Though some have claimed that 2012 was “the best year ever” on a global scale, it certainly doesn’t seem that way from a cursory glance at the headlines. Civil wars, revolutions and natural disasters seemed as rampant as ever, but amid the chaos, there appeared to be steps in the right direction.
In the Middle East, the "Arab Spring" continued to revolutionize the region. Egypt’s elections, which brought Mohamed Morsi to power, have since sparked fighting between his supporters and those accusing him of trying to consolidate power.
There was the continuing crisis in Syria; an increasingly isolated and nuclear-ambitious Iran; yet another military flare-up between Israelis and Palestinians; and the lethal attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, prompted political controversy in the U.S.
The Great Recession clung to Europe, with Greece and Spain particularly volatile as citizens resisted austerity measures. The European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize, but violent protests in Athens and beyond tested fiscal resolve.
Leadership changes shook up a number of countries. In France, the Socialist Party’s Francois Hollande defeated President Nicolas Sarkozy; in Japan, the conservative Democratic Party won in a landslide; and in Russia, though Vladimir Putin won reelection as president, rampant protests and the subsequent crackdowns brought renewed criticism of Putin's lengthy control of the country.
But Myanmar, long under military rule, took steps toward becoming a democracy, most notably with the election of Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the country’s lower house of parliament. Suu Kyi had endured house arrest intermittently from 1989 to 2010. And blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng successfully escaped house arrest in his home country, causing a brief standoff between the U.S. and China.
But that’s just a glimpse of worldwide events over the year. Click through the gallery above to reacquaint yourself with the major international stories of 2012.