Despite a strong field of contenders for the Oxford Atlas Place of the Year 2013, Syria emerged as the clear winner, owing to its central role in global events this year.
Syria has been embroiled in a catastrophic civil war for more than two years. Originating with peaceful protests during 2011’s Arab Spring, the rebellion turned violent when the government of President Bashar Al-Assad began to suppress the uprising using force. The worsening conflict put Syria on the Place of the Year (POTY) shortlist in 2012, when it was edged out by Mars, but this year the crisis expanded into a global flashpoint when the use of chemical weapons against civilians triggered a standoff between Russia, which is Assad’s close ally, and the United States.
This year, your votes and our panel of experts and geographers agreed that Syria would beat out a packed shortlist – Greenland’s Grand Canyon, The NSA Data Center, Rio De Janeiro, and Tahrir Square, Egypt – to become Place of the Year for 2013. As Marshall University geographer Joshua Hagen wrote when making the case for Syria,
Syria is an excellent candidate for Place of the Year, because in a deeply visceral and tragic way, it continues to illustrate several basic characteristics of our early twenty-first century world: an increasingly multipolar international system, societies assuming a more inward focus in response to a global economic downturn, and the persistence of ethno-nationalist antagonisms often simmering beneath the veneer of nation-state sovereignty.
All this week, OUPblog will feature in-depth takes on Syria. You can check on the Place of the Year archive for the latest. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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The Oxford Atlas Place of the Year 2013 is Syria. The Oxford Atlas Place of the Year is a location — from street corners to planets — around the globe (and beyond) which has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date and judged to reflect the important discoveries, conflicts, challenges, and successes of that particular year. Learn more about Place of the Year on the OUPblog.