Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran and formerly known internationally as Persia until 1935, is a country in Central Eurasia. Iran is bounded by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to the south and the Caspian Sea to its north. Shi'a Islam is the official religion, and Persian is the official language. The 18th largest country in the world in terms of area at 1,648,195 km², Iran has a population of over seventy million. Iran borders Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan to the north, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east, and Turkey and Iraq to the west. Being a littoral state of the Caspian sea (an internal sea and condominium), also Kazakhstan and Russia are Iran's direct neighbors.
Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 4000 BC. Throughout history, Iran has been of geostrategic importance because of its central location in Eurasia and is a regional power. Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC, and OPEC. The political system of Iran, based on the 1979 Constitution, comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The highest state authority is the Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran occupies an important position in international energy security and world economy as a result of of its large reserves of petroleum and natural gas. The name Iran is a cognate of Aryan, and means "Land of the Aryans". "Land of Kindness" is used as an alternative name for Iran in Persian literature and Iranian media.
Iran is the eighteenth largest country in the world after Libya and before Mongolia. Its area roughly equals that of the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany combined, or slightly less than the state of Alaska. Its borders are with Azerbaijan (432 km/268 mi) and Armenia (35 km/22 mi) to the north-west; the Caspian Sea to the north; Turkmenistan (992 km/616 mi) to the north-east; Pakistan (909 km/565 mi) and Afghanistan (936 km/582 mi) to the east; Turkey (499 km/310 mi) and Iraq (1,458 km/906 mi) to the west; and finally the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south. Iran's area is 1,648,000 km² (approximately 636,300 sq mi).
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