Book and film reviews

Light from the East

By Peter Frankopan, Rowolt, Reinbeck, 2017.  

Various historical writings promised a "New History of the World", but in most cases it remained, more or less, within the framework of the usual observations.

According to the general understanding of Western history, world history initially took place mainly around the Mediterranean. For a long time, little was known about the Far East.
After the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks (1453) and the discovery of America (1492), events - from a European perspective - shifted predominantly to the Atlantic region, with detours to India, the Spice Islands, the Pacific and China as far as Japan.
The Pacific region has recently gained in importance, and the course of world history will - according to the current majority opinion - be decided around the Pacific in the 21st century.

Frankopan contrasts this popular view with alternative image opposite:

First, he looks at the past from a broader perspective, focusing more on Asia and taking greater account of the impact of developments in the Far East on the West.
I would have liked a more in-depth look at China and India, but this is difficult for a European, as many documents are only available in the original languages.    

Then - from Frankopan's point of view - decisive developments of the future will take place in the "New Silk Road".[i] that stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Yellow Sea. The raw material reserves of Central Asia play a decisive role in this, and countries that have received little attention to date - such as Azerbaijan - are becoming players in the "New Great Game"[ii].

The "New Silk Road" can rise to become the most important region, and whoever dominates Central Asia - as the "New Heartland" - will have the best cards in the 21st century.

One involuntarily thinks of the "geopolitics" of the 19th and 20th centuries - today seen more as pseudo-science and esotericism - which saw the key to world domination in the domination of Eurasia, or even Central Asia as a "heartland".[iii] saw.

If you take a look at Frankopan's view of history, you come to the following assessments for the The future:

* The  "New Silk Road" consists largely of the territories of authoritarian or undemocratic states with which - based on recent experience - lasting, reliable cooperation is hardly possible.

* The European Union is likely to become a marginal phenomenon of minor global political significance in the 21st century.
Unless European politicians overcome their petty vanities, stop playing their childish, nationalistic, electoral games, replace pleasant wishful thinking with realistic forecasts and finally unite to form a "Union" worthy of the name and capable of making the necessary, quick and clear decisions in crises - such as the war in Ukraine.

* The status of the USA, as the current leading world power, will begin to wobble.
It is not yet clear how they will react. If they stick to the foreign policy of recent decades - described in detail and bitterly criticized by Frankopan as an Englishman - which has been characterized by a lack of understanding in many areas, then they will find themselves in serious difficulties.

* The reputation of the "democratic West" has suffered greatly among peoples of color. Not least due to the mistakes of European foreign policy makers.

In addition to Frankopan's "Light from the East", one should also read "Between earth and sky" (book review) by the same author.
Then you start to doubt whether world history can continue to develop as before for many more decades, or whether ecological disasters will take away our room for maneuver.

You can also read about this under "Book reviews". "The hatred of the west".


[i] Silk Road = A network of caravan routes, the main route of which connected the Mediterranean region with East Asia by land. Plagues also found this route. (Wikipedia). To the north of this ran the "steppe highway", along which nomadic peoples (Scythians, Huns, Magyars, Mongols) invaded Europe. The closure of this highway in the 17th/18th century by the Chinese and Russians was hardly noticed in Central Europe. (Ian Morris, "Who rules the world?", Campus, Frankfurt, 2011).

[ii] In the 19th century, "The Great Game" was the name given to the historical conflict between the United Kingdom and Russia for supremacy in Northeast Asia as the "heartland". In the 20th century, the disputes over oil reserves in the Middle East. (Wikipedia).

[iii] In Great Britain, Halford Mackinder (1861-1947) advocated the "Heartland Theory" with Eurasia as the "pivot aera" ("heartland"). In Germany, Karl Haushofer (1869-1946) had similar ideas, which are also said to have influenced the ideology of the National Socialists. (Siegfried Hagl, "Der okkulte Kanzler", Gräfelfing, 2000 and Wikipedia). Alexander Dugin (born 1962) provides an updated continuation of these eccentric thoughts with his influential Russian book "Die Grundlagen der Geopolitik. The Geopolitical Future of Russia" (1997), which legitimizes Russia's imperial claim to power. Dugin is regarded as one of Putin's masterminds. (Martin Schulze Wessel, "Der Fluch des Imperiums", C. H. Beck, Munich, 2023).