Iran is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, with urban settlements dating back to 4000 BCE. The Achaemenid Empire, sometimes called the First Persian Empire, was established in 550 BCE by Cyrus the Great. Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire in 330 BCE, in 1501 the Iranian Safavids created a strong, centralized empire under Shah Ismail I and established Shiite Islam as the official religion.
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Iran is ethnically diverse, although the government does not disclose any information about ethnicity in its statistics. However, most sources confirm that Persians represent 61 per cent of the population, followed by Kurds (10 per cent), Lurs (6 per cent) and Baloch (2 per cent). Other ethnicities account for the remaining 21 per cent, including Azerbaijanis (16 per cent), Arabs (2 per cent), Turkmen and Turkic tribes (2 per cent), as well as Armenians, Assyrians and Georgians.