The Middle East in the Changing Global Context: The Key Trends of Centennial Development

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2018-62-3-5-19

V. Baranovskii (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation;
V. Naumkin (,
Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 12, Rozhdestvenka Str., Moscow, 107031, Russian Federation 

Acknowledgements: The article has been supported by the grant of the Russian Scientific Foundation for 2017–2019, project 17-18-01614 “Problems and Perspectives of the International Political Transformation of the Middle East under Regional and Global Threats”.

Abstract. The article reviews the milestone political transformations in the Middle East over the span of the “Long 20th Century” – from the end of World War I until the Arab Awakening in the present century. Primary importance was attributed to the state-building efforts (six types of which are identified) and the formation of political systems, largely occurring under the influence of external impulses as well as by means of the “adaptation” of modules exported from elsewhere, but made suitable by the exposure to the powerful prevalence of regional specificity. This resulted, on the one hand, in the creation of hybrid political structures with a fusion of modern and traditional elements, and, on the other hand, in the emergence of multiple institutional disproportions. Eventually, therefore, it gave rise to the continued internal conflict. Debates focusing on the national issue have revealed four principal approaches – pan-Arabic, sub-regional, focused upon nation-state building and targeting to convert the idea of Ummah (a religious Islamic community) into the idea of the nation; none of the above has prevailed, however, the latter (Islamic) is considered to reflect the identity of the region to the biggest extent (although the nation-building process, apparently, has not been completed). In the context of international relations, a key regional mega trend of the 20th century is the formation of the Middle East as a distinctly coherent political region (despite its inherent heterogeneous elements). A characteristic feature of this system is a high degree of dependence on the external factors and its exclusivity (building up a unity on the basis of juxtaposition of all states versus a common “foe”, who is regarded to be an outcast – traditionally it has been Israel, now it is also Iran). The high risk of intra-regional conflict arising out of the significant number of flagrant political collisions is exacerbated by the economic disintegration, growing natural resources shortage (primarily in relation to the fresh water) and the demographic dynamics. As far as ideology is concerned, both Marxism and Arab nationalism seem to become the “dying breed”, while Islamism has turned into a powerful driving force. It has been kept on the rise through a great number of movements – that demonstrate a varying extent of radicalism, treat democracy, liberal rights and liberties in a diverse manner, and allow for different stances on the use of violence in political strife, but are mostly prone to display a negative attitude towards the West. Oddly enough, the latter category can embrace Russia as well. 

Keywords: Greater Middle East, Arab nationalism, Islamism, mega trends, regional subsystem, exclusivism, integration 


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For citation:
Baranovsky V., Naumkin V. The Middle East in the Changing Global Context: The Key Trends of Centennial Development. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2018, vol. 62, No 3, pp. 5-19.

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