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As best as I understand it, the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 was when Persia became Iran. What was the motivation for changing the name?

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This seemed to have come from Persia's freedom from the Qajars and some nationalism on the part of Germany during WWII influencing the Shah's decisions. So it was originally changed in 1935 and not 1979, unless you are only referring to the Islamic Republic addition, which was done at the Ayatollah's will, more than likely. The name of the country in Persian apparently was Iran so this was a natural choice for their own name.

You can find more here: Iran Heritage site on changing name to Iran

In 1935 the Persian government requested countries with which it had diplomatic relations to call Persia Iran, which is the name of the country in Persian. This was a grievous error based on a misdirected sense of nationalism. The suggestion for the change is said to have come from the Persian ambassador to Germany, who came under the influence of the Nazis. At the time Germany was in the grip of racial fever and cultivated good relations with nations of Aryan blood. It is said that some German friends of the ambassador persuaded him that, as with the advent of Reza Shah Persia had turned a new leaf in its history and had freed itself from the pernicious influences of Britain and Russia, whose interventions in Persian affairs had practically crippled the country under the Qajars, it was only fitting that the country be called by its own name, Iran. This would not only signal a new beginning and bring home to the world the new era in Persian history, but would also signify the Aryan race of its population, as Iran is a cognate of Aryan and derived from it

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Definitely on point. I would however, emphasize the fact that the use of the term "Persia" to refer to Iran was a western invention dating back to the Greeks. From what I understand it was a derivation of the name of the modern western province of Fars. Thus Reza Shah's request (which the attached article argues was in bad judgement) in 1935 to the West was for them to use the name the "Iran", as that is what its inhabitants referred to it as. –  BrotherJack Mar 26 '12 at 12:37
    
Might the European use of the word "Persia" to refer to Iran be analogous with the Roman use of the word "Palestine" to refer to the Levant? I understand that both were intended to separate (in the eyes of the Greeks and Romans) the lands from those who were currently inhabiting it. Are there other examples of such "conquerors renaming" to separate the people from the land? –  dotancohen Jul 25 '12 at 6:20
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I know some (Shah era) Iranian expats that insist on being referred to as "Persian" rather than Iranian. Which name you use appears to be viewed by Iranians/Persians as a political decision, not just an issue of taxonomy. –  T.E.D. Feb 13 '13 at 17:31
    
@dotancohen: I don't think the disassociation concept applies to Persia. –  Felix Goldberg Mar 5 '13 at 11:15
    
I know some people from Iran with whom I play in some internet MMORPG games who calls their country "Persia". They dislike the name "Iran". –  Anixx Mar 5 '13 at 19:57
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It is not true. The name Iran is old enough and comes from Ayran which means the land of Aryans but Reza shah suspected westerners' motives in using the name Persia instead of Iran and tried to change the name to Iran again. Reza shah had extreme nationalist ideas and Nazi regime cheated him and abused these feelings in the second world war. Westerners insisted in using this name to humiliate Reza shah as he was almost their puppet and they couldn't tolerate his new nationalist ideas and attempts for independence so blamed him for having near relationships with Nazi regime and wanted to remind him their own roles in increasing his power to be the king of Persia! As an Iranian none of them makes sense to me. I mean westerners' attempts and Nazi plans to abuse of naming an old big land according to their own benefits. To make it more clear for you as an Iranian, my nation and I use both names without any special purpose. My nation and I do not use Persia to say our land was a part of west colonies as it was not. Also we do not call our land Iran to say we are the best nation in the world as Aryan is only a name of a race in genes of many different nations from India to the Europe equal to the other races. Surely this name doesn't have any relation to Nazi's bullshits. I think one of oldest civilizations in the world doesn't need such ridiculous tricks. I only want to correct some your mistakes about it as it is a site for expert answers to expert questions about history and needs more researches and attention before asking a question or trying to answer it.

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I really do sympathize with your agitation over this, but please consider this rationally: a lot of ancient history was written by the Greeks and Romans about Persia (cf. the Greco-Persian wars). It'd be absolutely ahistorical (and very confusing for scholars and students) to retroactively rewrite ancient history to be about Iran, instead of Persia. No slight or insinuation is implied by using the name Persia in its ancient historical context. –  Felix Goldberg Mar 5 '13 at 11:18
    
I do not know what is your mean of agitation. It is just a piece of reality. There is no need for sympathy or the other feelings. I am talking about history not imagination or a local history classroom. When you talk about world's history you have to increase your information about it by any help from everyone who can help to know more about. And a lot of ancient history was written on stones and walls of Persepolis,Pasargad,Susa and Bisotoun. I am not talking according to my own personal idea but according to the contemporary situation of my own country which my grandfathers have written it. –  Persian Cat Mar 5 '13 at 11:28
    
We are talking about history here which has been mixed with politics so there is not the matter of feelings or prejudice. It is reality nothing less,nothing more! We all are responsible about reality as the main core of history and have to protect it against distort,lie and prejudice. –  Persian Cat Mar 5 '13 at 11:32
    
Agitation as in "Emotional state of excitement or restlessness", not in the political sense. Sorry if my choice of word had an unintended double-meaning I hadn't in mind! –  Felix Goldberg Mar 5 '13 at 11:36
    
Well, that's the thing - when Herodotus wrote about the Greco-Persian wars he was not lying; that's the name he knew the Greek's adversaries by (and it was not a name of denigration, being based on the name of the locale of Fars). Since most of our history is based on Western literary sources (which is unfortunate, but that's the way it is), I really think it will be exceedingly unwise to redact backwards. But let's have this discussion in the meta thread I opened: meta.history.stackexchange.com/questions/412/… –  Felix Goldberg Mar 5 '13 at 11:39
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"Persia" is a reference to Farsi, the main language spoken in Iran, while Iran is a reference to the (Aryan) PEOPLE of Iran.

Persia is a province of Iran, which is the "proper" name for the country. Westerners referred to the country as Persia until the Shah formally requested in 1935 that the name "Iran" be used.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070121195724AAyHgzL

Calling Iran "Persia" is like referring to the Netherlands as "Holland" (one of its seven provinces).

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Persia refers to Persians or "Farsian" which is the plural form of "Fars". Fars is a province in Iran, it is true but It doesn't refer to it. Yahoo answers are not good resources for historical questions. –  Persian Cat Mar 5 '13 at 22:57
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Some of the reasons behind this academic theft was that Persia was invaded by numerous internal and external powers in its history. Once it got aligned to the West both with Germany and the USA, it used academia to forge history. Persia was rich and had become a big power in the middle east before the Islamic Revolution. Powerful tyrants become arrogant like Saddam and Ghaddafi belived they had extraordianry God gifted power. As Persia was always the guest house of empires, it just found the best chance to hire Jewish and American academics to write fabricated hisotry and change it to Persia's advantage. See Nasser Purpirar's Youtube clips revealing the lies of Persia's history. Persia if as claimed consisted of many countries, its land was always annexed by Britain, Russia, India, Afghanistan and even weaker countries. Calling Persia Iran means ignoring all the brave people from many neighbouring countries for the entire history of their existence. Mark Haqani

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What does this awkward mess mean? :) –  Persian Cat Apr 23 '13 at 3:02
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Iran or Aryana were old names of at least 12 Middles Eastern countries. It was actually the name of a continent called (Iranian Plateau). The Shah changed the name of Persia, which was a small part of the Iranian Plateau, to Iran to deprive all other countries such as Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Bahrain, Gerogia, parts of Paksistan, Abkhazia and Ossetians from their cultural, academic and historical achievements. With taking the common name of all these countries, Iran claims that all scholars who are known as Iranian belong to what is NOW Iran.

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Sorry, this is not a scholarly answer; it is a political invective. In fact it offers a diametral complement to Persian Cat's answer and suffers from essentially the same shortcomings, only with different polarity. –  Felix Goldberg Apr 20 '13 at 21:20
    
Felix, If you have any academic reason please write it. It is possible to disagree with anything and everything, but putting a rational reason/s can help. –  Mark Haqani Apr 20 '13 at 21:28
    
Welcome to stack exchange. I see you've posted two similar answers. You can always improve existing answers by clicking the edit button below the answer text. –  Nathan Cooper Apr 20 '13 at 22:30
    
@MarkHaqani: Can you please adduce evidence for the claim that the Shah was trying to deprive the other countries of their achievements, rather than simply asserting Iran's supposed continuity with the grand old empires of antiquity, thus elevating greatly his own stature? –  Felix Goldberg Apr 21 '13 at 8:44
    
I think one of OP's answers needs to be deleted. Pointless and messy! –  Persian Cat Apr 23 '13 at 2:59
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