Have you ever wondered how similar or different two countries are? The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. It weighs equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The methodology is exactly the same for each country. The research combines 1,000 different data points to arrive at the conclusions.
Top 10 Countries Most Similar to Iran
Iran is a Middle Eastern country. However, it is fairly unique in the region, since its people are mostly Shi’ites and natively speak Indo-European languages. The five most similar countries to Iran are all predominately Muslim. The top four use the Arabic script. In addition, these countries all have a dry climate. Furthermore, the governments in these countries are not especially democratic.
- Iraq has often been a part of the great empires amassed by Persia throughout history. At present, it is one of the few countries in the world with a majority Shi’ite population. The country also produces a lot of oil and gas, like Iran. The biggest difference is that Iraqis speak Arabic, instead of Persian. Still, both countries have a significant Kurdish population. They also both border the Persian Gulf, although Iran is more mountainous.
- Syria is even further to the west of Iran than Iraq. It is one of Iran’s closest allies. Syria even has two Iranian military bases within its borders. They both use Type C electrical outlets, drive on the right, and have standard gauge railroad tracks. In addition, both their governments are authoritarian. The internet and journalists are severely censored there. However, Syria’s laws are generally less conservative than Iran’s.
- Afghanistan is most similar country linguistically to Iran. Persian and Dari (the lingua franca of Afghanistan) are essentially the same language. They both use the same writing script as well. Its landscape is also quite similar since it is also a mountainous desert country in the same region. However, Afghanistan is much poorer than Iran. While both countries are predominately Muslim, most Afghans are Sunnis.
- Egypt is the most similar country in Africa to Iran. It may not seem like an obvious choice for this list, but both countries have similar conservative Muslim laws. In addition, the governments of both countries are authoritarian. They censor journalists and block many internet sites. Furthermore, the countries have similar standards of living, since they are neither extremely poor or rich.
- Azerbaijan is Iran’s neighbor to its north. There is actually a large population of Azeris living in Iran. It is another country whose economy relies on the production of oil and natural gas. Both countries have authoritarian governments. However, Azerbaijan is less conservative. In addition, the countries are completely different linguistically, as Azerbaijan speaks a Turkic language and uses the Latin script. Since Azerbaijan was once part of the Soviet Union, it has more of a Russian influence as well. Although both countries are mostly Shia Muslims, Azeris are far less religious.
- Jordan, 7. Turkey, 8. Algeria, 9. Tajikistan, 10. Morocco
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Top 10 Countries Least Similar to Iran
Four of the five least similar countries to Iran are all located on islands. Interestingly enough, four of the five also use English as their official language. Since Iran’s standard of living and infrastructure are not especially good or bad, the least similar countries are either far wealthier or far poorer. One thing these countries all have in common is that they are more democratic than Iran and have less censorship.
- Solomon Islands is a Melanesian archipelago, located in the Pacific Ocean. Both countries are mountainous, but most of the country’s area is located near the beach. The Solomon Islands are also quite different demographically, since it is mostly Christian and its people have predominately Melanesian ancestry. The country is also more democratic and does not have any dominate political parties.
- Bahamas yet another English-speaking country located on an archipelago, but it is in the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the country is close to sea level, unlike mountainous Iran. It is also quite different demographically, since it is mostly Christian and its people have predominately African ancestry. Their infrastructure also is very different as the Bahamas uses Type A, B plugs, drives on the left, and has no railroad system. The Bahamas also has a relatively weak military, unlike Iran.
- Japan is yet another archipelago in the Pacific on this list with little similarity to Iran, other than technically being on the same continent. Its demographics, culture, politics, and technology are all quite different from Iran. It is far less religious. Its language and writing system also have completely no relation to Persian. Furthermore, the county’s climate is colder and wetter than Iran. Still, both countries are considered to be a part of Asia.
- Papua New Guinea is very similar to the Solomon Islands. It is one of the wettest countries in the world, in contrast to Iran’s drier climate. Furthermore, its people are mostly Christian and have little genetic similarity to Iranians. In addition, they drive on the left and use Type I electrical outlets, unlike Iran. Moreover, its infrastructure is also far less developed than Iran’s.
- Liberia is the least similar country in Africa to Iran. The country is mostly Christian and has few Muslims, since it was founded by people who were once slaves in the United States before becoming emancipated. In addition, it is mostly rainforest and its predominate crop is rice. Furthermore, it is not nearly as mountainous as Iran.
- Haiti, 7. Malawi, 8. Lesotho, 9. New Zealand, 10. Central African Republic
Iran is like if Iraq was more like Tajikistan
According to the Index, Iraq is the most similar country to Iran. However, they still have some significant differences. Tajikistan is one country that has many characteristics of Iran which Iraq lacks. The biggest reason is that most people in Iran and Tajikistan speak mutually intelligible languages, while Arabic is not even in the same language family. Iraq is also more democratic than Tajikistan and Iran. It is also not as mountainous.
Full Ranking of Countries and Territories Most Similar to Iran
All data accurate as of 2020.
Most Similar Demographics: Azerbaijan
Most Similar Culture: Afghanistan
Most Similar Government: Egypt
Most Similar Infrastructure: Egypt
Most Similar Geography: Iraq
Least Similar Demographics: Burundi
Least Similar Culture: Japan
Least Similar Government: Canada
Least Similar Infrastructure: Haiti
Least Similar Geography: Trinidad & Tobago
These maps are wonderful, thank you for making them! I’d be very interested in seeing Somalia, as it’s consistently least similar to so many countries.
It’s very interesting to see that Egypt is second although the are quite different in culture, politics demography and geography.
By the way how Egypt is the most similar to Iran politically?
Egypt has a secular government and Iran has a religious government.
Egypt is an US ally while Iran is in the Russian-Chinese side. On top of that Egypt is a part of an anti Iranian alliance with the Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
World Policy Center lists Egypt as a religious government, not secular. Both have authoritarian governments. Almost all their laws from abortion to LGBT rights, to prostitution are nearly identical. Its interesting you bring up allies which is somewhat included in which countries receive weapons from each other recently. Egypt got them from Russia, France, and USA, while Iran got them from Russia and China.
Thanks for the comment, maybe after the revolution and the Muslim brotherhood the government has become religious because under Mubarak administration they had a secular government (like Sadam in Iraq or Syria). Even now the leaders of Egypt has no religious background.
By the way it’s very interesting to see that Egypt is the second closest country to Iran but Iran is not the top 10