and reached its greatest extent during the Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great in the sixth century BC, stretching from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valley, becoming a larger empire than previously ever existed in the world.The Iranian realm fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, but reemerged shortly after as the Parthian Empire, followed by the Sasanian Empire, which became a leading world power for the next four centuries.The unification of the Median tribes under king Deioces in 728 BC led to the foundation of the Median Empire which, by 612 BC, controlled almost the entire territory of present-day Iran and eastern Anatolia.In 550 BC, Cyrus the Great, the son of Mandane and Cambyses I, took over the Median Empire, and founded the Achaemenid Empire by unifying other city states.According to international observers, Iran's human rights record has rapidly deteriorated, with severe human rights violations being committed by the government against Iranian dissidents; in several cases, several opponents of the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have been tortured, imprisoned, sentenced to death or executed for insulting him.Iran has responded to denunciation of its human rights record by verbally attacking its critics and harshly criticizing them, leading to tensions and anger toward Iran from the West.
During the Bronze Age, the territory of present-day Iran was home to several civilizations, including Elam, Jiroft, and Zayanderud.
In 1935, Reza Shah requested the international community to refer to the country by its native name, Iran.
As The New York Times explained at the time, "At the suggestion of the Persian Legation in Berlin, the Tehran government, on the Persian New Year, Nowruz, March 21, 1935, substituted Iran for Persia as the official name of the country." Opposition to the name change led to the reversal of the decision, and Professor Ehsan Yarshater, editor of Encyclopædia Iranica, propagated a move to use Persia and Iran interchangeably.
Following a coup instigated by the United Kingdom and the United States in 1953, Iran gradually became closely aligned with the West, and grew increasingly autocratic.
During the 1980s, the country was engaged in a war with Iraq, which lasted for almost nine years and resulted in a high number of casualties and financial loss for both sides.