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Reprising the great civilizations of their past, the Persians aim to blend their modern political know-how with traditions of nomadic resilience.

After rebuilding an independent Persian empire freed from its foreign conquerors in the 16th century, the Safavid dynasty was finally overthrown in 1722 by a revolt born in the empire’s Afghan provinces. The imperial structure inherited from this period was used by the Qajar dynasty as a foundation upon which to rebuild and modernize the Persian State and continued the work of two earlier restoration periods led by Nader Shah and then the Zand dynasty.

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Nader Afshar was an army general for the last Safavid rulers. He led many successful military campaigns in the Afghan provinces and against the Ottoman Empire between 1727 and 1736 before deposing the last Safavid emperor and proclaiming himself Shah in 1736. At the height of his power following a victorious campaign into the Mughal Empire, he returned to Isfahan laden with treasure having enlarged the borders of Persia from Caucasus to the Indus river. Nevertheless, his dynasty would not outlast his assassination in 1747. Beginning in the late 18th century, the empire began to shrink back under the Zand dynasty, but remained firmly established on a territory extending from the Armenian plateau to the coasts of the Arabian Sea. Under pressure from the Russian and British empires, the Qajar rulers began a process of administrative reform in 1786 to enable it to support and supply a more efficient modern army. In a series of improvements, Nassereddin Shah (1848–1896) began to reform the tax system, create modern postal services, and build the first kilometers of railroad in the empire. The new Qajar capital, Tehran, was also renovated and expanded during this dynasty with the addition of many palaces, bazaars, and mosques in a profound remodeling of the city plan.

Did you know?

The term Peacock Throne was used to describe the Persian imperial throne and, by extension, imperial power. It is a reference to the Mughal king Shah Jahan’s throne, which was brought back from Delhi in 1739 by Nader Shah. Though this throne, decorated with pearls and precious stones, was destroyed after his death, those built for his successors continued to bear this name.