Throughout its long and complicated history, Iran has been home to a wide range of nations, ethnicities, and adherents of various religions, at times living in harmony and at other times, cohabiting in tension. When recounting the story of Iran, the nationalist currents have historically centered certain religio-ethnic narratives of true Iranian-ness, pushing out of collective memory the stories of more marginalized inhabitants and alternatively incorporating or excluding new immigrants from the constructed ideal of the nation. One of the oldest of these communities has been Iran’s Zoroastrian population, estimated at about 25,279 according to official census results in 2012. Before the introduction of Islam to Iran in the 7th century, Zoroastrians constituted approximately 70-80% of Iran’s population, but over time many either converted to Islam or left for nearby India and became members of the Parsi community, the cultural traditions of which survive to this day.
Despite the declined population, Zoroastrian structures and symbols dot Iran’s landscape and have become an important part of cultural and national identity for most Iranians and a fascinating window into Iran’s pre-Islamic history for academics and tourists alike.