Tehran: History

Modern and traditional, secular and religious, rich and poor

Excavations place settlements back as far as 6000 BC, though the city name’s origin is still unknown. It was a well-known village in the 9th century, though slightly overshadowed by its more affluent neighbour, Rhages. Though after Rhage’s destruction at the hands of the Mongols, many of its citizens fled to Tehran. In the 17th century it became a residence of the Safavid rulers, but it was not to become capital of Iran until 1795 when Qajar king, Agha Mohammad Khan was crowned in it.

During World War II, Allied forces entered the city and it was the site of the Tehran Conference in 1943. Post-war, the city’s monuments were neglected under the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah. He believed such historic landmarks as the Golestan Palace, Takieh-ye Dowlat, the Toopkhaneh Square and the city’s fortifications, should not be part of a modern city and replaced them with 1950s and 1960s architecture. In hindsight, this is viewed as a rather foolish period of decision and direction for the city, which damaged it in the long term.

During the Iraq War in 1980-1988, Tehran was the target of many Scud missile attacks and random air strikes – resulting in thousands of civilian casualties. However material damage was repaired soon after and the city became a haven for war refugees. Because of such destruction and the consequences of Reza Shah’s rule, the city has a general identity problem in terms of architecture, this is known as Tehran Identity Disaster, and the city is dominated by mostly modern buildings and designs.