For many centuries, France was the official language of culture, and erudition. It was the language of diplomacy and arts. Aristocrats in Imperial Russia spoke French, even amongst themselves, as Tolstoy and many others documented. In short, if you wanted to be educated, you had to speak French.
THE map of the modern Middle East, a political and economic pivot in the international order, is in tatters. Syria’s ruinous war is the turning point. But the centrifugal forces of rival beliefs, tribes and ethnicities — empowered by unintended consequences of the Arab Spring — are also pulling apart a region defined by European colonial powers a century ago and defended by Arab autocrats ever since.