In the 1930s, the political elites in Persia were feeling that their country was not being treated fairly by the British. They started seeing in Hitler an alternative to British power. They were impressed by Hitler’s success in making the German army the most feared war machine in Europe, and by the initiatives that he was taking to transform Germany into an aryan paradise.
Being convinced that the future belonged to Hitler’s aryan ideology, the Persian Government developed a policy of “aryanizing” their own society. They enacted policies to purify their language and customs. They tried to resurrect cultural practices from Persia’s illustrious past. In March 1935, Prime Minister Reza Shah Pahlavi took the decision to change Persia’s name to Iran. The word “Iran” means “Land of the Aryans” in Persian.
Not everyone in the country was happy with the name change. Some intellectuals protested. In 1959, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (the last Shah of Iran) decided to bring back the name Persia. The implementation of the decision was lackadaisical. Today both names Iran and Persia are used in the cultural contexts, and only Iran is used in the political contexts.