The documented history of Iran begins with the Achaemenid dynasty dating back about 2500 years ago. A significant era marked by decisive unification of the pars tribes during the reign of Astyages and his grandson, Cyrus, who initially formed an extensive, centralized and mighty empire. Although according to will, the Aryans, inhabitants of the vast Iranian plateau, were not the founders of civilization and followed the Babylonian as well as Egyption examples yet their ingenious Souls enabled them to transform those models, institute the first autonomous nation and establish a well-organized financial system. Ironically, Achaemenid most remarkable military expedition against the Greeks took place in 480 B.C. Darius, another prominent king of the mentioned dynasty, divided his empire into twenty states or satrapy and accordingly appointed powerful rulers for all. He also began building roads to facilitate trade, enhance relations among the states and attain his military goals. Shahi or king’s Road, extending 2750 kilometers, linked Susa to Mesopotamia (located in present day Iraq) while another major road connected Babylonia to India. Imposing tax and wage system for the labor, introduction of a unified measuring system, emergence of private banks, granting of loans for agricultural purposes and coin minting highlight the worthy accomplishments of this particular era.
Appropriately, Roman Ghirshman also has noted that once the use of coins became common overland and overseas trade rapidly extended to distant lands. The Royal messengers, Chapar, would travel the long and vast roads of Achaemenid Empire to deliver the Royal decrees or commands to the state rulers as well as military commanders and return with to the Chapar House, present-day post office, situated along the route and the process would continue until reaching the final destination. The Silk Road too was one of the ancient trade routes, which led to Kashgar from two opposite directions of north and south. Extending westward to Samarqand, Marv and Balkh in northern region of Iran, passing through Central Asia leading to ancient Greece. This major historical route connecting the west to the east was known as the Great Road of Khorasan or the Silk Road, as previously mentioned. The pre-Islam civilization of Iran takes pride in such innovations, particularly because the management and maintenance of the King’s Great Road 25 Centuries ago constituted great honor for Iranians among all nations.
In addition to land routes, various sea routes were also frequented and ships with capacities up to 300 tons treaded those waters .The ship’s sailors were mainly Phoenicians or Greeks, the officers were Iranians whereas a 10000-strong military formed Darius’s renowned Immortal Army. Moreover, excavation of the Suez Channel (the channel dug about Darius and slightly different from the present channel) exhibited the economic and military merits of yet another chapter of Iranian history.
The Throne of Jams hid or Persepolis was chosen as Iran’s capital during the rule of Achaemenids. However, the corner stone of Persepolis was laid during the region of Darius 1-ofter whom each king added more sections to the site. In addition, the cities of Susa, Babylonia and Ekbatan (today’s Hamadan) each intern served as the nation’s capital.
During the rule of Ardeshir, the founder of the Sassanid dynasty, a very powerful centralized government developed and for the first time in Iran the religion of Zoro after (the Iranian prophet) was declared as the official religion. A faith whose essential pillars are laid upon virtuous thoughts, virtuous words, and virtuous deeds.
The prophet of Islam, Mohammad (P.B.U.H) was born in the city of Mecca during the rule of Anushirvan Sassani and was chosen as the completion of all prophecy and the last prophet during the reign of Khosrow Parviz(610 A.D)
Weakness of the Sassanid government, oppressions of the kings, and at the same time Islam’s human-rights oriented ideology and its message of equality and goodwill of humanity were the imperative factors which led to the victory of Islam’s army over the Iranian military might in the course of numerous battles. The Prophet Mohammad migrated to Medina from Mecca (622 A.D).
Thus, this particular year was chosen as the base of the Muslims’ calendar owing to the indisputable effect of this migration. At that time, Islam spread mainly in the Arabian Peninsula, and after the prophet in the southern parts of Iran, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and all of Egypt as well as northern part of Syria embaraced Islam. In the course of all these victories, call to God’s religion with the slogan the unique Allah is great became the infrastructure of the Muslims’ new, powerful and popular ideology.
Iran’s mighty army was defeated in the Ghadessieh (15A.H) and Nahavand (21 A.H) battles and the country gradually came under the influence of Islam.
The expedition of the devastating mongol tribes to Iran began (616 A.H) and the last Persian king of the dynasty, Sultan Jalal-e-din Kharazmshah was overthrown by Gengiz’s army and later put to death (620 A.H). The period of Mogul chief-tain’s rule in Iran was the most oppressed era the nation had ever seen and the conditions did not change until the founding of the Iranian dynasty, the Safavids, and the rule of Shah Ismail.
The mogul was removed from Iran’s political scene after about 300 years by the Safavid, and Shah Ismael was crowned in Tabriz (907A.H). During the reign of Safavid Dynasty relation between Iran and European and other countries expanded and Iran’s powerful centralized government, during Shah Abbas’s rule, established political and economic ties with great leaders such as Queen Elizabeth, Philip II the king of Spain, India’s Akbar shah
The Iranian culture and art once again flourished during the Safavid rule and architecture, carpet –weaving, miniature painting, gilding and handicraft(s) underwent special development.
After the Safavid, alternately weak and strong government came to power among which the government of Nader Shah Afshar, Karim khan-e-Zand, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar, Naser-e-din Shah and Mozafar-e-din Shah are noteworthy.
During the rule of Nader Shah, The Russians were expelled from Iran, the booties, which the Ottomans had taken from the country, were recovered, Kandhar and Delhi became parts of Iran and once again the Iranian territory was expanded and include a vast area of Southeast Asia. Oppression and tyranny became prevalent in the course of the Qajar dynasty’s rule due to treason of courtiers and the kings’powerlessness and inattention to the state of affairs. The unprecedented and historical measures of Mirza Taghi Khan Amir Kabir, Naser-e-din Shah’s prime minister, such as dispatching students abroad for higer education, printing of newspaper, compilation of laws, etc. made him an immortal historical personage. The new era began with the reign of the Pahlavi dynasty. Reza khan Mir-Panj, commander of a Kazak battalion, occupied Tehran on 22 Feb. 1920, and five years later crowned himself the king with the support of England. Gradually, he began opposing the Islamic culture and tradition and his despotic rule lasted for 16 years. In 1941 under pressure by England, he abdicated the throne in favor of his son Mohammad Reza and was exiled into St. Moritz island and then to Johannesburg in South Africa where he later died. Mohammad Reza too fairly followed example of his father for 37 years of his reign. Following the events leading to nationalization of oil, he was reinstated subsequent to a coup and while England’s position with this rule began to deteriorate, the United States gained more influence and power in the country’s political, economic and culture affairs. As his father, Mohammad Reza too was strongly against the presence and involvement of clergymen in the socio-political scene. After his forced summary referendum concerning the so-called Agriculture and land reforms or the allocation of farmland to farmers, Iran’s dependence on imported goods, false employment due to relocation of farmers in cities, and Consumerism, as opposed to Production, increased sharply which were strongly opposed by the time’s scholars and theologians, particularly the late Imam Khomeini. The opposition of both religious scholars and the people to the government in 1963 as well as army’s assault on Qom’s theological school (Iran’s main center for training theologians) coupled with martyrdom of a large number of those students and the people, paved the grounds for escalation of religious movement within the country and their determination to take over the political arena, materialization of the idea of unity of politics and religion in the form of the Islamic Republic of Iran and uprooting of 2500 years of the King’s despotic rule in this country. With the victory of the Islamic revolution, for the first time ever the people of Iran went to the polls in April 1979 and voted in favor of the establishment of the Islamic republican system with an overwhelming majority of over 98.8 percent.
This constitutional law was of course approved by the vote of the Iranian nation. The significant point, however, was the united presence of the people in the presidential election; elections for the Islamic consultative assembly as well as other relevant elections, which took, place one after the other in order to determine the major and fundamental organs and institutions of the Islamic system.
With the establishment of the Islamic government, many conspiracies were hatched by the world imperialism. Fortunately, all of failed due to the presence of the Iranian people on the scenes. The gravest of such conspiracy, hatched with the main objectives of weakening and paralyzing Iran’s economic and political system and the occupation of the fertile land of Khuzistan, was Iraqi regime’s invasion of Iran directly provoked by the United State in 1980-that was only two years following the victory of the Islamic revolution. The war continued for 8 years and included the most savage bombings and chemical attacks leaving much destruction and damages in four border provinces of the country in the south and the west. Hundreds of thousands of the best and most faithful forces were martyred or disabled in the war and millions of people became homeless because of the war. This destructive war ended in 1989 due to brave resistance of Iranian people and acceptance of the UN Security Council resolution 598.
Moreover, event such as assassination of the political leaders or state officials, economic sanctions and various plans for isolation of Islamic Republic of Iran were all the cost a nation paid in order to establish its first favorite republic. On fourth of June 1989 the grand leader and architect of the Islamic revolution, The late Imam Khomeini, passed away and the world lost one of its most revered and distinguished religious and political leaders. Besides his role as a political leader, Imam Khomeini was a prominent instructor of ethics who lived in ultimate continence and chastity.
Following the demise of Imam Khomeini, the assembly of experts chose one of the prominent students of Imam Khomeini, a great combatant who had been imprisoned and send into exile by the regime of the Shah many times, as the leader of the Islamic revolution. This noble personage was none but grand Ayatollah Khamenei who had been elected as president of the Islamic Republic of Iran twice following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. With his election as the leader of the Islamic Revolution, the reconstruction programs began in full might and despite all the bottlenecks that the war had created the construction works maintained their pace in the course of first-five year plan designed by the government of President Hashemi Rafsanjani.
The government managed to reconstruct the major portion of the ruins, many factories resumed operations, agriculture flourished, the water supply and sewage networks plus great dams were designed and constructed and finally the rate of illiteracy, which acted as a barrier in the way of the country’s development, reached its lowest. Despite some economic problems, the Islamic Republic of Iran has managed to adopt an independent political and economic policy and relying on local specialized forces extends international cooperation and enjoys a high level of acceptability worldwide.
Renovation of the Silk Road has been transformed into a regional and global demand during the recent years and now a national will strongly supports this constructive desire in the Islamic Republic as well. Since 1988, UNESCO has also reinforced all the relevant international decisions for restoration of this immense ancient road through holding various conferences in the world’s famous cities such as New Delhi, Paris, Tashkent and the last of which was held in the picturesque city of Isfahan in 1995. On completion, once again, this enormous project would revive the historic role of Iran as the bastion of multinational communication, indispensable for the development of regional commerce and cultural relations.
Upon disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1985, the policy of friendship and cooperation with the newly independent and autonomous states (situated in the north of Iran) received immediate attention as one of the utmost and perpetual foreign policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In compliance with the stated policy, therefore numerous multilateral contracts regarding road transportation, economic cooperation and establishment of the sales agencies for Iranian goods were thus signed further formation of regional economic organization (ECO) consisting of twelve countries also expedited the implementation of the most strategic railway project in the region, stretching from Eastern China to Europe via Iran’s national railway system.
The unique position of this giant commercial highway currently leaves other countries of the world, willing to develop commercial and economics ties with the central Asian republics, no situated in Iran, China, Russia, Turkey and Afghanistan. Apart from Georgia most of the newly independent states are landlocked countries whose connecting routes with rest of the world, directly or indirectly , could pass through Iran and thus enhancing the Islamic Republic’s unique geo-political status world-wide. Iran’s strategic significance, both in the region and in international arena, generally revolves around material and spiritual aspects. Moreover, its material dimension is mainly composed of economic, technical, military and geo-political components while the spiritual aspect derives from the great Islamic ideology, a rich common history as well as the existing racial and cultural interconnections with other nations in the region.
Since disintegration of the former Soviet Union this emphasis has undoubtedly increased and the political focal point of the relevant policies of the ‘The Arab countries in the Middle East’ has also been redirected towards the east and the north, namely the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Central Asia.
As a linking bridge connecting two of the world’s most vital energy reservoirs, the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, the east and westwards proximity of Iran to eleven countries including the oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf has certainly reassured the regional prestige of the Islamic republic of Iran. Accordingly, restoration of the Silk Road is currently regarded as one of the essential precursors of more fruitful regional and intercontinental cooperation’s amongst the ECO member countries.
Also due to inauguration of Mashhad-Tajan railway and the impending completion of afagh-Mashhad railway, the above-mentioned states would both gain easier access to open sea and have an ever-increasing chance of an active incorporation in the global economy. The central Asian countries, with an old and excessive dependence on the former Soviet Union, still primarily rely upon imports. Yet the necessary efforts are being made to overcome this economic barrier by exploring various new markets. Despite availability of several socio-economic advantages such as abundant manpower and cheap labor, rich natural energy resources as well as the exportation of raw materials, oil, gas and agricultural products, vast majority of these countries crucially lack the existence of modem and well-organized banking, insurance, transportation as well as other essential commercial services. Fortunately, productive technical assistance and multilateral economic co operations commercial development in the region, but would also lead all the concerned parties to more constructive participation in the world economy.
As the world’s greatest Islamic economic organization possessing distinct religious, strategic, historical and socio-economic particularities, undoubtedly, ”ECO” presents Iran with an immense security and economic significance and now Tehran proudly hosts the headquarter of this organization.
Furthermore, the linkage of Mashhad-Tajan railways would definitely provide “ECO” and the numerous sources have mentioned various routes for the “Silk Road”. Some sources consider the city of “Tun Huang” as the origins of the Silk Road, located in the western most tip of the wall of china, while others strongly suggest that the starting point of the said road was in the city of “Loyang” on the south-bank of Huang Ho River. Once reaching the vast “Pamir-Plateau” in Afghanistan, a branch of this ancient road passed through Marv, Samarghand and then led towards Iran via Neyshabur. Marv, Samarghand and then led towards Iran via Neyshabur. In its path the Silk also connected main cities such as Gorgan, Ray, Hamadan, further joined Iraq through Ghasr-e-Shirin, and later arrived at its final land destination adjacent to the Mediterranean coast. As its name clearly suggests, the main role of this ancient road was expediting the safe and easy transport of many important goods from China to Venice among which silk was the incomparable merchandise of the for eighteen centuries(BC 200-AD 1600) the ancient world’s most principal commercial highway, the “Silk Road”8000 km in length, enormously contributed to meaningful intercontinental ,traditional, and cultural exchanges which also give a fresh impetus to commercial development in the region.
According to Christiansen:”because the Ancient Persians exclusively imported huge quantities of silk from China they were thus able to sell their silk-orientated products in various European markets, at their own desired prices. The Turks’ efforts to gain permission for the passage of silk across the Iranian territory were all to no avail and a long and persistent conflict between the Byzantine Empire(395-1453AD) and the Persians, over the transit of Chinese silk, continued throughout the early centuries of the middle ages.”Later the Roman and the chinses attempts at establishing a new silk transit route, without involvement of the Persians, also proved fruitless and even enabled.
The Persian merchants to control the silk trade particularly throughout Indo-China once the Europeans gained complete dominance over East India and the Mediterranean Sea routes. At the turn of the 15th century, their respective companies in the orient also turned their immediate attention to these new routes. In addition, a number of crucial events such as rapid decline in silk production within Persian territories, the oscillation of diplomatic ties between the Ottoman Empire (C1300-1918) and the Persians, and the emergence of new rival silk exporters eventually paved the way for the ironic demise of the ancient “Silk Road”. Fortunately, from now on, all the countries in the region will not only celebrate the 24th of Ordibehesht as the inauguration day of Mashad -Tajan railways, but also would acclaim this important event as the anniversary of the revival of the “Ancient Silk Road.” The following is an excerpt from the opening speech by the former Iranian president Mr. Rafsanjani :” The occurrence of great events during the early years of the last decade of the 20th century as well as the emergence of new conditions in the region have led the Islamic Republic of Iran to play its key and proper role, in this decisive era, by renovating the Silk Road as the region’s most vital connecting bridge which would further link the countries of the north with those in the Orient-via the Islamic republic of Iran….”