(Alexandria 1918- Cairo 1970) Egyptian
president 1954-1970. Nasser came from a
modest background as a son of a postman.
He got his education from the Military Academy
1938- 39. He participated in the war against
Israel in 1948 as a major.
In 1949 he joined the Free Officers, who plotted
against the non-constitutional British all-
pervasive presence, the landowning elite and the
weak and morally corrupt king. The Free Officers
were responsible for the coup that deposed King
Faruk from the throne in 1952, and it was Nasser
who was the real leader, yet he still remained in
the background. After a long fight over power with
President Naguib he ousted him in the second
attempt, on November 14, allegedly for having
known of the Muslim Brotherhood's attempt on
Nasser's life in the month before.
Soon after taking power Nasser negotiated an
agreement with the British, ending their 72- year
presence in Egypt. After being officially elected
president in 1956, he also promulgated a new
constitution, that gave the presidency more power.
Nasser's political system was called Arab
socialism. With this program he confiscated
243,000 hectares (2,430 km²) farm land from
a small group of rich landowners. Later on in his
presidency he nationalized banks and industries.
In 1956 USA and Britain withdrew a promised
support for the construction of a new Aswan Dam,
and Nasser responded with nationalization of the
Suez Canal Company, as he wanted to finance the
construction of the dam with the income from tolls
on the traffic on the canal.
nationalization of the Suez Canal was met by an
Israeli invasion of the Sinai peninsula and an
Anglo-French invasion of the Canal Zone. But the
invading forces were put under pressure from the
UN, and had to withdraw. Egypt kept the full
ownership of the Suez Canal, and managed also to
get Soviet support for the construction of the
dam, which was completed 14 years later. Following
this, Nasser rose to stardom in the Arab world.
In 1958 Egypt and Syria formed the United
Arab Republic, with Nasser as the head. This was
at this time considered as the first step towards
Arab unity. When it broke up in 1961, after
a coup in Syria, Nasser kept the name United Arab
Republic even if it was only Egypt left. This was
meant as a symbol for his aspirations of Arab
unity (the name was changed the year after his
Nasser's ideas were laid down in his book of
1959, The Philosophy of the Revolution.
He precipitated the third war with Israel, when he
in 1967 both expelled United Nations peace
keeping forces from the Gaza Strip and blockaded
the Gulf of Aqaba for traffic on Israel's port
Eilat. But when Israel attacked Egypt on June 5,
it was so strongly the first day that Egypt was in
reality beaten already. Still the fightings
continued for five more days more. The only
effective action of the Egyptians was to close the
Suez Canal for all ships.
The humiliation of Egypt was so deep that Nasser
offered to resign, but the people demonstrated in
such numbers in his favour, that he continued, and
also took the position as prime minister. From
this time on Nasser's government became
increasingly dependent on military and economic
aid from the Soviet Union.
Nasser died on September 28. 1970 of heart
attack, while still in office.