Rezā Shāh Biography

(Shah of Iran from 1925 to 1941)

Birthday: March 15, 1878 (Pisces)

Born In: Alasht, Iran

Reza Shah was the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty and Shah of Iran (Persia) from 1925 to 1941. He founded the Pahlavi dynasty, after ending the century-old Qajar dynasty, and subsequently introduced and implemented steps to improve the prevailing social, economic and political conditions in Iran. From the profile of an army officer, he quickly rose to the post of war minister, followed by his appointment as the Prime Minister of the new regime. Thereafter, he founded the Pahlavi dynasty and became the Shah of Iran. He became popular among the masses due to his social, economic and political reforms. He also played a major role in changing the name of Persia to Iran. Despite having no formal education, he was extremely talented and intelligent to give Iran complete makeover. While his supporters approved of his decision to modernize Iran, his critics were dissatisfied by his ignorance towards the peasants and lower classes, which eventually triggered the Iranian Revolution, thus bringing an end to his constitutional monarchy. Construction of the Trans-Iranian Railway, foundation of the University of Tehran, and sponsoring Iranian students to European universities were some of the major developments initiated by him
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Reza Shah Pahlavi, Reza Khan Pahlavi

Died At Age: 66


Spouse/Ex-: Maryam Khanum, Tadj ol-Molouk, Turan

father: Abbas Ali Khan

mother: Noush-Afarin Ayromlou

children: Abdul Reza Pahlavi, Ahmad Reza Pahlavi, Ali Reza Pahlavi, Ashraf Pahlavi, Fatimeh Pahlavi, Gholam Reza Pahlavi, Hamdamsaltaneh Pahlavi, Mahmud Reza Pahlavi, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shams Pahlavi

Emperors & Kings Political Leaders

Died on: July 26, 1944

place of death: Johannesburg, South Africa

Cause of Death: Heart Ailment

Founder/Co-Founder: University of Tehran, Imam Ali University for Army Officers

  • 1

    What were Rezā Shāh's major reforms in Iran?

    Rezā Shāh implemented various modernization reforms in Iran, including the establishment of a new legal system, the promotion of secular education, and the initiation of infrastructure projects like the Trans-Iranian Railway.
  • 2

    How did Rezā Shāh change the role of women in Iranian society?

    Rezā Shāh implemented policies aimed at improving the status of women in Iran, such as introducing mandatory education for girls and banning the wearing of the veil in public spaces.
  • 3

    What was the significance of Rezā Shāh's abdication in favor of his son?

    Rezā Shāh abdicated the throne in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in 1941 under pressure from British and Soviet forces. This marked the end of his reign and the beginning of a new era in Iranian history.
  • 4

    How did Rezā Shāh's policies impact Iran's relationship with foreign powers?

    Rezā Shāh pursued a policy of neutrality in foreign affairs and sought to reduce Iran's dependence on foreign powers. However, his close ties with Nazi Germany during World War II strained Iran's relations with the Allies.
  • 5

    What led to Rezā Shāh's downfall and eventual exile from Iran?

    Rezā Shāh's authoritarian rule, suppression of dissent, and close alignment with Nazi Germany during World War II led to growing discontent among various segments of Iranian society. This ultimately culminated in his forced abdication in 1941 and subsequent exile from Iran.
Childhood & Early Life
Reza Shah Pahlavi was born as Reza Khan on March 15, 1878 in Alasht village, Savad Kouh County, Mazandaran Province, to Major Abbas Ali Khan and his second wife, Noush Afrin Ayromlou.
After his father’s death a few months following his birth, his mother took him to Tehran where she settled with her brother.
At the age of 16, he joined the Persian Cossack Brigade. He is also said to have served as a guard and servant under Dutch consul general Frits Knobel in 1903.
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He served in the Iranian Army under Qajar Prince Abdol Hossein Mirza Farmanfarma and rose to the rank of gunnery sergeant. His good account of service led to his promotion as a Brigadier General in the Cossacks, in 1918.
Post the Russian Revolution of 1917, Britain and Soviet Russia vied with each other for better influence over Iran (Persia). By 1920, British and Soviet forces had control over most of the Iranian mainland.
In the midst of this political crisis in Iran, Reza Khan entered Tehran with his Cossack Brigade and seized control of the capital city of Tehran in the coup d'état on February 21, 1921. He forced the dissolution of the previous government and became the Commander of the Iranian Army and war minister in the new government and carried out the withdrawal of Russian troops.
During his tenure as minister of war, he brought modernization and harmony, built a strong army, and secured the nation from both domestic and foreign threats, thus establishing peace – a situation Iran had been missing for a century.
Upon approval from Ahmad Shah Qajar, he became the prime minister of the new regime in 1923. After Qajar left for Europe for a lengthy cure, he started working towards the creation of a republic.
After succeeding in convincing the Majlis, he overthrew the absentee monarch Qajar and was proclaimed as the Shah of the Kingdom of Iran in 1925. This brought an end to the Qajar dynasty and establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty.
He was coronated in April 1926 and changed his name to Reza Shah Pahlavi. He also proclaimed his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as the Crown Prince of Persia.
Due to his autocratic style of ruling, he removed a number of ministers on various accusations of corruption, resulting in their imprisonment and death subsequently.
After a few years of industrialization and development programmes, he started forced acquisition of land, due to his rapacious nature. As a result, dissatisfaction started prevailing in the country, by mid-1930s.
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In 1932, he canceled the agreement given to British company, Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Even though a new agreement was signed and Shah was offered 21% share instead of the previous 16%, both parties were disappointed.
To counterbalance the British and Soviet influence on Iran, he increased trade relations with Germany and by the onset of World War II, Germany was Iran’s largest trading partner.
As a matter of policy, he always tried to play Soviet Union off against the British but this policy failed when the two joined in 1941 against Germany. As a result, Russian and British troops invaded Iran in August 1941, forcing the Persian army to surrender in less than a week.
In order to preserve his dynasty, he relinquished his crown as demanded by the invading British who agreed to make his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the next Shah of Iran in exchange of an exile.
His son ascended the throne in September 1941, after which he was taken by the British troops first to Mauritius, then to Durban and finally Johannesburg.
Major Works
In 1934, he succeeded in setting up the country’s first European-style modern school, the University of Tehran, providing modern education and training for bureaucrats as well as the middle class.
He freed the women from wearing the veil in 1935 and encouraged them to receive education at schools and seek employment.
He sent a letter to the League of Nations suggesting the change of name from Persia to Iran and this was implemented in 1935.
Road networks were improved and expanded under his rule - the most significant of them being the Trans-Iranian Railway, which opened in 1938.
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He initiated sponsorships for Iranian students to study in European universities and ended all special rights provided to foreigners, thereby giving Iran independence in true sense.
He set up state-owned factories for the production of basic consumer goods, like sugar, canned goods, matches, textiles and cigarettes.
He ended the religious hierarchy by allocating state-licensed notaries for notarizing documents, rather than clerics who had been doing it for years.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Maryam Khanum in 1894. He had a daughter, Hamdan Saltaneh Pahlavi in 1903. However, Maryam died in 1904.
He married for a second time to Tadj ol-Molouk in 1916, who bore four children – daughter Shams Pahlavi, Crown Prince Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, daughter Ashraf Pahlavi, and son Ali Reza Pahlavi.
His third wife was Turn (Qamar al Molouk) Amir Soleimani, whom he married in 1922. The couple had a son, Gholam Reza. They later divorced in 1923.
His fourth marriage to Esmat Dowlatshahi in 1923 resulted in five offsprings – son Abdul Reza Pahlavi, son Ahmad Reza Pahlavi, son Mahmud Reza Pahlavi, daughter Fatimeh Pahlavi, and son Hamid Reza Pahlavi.
He died in 1944, due to a heart ailment, while in exile in Johannesburg, South Africa. His body was taken to Egypt, where it was embalmed and preserved in Al Rifa’I Mosque, Cairo, till 1950.
His body was taken to Iran, and was buried in Ray, Tehran, but was later taken back to Cairo and buried in Al Rifa’I Mosque, in 1979.
Facts About Rezā Shāh
Reza Shah was known for his love of modernizing Iran and implementing progressive reforms, such as improving infrastructure and education.

He established the first Iranian university, University of Tehran, in 1934 to promote higher education and intellectual growth in the country.

Reza Shah was passionate about promoting Iran's cultural heritage and took steps to preserve and promote Persian art, literature, and music.

He was a skilled military leader and played a significant role in the modernization and expansion of Iran's armed forces during his reign.

Reza Shah was the first Iranian monarch to visit Europe, where he met with various heads of state and established diplomatic relations with several countries, showcasing Iran on the world stage.

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