The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a religious uprising that involved the collapse of the longstanding Monarchy in Iran. In this essay, I will compare and contrast the background and ideology of the Iranian Revolution with the Russian Revolution of 1917. I will then outline the major differences and similarities between the two.
In the 1970’s Iran, under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was a very centralized military state that maintained a close relationship with the USA. The Shah was notoriously out of touch with working class Iranians as he implemented many controversial economic policies against small business owners that he suspected involved profiteering. Also unrestricted economic expansions in Iran lead to huge government expenditure that became a serious problem when oil prices dropped in the mid 1970’s. This caused many huge government construction projects to halt and the economy to stall after many years of massive profit. Following this was high rates of inflation that affected Iranians buying power and living standards. (Afary, 2012) Under the Shah, political participation was not widely available for all Iranians and it was common for political opposition to be met with harassment, illegal detention, and even torture. These measures were implemented by the Iranian secret police knows as ‘SAVAK’. This totalitarian regime combined with the increasing modernisation of the country paved the way for revolution.
Ted Grant commented on the regime in Iran by stating
“A totalitarian system can only maintain itself by means of terror and a system of informers while the masses are inert, but once the masses move into action it is the beginning of the end.”
The Shah attempted to appear as an old-fashioned absolute monarch while at the same time trying to deal with the rapid modernisation of Iran by introducing political and land reforms. These reforms were introduced to try to transform the nobility into a capitalist investment class to boost industrial investment within Iran. This was seen as an attempt to westernize Iran, which did not gain the support of the people who mainly had negative views toward the USA. By the late 1970’s demonstrations against the Shah boiled over and the political reforms that the Shah introduced were now working against him as the opposition grew rapidly, mainly lead by religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini worked to unite the opposition against the Shah and overthrow the outdated monarchy that had lost touch with the traditional Islamic law that should govern the country. The Ayatollah had support from many different social groups including students, the working class, and even members of the upper class who had become disillusioned with the incompetence of the Shah. All of these factors set the stage and provided the background for a religious revolution in Iran in the late 1970’s.
The ideology of the Iranian revolution was dominated by Islam, which is not only a belief system but can be...