Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi (1919–1980)

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Muhammad Reza, son of Reza Khan, was born on 26 October 1919 and was the second and last shah of the Pahlevi dynasty. He died in exile in Cairo on 27 July 1980.

At the coronation of his father, on 25 April 1926, Muhammad Reza was invested as crown prince. On 16 September 1941, Reza Shah abdicated following the Allied invasion of Iran, and Muhammad Reza Shah succeeded to the throne. The first twelve years of his reign, between 1941 and 1953, were marked by a continuing struggle for power between the monarch and a variety of other political forces. This peaked in 1951 when opponents of the shah, led by prime minister Muhammad Mosaddeq, nationalized the oil industry. Following two years of political crisis and radicalization, the shah fled to Rome. He returned on 19 August, however, after a coup. Muhammad Reza Shah then embarked on the consolidation of a royal dictatorship, crushing all opposition. Between 1961 and 1963 he promulgated by decree a series of reforms known as the White Revolution, which included land reform and female enfranchisement. The land reform liquidated the large absentee landlords and thus had a major impact on the social structure of Iran. However, the lack of democratic freedoms continued to provoke opposition and major unrest broke out in 1963. After his exile from Iran in 1964, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini assumed the leadership of the Islamic opposition to the shah.

From the time of the 1953 coup, Muhammad Reza Shah had become increasingly reliant on American support. The quadrupling of oil prices after 1973 allowed the shah to embark on a program of rapid industrialization as well as on a massive weapons' purchasing program.

Both secular and religious opposition burgeoned during the 1970s. Massive political demonstrations forced the shah to leave Iran on 16 January 1979; on 1 February 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran.

See alsoKhomeini, Ruhollah ; Modernization, Political: Authoritarianism and Democratization ; Revolution: Islamic Revolution in Iran .


Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran Between Two Revolutions. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Stephanie Cronin

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Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi (1919–1980)

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