Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979, when the monarchy was overthrown and clerics assumed political control under supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Iranian revolution put an end to the rule of the Shah, who had alienated powerful religious, political and popular forces with a programme of modernization and Westernization coupled with heavy repression of dissent.
Persia, as Iran was known before 1935, was one of the greatest empires of the ancient world, and the country has long maintained a distinct cultural identity within the Islamic world by retaining its own language and adhering to the Shia interpretation of Islam.
- Islamic Republic of Iran
- Capital: Tehran
- Population: 75 million
- Area: 1.65 million sq km (636,313 sq miles)
- Major language: Persian
- Major religion: Islam
- Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 74 years (women)
- Currency: Rial