The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview

THE BACKGROUND OF SOVIET POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST

By H. CARÉRRE D'ENCAUSSE

AT THE VERY moment when the Soviets' penetration of the Middle East is causing alarm in the West, the policy of the group now in power is being pursued, apparently, at the cost of a certain loosening of the world-structure of Communism. In eastern Europe the Poznan trials, the rise to power of Gomulka, and the Hungarian revolt look like so many cracks in the monolith. Even in the Soviet Union itself difficulties of similar kinds are appearing. The Azerbaidjanis, rebelling against Russification, demand the exclusive use of their own Azerian- Turkish language; while the Dagestan nationalists have to be conciliated by the official rehabilitation of their national hero the Imam Shamil, venerated for his resistance to the Russian occupation in the last century. Khrushchev's policy seems, indeed, to be provoking outbursts of national feeling which take the form of antagonism to the U.S.S.R. Is it, however, the same in the Middle East? Will the relations between that region and the U.S.S.R. be modified by the fact that there is now agitation on the Soviet's own fringe? To answer these questions we have to look into the background of Soviet policy in the Levant.

If one starts by drawing up a balance-sheet of Communist activity in the region in 1954,1 it looks decidedly deficient. There were only 5000 Communists in the official party in Israel; in the 'unofficial' Syrian party less than 10,000; 1000 to 1500 adherents to the (particularly active) Communist Party of the Sudan, and 10,000 in the Lebanon, where the Communist Party was somnolent. Everywhere

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1
W. Z. Laqueur has done this in his article, "'The Appeal of Communism in the Middle East'" ( Middle East Journal, 1954, 4).

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