Exactly one hundred years ago, on January 15, 1918, Gamal Abdel Nasser was born - a man who was destined to play a very significant role in the recent history of the Middle East and North Africa. One of the few foreigners, Gamal Abdel Nasser was awarded the high title of Hero of the Soviet Union (although the latter fact caused, at one time, a lot of criticism from Soviet citizens).
Nasser is a very controversial figure, causing the most controversial assessments not only from Western and Russian, but also from Arab, including Egyptian, historians. But, be that as it may, this man, who headed Egypt for almost fifteen years, and during the very difficult years of the Cold War, which was far from cold in the Middle East, was a very outstanding political figure and fully deserved to be remembered a century later. after his birth.
In the Arab world, the figure of Gamal Abdel Nasser is still revered by many supporters of secular nationalism. At one time, it was Nasser and his ideas that had a decisive influence on Arab nationalists in Libya, Algeria, Syria, Yemen and many other countries. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi considered Nasser to be his teacher. Even now, when the ideas of religious fundamentalism in the Middle East and North Africa have pushed Arab secular nationalism into the background, the memory of Nasser is honored in many countries. Egypt is no exception. In fact, it was Nasser who can be considered the founder of the political tradition that still retains a predominant influence in this largest Arab country.
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein (this is how his full name sounded) was born on January 15, 1918 in Alexandria. He was the first child of a newlywed family - the postal worker Abdel Nasser and his wife Fahima, who were married in 1917. The family was not rich, and due to the nature of the father's service, it often moved from place to place. In 1923, Nasser Sr. settled with his family in the city of Khatatba, and in 1924, six-year-old Gamal was sent to his uncle in Cairo. In 1928, Gamal was transported to Alexandria - to his maternal grandmother, and in 1929 he was enrolled in a boarding school in Helwan.
In 1930, 12-year-old Gamal participated in a political demonstration against colonialism and even spent the night at the police station. This detention marked the beginning of the life of Gamal Abdel Nasser as an Arab revolutionary. In 1935, he led a student demonstration and was slightly wounded during its dispersal. In his youth, Gamal was fond of reading biographies of famous nationalist leaders and military leaders - Napoleon, Bismarck, Garibaldi. He was greatly influenced by the life and views of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Nasser decided to link his fate with a military career.
In 1937, the young man applied to the Royal Military Academy in Cairo, but due to political unreliability, he was refused admission to the educational institution. Then Nasser entered the law college of Cairo University, but soon left his studies there and again attempted to enter the military academy. This time, the young man was supported by the Deputy Minister of War of Egypt Ibrahim Hayri Pasha, after which Nasser was nevertheless enrolled in an educational institution. In July 1938, with the rank of lieutenant, Nasser was released into the army and began serving in the garrison of g. Mankabat. In 1941-1943. he served in Sudan, then under Anglo-Egyptian control, and returned to Cairo in 1943 to take up the position of an instructor at the military academy.
Already at the beginning of his service, Nasser was a staunch Arab nationalist and rallied around him a small group of officers who sympathized with his ideas. This group also included Anwar Sadat, also the future president of Egypt. During World War II, Arab nationalists, and Nasser was no exception, did not hide their sympathy for the Axis countries, hoping that Hitler would crush the might of the British Empire and thereby contribute to the national liberation struggle of the Arab countries.
However, World War II ended with the defeat of the Axis countries. In 1947-1949. Egypt took part in the Arab-Israeli war. Nasser also got to the front, who noticed the unpreparedness of the Egyptian army for hostilities. It was during the war that Nasser began work on one of his programmatic works, The Philosophy of the Revolution. Returning from the front, Nasser continued his service at the military academy, combining it with clandestine activities. In 1949, the "Society of Free Officers" was created, which initially included 14 people. Nasser was elected chairman of the society.
Further activation of the Egyptian revolutionaries was associated with the events around the Suez Canal. On January 25, 1952, clashes broke out between British troops and Egyptian police in the city of Ismailia, killing about 40 police officers, which caused a storm of public outrage in the country. In this situation, Nasser and his associates decided it was time to act more actively.
However, at first Lieutenant Colonel Nasser did not expect that it was he who would be able to lead the revolution against the royal regime, accused by the revolutionaries of aiding the British colonialists. Therefore, the role of the head of the conspiracy went to the commander of the ground forces, Major General Mohammed Naguib. Although, as a politician, Naguib was clearly losing to Nasser, he was higher in military rank and place in the military hierarchy. On July 22-23, 1952, army units took control of key facilities in the country's capital. King Farouk was sent into honorary exile, and a year later, on June 16, 1953, Egypt was officially proclaimed a republic. Major General Mohammed Naguib became the country's president. All the power in the country was in the hands of a special body - the Revolutionary Command Council, which was chaired by General Naguib, and Lieutenant Colonel Nasser became its deputy chairman.
However, in the changed political situation between Naguib and Nasser, contradictions intensified. Nasser came out with a more radical program and counted on the further development of the Arab revolution. In February 1954, the Revolutionary Command Council met without Naguib, in March Nasser launched reprisals against the general's supporters, and in November 1954, General Naguib was finally removed from the presidency of the country and placed under house arrest. Thus, power in Egypt ended up in the hands of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who instantly secured himself from possible rivals by arresting many representatives of opposition organizations of various kinds - from fundamentalists from the Muslim Brotherhood to communists from the Egyptian Communist Party. In June 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser was elected president of the country.
The key idea of Gamal Abdel Nasser in the first years of his presidency was to strengthen the Egyptian statehood, first of all - to ensure the true sovereignty of the country. The main obstacle to this, Nasser considered the continued control of Great Britain over the Suez Canal. On July 26, 1956, Nasser issued a statement in which he announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal and again severely criticized the policy of British colonialism. The channel was closed to any ships of the State of Israel. The nationalization of the canal resulted in the Suez Crisis, which resulted in the hostilities of Israel, Great Britain and France against Egypt in 1959. The conflict was successfully "extinguished" by the joint efforts of the USA and the USSR. The actual failure of the Israeli intervention ensured an unprecedented rise in Nasser's popularity both in Egypt itself and beyond its borders, primarily in the Arab world.
Gamal Abdel Nasser, not alien to pan-Arab views, claimed the role of the undisputed political leader of the Arab world. To some extent, he was right, since in the second half of the 1950s. there was no other equally charismatic politician in the Arab world who could compete with Nasser. The United States tried as an alternative to support the King of Saudi Arabia, but the popularity of the latter among the millions of disadvantaged masses of Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa was out of the question. Nasser, on the other hand, was seen as a popular leader capable of opposing Western colonialism and leading the confrontation between Arabs and Israel.
The unification of Egypt and Syria in the United Arab Republic - the United Arab Republic - was largely associated with the name of Nasser. The initiative for unification came from the Syrian side, which was able to put pressure on Nasser, who initially did not want to create a unified state. Nevertheless, it was Nasser who became the president of the UAR under four vice-presidents - two from Egypt and two from Syria.
As a supporter of Arab nationalism, Nasser adhered to his own version of Arab socialism, linking the future of the Arab world with the socialist system. The core of Nasser's economic policy was the nationalization of large-scale industry and strategically important industries, primarily enterprises owned by foreign capital. Nasser's social program was very progressive, which is why the Egyptian president is still remembered with a kind word. So, Nasser's program provided for the introduction of a minimum wage, the creation of free education and free medicine, the construction of affordable housing, and the accrual of a share of the profits of workers in enterprises. At the same time, Nasser carried out an agricultural reform aimed at limiting the positions of large landowners and protecting the interests of peasants - tenants. Nasser made a huge contribution to strengthening the defense capability of the Egyptian state, to the development of modern industry in the country, the construction of power plants, transport and social infrastructure.
During the reign of Nasser, Egypt really began to change, turning from a feudal monarchy, which it was until 1952, into a relatively modern state. At the same time, Nasser pursued a policy of secularization at an increased pace - while recognizing the importance of Islamic values, he nevertheless sought to limit the influence of religion on the life of the Egyptians. The main blow of the repressive apparatus was inflicted on religious-fundamentalist organizations, first of all on the "Muslim Brotherhood".
Nasser provided great support to the national liberation movements in the Arab world, including made an enormous contribution to the achievement of the political independence of Algeria, which became a sovereign state in 1962. In the same 1962, the monarchy was overthrown in Yemen, and the anti-monarchist revolution was led by Colonel Abdallah al-Salal, chief of the general staff of the Yemeni army, known for his sympathies for nasserism. Since the ousted imam - King Mohammed al-Badr was supported by Saudi Arabia and he began an armed struggle against the revolutionaries, Egypt became involved in the Yemeni conflict and only in 1967 did the Egyptian troops participating in the civil war in Yemen leave the country.
Despite the fact that in domestic politics, Nasser did not favor the Egyptian communists and carried out repressions against them, he managed to maintain very good relations with the Soviet Union. On the initiative of Nikita Khrushchev, who clearly sympathized with Nasser, in 1964 Gamal Abdel Nasser was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. The Gold Star of the Hero was also received by Nasser's closest associate at that time, Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer. Khrushchev's decision drew well-founded criticism from many Soviet citizens, including party leaders, since, firstly, Nasser's merits to the Soviet Union were not so significant for such a high award, and secondly, Nasser was really not a friend of the Egyptian communists, many of which rotted in the prisons of Egypt. There was another piquant moment in Nasser's biography - the Egyptian president favored former Nazi war criminals, many of whom, in the early 1950s, not only found refuge in Egypt, but were also accepted as advisers and instructors to serve in the Egyptian special services. army and police.
Nasser's most serious political defeat was the Six Day War in June 1967, during which Israel defeated a coalition of Arab countries, which included Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Algeria, for six days. For the defeat of the Egyptian army, Nasser blamed Field Marshal Amer, who committed suicide on September 14, 1967. Despite his failure in the Six Day War, Nasser continued his course of armed confrontation with Israel, calling it a "war of attrition." Low-intensity fighting continued in 1967-1970. with the aim of returning the Sinai Peninsula under Egyptian control.
On September 28, 1970, as a result of a heart attack, Gamal Abdel Nasser died at the age of 52. Although there is a widespread version about the poisoning of the Egyptian president, do not forget that he suffered from diabetes and was very addicted to smoking, and both of his brothers also died of heart disease before they were 60 years old. The funeral of Gamal Abdel Nasser, held on October 1, 1970, attracted about 5 million people. This was not surprising - Nasser's untimely death deeply shook the entire Arab world, which no longer had a leader comparable in popularity to the Egyptian president. "Arabs Orphaned" - with such headlines appeared on the day of Nasser's death, newspapers in many countries of the Middle East and Maghreb.