This article is about the Iranian capital city. For other uses, see Tehran (disambiguation).
Tehran ( pronunciation (help·info)) (Persian: تهران – Tehrān) is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With a population of around 8.3 million and surpassing 14 million in the wider metropolitan area, Tehran is Iran’s largest city and urban area, and the largest city in Western Asia.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, Tehran has been the subject of mass migration of people from all around Iran. The city is home to many historic mosques as well as several churches, synagogues and Zoroastrian fire temples. However, modern structures, notably Azadi Tower and the Milad Tower, have come to symbolise the city. Tehran is ranked 29th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area. Throughout Iran’s history, the capital has been moved many times, and Tehran is the 32nd national capital of Iran. Although a variety of unofficial languages are spoken, roughly 99% of the population understand and speak Persian. Majority of the inhabitants of the city are Persian speakers (known by the name Pars/Fars), but there are also large populations of Kurds (Kord), Azarbaijanis (Azeri/Tork), Lurs (Lor) and Northern Iranians (Shomali). The majority of people in Tehran identify themselves as Persians. In pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, Tehran was an unimportant village and part of the area of present-day Tehran was occupied by Rey (which in the Avesta occurs in the form of Rhaga, now a part of the city of Tehran, which took over its role after the destruction of Rey by the Mongols in the early 13th century.
An important historical city in the area of modern-day Tehran, now absorbed by it, is known as “Rey”, which is etymologically connected to the Old Persian andAvestan “Rhages”. The city was a major area of the Iranian speaking Medes and Achaemenids.
In the Zoroastrian Avesta’s Videvdad (i, 15), Rhaga is mentioned as the twelfth sacred place created by Ahura-Mazda. In the Old Persian inscriptions (Behistun 2, 10–18), Rhaga appears as a province. From Rhaga, Darius the Great sent reinforcements to his father Hystaspes (Vishtaspa), who was putting down the rebellion inParthia (Behistun 3, 1–10).
The Damavand mountain located near the city also appears in the Shahnameh as the place where Freydun bounds the dragon-fiend Zahak. Damavand is important in Persian mythological and legendary events. Kyumars, the Zoroastrian prototype of human beings and the first king in the Shahnameh, was said to have resided in Damavand. In these legends, the foundation of the city of Damavand was attributed to him. Arash the Archer, who sacrificed his body by giving all his strength to the arrow that demarcated Iran and Turan, shot his arrow from Mount Damavand. This Persian legend was celebrated every year in the Tiregan festival. A popular feast is reported to have been held in the city of Damavand on 7 Shawwal 1230, or in Gregorian calendar, 31 August 1815. During the alleged feast the people celebrated the anniversary of Zahak’s death. In the Zoroastrian legends, the tyrant Zahak is to finally be killed by the Iranian hero Garshasp before the final days.
In some Middle Persian texts, Rey is given as the birthplace of Zoroaster, although modern historians generally place the birth of Zoroaster in Khorasan. In one Persian tradition, the legendary king Manuchehr was also born in Damavand.
During the Sassanid era, Yazdegerd III in 641 issued from Rey his last appeal to the nation before fleeing to Khorasan. Rey was the fief of the Parthian Mihran family, and Siyavakhsh, the son of Mihran the son of Bahram Chobin, resisted the Muslim Invasion. Because of this resistance, when the Arabs captured Rey, they ordered the town to be destroyed and ordered Farrukhzad to rebuild the town.
There is also a temple in Ray, which is said to be one of the temples of Anahita, the Iranian goddess of waters. But after the Muslim invasion, it got dedicated to Bibi Shahr Banou, eldest daughter of Yazdegerd III, and one of the wives of Husayn ibn Ali, the fourth leader of Shia faith.
In the 10th century, Rey was described in details in the work of Islamic geographers. Despite the interest of Baghdad displayed in Rey, the number of Arabs there was insignificant, and the population consisted of Persians of all classes. The Oghuz Turks laid Rey to waste in 1035 and in 1042, but the city recovered during the Seljuq dynasty and Khwarazmian era. The Mongols laid Rey to complete waste and according to Islamic historians of the era, virtually all of its inhabitants were massacared. The city is mentioned in later Safavid chronicles as an unimportant city.
The origin of the name “Tehran” is unknown. Tehran was well known as a village in the 9th century, but was less well-known than the city of Rey which was flourishing nearby in the early era. Najm ol Din Razi, known as Daya, gives the population of Rey as 500,000 before the Mongol invasion. In the 13th century, following the destruction of Rey by Mongols, many of its inhabitants escaped to Tehran. In some sources of the early era, the city is mentioned as “Rhages’ Tehran”. The city is later mentioned in Hamdollah Mostowfi‘s Nozhat ol Qolub (written in 1340) as a famous village.
Toopkhaneh Square in 1911
Don Ruy González de Clavijo, a Castilian ambassador, was probably the first European to visit Tehran, stopping in July 1404, while on a journey to Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan), the capital of Timur, who ruled Iran at the time. At that time, the city of Tehran was unwalled.
In the early 18th century, Karim Khan of Zand dynasty ordered a palace and a government office to be built in Tehran, possibly to declare the city his capital, but later moved his government to Shiraz. Once again, in 1795, Tehran became the capital of Iran, when the Qajar king Agha Mohammad Khan was crowned in the city.
From 1920s to 1930s, the city essentially was rebuilt from scratch under the rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi. Reza Shah believed that ancient buildings such as large parts of the Golestan Palace, Tekieh Dowlat, the Toopkhaneh Square, the city fortifications, and the old citadel among others, should not be part of a modern city. They were systematically demolished, and modern buildings in the pre-Islamic Iranian style, such as the National Bank, the Police Headquarters, the Telegraph Office, and the Military Academy, were built in their place. The Tehran Bazaar was divided in half and many historic buildings were demolished, in order to build wide straight avenues in the capital. Many Persian gardens also fell victim to new construction projects.
During the Second World War, Soviet and British troops entered the city. Tehran was the site of the Tehran Conference in 1943, attended by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, andBritish Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Between the 1960s to 1970s, Tehran was rapidly developing under the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Modern buildings altered the face of Tehran and ambitious projects were envisioned for the following decades. The majority of these projects, such as Milad Tower, were continued after the Revolution of 1979, when Tehran’s urbanization had reached its peak, and the new government started many other new projects.
Up through the 1870s, Tehran consisted of the walled “arg” (royal citadel), the roofed bazaar, and “sharestan” (where the masses resided in three main neighborhoods of Udlajan, Chaleh Meydan, and Sangelaj). The first development plan of Tehran in 1855 emphasized the traditional spatial structure. Architecture, however, found an eclectic expression to reflect the new lifestyle.
The second major planning exercise in Tehran happened under supervision of Dar ol Fonun. The map of 1878 included new city walls, in the form of a perfect octagon with an area of 19 square kilometers, which mimicked the Renaissance cities of Europe.
As a response to the growing social consciousness of civil rights, on June 2, 1907, the first parliament of Persian Constitutional Revolution passed a law on local governance known as “Baladieh Law”. The second and third articles of the law, on “Baladieh Community”, or the city council, provide a detailed outline on issues such as the role of the councils in the city, the members’ qualifications, the election process, and the requirements to be entitled to vote.
After the First World War, Reza Shah immediately suspended the Baladieh Law of 1907 and the decentralized and autonomous city councils were replaced by centralist/sectoralist approaches of governance and planning.
The changes in the urban fabric started with the street-widening act of 1933 which served as a framework for changes in all other cities. As a result of this act, the traditional texture of the city was replaced with cruciform intersecting streets creating large roundabouts, located on the major public spaces such as the bazaar or the hussainia.
As an attempt to create a network for the easy movement of goods and vehicles in Tehran, the city walls and gates were demolished in 1937 and replaced by wide streets cutting through the urban fabric. The new city map of Tehran in 1937 was heavily influenced by modernist planning patterns of zoning and gridiron network.
The establishment of the planning organization of Iran in 1948 resulted in the first socio-economic development plan to cover 1949 to 1955. These plans not only failed to slow the unbalanced growth of Tehran but with the 1962 land reforms, that Shah called the “White Revolution“, Tehran’s growth was further accentuated.
To bring back order to the city and resolve the problem of social exclusion, the first comprehensive plan of Tehran was approved in 1968. The consortium of Iranian consultants, Abd ol Aziz Mirza Farmanian, and the American firm of Victor Gruen Associates, identified the city problems to be high density, including expansion of new suburbs, air and water pollution, inefficient infrastructure, unemployment, and rural-urban migration. Eventually, the whole plan was marginalized by the Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Iran-Iraq War.