Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Contemporary World

1945 to the present

After World War II, a new world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the developing nations of the Third World.

The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the year 1969.
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for new
possibilities of using space continues.



The Arab World and the Near East

SINCE 1945


see also: United Nations member states - Jordan,
Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon,
Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman,
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan


After gaining independence from European colonial rule the Arab states looked to the USSR and Pan-Arabism as alternative paths to nation-building. However, authoritarian rulers soon established themselves in the region. Since the 1970s a growing educated population lacking employment opportunities has begun to undermine many regimes, and this frustration has been exploited by politically radicalized Islamic groups. Ironically, the only freely elected Arab government in the region is that of the Palestinians, who do not have their own state.



Egypt under Nasser and Sadat, Libya under Qaddafi

Under Nasser, Egypt achieved a position of supremacy in the Arab world. His successor Sadat ended the anti-Israel course, while Libya under Qaddafi continued the path of "Nasserism."


In Egypt, the corrupt regime of King Farouk I, though supported by the British, was toppled on July 23,1952, by a group known as the "Free Officers Movement," which proclaimed a republic on July 18,1953.

In 1954 3 Gamal Abdel Nasser became premier of the republic; two years later he assumed the office of president as well, being the only candidate in presidential elections.

Nasser suppressed the Communists and the Muslim Brotherhood and proclaimed a path to modernize the country based on socialism and nationalism. He established himself as the voice of Pan-Ara-bism and in 1955, along with Indian prime minister Nehru and others, became a leader of the Nonaligned Movement opposing the dominance of the superpowers. By nationalizing the Suez Canal  in July 1956, Nasser provoked the international Suez Crisis that came to a head in October.

Despite Egypt's military 5 defeat by Israel, Great Britain, and France, Nasser generally managed to maintain his political credibility while building up great prestige in the Third World.

In 1958, as an experiment in Pan-Arabism, Syria and Egypt merged as the 6 United Arab Republic; the union lasted only until 1961, however, although it existed officially until 1971.

Premier Gamal Abdel Nasser, 1955

5 Warships on the Suez Channel during the Suez crisis, November 1956

6 Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Syrian colleague
Shukri el Kuwatli after the signing of the document
uniting Egypt and Syria, February 1, 1958

In the 1960s Nasser initiated major construction projects such as the 7 Aswan Dam and power plants in Egypt.

7 Construction of the Aswan Dam, 1963

Although weakened by his defeat in the Six-Day War against Israel in 1967, Nasser's state doctrine ("Nasserism") became an example for neighboring countries, particularly Libya, where the Revolutionary Command Council led by Colonel 4 Muammar al-Qaddafi seized the government on September 1, 1969.

Qaddafi adopted Nasser's principle of mass mobilization and personality cult with his institutionalized revolution and radically eliminated all potential opponents.

He modernized the country and achieved a rise in living standards after 1969 through nationalized 2 oil exports.

His often unpredictable policies and his support of terrorist groups led to Libya's isolation in the 1980s and 1990s, which Qaddafi has been trying to overcome since about 2000 through international compromises.

In Egypt, 1 Anwar el-Sadat, Nasser's successor after his death in 1970, at first continued Nasser's policies, but decided in the mid-1970s to change course and moved away from socialism.

He signed a peace treaty with Israel on March 26,1979, which resulted in Egypt becoming isolated in the Arab world and Sadat's dependence on the West.

4 Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, 1975

2 Distributor on a pipeline on the oil field As Sarah in Libya

1 Anwar el-Sadat, Egyptian head of state
from 1970 to 1981



Qaddafi's Pan-Arabism

Colonel Qaddafi attempted to become the head of the Pan-Arab movement following Nasser's death.

The movement seeks the unification of all Arab states. Qaddafi's ideology gave Islam a more central position. With the "Charter of Tripoli" in December 1969, he tried to bring about a merger of Libya with Egypt, Syria, and Sudan.

In January 1974 he announced the impending union of his country with Tunisia, but this too failed, primarily due to Qaddafi's absolute claim to leadership.




Egypt under Mubarak, Syria since Independence

Mubarak continued the presidential regime in Egypt. In Syria, the Baath party under President Assad prevailed after initial instability.


Sadat's war against Islamism, his conciliatory stance toward Israel, and his authoritarian domestic policy, expressed in the 1978 ban on all political activities, were reasons behind his 8 assassination during a military parade on October 6,1981.

His successor, 9 Hosni Mubarak, has continued Sadat's course, while at the same time endeavoring to reconcile with the Arab camp.

8 Security staff caring for victims lying injured on the floor after the assassination of Anwar el-Sadat, October 6, 1981

9 The President of Egypt:
Hosni Mubarak, March 30,

He also opened up Egypt to more 10 tourism.

Egypt became a full member of the Arab League again in 1989. Mubarak's authoritarian presidential regime eased up the battle against the Muslim Brotherh10od but was met with increasing criticism in the West for its lack of democracy. In February 2005, Mubarak promised to allow more presidential candidates in future elections.

The conditions in 11 Syria, with its capital 14 Damascus, during the first few years after gaining independence from France in 1946 were very unstable due to the population's religious, ethnic, and political heterogeneity.

10 One of Egypt's many tourist attractions: One of the Memnon colossi, November 22, 2004

11 View over the Syrian city of Hama with a water wheel in the foreground

14 The old town of Damascus, in the center the
Great Mosque, 1991

After military coups in 1949 and 1951, the Baath (Rebirth) party, founded in 1943 and legalized in 1955, rose to become the leading power in the country. It propagated a Pan-Arab nationalism and socialism and cooperated with Nasser's Egypt. After the union with Egypt, driven by the Baathists, Syria withdrew again as a separate republic on September 30, 1961. In March 1963, the Baath party seized the government in a coup led by General Amin Hafis. Syria subsequently distanced itself from Nasser and turned more toward Iraq and the Palestinians. A move to the left within the Baath leadership in 1966 led to closer cooperation with the Soviet Union. In the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel.

Syria's support of the Palestinians in the "Black September" of 1970 resulted in a power struggle within the Baath party, which was won by the Alawite 12 minister of defense, Hafez al-Assad, in November 1970; he became president on March 11,1971.

Assad suppressed Islamic revolts, did away with possible rivals, and modernized the country on a socialist and nationalist basis. In 1976, he militarily intervened in the Lebanese civil war. The break with Iraq that had already begun in 1968 intensified through the 1970s, ultimately leading to Syria's entrance into the anti-Iraq coalition in the 1991 Gulf War.

In the meantime, Assad had so consolidated the ruling position of his family in the country that after his death in 2000, the power went to his son 13 Bashar al-Assad.

Following increasing international pressure over Syria's presence in Lebanon , Syria was forced to withdraw its troops. After elections in 2005 in which the pro-Syrian government was voted out, and a new liberal government formed.

12 The Syrian defense minister, Colonel Hafez al-Assad, late 1960s

13 The Syrian president
Bashar al-Assad,
8 April 2005


see also: United Nations member states - Jordan,
Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon,
Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman,
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan



Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy