Studies in Recognition of Natural Environment Impacts on Evolution of Political Governance in Iran

Document Type : Research Paper


Assistant professor of political geography, Yazd University, Yazd, Iran


Despite that determinism approaches have been abandoned in geographical studies, but in the studies of political geography, natural and physical features have effective role in political processes of any country. In other word, the natural factors have always been considered as one of the important foundations in governance system making. For example, Aristotle believed that weather conditions have important effects on the evolution of societies. Thus, this approach cannot analyze the government and politics in a territory only based on sociological approaches such as Weber's theory or Marx's theory. Although in geographical studies giving importance to a single factor represents the geographical determinism and this idea has lost its importance in the history of geography, but the influence of the natural environment on the process of political structures cannot be overlooked and, therefore, the historical evolution of a country should not be studied without attention to natural aspect of territory. In other words, taking the environmental aspect of political process into account is becoming one of the major functions of political geography.  In this study, we have argued about the effects that the natural features of Iranian plateau might have on political process aspects including the type of governance system, structure of power and political culture in twentieth century. In this approach, it seems that dominant political structure and process in Iran has reacted to physical conditions of Iran plateau. 
In this research, applying description and analytical approaches we have attempted to examine the relation between natural characteristics of Iran plateau and governmental characteristics in twentieth century. This research seeks to answer the question: “Does physical geographical factors have had impacts on evolution of features and characteristics of Iran political structure?”  To answer this question, refering to valid bibliography, it was attempted to explain the set of natural factors that have played an effective role on Iranian political structure.  
Results and discussion
The effects of physical characteristics of the Iran’s plateau on the evolution of governmental structure of Iran can be summarized as following: 
1. Distribution of natural resources in Iran is not equal and Iran has been located in arid and semi-arid belt. The average rainfall is about 240 mm, which is less than a third of the world average and despite the fact that Iran has about 2.1 percent of the Earth's land and one percent of the population in the world, but it received only 0.36% of annual rainfall. On the other hand, geographical distribution of natural resources and fossil fuels are not the same in the whole country. In this regard, the sources of power and wealth in a country are located in a restricted area. Therefore, only central governments are able to distribute the benefits of those resources fairly between different regions of the country.  Thus, this condition is one of the fundamental factors that encourage a centralized government in Iran.   
2. Before the contemporary century; governmental structure of Iran has been affected by tribes. The political history of Iran, in fact, is the story of the tribes that gained political power on the whole country by defeating another dominant tribe. These political events have been affected by diversity and independent geomorphological and hydrological basins that can be seen in Iran. Obviously, this environmental background had created the tribal pattern livelihood that resulted in a lot of historical events before contemporary century.
3. In recent centuries, revenues from oil exports as an environmental factor gradually found greater role in economy of Iran. On the other hand, the oil income collecting in the hands of government is one major factor for making the centralized political system in Iran in twentieth century. As a result of this process, public institutions and governmental apparatus expanded highly and, in the opposite point, private institutions and non-profit organizations have played negligible role in decision making in political system in Iran. Thus, governmental system relying on this process does not consider the private and civil institutions.  
4. Iran’s foreign relations have been affected by territory geographical position in twentieth century. This is resulted from the facts that Iran is located among influence spheres of the world super powers. In other words, land and marine super powers constantly have competition with each other about Iran in twentieth century. Iran with the rich fossil and mineral resources has important geopolitical position. For examples, the occupation of Iran during World War II, contracts 1907- Join Iran before the revolution, Baghdad and CENTO Pact, and military role of Iran in the Persian Gulf during the 1970srepresents the historical impacts of this geographical position. From another side, during past two centuries Iran territory was a platform for competition between global super powers due to having geopolitic position for appropriate transportation. 
The results of this research have revealed that natural features of Iran’s plateau such as distribution of natural resources and geographical position has had effective roles in political process and structure in Iran. In this approach, the ecological foundations were taken important as the fundamental factor discriminating Iran history from the west history. Thus, before the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, for unequal distribution of physical factors such as fertility soil and drinking water in the natural geography of Iran, exploration for biological resources was become one dominant aspect of the Iran community. Nomads have palyed an important role in the evolution of Iranian politics in previous century. Due to Iran's geopolitical situation in the South West Asia there was constant process of political interaction between super powers about. Overall, it can be said that due to natural factors such as geographical position, climate and soil characteristics in Iran’s plateau, some geopolitical situation and geo-economic conditions as structural factors have had effective role in shaping events in Iran's evolution into a centralized government in contemporary century.


Main Subjects

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Volume 50, Issue 1
April 2018
Pages 55-72
  • Receive Date: 16 July 2016
  • Revise Date: 08 October 2016
  • Accept Date: 08 October 2016
  • First Publish Date: 21 March 2018