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Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi

Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi (mōhämˈmäd rĭzä shä păˈləvē) [key], 1919–80, shah of Iran (1941–79). Educated in Switzerland, he returned (1935) to Iran to attend the military academy in Tehran. He ascended the throne in 1941 after his father, Reza Shah Pahlevi, suspected of collaboration with the Germans, was deposed by British and Soviet troops. He narrowly escaped assassination (1949) by a member of the leftist Tudeh party, and in 1953 briefly fled the country after a clash with supporters of Muhammad Mussadegh. The shah launched (1963) a reform program with U.S. assistance called the "White Revolution," which included land redistribution among citizens, extensive construction, the promotion of literacy, and the emancipation of women, but wealth, emanating from the oil industry, was unequally distributed among Iranians and the clergy disapproved of his pro-Western policies. As popular discontent grew, particularly in the early 1970s, the shah became more repressive, calling upon his brutal secret police (SAVAK) to put down domestic strife. By 1978 demonstrations and unrest had become widespread. On Jan. 16, 1979, Shah Pahlevi fled the country; the exiled religious leader Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran and took control. When in Oct., 1979, Iranian extremists stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, they demanded the shah in return for the American hostages being held in the embassy. The shah remained abroad and died in Egypt in 1980.

See biography by A. Milani (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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