The ‘Fun’ Hoveida Years

The Shah channelled billions into massive military purchases and grandiose projects


The ‘Fun’ Hoveida Years
by Arash Monzavi-Kia

After the royal land and social reforms, Iran quickly progressed in all aspects of material and social achievements, but politically remained a brutally repressive police-state. Starting in the mid 1960’s, the Shah took full control of the helms of country, with a feeble premier -- Amir Abbas Hoveida -- rubber stamping all his wishes. Hoveida was raised in Lebanon and had spent most of his adult life in Europe, hence, could never grasp the subtleties of dealing with the colourful Persian and Muslim characters. His father had been a Baha’i, and Hoveida was rumoured a homosexual.

Although at a personal level, Hoveida was kind and humane, all that baggage plus his obvious inefficacy made him quite unsuitable to the role of the head of Iranian government. Most Persian nobility were reeling in pain, just to watch his 13 years of uninterrupted premiership; whereas the grandees like Alam, Amini, Zahedi and Qavam had been dismissed within 1 or 2 years. Perhaps, they had forgotten that from time immemorial; the Shah's had favoured the services of spineless eunuchs, who implemented any and all of their “grand ideas”; and could be thrown to the mob, when things did not work!

On the positive side, during the 1964 to 1977 period, the urban and industrial growth transformed Tehran and the other major cities from the dark ages, when people did not have clean drinking water, sanitation or electricity; to modern metropolitans with all the basic amenities, schools, hospitals, factories and universities.

In contrast, the rural situation did not improve significantly, as most of the newly freed Raieyat (serfs) did not have the required financial means to make efficient use of their small land plots. Moreover, the improved medical conditions in the rural areas created a population boom among the village families, who were used to having 5 or 6 children, with only 2 or 3 surviving. Better health care lowered the child and mother mortalities, but being religious, the rural couples remained averse to any birth control. That combination doubled the backward countryside population within the Hoveida years.

Like many other third world countries, the totally uneven urban/rural development created a massive migration of destitute villagers, who could not find meaningful employment in their backward environment, and sought a better chance in the sprawling city construction sites. Most, who could not afford the city rents, had to live in the ever growing slums and shanty towns. The local population growth plus that human deluge quadrupled most city populations within the 1953-1978 period.

During the great oil boom of the 1970’s, the irrational exuberance of the Iranian upper classes and the unquenchable greed of the royalty played havoc with the domestic economy. Hoveida’s half-baked plans for hasty modernization and the Shah’s expensive upgrades for the army, created a number of economical and social dislocations. That deluge of projects, which were unnaturally fuelled by the soaring oil prices, played havoc with the fledging Iranian economy and infrastructure; creating cyclic booms and busts, deficiencies and speculations, inflation and hoarding.

The Shah’s military background made him eager to build his army as strong and well equipped as possible, in order to prevail over all internal and external advisories. However, progressively, his pride aged into egomania and his anxiety escalated to paranoia. Soon, he wanted to establish a truly Persian empire worthy of the Cyrus and the Darius; forcefully enlist all the populace in his grandiose schemes; and even torment the aloof western countries that apparently were not paying him enough respect!

Despite the desperate appeals of his American allies, the Shah’s aggressive stands in the OPEC effectively lead the oil surge following the 1973 Arab embargo, into a full-fledged price explosion. That propelled the Iranian crude oil income from $800 million in 1970 to $18 billion (22 times higher) in 1975, but soon created a worldwide recession and a price bust!

Sadly, instead of creating a thoughtful long-term plan for all that windfall fortune, the Shah simply channelled a third of it into massive military purchases and the rest into poorly planned grandiose projects, which could not be accommodated within the frail existing infrastructure. Consequently, the soaring and unaccounted for demands on electricity, housing and transportation exploded into chronic blackouts, rent and real-estate explosions and serious port and delivery bottlenecks; all leading to frequent shortages of everything!

Intoxicated by the oil windfall and daydreaming that he was the greatest king since Cyrus; the Shah embarked on a range of idiotic measures, which were almost designed to enrage the populace. His grandiose ‘imperial’ make over of Iran, started with a $200 million dollar imperial gala to celebrate 2,500 years of monarchy in Iran. He then changed the Islamic calendar to a peculiar imperial one, which was never used before anywhere in the world! Finally in 1975, during a surprise televised speech, the Shah ordered all the Iranians to either join a new imperial party (Rastakheez) or get their passports and leave ‘his’ country! At the same time, the secret police (Savak) kept its torturous chokehold on the Iranian intellectuals, which led to the arrest, torture and early demise of many scholars, authors and students.

On the cultural side, the Shah and Hoveida had set aside all pretences regarding any respect towards the religious and ethical sensitivities of the 95% Muslim population. The state-run television, the government-censured cinemas and the Pahlavi-sponsored Shiraz ‘art festival’ would routinely broadcast such explicit sexual content, which was insulting and demeaning to the general populace. In reaction, the bulk of religious masses turned to their traditional congregations and mosques for spiritual support and guidance. This was particularly true in case of the migrant rural families who could not adjust to the fast, uncaring and align pace of life in the sprawling but characterless Tehran.

The secular intellectuals were not any happier either, as their leaders were routinely jailed and tortured, and the slightest sign of descent would ignite a brutal police and Savak suppression. A sad consequence was that the new and modernized universities turned into effective breeding grounds for the underground guerrilla movements, as well as frequent demonstrations and strikes. Even most oversees students became mired in anti-Shah organizations instead of education. In the mid 1970’s, to most secular, liberal or religious intellectuals; Iran felt like a prosperous country, but under the militaristic occupation of a cruel and alien regime, headed by a brute king and a silly premier, who were either stealing most of the oil fortune or squandering it! They were unaware that those ‘fun’ years were coming to an abrupt end.

Reference: The Persian Sphinx, by A. Milani.


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by Amir Kabir's Donkey (not verified) on

Hoveida was not one tenth the premier that Amir Kabir was.

Ahmadi Nejad is not one tenth the leader that Shah was.

Unfortunately, our leaders seem to worsen, century after century.

But our liers are getting better and better!


Hoveyda as great as Amir Kabir

by Arash Kamangir (not verified) on

Hoveyda was undoubtedly one of the greatest prime ministers Iran has ever seen. He was a modern, educated, and liberal statesman middle East has ever seen . Unfortuately has never been understood by most Iranians because the values he represented has never been much of the iranian culture. In simple language, he was far head of his time. Those of us who did not understand him, can instead enjoy people such as rajaei, musavi, ahmadinejad who represent 12th century values.

Shazde Asdola Mirza

love, orchids and betrayal

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

توضیح جان: ظاهرا هویدا با حسنعلی‌ منصور دوست صمیمی‌ بودند. وقتی‌ اسلامیها حسنعلی‌ رو میزنن، هویدا تو مراسم ختمش با خواهر زنش یعنی‌ لیلا آشنا می‌شه و بعد از دو ماهی ازدواج می‌کنن. چند سالی‌ بودند تا اون ماجرای بابلسر پیش میاد و کار به طلاق می‌کشه.

من شخصا با همجنس بازا، تا وقتیکه یقه خودم رو نگرفتن، مساله ای ندارم. این چیزها رو هم فقط نوشتم که بین دانشمندان یه خود نمایی‌ کرده باشم، که باید ببخشند. پیری خرفتی‌ میاره دیگه!


شازده - در مورد هویدا مرحوم

توضیح المسایل (not verified)

ببینم این برنامه لیلا خانم و پرورش گل ارکید همش خیمه شب بازی بود!!

Shazde Asdola Mirza

به قول ناپولیون: قاسم، خفه شو!

Shazde Asdola Mirza

حالا تاریخچه مملکت ما پر از لجنه، به من چه؟

اصلا من احمق رو بگو، برای چه کسایی‌ شعر میگم!

ولی‌ چون حرف لجن شد، حالا این یکیرم داشته باش تا بعد از اینکه نماز رو به کمرت زدی:

خمینی‌ وقتی‌ میاد به ایرون، رفسنجانی‌ میره به دست بوسش. سلام علیک میکنند و هاشمی‌ میشینه کنار آقا.

پنج دقیقه بعد امام ازش میپرسه: ببخشید، شما کی‌ باشید؟ رفسنجانی‌ میگه آقا بنده شاگرد خودتون تو حوزه بودم، فلانی‌.

خمینی‌ قاه قاه میزنه به خنده و جواب میده: هاشمی‌ تویی‌؟ از جلو نشناختمت!

پی‌ اس: نامرده که اینو پاک کنه! خدا وکیلی‌ نیم ساعته دارم تایپش می‌کنم!


Shazdeh ghorbanat shavam

by مش قاسم عازم زیارت (not verified) on

گل گفتی!

آخه آدم بعضی اوقات میتونه با شایعه پرونی خودشو قدری خالی کنه واز حجم لجنی که توش غوطه می خوره کم کنه...
واسه فشار خون هم خوبه!

حالا شما شازده یه کم دیگه از حجم لجن شریفتون کم کنید تا مبادا زبونم لال غرق بشید توش.

البته از قدیم وندیم گفتن که چه یه وجب چه دو وجب...حالا ما بریم سر نماز، البته بعد خدمت سرکار خواهیم بود.

Darius Kadivar

FYI/BBC Documentary: The Fall of the Shah ( 11 Part)

by Darius Kadivar on

BBC Documentary: The Fall of the Shah ( 11 Part)


Darius Kadivar

FYI/Shah a US Puppet ? Interview with Barbar Walters (1977/74)

by Darius Kadivar on

Contrary to what was said about the Shah he was quite aggressive and independant in regard to the West and both Carter and Nixon Administrations in regard to his Oil Price Policies: See for yourselves:

Shah of Iran interview 1974

Barbara Walters Interview 1977


Shazde Asdola Mirza

شایعه بی‌ شایعه

Shazde Asdola Mirza

دروغ چرا، تا قبر اه اه اه اه.

تو بابلسر بودیم که رییس الوزرا رو با یه پسره غول چماق گرفتند! خانومش بی‌ موقع رفته بود تو ویلا  و دیده بود، اون چه رو نباید میدید!

همه افسرا و درباری ها هم میدونستند، و مثل دلقک به اون خدا بیامرز میخندیدند. البته پشت سر مرده حرف زدن معصیت داره، و باید ببخشید.


Arash MK

by Jamshid not logged in (not verified) on

With this article, you have permanently lost any credibility you might have previouisly earned. You have degraded yourself to the level of a tabloid rumor-man.

A respectable historian does not attack a past figure head using lies and false rumors from the past.

The same rumors that were used 30 years ago by Islamists to deceive the masses.

Today, you immerse yourself in their garbage can of "rumors" as though the past 30 years of devastation have not taught you even a single lesson.


Jamshid Niavarani, Just

by Khosrow (not verified) on

Jamshid Niavarani, Just keep betting the same cards when you got a loosing hand and you surely go bust buddy. You also thought Islamic republic would solve all our problems too. Your wish for "democratic republic" will be just as well! I suggest you let our children choose the future as we sure F........d it up last time!


That "son" of "BAHA'I" was 1000000 times better than Khomaini

by Nasser. (not verified) on

At least at that time Iran had respect. Iran' wasn't a terrorist state. Iranian leaders didn't wear Palestinian cloth around their necks. The national language of Iran was Farsi not Arabic.

Now what do you have to show? Everyone knows what you are up to by putting "BAHA'I" in bold. We Iranians may have been stupid enough back then to not read between the lines Mollahs were feeding us. But now, after 30 years of Mollahs, we know what you are trying to say.

It ain't gona work. If Mollahs had to hire you as their PR person, that only tells me one thing. And this to investigate Baha'i religion more and like millions of other Iranians say Arivaderchi to Mollahs and their eslam.

The only thing about Baha'is that I don't like is that they say you have to accept Mohammad as a prophet and eslam as a religion and Shia as the right sect of Islam to become a Baha'i. I disagree with those because of what Mollahs and eslam have done to us Iranians. But after reading your PR for Mollahs to sow hatred against my Baha'i country men and women by putting "BAHA'I" IN BOLD, I bet you, I can get over that and can't wait for Iran to have a Baha'i head of state!


It got over Shah's head!

by Anonymous iranian (not verified) on

he dissolved other parties and wanted to either people vote for his Rastakhiz party or leave the country.Changed Iranian calender.Used million of dollars for his 2500 year celebration party.Sold oil with international basket of money instead of US dollar.ignored Iranian people religious values by letting movie directors make sexual movies,which did not set well with Iranian taste.He ridiculed white skin blue eyed and blaming British for Iran's problems by making shows like Daee jan Napeleon.His became rebellious and they decide to flock his feathers,but I still rather see him back.About Hovaida it was rumoured that he was Bahai,but I read somewhere that he actually had Jewish ancestries.About his sexual preference I thought he was married for sometimes but he got divorced and he had no children.


I for one

by MRX1 on

loved the imperial calander as you call it. It beats the omati tazzi calander any day. Hoveyda was a good man and patriot. I will take one hoveyda over thousends of roaches that are rulling and in charge in IRAN now.


The Pahlavis were pathetic idiots

by Jamshid_Niavarani_IV on

The Pahlavis are the prime example of Mismanagement in Iran.

The best thing that happened to Iran was the permanent eradication of the Monarchy.

America got rid of King George III in 1776.

Iran got rid of that stupid Iranian King (Shah) Pahlavi in 1979.

It is high time that Iran become a democratic republic with the social freedoms of Amsterdam.

Anything else would be barbaric.

God Bless America.


Pathetic !!

by aaj sr (not verified) on

The last regime did many wrongs, but who didn't? Which regime/country are you comparing it with ? Give you best and name a few as your ideal regimes in that frame of time, in our region, in Asia and finally in entire world?. Consider illiteracy, diseases, economy, superstition, etc. ( let me give you an example for your study: thirty years ago we were as equal as Spain and South Korea, in population and GDP, much a head of Turkey but none of them have any oil. Where are they today and where we are now in comparison).

All I have to say, without being defending ex-regime , after 30 years, millions have come to realization that whatever the last regime did, the IRI make them look Angelic.
You do not deserve confronting some of your pathetic, baseless allegations, all I would say, is that you need to read more, be more analytical, let your emotion not interfere with your fact finding, and last word: do not use unsubstantiated adjectives in every sentences to bring you down to the level of so called Islamic Republic, a thievery, murderous, un-holy, inhuman regime that made miseries for over 4 million people who had to leave their homeland and many millions inside Iran.

Shazde Asdola Mirza

Morris jaan

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

ولی‌ عالمی داشتیما.  این هنری منری ها از خارج میومدند و بوی شیراز که بهشون میخورد مثل موم نرم میشدند.  ارتشیا هم سهمیه بیلیت و پاس ورودی داشتن.  حال بود و صفا.


شازده: راجع به اقای اشتوکهاوزن!

موریس بژار (not verified)

جون تو من این یارو رو خوب یادمه! شنیدن به موسیقیش مثل یک جنگ اعصاب کامل بود - این جشن هنر خوب اغاز شد، ولی از سال به سال، هی مرموزتر و مرموزتر می شد!


By the way

by Fatollah (not verified) on

Late P.M. Hoveida doesn't owe you and every other Iranian a goddamn thing!


Unbelievable !

by Fatollah (not verified) on

Why even think that you! and people like you ever deserved a man like Hoveida? Eunuch? You didn't mean literally, did you? rubber-stamp as someone Bikhayeh! Hoveida was more of a man than any man serving the Islamic Republic, enforcing it's perverted ideology!

Let him rest in peace!

Shazde Asdola Mirza

Mr. Darius: those were some good times in Shiraz!

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

جشن هنر البته خیلی‌ برنامه داشت، که بیشترش جالب و دیدنی‌ بود؛ ولی‌ خوب طبیت بشر چیز‌های عجیب و غریب رو بهتر یادش می‌‌مونه.  واسه دوستان خوش حافظه، یه سه مورد رو دارم، شاید اونا هم یادشون بیاد و بنویسند:

۱- به اصطلاح موسیقی ` اشتوکهاوزن ` بود که با چرخوندن دکمه تنظیم رادیو و از خر خر اون درست میشد.

۲- یه تیاتر آخر شب بود تو پاسارگاد، به اسم ` زاخدار برادر تارزان `، که از دور به نظر لخت میومدند، و حرکات آدمهای اولیه رو، به خصوص جنگ و جفت گیری شون رو نشون میداد.

۳- یه گروه نمایش زنده (در محل) از لهستان بود که تو چند تا لوکشن مختلف اجرا میشد، ولی‌ بیرون اون محل اجرا هم رو صفحه تلویزیون پخش میکردند. یه قسمتش تو یه قهوه خونه بود، که یه آرتیست با هفت تیرش به همبازی زنش تجاوز میکرد.  یادم نمیره که ملت دور تلویزیون بیرون قهوه خونه جمع شده بودند و وقتی‌ یارو هفت تیر رو فرو کرد تو اونجای خانومه، همه رو برق سه فاز گرفت!


Thank You DK

by Aboli (not verified) on

Enjoyed your refreshingly insighful comment.

Darius Kadivar

Regarding the Explicit Sexual Content of Shiraz Art Festival...

by Darius Kadivar on

This was a common misinterpretation that was given by most observers of Peter Brook's Avant Garde Performance of a Live Performance called ORGHAST. (see Here)


Actually it was a Modern Ballet Type Performance that wanted to Illustrate an interpretation of the Pagan and Primitive rituals in Ancient Times in an Ancient Setting like Persepolis.

The actors had very thin costumes like Ballet Dancers that had the colour of the human skin. As a Result people who watched it thought the Actors were naked.

Peter Brook was an American (or British)  Left Wing Intellectual Artist who like Bejart was very Avant Garde in his direction and form of expression and was rather misunderstood by the Iranian audience at the time.

Strangely enough this play would have probably less shocked the Indians than the Persians for Brook was to work very closely in the years to come in India to great success.

I personally always found such Avant Garde Performances rather boring than truly shocking. But I suppose that people thought it was an eccentric provocation by the Pahlavi's Artistic endeavors.

But it also shows how most people wrongly concluded that the Performance in question was "Pornography" were totally wrongly interpreting a performance that was not at all intended to be insulting but only "avant garde" and incomprehensible to most Iranian Art Critics and viewers of the time.

Only Today people would probably have understood its significance given that Iranian Artists have since been given much more exposure to Avant Garde works of Art which reflects in their Cinema and modern Art exhibitions today in Iran ... 


At the time it was simply too much ahead of its time and was wrongly deemed for what it was not. The government and the Empress in particular took the blame as a result. When in Fact the Shiraz International Festival was probably one of the greatest Artistic Achievements of the Pahlavi Era in promoting Persian Classic Music and Art forms and an opportunity for Iranian and Foreign Artists to meet and work or share their experiences.

The Fajr Film Festival in IRan is simply an extension of what the Shiraz International film Festival was the first to initiate.




I would like Mr. Milani to

by Anonymousk (not verified) on

I would like Mr. Milani to write a book about the mullahs soon. thanks.



by ali122 (not verified) on

where the heck did arafat get $300M in his bank did a bunch of arab terrorists get created out of nothing and get all their weapons??? how has rafsanjani bought half of canada????
have some shame monzavi, the half civilized country that iran turned into by the late 70s is all due to reza shah and his sons efforts!
The mullahs have raped iran out of trillions of dollars of wealth to spend on themselves and arab terrorists!


I always wonder why all of

by Khosrow (not verified) on

I always wonder why all of the anti shah idiots don’t bother to write about chemical war casualties or largest migration of Iranians from their homeland since Arab invasion of 7th century instead of nonesense obsessions with shahs era? The truth is thanks to Hovida and his government, Iran didn’t have so good since 15th century buddy! My suggestion is to beg for forgiveness from our children for what have we done and simply let those brave people rest in peace.


Thanks the blessing of their Islamic Revolutio...

by Schahram on


"Thanks the blessing of their Islamic Revolutio. since 1978/79 that nation decides itself about its desteny. Greeting"

 ..and the IRI is now doing the same politics as the shah did durcing the seventies convcerning reaching out to China, europe and russia, concerning pil trade, military equipment and nuclear proliferation, which the islamist had denounced in 1979 as unimportant....and the IRI is now facing the same challenges as the shah did during that time.

The success of the Islamic Republic is not a consequence of the The Islamic Revolution itself, but benefits from a changed world, where the US is weakened generally and now is ready to make some compromises to Iran, just to reach at least a minimum of what it wants (containing Russia and China). Had the reigned in these days, we would have gained at least the same, what the IRI had reaches. At least.. and much more... 



lets be fair!

by Tiger Aswad (not verified) on

I read this article and all the comments written about it so far! I must say that in my experienced living in Iran all those years, I find the article to be well on the mark. It is a brief overview if a long period therefore it cannot provide much supporting details (space constrain). I have to agree with its main points and the descriptions of the situation at that time. I like to ask those critics who objected to some words (e.g. Bahia or homosexual etc...) to cool it! Please let’s be fair here. Those are the facts of that time and the context of society at that time in Iran. We are not judging it with the liberal world of the west that we live in now. Ignoring those issues would not serve any point in explaining the social sanding and perceptions that people had of the Shah’s Regime in those time.
My kudos to Mr. Milan for the article.


Milani is a Fraud...

by Anonymousx (not verified) on

He was a commie, imprisoned by the shah, then allegedly turned savaki, then supported the revolution of 1979 and khomeini, then run away and turned whatever he is today, and now makes a living by being provocative and outrages and claim to know things to sell poorly written books.

See here for a rebuttal (ridicule?) of his book copied here:


with notes:


See who were those who brought us here for nothing but self-interest and bigger-than-the-moon (with Emam's picture on it) ego, only to run away once their objective of removing the shah was achieved.


To the Author; please check fundamental facts before writing.

by Babak SD (not verified) on

Your attempt at rewriting history is very poor.

First of all, Hoveida's father was not a Bahai. His grand father was. However, what does this have to do with price of tea in China?

Secondly, in all middle eastern islamic countries which are run buy a king, all governmental positions, elected or appointed are ornamental at best; including the position of prime minister. So, for a self proclaimed historian/political commentator, to think Hoveida has any other purpose but to rubber stamp decisions of the king is as smart as your statement about religion of Hoveida's grandfather.