Chapter 13: Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership in Iran
Afsaneh Nahavandi INTRODUCTION Until 1979 Iran, or Persia as it used to be known in the West, had been a monarchy for over 3000 years. The monarchic identity, presence of a central powerful government symbolized by a king and the cultural elements that accompany such traditions are an indelible part of Iranian culture and ideals of leadership. During its long history, the country has been subject to numerous invasions including those of Alexander the Great in 300 BC, and the Arab invasion of the seventh century AD, which brought Islam to Iran. As a result, Iran experienced cultural battles between its imperial and Indo-European roots and the cultures of the invaders. What some would consider the ‘true’ Iranian identity has survived through many conflicts, sometimes going underground, with adjustments and adaptations. Iranian mythology reflected in fairy tales, folklore and literature has survived for thousands of years and continues to be taught in schools and used in popular story telling and art. The courageous, caring, humble and daring leader-hero who rises to save the nation against various supernatural, foreign or domestic evils, while showing unwavering loyalty to country, king and father, kindness to the weak and his enemies, and caring for his followers is an ever present character. This chapter will consider the dominant cultural themes that run through Iranian mythology, shape ideals of leadership in Iran and help understand current leadership. OVERVIEW OF LOCAL CULTURE AND MYTHOLOGY Although Iran is at the heart of the Middle East and shares the...
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