Is this a specific place?

By Deane Barker

It’s an alternative name for Iran. The term “Persia” is considered a relic of ancient times by most, and usage of it usually implies a historical reference to Iran.

In 1935, the reigning shah announced that the country would henceforth be referred to by its modern name of “Iran.” This wasn’t technically a name change, as the country had been referred to by both names since shortly after Biblical times.

In 1959, the reigning shah (son of the former shah) announced that “Persia” and “Iran” are both acceptable and interchangeable.

Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to the debate about the name of the country. It notes that many Iranians prefer “Persia.” A journalist states that:

“Persia” connotes a glorious past [Iranians] would like to be identified with, while “Iran” since 1979 revolution… says nothing to the world but Islamic fundamentalism.

Many people consider “Persia” to be a regional name for the entire Middle East or some vague geographic construct thereabouts, however it has always specifically meant the singular country of Iran.

Why I Looked It Up

The name came up a lot in The Prize. Oil was discovered in Persia in 1908, long before the name change.

Also, I remember a scene from the movie Crash where a character’s store is vandalized with anti-Iraq graffiti. The woman says, “We’re not even Iraqi, we’re Persian.”

(That’s from memory, and it might not be 100% accurate. But I remember the scene because I had some residual guilt that I had no idea how an Iraqi and a Persian were different. I should have looked it up back then.)

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