Middle East

Middle East
Middle East
Location of the Middle East
Area7,207,575 km2 (2,782,860 sq mi)
Population371 million (2010)[1]
Countries
Languages
Time ZonesUTC+2:00, UTC+3:00, UTC+3:30, UTC+4:00, UTC+4:30
Largest cities
Map of the Middle East between Africa, Europe, and Central Asia.
Middle East map of Köppen climate classification.

The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey (both Asian and European), and Egypt (which is mostly in North Africa). Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest Middle Eastern nation while Bahrain is the smallest. The corresponding adjective is Middle Eastern and the derived noun is Middle Easterner. The term has come into wider usage as a replacement of the term Near East (as opposed to the Far East) beginning in the early 20th century.

Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, and Azeris (excluding Azerbaijan) constitute the largest ethnic groups in the region by population. Arabs constitute the largest ethnic group in the region by a clear margin.[2] Indigenous minorities of the Middle East include Jews, Baloch, Assyrians, Arameans, Berbers (who primarily live in North Africa), Copts, Druze, Lurs, Mandaeans, Samaritans, Shabaks, Tats, and Zazas. In the Middle East, there is also a Romani community. European ethnic groups that form a diaspora in the region include Albanians, Bosniaks, Circassians (including Kabardians), Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Franco-Levantines, and Italo-Levantines. Among other migrant populations are Bengalis as well as other Indians, Chinese, Filipinos, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and Sub-Saharan Africans.

The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, with the (geopolitical) importance of the region being recognized for millennia.[3][4][5] Several major religions have their origins in the Middle East, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; the Baha'i faith, Mandaeism, Unitarian Druze, and numerous other belief systems were also established within the region.

The Middle East generally has a hot, arid climate, with several major rivers providing irrigation to support agriculture in limited areas such as the Nile Delta in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates watersheds of Mesopotamia, and most of what is known as the Fertile Crescent.

Most of the countries that border the Persian Gulf have vast reserves of crude oil, with monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula in particular benefiting economically from petroleum exports.

Terminology

The term "Middle East" may have originated in the 1850s in the British India Office.[6] However, it became more widely known when American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term in 1902[7] to "designate the area between Arabia and India".[8][9] During this time the British and Russian Empires were vying for influence in Central Asia, a rivalry which would become known as The Great Game. Mahan realized not only the strategic importance of the region, but also of its center, the Persian Gulf.[10][11] He labeled the area surrounding the Persian Gulf as the Middle East, and said that after Egypt's Suez Canal, it was the most important passage for Britain to control in order to keep the Russians from advancing towards British India.[12] Mahan first used the term in his article "The Persian Gulf and International Relations", published in September 1902 in the National Review, a British journal.

The Middle East, if I may adopt a term which I have not seen, will some day need its Malta, as well as its Gibraltar; it does not follow that either will be in the Persian Gulf. Naval force has the quality of mobility which carries with it the privilege of temporary absences; but it needs to find on every scene of operation established bases of refit, of supply, and in case of disaster, of security. The British Navy should have the facility to concentrate in force if occasion arise, about Aden, India, and the Persian Gulf.[13]

Mahan's article was reprinted in The Times and followed in October by a 20-article series entitled "The Middle Eastern Question," written by Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol. During this series, Sir Ignatius expanded the definition of Middle East to include "those regions of Asia which extend to the borders of India or command the approaches to India."[14] After the series ended in 1903, The Times removed quotation marks from subsequent uses of the term.[15]

Until World War II, it was customary to refer to areas centered around Turkey and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean as the "Near East", while the "Far East" centered on China,[16] and the Middle East then meant the area from Mesopotamia to Burma, namely the area between the Near East and the Far East.[citation needed] In the late 1930s, the British established the Middle East Command, which was based in Cairo, for its military forces in the region. After that time, the term "Middle East" gained broader usage in Europe and the United States, with the Middle East Institute founded in Washington, D.C. in 1946, among other usage.[17]

Criticism and usage

1957 American film about the Middle East

The description Middle has also led to some confusion over changing definitions. Before the First World War, "Near East" was used in English to refer to the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire, while "Middle East" referred to Iran, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Turkestan. In contrast, "Far East" referred to the countries of East Asia (e.g. China, Japan, Korea, etc.)

With the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, "Near East" largely fell out of common use in English, while "Middle East" came to be applied to the re-emerging countries of the Islamic world. However, the usage "Near East" was retained by a variety of academic disciplines, including archaeology and ancient history, where it describes an area identical to the term Middle East, which is not used by these disciplines (see Ancient Near East).

The first official use of the term "Middle East" by the United States government was in the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine, which pertained to the Suez Crisis. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles defined the Middle East as "the area lying between and including Libya on the west and Pakistan on the east, Syria and Iraq on the North and the Arabian peninsula to the south, plus the Sudan and Ethiopia."[16] In 1958, the State Department explained that the terms "Near East" and "Middle East" were interchangeable, and defined the region as including only Egypt, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar.[18]

The Associated Press Stylebook says that Near East formerly referred to the farther west countries while Middle East referred to the eastern ones, but that now they are synonymous. It instructs:

Use Middle East unless Near East is used by a source in a story. Mideast is also acceptable, but Middle East is preferred.[19]

The term Middle East has also been criticised as Eurocentric ("based on a British Western perception") by Hanafi (1998).[20]

Translations

There are terms similar to Near East and Middle East in other European languages, but since it is a relative description, the meanings depend on the country and are different from the English terms generally. In German the term Naher Osten (Near East) is still in common use (nowadays the term Mittlerer Osten is more and more common in press texts translated from English sources, albeit having a distinct meaning) and in Russian Ближний Восток or Blizhniy Vostok, Bulgarian Близкия Изток, Polish Bliski Wschód or Croatian Bliski istok (meaning Near East in all the four Slavic languages) remains as the only appropriate term for the region. However, some languages do have "Middle East" equivalents, such as the French Moyen-Orient, Swedish Mellanöstern, Spanish Oriente Medio or Medio Oriente, and the Italian Medio Oriente.[note 1]

Perhaps because of the influence of the Western press, the Arabic equivalent of Middle East (Arabic: الشرق الأوسط ash-Sharq al-Awsaṭ) has become standard usage in the mainstream Arabic press, comprising the same meaning as the term "Middle East" in North American and Western European usage. The designation, Mashriq, also from the Arabic root for East, also denotes a variously defined region around the Levant, the eastern part of the Arabic-speaking world (as opposed to the Maghreb, the western part).[21] Even though the term originated in the West, apart from Arabic, other languages of countries of the Middle East also use a translation of it. The Persian equivalent for Middle East is خاورمیانه (Khāvar-e miyāneh), the Hebrew is המזרח התיכון (hamizrach hatikhon) and the Turkish is Orta Doğu.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Midde-Ooste
Alemannisch: Naher Osten
العربية: الشرق الأوسط
aragonés: Orient Meyo
arpetan: Moyen-Oriant
asturianu: Oriente Mediu
azərbaycanca: Orta Şərq
تۆرکجه: اورتاشرق
Bahasa Banjar: Timur Tangah
Bân-lâm-gú: Tiong-tang
башҡортса: Урта Көнсығыш
беларуская: Сярэдні Усход
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Сярэдні Ўсход
भोजपुरी: मध्य पूरुब
български: Среден Изток
bosanski: Srednji istok
brezhoneg: Reter-Kreiz
буряад: Дунда Дурна
català: Orient Mitjà
chiShona: Middle East
davvisámegiella: Gaska-nuorti
Deutsch: Naher Osten
डोटेली: मध्य पूर्व
eesti: Lähis-Ida
Ελληνικά: Μέση Ανατολή
español: Oriente Medio
Esperanto: Mezoriento
estremeñu: Orienti Meiu
فارسی: خاورمیانه
Fiji Hindi: Middle East
føroyskt: Miðeystur
français: Moyen-Orient
Gagauz: Ortadoğu
贛語: 中東
한국어: 중동
հայերեն: Միջին Արևելք
हिन्दी: मध्य पूर्व
hrvatski: Srednji istok
Bahasa Indonesia: Timur Tengah
interlingua: Oriente Medie
íslenska: Mið-Austurlönd
italiano: Medio Oriente
Basa Jawa: Wétan Tengah
Kapampangan: Kalibudtang Aslagan
къарачай-малкъар: Орта Кюнчыгъыш
kernowek: Est Kres
Кыргызча: Жакынкы чыгыш
Lëtzebuergesch: Noen Osten
lietuvių: Viduriniai Rytai
Limburgs: Midde-Ooste
magyar: Közel-Kelet
македонски: Среден Исток
مازِرونی: خاورمیونه
Bahasa Melayu: Timur Tengah
Baso Minangkabau: Timur Tangah
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Dṳ̆ng-dĕ̤ng
Mirandés: Médio Ouriente
монгол: Ойрх Дорнод
Nederlands: Midden-Oosten
नेपाली: मध्य पूर्व
नेपाल भाषा: मध्य पूर्व
日本語: 中東
Norfuk / Pitkern: West Asya
norsk: Midtøsten
norsk nynorsk: Midtausten
Nouormand: Êst du Mitan
occitan: Orient Mejan
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Oʻrta Sharq
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਮੱਧ ਪੂਰਬ
Patois: Migl Iis
Перем Коми: Шӧрӧт Асыввыв
ភាសាខ្មែរ: មជ្ឈិមបូព៌ា
Piemontèis: Vzin Orient
Plattdüütsch: Nahoost
português: Médio Oriente
Ripoarisch: Nahe Oste
русиньскый: Середнїй Выход
Seeltersk: Nai Aaste
sicilianu: Mediu Urienti
Simple English: Middle East
slovenčina: Stredný východ
slovenščina: Srednji vzhod
Soomaaliga: Bariga Dhexe
српски / srpski: Средњи исток
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Srednji Istok
Basa Sunda: Wétan Tengah
suomi: Lähi-itä
svenska: Mellanöstern
Taqbaylit: Agmuḍ alemmas
tarandíne: Medie Oriende
татарча/tatarça: Урта Көнчыгыш
Türkçe: Orta Doğu
Türkmençe: Orta Gündogar
українська: Середній Схід
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: ئوتتۇرا شەرق
vèneto: Medio Oriente
Tiếng Việt: Trung Đông
文言: 中東
West-Vlams: Middn-Ôostn
吴语: 中东
ייִדיש: מיטל מזרח
粵語: 中東
中文: 中东