Here is a post for the Ides of March.
If a photo is worth a 1,000 lies, then in this particular case, 28 photos are worth 28,000 lies.
A photo album from 1956 depicting the glorious "achievements" and noble "character" of the Shah Mohammed RezaPahlavi passed through my hands recently. It was an extraodinary example of cold war visual propaganda which came to the original recipients "With the compliments of the Director of Crown Lands, as a souvenir of Your Excellency's visit to Iran, May 5, 1956." I took the opportunity to scan the images and copy the captions before returning the album.
Of course, we know now how the Shah's reign ended and the aftermath of the Islamic revolution, but the legacy of past and current U.S. and European interventions is still unfolding. The publicity surrounding the movie Argo, warnings about Iranian nuclear aspirations, and reports of the chaos in Syria are in the news daily. The state propaganda of a half century ago seems so transparent today. Who was fooling whom? Who's still being fooled?
The captions are from the original photo album.
"His Majesty has always been deeply interested in agriculture."
"Any new development in agricultural methods is bound to interest His Majesty."
"Without any previous notice, Their Majesties visiting a tenant..."
"with great simplicity, Their Majesties visit a tenant family..."
...and listen to the requests of one of the children."
"...and attending a children's class-room."
"The Director of Crown lands reporting to His Majesty on their distribution."
"Praying in his local dialect, one of the recipients expresses his gratitude."
"After granting their title-deeds to the tenants, His Majesty poses for a photograph with them."
"Two happy new small-holders from Turkeman-Sahra."
"His Majesty looks happy at the pleasure of his tenants."
"His Majesty inspecting the ranks of the tenants about to receive their deeds."
"In token of deep gratitude, a tenant falls at His Majesty's feet."
"At a boy scouts' camp..."
"...watching a wresting contest..."
"...inspecting their carpentry workshop..."
"...and participating in their activities."
"By inaugurating new institutions, His Majesty encourages initiative..."
"...and national products."
"His Majesty has a deep respect for religion and yearly visits shrines."
"A life of democratic simplicity...."
"...and a love for sports."
"Mausoleum of His late Majesty Reza Shah the Great, Founder of Modern Iran."
"Teheran - Firdausi Square."
"Shiraz - Tomb of Saadi."
"Hamadan - The Tomb of Avicenna."
"The flag of Iran flying in pride over the achievements of the new generation."
The reign of Empress Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari (the Shah's second of three wives), shown in this these photos, came to an end two years after the photo album was made. The Shah divorced Empress Soraya in 1958 after they failed to have children. She was demoted to the rank of "Royal Princess" in the Pahlavi dynasty - a sovereign lineage that barely lasted two generations. She never remarried and died in Paris in 2001 - nineteen years after the death of the Shah.
Here is her obituary from the New York Times:
In the late 1970's the cleric Ruhollah Khomeini also lived as an exile in France just outside of Paris, albeit only briefly before the downfall of the Shah. With the return of Ayatollha Khomeini to Iran in 1979, the photos in this album were consigned to the dustbin of history - propaganda is is forever going out of date. Sooner or later the truth emerges.