Sunday, September 2, 2018

Revolutions in Iran

Stamps often show rapidly changing conditions in a country.  The stamp below is from Iran, then called Persia in western countries.  

Scott #44, issued 1879 (
Scott #44, 2 chahis, was issued in 1879, and shows shah Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, (born 1831; assassinated 1896).  The monarch, who in 1873 was the first shah to visit Europe, perceived himself to be something of a reformer.  

The shah is shown wearing western attire except for his ceremonial headdress.  The stamp bears the lion and the rising sun, the symbol of imperial Persia.  Otherwise no country information is given.

Scott #59, issued 1882-1884 (
The next stamp, Scott 59,  is from the early 1880s.  By this time Iran had become a member of the Universal Postal Union, a multi-lateral treaty organization still operating today, which allows mail to be sent between countries by postage paid solely to the sending country, and not to all countries in transit, as had often been the previous case.  

Scott 59 now complies with UPU rules for international mail, showing the country’s name in Roman letters and in the French language, and expressing the stamp’s value in Arabic numerals.  

Shah Naser-ed-Din, the same monarch shown in Scott 44, is shown in Scott 59 in a traditional royal robe, but under it he wears the starched white collar and necktie of the western gentleman of the day.

Scott #703, Pahlavi overprint (
The Qajar dynasty stumbled along until the throne came to Naser’s great-grandson, Ahmad Shah Qajar, who became Shah in 1909, at the age of eleven.  Attempts at reform of the weak Iranian government failed, and in February 1921 Ahmad Shah was effectively stripped of power in a coup led by an army officer, Reza Khan, backed by the British empire.

In 1925, Khan, having changed his name to Pahlavi, formally overthrew the Qajar dynasty and had himself crowned as Shah.  In the stamp above, Scott #703, the rays of the sun rising behind the imperial lion of Iran block out the face of the former shah.  Reza Pahlavi took major steps towards modernizing Iran.  

Scott #789, issued Feb 21, 1935 (
In 1935 the Iranian government released a set of stamps showing improvements in transportation, industry, and communications, the first Iranian stamps ever to show anything other than the image of the shah or the imperial lion and sun.  One of the stamps in the 1935 series, Scott #789, shows the new Tehran airport with a row of military airplanes lined up in front of aircraft hangers.

Mohammad Reza Shah, 1944 (
Reza Pahlavi tried to keep Iran neutral when World War 2 began in 1939.  The war drew in much of the Middle East, which both sides deemed vital to control because of the oil sources in the region and also critical transportation links, such as the Suez Canal.  Great Britain and the Soviet Union came to regard Reza Pahlavi as being pro-German, and so after a short war in the summer of 1941, he was overthrown.  Britain and the Soviets divided Iran into occupation zones and appointed Reza Pahlavi's son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, as shah.

1979 stamp of Iran overprinted "Islamic Republic of Iran" (
In 1979 Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was overthrown in the revolution which led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  As in the 1925 revolution in which the Shah's father, Reza Pahlavi had overthrown the Qajar dynasty, the image of the Shah on stamps was overprinted with lines, and the new regime's name placed on the stamp design.

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