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Near East

The Near East in archeological and historical context.
Inhabitants of the Near East, late nineteenth century.

Near East today is an ambiguous term that covers different countries for archeologists and historians, on one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other. The term originally applied to the Balkan states in Southeast Europe, but now it generally describes the countries of Southwest Asia between the Mediterranean and Iran, especially in historical contexts.[1]

The term as used by Western archaeologists, geographers, and historians refers to the region encompassing Anatolia (the Asian portion of modern Turkey), the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus, Israel and the Palestinian territories), Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Transcaucasia (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan). In modern political and journalistic contexts, this region is usually subsumed into the wider Middle East while the terms Near East or Southwest Asia are preferred in archaeological, geographic, historical, humanities classrooms and population genetic contexts.


The term Near East came into use in the 1890s, when European powers were faced with two critical situations in the "east".[2] The Sino-Japanese War in 1894–1895 occurred in the Far East, while the Armenian Genocide was occurring in the Near East.[2] British archaeologist D.G. Hogarth published The Nearer East in 1902, which helped to define the term and its extent, including the Balkan Pennisula[3] (Albania, Montenegro, southern Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece), Egypt, all the Ottoman lands, the entire Arabian Peninsula, and western parts of Iran.[2]

There is general agreement concerning the list of Near East countries in the current geo-political context, as can be seen from the scope of activity of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in the U.S. Department of State[4] and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy[5]. All North African countries are included, the South Caucasus countries (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan) are not part of the Near East in the modern context. USAID puts the South Caucasus countries in its Europe and Eurasia regional bureau.[6] The Mediterranean island of Turkish Cyprus is also included in several definitions of the Near East, based on its geographical location or its cultural and historic background.[7][8][9][10][11] USAID has also included Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in their reports about the Near East.[12] Additionally, the Near East University is situated in the country's capital, Lefkoşa.

Country Bureau of Near East
Washington Institute
for Near East Policy[5]
Egypt + +
Iran + +
Iraq + +
Israel + +
Jordan + +
Lebanon + +
North Africa + +
Oman + +
Palestinian Authority + +
Persian Gulf States + +
Saudi Arabia + +
Yemen + +
Turkey +

Legend: + included; – excluded

See also


  1. ^ Near East, Oxford Dictionary of English, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2003.
  2. ^ a b c Davidson, Roderic H. (1960). "Where is the Middle East?". Foreign Affairs 38: p. 665–675. 
  3. ^ Eric Hobsbawn, The Age of Empire: 1875-1914, Pantheon Books, 1987, ISBN 0394563190, p.17,
  4. ^ a b Countries covered by the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  5. ^ a b Countries covered by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  6. ^ South Caucasus countries in USAID classification
  7. ^ Countries of the Near East Section, The Library of Congress
  8. ^ "Egypt and the Near East", Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents
  9. ^ Simmons, Alan H., The Neolithic Revolution in the Near East: Transforming the Human Landscape, (2007)
  10. ^ Washington Post: Near East
  11. ^ Hall, H. R., The Ancient History of the Near East: From the Earliest Times to the Battle of Salamis, Methuen, (1913)
  12. ^ United States. Agency for International Development [AID]. Office of Development Information and Utilization, "Near East, Afghanistan: selected statistical data by sex" which states that: "...individual reports have been prepared for the following countries of the Near East: Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and the Yemen Arab Republic."