It is therefore not surprising that in the past each wave of democratic enthusiasm in the non-democratic world has been preceded, and in large measure encouraged, by some striking military victory of democratic powers over less democratic or undemocratic operations That becomes very clear in the Islamic lands, in particular from the mid-nineteenth century, when both rulers and intellectuals were becoming increasingly aware of the poverty of their societies and the weakness of their states, as contrasted with the wealth, power, and aggressive self-confidence of the West.
The impact of the victory won by the more-or-less democratic Western powers over their totally undemocratic Russian opponent was therefore more direct and immediate than ever before.
This victory was followed by a wave of democratic movements and quasi-democratic reforms in the 1860s. In 1861, the bey of Tunis under Ottoman suzerainty, promulgated a written constitution, the first ever in a Muslim country.
The first Muslims to live abroad for any length of time were diplomats.
Then came student missions, followed--after the spread of democratic ideas--by political exiles, and, in the course of time, travelers of many different kinds.
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Democracy in its Western form, that is, constitutional and representative government, is becoming popular again after a long period of relative unpopularity, and many people in nondemocratic countries are beginning to see in the Western form of democracy the best if not the only solution to their problems. The nature and character, the methods and purposes, of democratic systems are usually understood--at most--by those who live by them.
Contested elections had been held in 1857, in the Rumanian principalities, then under Ottoman suzerainty, but the Egyptian elections of 1866 were the first ever in a Muslim country.
More important in the long run than these grudging and limited concessions from above were the growing movements from below--the first movements of opposition to authority that were neither tribal nor ethnic, neither sectarian nor regional, but inspired by an ideology and an aspiration uniting people of different regional, ethnic, and religious backgrounds in a common cause.
The collapse of Russia, the one autocracy among the Allies, and the triumphant emergence of the United States with a leading role in the Western camp, brought the final proof for the proposition that democracy makes a nation healthy, wealthy, and, if not wise, at least strong.