Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Shi'a Islam, Safavid Empire and Qajars (1501 – 1920)

Persia's first encompassing Shi'a Islamic state was established under the Safavid dynasty in 1501 by Shah Ismail I. The Safavid dynasty soon became a major power in the world and started the promotion of tourism in Iran. Under their rule Persian Architecture flowered again and saw many new monuments. The fall of the Safavid dynasty was brought about by the Afghans, who overthrew the weak Shah Sultan Hossein, in 1722. In 1736 Nader Shah expelled Afghan rebels and established the Afsharid dynasty. He invaded India in 1738 and brought many treasures back to Persia. He was assassinated in 1747. The Afshar dynasty was followed by the Persian Zand dynasty (1750–1794), founded by Karim Khan, who established his capital at Shiraz. His rule brought a period of peace and renewed prosperity.These three dynasties are considered the contemporary golden age of Iranian history. However, the country was soon again in turmoil, which lasted until the advent of Aga Muhammad Khan, the founder of Qajar dynasty. After his death Iran turned into an arena for the rising new powers of Imperial Russia and the British Empire, which wielded great political influence in Tehran under the Qajarid kings. Iran however, managed to maintain its sovereignty and was never colonized, making it unique in the region.