Khaz'al ibn Haji Jabi . The Sheikh administered the province of Chuzestan (then still Arabistan ) largely independently and without much consideration for the decisions of the central government in Tehran. He was financially supported by the British government, as the oil wells and the APOC facilities were in Chuzestan . Reza Chan was able to use the army and the air force that was being set up to put the sheikh's militias under such pressure that they gave up without a fight. All his property was confiscated and the sheikh was placed under house arrest in Tehran.

Prime Minister Reza Chan and his second cabinet, 1924

After this victory, Reza Chan was undisputed as prime minister. With his parliamentary majority, he now started building Iran into a nation-state. On April 1, 1925, the law to correct the official calendar was passed. The months that previously had Arabic or Turkish names now again bore the old Persian names. The first six months of the year last 31 days, the next five months 30 days and the last month of the year 29 days or in the leap year 30 days. On April 21, the first state-owned Iranian bank, Bank Artesh, later Bank Sepah (Army Bank) was established by law. On May 5, 1925, the law on “Identity and Personal Status” was passed. All Persians were now obliged to have a surname and to register with the newly created registration authorities. All Iranians were given an identity card in which the date, name, date of birth and marital status were entered. All Qajar titles , including those that had been used as part of the name, were deleted without replacement. Reza Chan himself dropped the title Sardar Sepah, which had been used until then as part of the name, and chose the surname "Pahlavi". The statutory sugar monopoly was created on May 22, 1925. A tax was levied on sugar to finance the construction of the planned Trans-Iranian Railway . On June 8, 1925, general conscription was introduced with two years of military service. At Reza Chan's instructions, for the first time in the recent history of Iran, the sons of the wealthy descendants of the Qajars and tribal princes served together with the sons of their servants and peasants.


Reza Shah takes the oath of office in front of the Persian parliament

After the failure of Iran's transformation into a republic, the Iranian political class instead discussed the removal of Ahmad Shah, who was still in Paris, and the appointment of Reza Pahlavi as the new Shah. The transformation of Persia into a nation state, begun in 1925, took place entirely without the participation of Ahmad Shah. MEPs recognized that the laws put forward by Prime Minister Reza Pahlavi's cabinet and passed by parliament would fundamentally change the country, and that a Qajar shah who was in Europe most of the time was actually not needed. If no republic with a President Reza Pahlavi was possible, they wanted Reza Pahlavi as the new Shah. Parliament then met on October 29, 1925, and on October 31, 1925, resolved to depose the Qajar dynasty, establish a provisional government and appoint Reza Chan as the new head of state for a limited period of time ( law for the deposition of the Qajar dynasty and the temporary appointment of Reza Chan as head of state from October 31, 1925 ).

Coronation photo of Reza Shah Pahlavi, with the Pahlavi crown

Immediately after the parliamentary vote, Reza Chan resigned as prime minister and Mohammad Ali Foroughi became executive prime minister. Major General Abdollah Chan Amir Tahmasbi , Brigadier General Yazdanpanah, Colonel Dargahi and Colonel Bouzarjomehri confiscated the royal palaces. Crown Prince Mohammad Hassan Mirza, who was also deposed by parliament, was driven to the border with Iraq with 5,000 tomans and a car. He went straight to his brother, Ahmad Shah Qajar, in Paris. The Interior Minister informed all provincial governors and the Foreign Minister informed all ambassadors of the Parliament's decision. Three days after the parliamentary vote, Reza Chan took the oath of office and became the new ruler in Iran. On November 2, 1925, Reza Shah made his first declaration as the new head of state of Persia, addressed to the Shiite clergy. In it he stressed that the change at the top of the state followed the true religious goals of Islam. The clergy had not been critical of the overthrow of the Qajar dynasty and the installation of a new monarch, but instead assured Reza Shah of their allegiance. The sole concern of the clergy was to prevent the establishment of a republic. Ahmad Shah sent a telegram to Tehran from Paris stating that he did not recognize the parliamentary decision, that he would continue to regard himself as the Shah of Iran and that he would turn to the League of Nations in Geneva. But on the same day that the telegram was received in Tehran, the Qajar princes who remained in Tehran congratulated Reza Chan on his new position as head of state and Shah of Persia. Beginning with the Soviet Union and Great Britain on November 3, all states represented in Tehran with a representative recognized Reza Chan as the new head of state by November 8, 1925. With Reza Shah's consent, the Soviet Union upgraded its legation to an embassy, ​​which automatically made the Soviet ambassador the doyen of the diplomatic corps in Tehran.

Military parade in Tehran on the occasion of Reza Shah's coronation, 1926

An elected constituent assembly met on December 6, 1925, and after several days of deliberation, it passed a constitutional amendment on December 12, 1925 with 257 of 260 possible votes, with Reza Chan as the new head of state and his male descendants in direct line as his successors were enshrined in the constitution. Three socialist MPs abstained because, although they supported Reza Chan politically, they found it incompatible with their republican sentiments to consent to the continued existence of the monarchy. On December 15, 1925, Reza Chan took the oath of allegiance to the constitution and was declared Reza Shah Pahlavi. Mohammad Ali Foroughi was confirmed in office as Prime Minister. The coronation ceremony took place on April 25, 1926. Before the coronation, a new crown, the Pahlavi crown , had to be made, as Reza Pahlavi refused to put on the Qajar crown. Reza Shah Pahlavi was later nicknamed "Reza Shah the Great" by parliament. His son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had already been appointed crown prince by decree of Reza Shah on January 27, 1926 .

In 1925 Iran was nearly bankrupt. The financial system was underdeveloped and there was no industrial production worth mentioning. Iran's economy was an agricultural economy. Most of the ten million people lived on agriculture, half of them as landless farmers. 2.5 million were nomads . Only two million people lived in cities. There was almost no Iranian economy. Even agriculture was not carried out in the national style, but was organized as regional self-sufficiency. There were only a few hundred kilometers of developed roads, no national rail network and only a single port ( Bandar Anzali ) that met modern standards. For comparison: Egypt and Turkey had taken over 4500 km of railway network from the legacy of the Ottoman Empire . In Iran there was no modern legal system, no health system, no universities, no Iranian central bank. Streets had no official names, houses had no house numbers, and the people who lived in them were nowhere recorded. Basically there was only a minimal state administration. The old feudal state of the absolutist monarchy of the 19th century ceased to exist without a new state having emerged in the first half of the 20th century.

Foreign rule by British and Russians, occupation by foreign troops in World War I, separatist movements in four of the largest and most economically important provinces, the attempt to take power by the Bolsheviks in the provinces bordering the Soviet Union - this is what Iran looked like in the post-war period. The old political class, still largely shaped by the style of government of the absolutist monarchy, had failed. The time seemed to have come for a new type of politician who supported a strong central government and thought nationally.

Nation building

Reza Schah and Kemal Ataturk in 1934. Reza Schah originally planned to declare the country a republic, as his contemporary Ataturk had done in Turkey, but gave up the idea in the face of British and clerical opposition.

Shah Reza's policy was aimed at a comprehensive reform program that is now nation-building (nation building) would call to create a modern Persia and enforce a strong centralization of the government system. His plans included industrialization, the improvement of the infrastructure, especially the construction of the railways, the establishment of a national school system, the reform of the legal system, the improvement of the health system and the reduction of the influence of the clergy. In addition to the technical structure of the country, there was a broad-based promotion of art and culture. Firdausi's Schahname , the 10th century national epic of the Persians, in which the history of Persia is described in almost 60,000 verses from the emergence of human civilization to the fall of the Sassanid Empire through the Arab conquest and subsequent Islamization, served as the intellectual basis for nation building . Under Prime Minister Reza Chan, parliament passed a law to rebuild the Firdausi Tomb, which Reza Shah was able to inaugurate in 1934 after ten years of construction.

Reform of the legal system

Among Reza Shah's closest advisers, Court Minister Abdolhossein Teymurtash and Justice Minister Ali-Akbar Davar , there was unanimous opinion that, alongside the construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway, reform of the legal system should be the top priority . In the spring of 1927 Justice Minister Davar received parliamentary permission to close the Justice Ministry for four months in order to reform the entire administrative apparatus and the judiciary, to dismiss incompetent and corrupt employees and judges and to replace them with new judges. Arbitration boards had been set up to bridge emergencies. The reform was implemented as planned with an incredible achievement, so that Reza Shah was able to open the new Ministry of Justice after four months. Most of the new judges were young men who, as before, had undergone secular rather than clerical training.

By May 1928, a civil code had been drawn up in special commissions, some of which were headed by the Justice Minister himself, and passed by parliament. The legal norms were based on the model of the Civil Code, taking into account Shiite Islamic law. The code of law was obviously so successful that, with minor additions, it is still valid in Iran today, despite the Islamic Revolution of 1979. With the entry into force of the new code and the reform of the judiciary, the special jurisdiction for foreigners was also abolished. In 1936, the independence of the Sharia tribunals was abolished as part of the judicial reform . The Islamic legal scholar ( Mujtahid ) only had to decide questions of marital status and religious questions. The introduction of public notaries for the certification of general contracts and marriage contracts also deprived the clergy of the right to public certification.

Construction of highways

In 1926 a uniform property tax and compulsory military service were introduced. In 1927 all previous state treaties were dissolved and the Persian National Bank was founded. By the end of 1928, all economic , criminal and civil law had been redesigned according to Western models. In 1932 the previously granted oil concessions were revoked. In 1935 the international community was asked to no longer name the country Persia , but - according to the local name - Iran (Land of the Aryans ). The first national cultural institutions and museums emerged, and an academy for the Persian language was founded, which was primarily intended to replace Arabic and Turkish words with Persian.

Construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway

Trans-Iranian Railway

The second major project that Reza Shah tackled was the construction of a supra-regional rail network. For Iran, the construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway was more than an investment in a new transportation system. Basically, it meant the entry into the industrialization of the country. The railroad construction should pave the way for Iran from the agrarian economy into the industrial age and give the country back the self-confidence that it had lost during the time of the British and Russian foreign control. In order to be able to finance this project with more than 125 million US dollars from its own resources, a surcharge was levied on all tea and sugar imports. American and German companies started building the first test tracks in 1928. In 1933, the entire order was handed over to the Danish-Swedish Kampsax consortium, which was able to hand over the completed route in 1939.

Opening of the medical faculty of the University of Tehran

Education system reform

Introduction of compulsory schooling

A third major development project was the renewal of the education system. The introduction of compulsory schooling for 6- to 13-year-olds was associated with an expansion of the educational offer. The number of elementary schools quadrupled by 1939, the number of grammar schools six-fold. The education system, which until then had been in the hands of the clergy, was secularized. Girls were required to attend school, as were boys. Educational institutions for teachers were expanded or created, the University of Tehran was founded and the military received a military academy. In 1928, a state scholarship program was created that financed around 100 of the best students of the year to study abroad. By 1941, 2,395 scholarship holders had started studying abroad, of which 425 had completed their studies and returned to Iran. Studying abroad for wealthy Persians became fashionable under Reza Shah (who only learned to read and write as an adult), as did the weakness for the French language. He sent his son, the future Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi , to Switzerland for training .

Building health care

The fourth task undertaken under Reza Shah was the establishment of modern health care. A health department was founded in 1926, from which the Ministry of Health later developed. In 1929, the systematic vaccination against smallpox and the fight against malaria and trachoma diseases began. In 1932 all doctors had to undergo a uniform examination in order to be allowed to continue practicing. Hospitals were established in all provincial capitals. Institutions such as the Red Lion with the Red Sun Society of Iran , the Iranian counterpart to the Red Cross, and mother-child institutions for widows and orphans were created under Reza Shah.

Reza Chan himself had his total rubber prosthesis for the upper and lower jaw made and adapted by Alfred Kantorowicz , a dentist from Germany who emigrated to Turkey in 1933 and was recommended to him by Ataturk .

Reza Shah with his wife and daughters on the occasion of the day for the liberation of women, 7 January 1936

Abolition of the chador

Ceremony to mark the abolition of chador, 1936

The traditional clothing of Iranians was also abolished in 1935 by order of Reza Shah. It all started with men who were supposed to wear western clothing and a western hat instead of the usual kolah . When there was a demonstration in Mashhad against this, the protest was forcibly contained by Reza's troops. On January 7, 1936, women were banned from chador . Reza Shah's wife and his two daughters had to lead the way, taking part in a public ceremony for the first time without a chador in the newly founded Tehran teacher training institute in 1936. January 7th is celebrated in the Pahlavi dynasty as "the day of the liberation of women".

Expansion of the capital Tehran

Tehrans at the horse race, 1935

Due to the numerous construction projects that were implemented with the help of German engineers, the capital Tehran developed into a modern metropolis of western style. New administration buildings based on the German model were built for the ministries of the newly emerging state. A central station was built, from which the trains of the Trans-Iranian Railway departed for the north and south of the country. Horse races were held on the newly created racecourse. Residential and office buildings in the style of Art Deco architecture stood next to buildings in the style of the Qajars . As a result of immigration, the capital Tehran quickly grew beyond its previous city limits. New districts emerged. City gates, the city wall and parts of the old town of Tehran were torn down in favor of wide boulevards and shopping streets. With Pahlavi Street, today Valiasr Street , a 19.3 km long connecting road was built from Tehran's central train station to Tajrish in the north of the city . The street lined with plane trees divides the metropolis into a western and an eastern part. It is considered to be one of the city's oldest main axes and at the same time forms its trading center.

End of reforms with the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran

It is undisputed that Iran under Reza Shah, which had successfully mastered the first steps into the industrial age, had largely freed itself from British and Russian heteronomy and could have caught up with the modern western industrial nations in a second phase of development, had the national development not been sudden been interrupted by the outbreak of World War II by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran .

The oil question

Reza Shah tried to achieve freedom for the development of Iran between the then world powers Great Britain and the Soviet Union. The early British influence on the oil industry through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) determined the independence of Persia and Iran. The APOC was founded in 1908 and renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) in 1935. The majority of the shares was 52.5 percent in the hands of the British state. The Iranian state had no stake in the APOC. Only 16 percent of the APOC's profit was earmarked for Iran. How the profit was calculated could not be controlled by Iran, since the APOC had contracts with other, separately established companies, through which the processing, sale and transport of the extracted oil and the products obtained from it was handled and which the APOC " their services ”. The APOC's profit could be “shaped” via the freely determinable transfer prices of these companies. So it is not surprising that the tax revenue that the British state received from the oil business was many times that of what the Iranian state received in concession fees.

In 1928 Reza Schah commissioned Abdolhossein Teymurtash , the contracts between the Iranian state and the APOC , which were based on the 1901 concession granted by Mozaffar ad-Din Shah for a one-off payment of 20,000 British pounds to William Knox D'Arcy and actually valid until 1961 to renegotiate. Teymurtash demanded that 25% of APOC's share capital be transferred to the Iranian state and that a minimum dividend of 12.5% ​​should be paid on the shares. In addition, 2 cents per barrel plus 4% sales tax should be paid to the Iranian state and the APOC's development area should be significantly restricted. After the negotiations dragged on with no tangible results until 1932, Reza dismissed Shah Teymurtash and continued the negotiations personally. The Iranian parliament declared the license granted to D'Arcy invalid by a resolution dated December 1, 1932. The new agreement, which was ratified by the Iranian parliament on May 28, 1933, had a term of 60 years and reduced the eligible area to 100,000 square miles. The APOC had to pay the Iranian state an annual concession fee based on the production volume and market prices, with a minimum of £ 750,000.

In addition, the APOC, which was renamed AIOC (Anglo-Iranian Oil Company) in 1935, was contractually obliged to train Iranian technicians and engineers in England and to hire them preferentially, instead of filling all important positions with British people as before. This training clause of the new contract ultimately formed the prerequisite for the continued operation of the oil plants after the nationalization of the AIOC on March 15, 1951 by the Iranian parliament. Almost all Iranians who took on leading positions at the beginning of the newly founded NIOC (National Iranian Oil Company) had been trained in England on the basis of the 1933 agreement.

Reza Shah and Crown Prince Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, September 1941, a few days before Reza Shah's abdication

Second World War

With the outbreak of World War II , Iran declared its neutrality. The oil reserves in Iran were of strategic importance; shortly before the start of the war, Germany was Iran's largest trading partner. Great Britain asked Iran to expel all German nationals. After Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Allies planned a supply line (" Persian Corridor ") through Iran, which Iran could not grant due to its declared neutrality. Great Britain and the Soviet Union then invaded the country on August 25, 1941.

Reza Shah Pahlavi in ​​exile in Johannesburg


Reza Shah ordered general mobilization. As it quickly became clear that there was little to be done militarily against the British and Soviet troops, Iran declared a unilateral ceasefire on August 26. On August 27, the Prime Minister Ali Mansur resigned. Reza Shah appointed Ali Forughi as the new Prime Minister, who immediately met with the British and Soviet ambassadors. They demanded the immediate abdication of Reza Shah and the resignation of Crown Prince Mohammad Reza. The British initially thought of appointing a Qajar prince , Mohammad Hassan, but then suggested that a viceroy appointed by them should take over the business of government. The question of replacing the Pahlavis with a Qajar was considered by the British in both the 1940s and 1950s. However, it was problematic that Hamid, the son of Mohammad Hassan, who was also a candidate for the pretender to the throne, had meanwhile taken the surname Drummond, had become a British citizen, served in the British merchant navy and did not speak a word of Persian.

On August 30, 1941, Iran was divided into three zones by the Soviets and British. The northern zone fell under the administration of the Soviets, the southern zone with the oil areas was administered by the British. Under Iranian administration, a narrow strip remained in the middle of the country around Tehran. On September 14th, the British and Soviet ambassadors, Reza Shah, gave an ultimate call to resign by September 17th at noon. If this does not happen, Tehran would be occupied, the monarchy abolished and an occupation administration established. This was preceded by a propaganda campaign initiated by Churchill on a British radio station based in Iraq. In the programs directed at the Iranian people, Reza Shah was accused of ruling his people badly, exploiting them for years and shamelessly enriching himself at the expense of the hard-working Iranian people.

The mausoleum of Reza Shah Pahlavi before its demolition after the Islamic Revolution

On the morning of September 16, 1941 (25th Shahriwar 1320) Reza Shah signed his declaration of abdication in favor of his son Mohammad Reza . At 9:30 a.m., Parliament (Majlis) approved the abdication. In order to prevent Mohammad Reza from being arrested by British or Soviet agents before he was sworn in as Shah, he was brought into Parliament in civilian clothes in an old Chrysler, hidden between the front and back seats, via the servants' entrance. At 4:00 p.m. he swore the oath of allegiance to the Koran in front of parliament and took over the business of government as a Shah on September 17, 1941.

Exile and death

After the abdication, Reza Shah Pahlavi announced his intention to go into exile in Argentina . He took a British steamer to Bombay , where, on instructions from the British authorities, he was told that his new place of residence was the island of Mauritius (part of the British Commonwealth). In Argentina, according to the British view, there was a risk that Reza Pahlavi would work with the German government. Despite his abdication and the occupation of Iran by British and Russian troops, Reza Shah was still popular with many of his compatriots, so that the British still saw him as a danger, even if he was no longer in the country.

His son Mohammad Reza Shah intervened with the British ambassador and managed to get his father to leave Mauritius for Johannesburg. Reza Shah Pahlavi died of a heart attack on July 26, 1944 in exile in Johannesburg , South Africa . The house where he spent his final years in Johannesburg has been converted into a museum. His body was first transferred to Cairo and later to Iran and on May 7, 1950, reburied in a mausoleum that had been built in his honor. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the mausoleum was blown up and razed to the ground by Sadegh Chalkhali on the orders of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini .

The whereabouts of Reza Pahlavi's remains remained unclear. On April 25, 2018 , a mummified body was found during construction work in Rey, south of Tehran, where the destroyed mausoleum was also located. The exiled members of the ruling Pahlavi family suspected that these were the remains of Reza Pahlavis and appealed to the Iranian government to allow an independent investigation into the same.



Reza Khan's grandfather Morad Ali Khan, according to the official biography, was an officer in the Persian army and died as a soldier during the siege of the city of Herat (now Afghanistan) in 1848. Morad Ali Khan had seven sons. The oldest, Cheraq Ali, was also an officer in the Persian army. The youngest son, Abbas Ali Khan, also known as Dadash Beik, was an officer. Other sons were Nasrollah, Fazlollah and Abbasqoli. The other two sons cannot be named more historically. It remains to be seen whether all ancestors were officers in the Persian army, since the first military unit was the Cossack regiment under Tsarist instructors and officers. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is even more precise in a private interview in Zurich on January 17, 1975, where he states: “[...] at that time there was no regular army, only farmers who could be called to arms in an emergency . "

The youngest son Abbas Ali was born around 1815. Abbas Ali later married twice and had at least four children, including three children from his first marriage. He married his second wife Nooshafarin around 1877. She was a Persian whose father had emigrated from Yerevan the year before, although there are no reliable sources for this. In 1878 their son Reza was born.


  • In 1895 Reza Khan married his cousin Maryam , who however died giving birth to their daughter in February 1904.
  • In 1916 Reza Khan married Tādsch ol-Moluk (1896 - March 10, 1982), the daughter of Teymur Khan, a sergeant of Caucasian origin.
  • In 1922 Reza Khan married Turane , the daughter of a Qajar . The divorce followed a year later.
  • In 1923 Reza Khan married Esmat , the daughter of a Qajar.


The daughter Hamdan-Os-Soltaneh (born February 22, 1904, † 1992) comes from the marriage with Maryam .

The marriage to Tādsch ol-Moluk had four children,

  • the eldest daughter of Schams (born October 28, 1917, † February 29, 1996),
  • Mohammad Reza (born October 26, 1919 - † July 27, 1980) and
  • his twin sister Aschraf (born October 26, 1919; † January 7, 2016) and
  • Ali Reza (April 1, 1922 - October 26, 1954 in a plane crash).

A son Gholam Reza (born May 15, 1923 - May 7, 2017) was born from his marriage to Turane .

The marriage to Esmat resulted in four sons and one daughter:

  • Abdul Reza (born June 7, 1924; † 2004),
  • Ahmed Reza (born August 21, 1925; † 1981),
  • Mahmud Reza (born October 4, 1926; † 2001),
  • Fatemeh (born October 30, 1928, † 1987) and
  • Hamid Reza (born July 4, 1932, † 1992).

The Iranian parliament excluded the descendants of Qajars (and thus the sons of Reza Shah from the third and fourth marriage) from the throne by law.

See also


  • Fatollah Khan Djalali: The constitutional and constitutional development of Persia in the 20th century. University dissertation Marburg 1934; edited version Berlin 2017, ISBN 9783745053487 , especially pp. 275–313.
  • A Country Study: Iran . Federal Research Division Library of Congress, Edited by Helen Chapin Metz; short summary .
  • Gérard de Villiers : The Shah. The unstoppable rise of Mohammed Reza Pahlewi. Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf 1985, ISBN 3-430-19364-8 .
  • Wipert von Blücher : turning point in Iran. Experiences and observations , Biberach an der Riss 1949
  • Christopher de Bellaigue: In the rose garden of the martyrs. A portrait of Iran. From the English by Sigrid Langhaeuser, Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2006 (English original edition: London 2004), pp. 114–120

Web links

Commons : Reza Shah Pahlavi  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gérard de Villiers: The Shah. P. 30.
  2. ↑ In 1935 he ordered the renaming of the international country name Persia to the traditional Persian name Iran .
  4. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. p. 162.
  5. Gholam Reza Afkhami: The life and times of the Shah. UC Press 2009. p. 4.
  6. ^ Gérard de Villiers: The Shah. Econ Verlag, 1975. p. 3.
  7. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. IB Tauris 2000. p. 163.
  8. ^ Mohammed Reza Pahlevi: Biography.
  9. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. pp. 241f.
  10. ^ Stephanie Cronin: The army and the creation of the Pahlavi State in Iran. Tauris Academic Studies, 1997, p. 108f.
  11. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. pp. 252f.
  12. ^ Gérard de Villiers: The Shah. Page 48.
  13. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. pp. 308f.
  14. Werner Ende: Shiite Islam as a political force. 1980, p. 28.
  15. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. pp. 317f.
  16. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. pp. 3582f.
  17. ^ Hassan Arfa: Under five Shahs. London, 1964, p. 189.
  18. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. pp. 377f.
  19. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. pp. 380f.
  20. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. pp. 395f.
  21. Glenn E. Curtis, Eric Hooglund: Iran: A Country Study . Government Printing Office. 2008.
  22. ^ Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. p. 397.
  23. Yann Richard: The Hidden Imam. 1983. page 58.
  24. ^ A b Cyrus Ghani: Iran and the Rise of Reza Shah. IBTauris 2000. p. 399.
  25. cf. Manfred Pohl: Philipp Holzmann - history of a construction company 1849-1999. CH Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-45339-2 , pp. 189ff. and John A. DeNovo: American interests and policies in the Middle East, Univ of Minnesota 1963, SS 296 ff
  26. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi: In the service of my country. 1960. page 32
  27. Ali Vicdani Doyum: Alfred Kantorowicz with special consideration of his work in İstanbul (A contribution to the history of modern dentistry). Medical dissertation, Würzburg 1985, pp. 264-267.
  28. Christopher de Bellaigue: In the rose garden of the martyrs. A portrait of Iran. From the English by Sigrid Langhaeuser, Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2006 (English original edition: London 2004), p. 118 f.
  29. Gholam Reza Afkhami: The life and times of the Shah. UC Press 2009. pp. 36f.
  30. Gholam Reza Afkhami: The life and times of the Shah. UC Press 2009. pp. 67, 75.
  31. Gerard de Villiers: The Shah. 1975. p. 116.
  32. Gerard de Villiers: The Shah. 1975. pp. 122f.
  33. Iran's Reza Shah: Mummified remains 'likely' belong to ex-leader. BBC News, April 25, 2018, accessed April 25, 2018 .
  34. ^ Gérard de Villiers: The Shah. Page 32
  35. ^ Gérard de Villiers: The Shah. Page 40
  36. ^ Gérard de Villiers: The Shah. P. 33ff.
  37. ^ Gérard de Villiers: The Shah. P. 39.
predecessor Office successor
Ahmad Shah Shah of Persia / Shah of Iran
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi