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The Syrian Arab Republic is a West Asian country bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the west. It shares a border with Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Cyprus is off the coast of Syria.

Ancient Syria was much larger than Syria is today. Until the 20th century, Syria included its current land mass as well as Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon. The entire settled region at the east end of the Mediterranean, linking three continents, was known as Syria, although it was not necessarily a unified country. Historically, Syria rarely ruled itself. Due to its location, there were always more powerful empires to the north, east, or south, and Syria was often a battlefield or a conquered territory.

Syria's most ancient cities were developed by foreigners and, even today, these cities exhibit a unique sociopolitical character.

The beginning of Arab rule in 636 AD provided Syria's two dominating themes, that being the Islamic religion and the dominating presence of Arabs. In succeeding centuries, the Muslims consolidated their rule, and extended it. Wherever they went, they built mosques, forts, and cities. Greater Syria was ruled by a series of Muslim caliphates and kingdoms.

By the early 1500s, the Ottoman Empire ruled Syria, but they ruled through Syrian dignitaries who were free to do whatever they liked, so long as they collected taxes, maintained order, and ruled an area that wasn't considered to be of military significance. Throughout Ottoman rule, Syrians only contact with authorities was through wealthier Syrians who entered government service or had been educated in Turkish universities.

Thus, under Ottoman rule, things didn't change very much from an administrative standpoint. Its economy failed to advance under the Ottomans, however. Syria remained poor, its population decreased by 30%, and hundreds of abandoned villages disappeared into the desert.

Although poor, Syria still attracted European traders, as well as missionaries, teachers, and tourists. France demanded the right to protect Christians, which later developed into a degree of political autonomy for the French, as well as the Christians protected by them. Later, the British and Russians received similar rights.

Lebanon was detached from Greater Syria after the Druze uprising in 1860, in which the Druzes massacred about ten thousand Maronite Christians. France then occupied Lebanon.

During World War I, the Ottomans supported Germany and, during the conflict, the Ottomans carried out a program of genocide against the Armenians and Assyrians in the form of death marches that culminated in Ottoman Syria. French and British diplomats to agree to a post-war division of the Ottoman Empire, creating the current boundaries of Syria, which became official in 1920.

A Kingdom of Syria was established in 1920, but France and Britain refused to recognize Syria's independence, and France invaded within a few months. French occupation was difficult. Syria's monetary system was in the hands of French bankers, who were interested in French shareholders and interests, rather than Syrian. The French language became compulsory in schools, and nearly every aspect of life was under French control.

Syrian resistance to French rule led to a treaty of independence for Syria in 1936, but the French legislature refused to ratify it. With the fall of France in 1940, the Vichy French took control of Syria until the British and Free French occupied the country in 1941. Continued pressure from Syrian independence movement prompted France to evacuate its troops in 1946.

The new government was splintered and without strong leadership. Its first crisis was the independence of Israel, once part of Syria. In 1948, along with other Arab forces, Syria invaded Israel but they were unsuccessful. In 1949, the first of a series of coups and countercoups began, culminating in a civil war that began with the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011, and continues as of this writing, in 2018.

Formally, Syria is a unitary republic but, as a result of the civil war, various alternative governments were put into place.

Most of Syria's population is in the Euphrates Valley and along the coast, which are densely populated, including a large number of refugees and immigrants. At the same time, about half of the Syrian population has been displaced since the beginning of the civil war.

Although there are no hard figures, from 70% to 75% of Syrians are Muslim, Sunni being the most common sect. Christians make up about 10% of the population, belonging to a variety of Orthodox denominations. Arabic is the official language.

Topics related to businesses, religious institutions, schools, or organizations in Syria, or about the country itself, are appropriate for this category.



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