Rezā Shāh

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Reza Shah Pahlavi

Rezā Shāh Pahlavi (March 16, 1878 – July 26, 1944) was an Iranian military officer, politician (who served as minister of war and prime minister), and first Shah of the House of Pahlavi of the Imperial State of Iran and father of the last Shah of Iran. He reigned from 15 December 1925 until he was forced to abdicate by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran on 16 September 1941. Reza Shah introduced many social, economic, and political reforms during his reign, ultimately laying the foundation of the modern Iranian state. Therefore, he is regarded as the founder of modern Iran.


  • If only I had a thousand rifles of the same calibre!
    • Muhammad Reza Pahlavi (1961) Mission for my Country, London, page 41
    • Prior to his seizure of power, Persia's stocks of firearms were unstandardized and unreliable
  • The inhabitants of Tehran are invited to keep quiet.
    • Gérard de Villiers (1975) The Imperial Shah, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, page 29
  • I know you can be strong, but I want you always to be strong for your brother. Stay close to him and tell him to stand firm in the face of dangers of any kind.
    • Ashraf Pahlavi (1980), "Faces in a mirror: Memoirs from Exile", Prentice-Hall
    • Reza Shah to his daughter Ashraf, during his exile

Quotes about Reza Shah

  • ... contrary to what many believed, my father was kind and tenderhearted, especially towards his family. His forbidding sternness seemed to melt into love, kindness, and easy familiarity when he was with us. Especially with me, his acknowledged successor to the throne, he would play lightheartedly. When we were alone together, he would sing me little songs; I don't remember his ever doing this in front of others, but when only the two of us were there, he would often sing to me.
  • The Queen Mother told us stories of her married life with Reza Shah. On her wedding night, her husband, then a mere brigadier was forced to ply her with brandy to calm her nerves. Even as Queen, she said, she did her best to keep out of his way.
  • How could I have been in love with him? Most of the time I was far too cross.
    • Assadollah Alam's diaries: Entry dated 17 April 1976
    • The Queen Mother's words regarding her love for Reza Shah
  • Our younger intellectuals cannot possibly understand, and thus cannot possibly judge Reza Shah. They cannot because they were too young to remember the chaotic and desperate conditions out of which he arose.
  • Reza Shah was not an atheist and could best be described as an agnostic. He was, for a while, fascinated by the teachings of Zoroaster, Iran's pre-Islamic prophet, but his fascination should be understood in the context of his old soldier's dream of restoring Iran to its ancient grandeur. Mohammad-Reza, on the other hand, was deeply religious, even to the point of rejecting all free will.
  • Reza Shah had been a powerful leader only partly because of his position, and Mohammad-Reza was fully conscious of the fact that he had few of his father's natural assets. The new Shah had received a democratic training which meant that he knew that there were different views on every issue and that reality could be contemplated from many different angles: this made him hesitant and indecisive where his father had been determined and resolute. Mohammad-Reza wanted to be loved for his person: Reza Shah never knew what love was, asking only to be obeyed. The new Shah was polite and shy and anxious not to offend: the old Shah deliberately terrorised members of his entourage in order to keep them constantly on their guard. Reza Shah had been a born leader; the new Shah had to learn to become one.
    • Amir Taheri (1991) The Unknown Life of the Shah
  • On February 21, 1921, Reza Khan, a common soldier who rose through the ranks to become a brigadier general, in secret collusion with the British, led a bloodless coup at the head of an army 1,200 men. Reza Khan banned gambling and alcohol and made himself popular by reducing the price of bread. In 1925 he proclaimed himself Reza Shah Pahlavi, beginning the short-lived but ambitious Pahlavi dynasty. Reza Shah set out to curtail the power of the clergy. He limited the jurisdiction of the religious Shari'a courts, and the state took over many religious schools. In 1928 he pushed through the Uniformity of Dress Law that forced men to dress in Western clothes with round peaked caps. Only clerics and theological students were exempted. In 1934 he visited Turkey and was impressed by that country's modern ways. When he returned to Iran, he outlawed the wearing of veils by women and opened up to women all public places, including workplaces and schools. As for the men, he ordered them to replace their caps with European felt hats. In 1935 he formally asked the governments of the rest of the world to stop calling his nation Persia, a name chose by the Europeans, and instead call it Iran, the name traditionally used by Iranians themselves. Domestically, Reza Shah took away the power of the Majlis and eliminated free speech. An admirer of Hitler's nationalism, he invited German businessmen into Iran. Nevertheless, when World War II broke out, he tried to declare Iran neutral. However, the Allies were not interested in his position. They wanted to use the Trans-Iranian railway to move military supplies from the Soviet Union, so British and Soviet forces occupied the country in 1941. Reza Shah abdicated in favor of his twenty-one year old son, Mohammed Reza Shah, and he died in exile in South Africa in July 1944.
    • David Wallechinsky, Tyrants: The World's 20 Worst Living Dictators (2006), p. 2
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