Creating an Islamic Republic: Iranian Collections from the Hoover Library and Archives

Tuesday, September 23, 2003 to Friday, December 19, 2003

Babel ca. 1933

The shah grasps at the coattails of Uncle Sam as a fire-tongued dragon prepares to devour him; women with clenched fists raised march in the shadow of Shi‘i heroine Zeinab; awaiting execution, a row of men, blindfolded with hands tied behind their backs, yell “Long Live Iran!”

These images are from posters in the new exhibit, Creating an Islamic Republic: Iranian Collections from the Hoover Library and Archives, opening September 23, 2003, in the Herbert Hoover Memorial Exhibit Pavilion next to Hoover Tower on the Stanford University campus. The exhibit will close December 19, 2003.

The revolution that swept Iran in 1978 and 1979 brought together various ideologies, from the far left to the far right, united in their opposition to the shah. Marxist, nationalist, and Islamic organizations fought for political supremacy. As militant supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini appropriated the institutions of the state, they unleashed a massive propaganda campaign. Posters covered walls and buildings, re-creating the revolution’s ideology as a religious uprising and effectively neutralizing both nationalist and leftist organizations. With the help of these images (many actually taking their artistic technique if not message directly from a Marxist style), the revolution became Islamic.

Among the Hoover Institution’s Iranian collections are more than three hundred posters from this period. This exhibition traces the episodes leading up to the revolution, by way of later Islamic posters commemorating key events, and continues through the revolution’s early days and the successful creation of an Islamic government. The Iran-Iraq war is also represented, as well as opposition posters, including those of the Mujahedeen Khalq.

In addition to the posters, the exhibit will feature rare publications documenting twentieth-century Iranian history, including the short-lived Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan.

Read an article related to this exhibit, published in the Hoover Digest.

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