Where Iran is on the world map
Map of Iran with cities. Where Iran is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Iran - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Iran Fact File
Official name Islamic Republic of Iran
Form of government Theocratic republic with single legislative body (Islamic Consultative Assembly)
Area 1,648,000 sq km (636,293 sq miles)
Time zone GMT + 3.5 hours
Projected population 2015 87,103,000
Population density 40.4 per sq km (104.7 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 70.3
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 28.1
Official language Farsi (Persian)
Other languages Turkic, Kurdish, Luri, Baloch, Azerbaijanian, Arabic, Armenian
Literacy rate 68.6%
Religions Shi'a Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 10%, other (including Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i) 1 %
Ethnic groups Persian 51 %, Azerbaijani 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1 %
Economy Services 46%, agriculture 33%, industry 21 %
GNP per capita US$ 7,000
Climate Mainly arid, temperate in far north; cold winters and hot summers
Highest point Qolleh-ye Damavand 5,671 m (18,605 ft)
Map reference Pages 220-21, 222
Iran is one of the largest of the Persian Gulf States. It has borders with ten other countries in the region including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey. Now the home of the world's largest theocracy, and the main center for militant Shi'a Islam, Persia (as it was formerly known) has seen the rise and fall of a number
of civilizations, including those of the Medes, Persians, Greeks, and Parthians. In the seventh century it was overrun by an invasion of Arabs who introduced Islam, a religion which under the Safavids in 1502 became the Shi'ite form of the faith that prevails today. Oil was discovered in Iran in 1908. From that time on Persia (retitled in the 1920s by a Shah who adopted the name Iran because it meant "Aryan") became of growing interest to the great powers, and the requirements of international oil companies began to figure in Iranian life.
After the Second World War the Iranians found the corrupt and despotic rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi intolerable, and in 1979 he was overthrown in the first national revolution to be led by Islamic fundamentalists. This event has had profound effects and repercussions throughout the Muslim world. Iran's subsequent support for Islamic radicalism abroad soon led to strained relations with Central Asian, Middle Eastern, and North African nations, as well as the USA. More recently, Iran's economic difficulties and isolation have caused a general relaxation both in the domestic regime and in its external affairs.
The entire central region of Iran is dominated by a high, arid plateau (average elevation 1,200 m; 3,937 ft), most of it salt desert, containing the Dasht-e Lut (Great Sand Desert) and the Dasht-e-KavIr (Great Salt Desert). Mountain ranges surround the plateau: the volcanic Elburz Range (Reshteh-ye Kuhha-ye Alborz) along the Caspian Sea; the Khorasan and Baluchestan Ranges in the east and southeast; and the Zagros Mountains (Kuhha-ye Zagros) inland from the Persian Gulf.
The most productive parts of Iran, and the most heavily populated, lie on its periphery. In the north are the fisheries, tea gardens, and rice fields of the Caspian shore. In Khuzestan
to the south there are sugar plantations and oilfields—a prime target of the Iraqis when they invaded in 1980 at the start of the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. Westward lie the wheatfields of Azarbaijan, while to the east are the fruit groves of the oases of Kavir in Kavir (Dasht-e Kavir) and Lut in Lut Desert (Dasht-e Lut).
Approximately eight percent of Iran's land is arable, and eleven percent of it is forested, mostly in the provinces of Gilan and Mazan-daran which border the Caspian Sea. The province of Tehran, which includes the country's capital of the same name in the north, is by far the most densely populated region supporting about eighteen percent of the population.
In the years after 1945 Iran's economy became almost totally dependent on oil, and earnings from oil exports still provide 85 percent of its export revenue. But by the end of the war with Iraq (1980-88) production had fallen to just half the level of 1979. This, combined with the general fall in oil prices, and a surge in imports that began in 1989, has left Iran in severe financial difficulties, and there has been a marked decline in the general standard of living. Ideological considerations hamper effective reforms: there is a continuing struggle between the powerful religious leadership on the one hand, and reformist politicians on the other, over how to run a modern economy. The mullahs (the Islamic clergy) object to the government using borrowed money and are firmly opposed to the importation of "corrupt" Western technology.
Overall, the Iranian economy is a mix of centrally planned large-scale state enterprise; village-based agriculture producing wheat, barley, rice, sugar beet, tobacco, and pistachio nuts; and small-scale private trading and service ventures.