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The article focuses on the ethnic question in the greater Middle East. It seeks an explanation for the multiplicity of identities subsisting nowadays, and for the level of ethnic conflict, greater than in other regions. Such situation is rooted in the Ottoman state and other Islamic coeval states, which did not tend toward uniformity, as modern European states did. There is a historical explanation for this: their different starting point, and their interrupted development due to their weak position in the modern world system. Twentieth century states aggravated the situation by unsuccessfully trying to transform themselves into monoethnic political bodies.
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