Indonesia is a nation made up of thousands of islands that stretch
in a long arc between the mainland of Southeast Asia and Australia.
is the largest country of Southeast Asia in both area and population.
fourth among the nations of the world in population, after China, India, and
the United States.
Formerly a Dutch colony known as the Netherlands East Indies,
Indonesia proclaimed its independence in 1945.
It officially became an independent
nation in 1949.
Since that time, Jakarta has served as Indonesia's capital.
Most Indonesians are descended from Malay peoples who came to the islands
from the Asian mainland thousands of years ago.
Other ethnic groups include
Chinese, Arabs, and people from India.
Descendants of the earliest inhabitants
of the islands live mainly in Irian Jaya (the western portion of the island
of New Guinea).
The native people of the island of Borneo are known as Dayaks.
Indonesia's large population is unevenly distributed among the islands.
More than half the people live on the fertile island of Java.
more than 5 million Javanese have been resettled on less populated islands
in an effort to ease the overcrowding on Java, one of the most densely populated
areas in the world.
Bahasa Indonesia was adopted as the national language
when Indonesia declared its independence.
It is closely related to Malay and
is spoken throughout the islands.
About 250 other languages and dialects are
spoken in various parts of the country, including English, Dutch, and Javanese.
About 90 percent of all Indonesians follow the
religion of Islam, making Indonesia the world's most populous Muslim nation.
Most of the people on the island of Bali are Hindus.
Many of the ethnic Chinese
Christians are found on several of the islands, especially
Some Indonesians, especially on Borneo and New Guinea, follow
traditional native religions.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all Indonesians
under the constitution.
Indonesian children are required to complete six
years of primary school education.
Increasing numbers of children are attending
secondary school, which consists of three years of junior high school and
three years of senior high school.
Indonesia has many colleges and universities.
The largest include Gadjah Mada University in the city of Yogyakarta, the
University of Indonesia in Jakarta, and the Institute of Technology in Bandung.
Way of Life.
In the cities, Indonesian men wear Western-style
Native influence is seen only in the black velvet caps some of them
Indonesian women often wear wraparound skirts of hand-printed batik
cloth, long-sleeved jackets, and scarves called selendang over their
More than 40 percent of all Indonesians are farmers who till small plots
In much of the country, rice is the main crop.
But on the drier eastern
islands, corn or cassava (a starchy root) is the staple crop.
to these crops, vegetables, fish, eggs, chickens, and spices make up the daily
Farm families are generally larger than city families, and everyone must
Young girls help their mothers sew and thresh rice in the afternoons,
after they have finished school and religious training.
Boys as young as 8
help their fathers weed and plow the rice paddies.
On Muslim religious holidays,
there are grand festivities in which all the families of a community can take
part because normal work is suspended.
In the cities people may work in the construction industry or in factories
making clothing, shoes, and textiles, such as the batik-styled fabric for
which Indonesia is famous.
Others have jobs in modern shopping centers, hotels,
or office buildings, while many of the poor eke out a living driving taxicabs
or selling food from small street stands.
When economic times are good, people
from rural areas often move to the cities in search of a better life.
times are hard, they may return home.
The islands of Indonesia extend for about 3,500 miles (5,640 kilometers)
from the northern tip of Sumatra to the middle of the island of New Guinea.
Indonesia shares New Guinea, the world's second largest island, with the nation
of Papua New Guinea.
The country is usually divided into several island groups.
The four major
islands, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and Celebes, belong to the group known as
the Greater Sunda Islands.
To the east of Java lie the Lesser Sunda Islands,
which include Bali, Lombok, Sumba, Sumbawa, Flores, and Timor.
Celebes and New Guinea are the Moluccas, which include Buru, Ceram, Ambon,
Halmahera, Morotai, the Aru Islands, and many other small islands.
part of Indonesia, Irian Jaya, occupies the western part of New Guinea.
The Greater Sunda Islands (Sunda Besar).
heavily developed and densely populated island is Java (Jawa),
lies south of the equator.
Java covers about 49,000 square miles (127,000
In the north is a low coastal plain.
Inland there are
volcanoes, mountain ranges, and plateaus.
Some isolated plains are found in
The longest river in Java is the Solo.
Other rivers are generally
short and broken by many rapids.
On an island in the Sunda Strait, which separates
Java from Sumatra, is the volcano known as Krakatau (Krakatoa).
In 1883, a
terrible eruption of this volcano caused great destruction and loss of life.
Indonesia shares the island of Borneo with the nations of Malaysia
Borneo is the third largest island in the world.
The Indonesian part of Borneo, known as Kalimantan,
of the island.
Many people in Kalimantan live in the coastal areas.
is rugged, with mountains, swift rivers, and dense rain forests and jungles.
The island of Sumatra (Sumatera) covers more than 163,000 square
miles (422,170 square kilometers).
Along the eastern coast are high swamps.
The Barisan Mountains, with many active volcanoes, stretch along the southwestern
Most of the riversincluding the Musi, Hari, Indragiri, and Kamparbegin
in these mountains and flow eastward and northeastward.
Four peninsulas make up the island of Celebes (Sulawesi).
branch out from a mountainous area in the center of the island and are separated
by three gulfsBone, Tomini, and Tolo.
Celebes covers about 69,000 square
miles (179,000 square kilometers).
Most of the people live on the southwestern
The Lesser Sunda Islands (Nusa Tenggera).
To the east of
Java stretches a chain of mountainous islands known as the Lesser Sunda Islands.
Their total area is about 28,000 square miles (72,500 square kilometers).
the best known of these islands, is famous for its scenic
beauty, temples, sculpture, and crafts.
Hindu customs and the Hindu religion
are widespread on the island.
Timor is the largest island of the group.
In 1976 the eastern
part of the island, formerly a Portuguese colony, was declared part of Indonesia.
East Timor achieved full independence in 2002.
The Moluccas (Maluku).
The Moluccas, also known as the Spice
Islands, lie between Celebes and New Guinea.
They consist of hundreds of islands,
covering a total area of about 33,000 square miles (85,500 square kilometers).
The largest one, Halmahera, covers 6,870 square miles (17,790 square miles).
Spices from the Moluccas, such as cloves, nutmeg, and mace, have been valued
throughout the world for hundreds of years.
This part of Indonesia, on the western part of
New Guinea, covers approximately 160,000 square miles (414,000 square kilometers).
In the interior, the peaks of the Maoke (Snow) Mountains rise to great heights.
Parts of Irian Jaya have never been explored.
In general, the climate of Indonesia is tropical,
meaning high temperatures, much rainfall, and a year-round growing season.
Indonesia's climate is determined by its location on and near the equator
and by the two different seasonal winds known as monsoonsthe dry monsoon
and the wet monsoon.
Throughout the year temperatures average about 27°C
(80°F) in the lowlands, although some relief from the humidity can be
found in the mountains.
Western Indonesia receives the heaviest rainfall.
Rainfall in the east is more moderate.
The most agriculturally productive areas
of Indonesia are generally found in regions with volcanic soil and in river
These are found in Java and in parts of Sumatra and Celebes.
Many of the islands have valuable mineral deposits.
Petroleum is found
on Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and Irian Jaya, and there are extensive natural
gas fields in Sumatra and Borneo.
Tin is found on Bangka and Belitung, and
copper and nickel on Celebes.
Diamonds, gold, and silver are found on Borneo
Coal is also found on Sumatra.
Indonesia is one of the world's leading producers of tin, natural rubber,
palm oil, copra (dried coconut meat), and petroleum and natural gas.
also a major source of nickel, coffee, and tea.
Manufacturing has increased
greatly since the 1980's, although agriculture (including forestry and fishing)
remains the single most important economic activity.
Tourism is a growing
source of income.
Beginning in 1997, after a decade of rapid economic growth, Indonesia was
affected by an economic crisis that began in Thailand and soon spread through
much of Southeast Asia.
Millions of workers lost their jobs, the value of
the currency fell, and prices for basic goods such as sugar, cooking oil,
and rice increased dramatically.
Petroleum and natural gas, textiles, cement,
chemical fertilizers, plywood, food products, and rubber are among the nation's
most valuable products.
Clothing, paper, shoes, and electrical and electronic
products also are made in Indonesia.
Much of the country's manufacturing activity
is centered in Java, although the government is encouraging industrial development
on other islands.
Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing.
Besides growing crops
such as rice, cassava, and corn for food, many Indonesians work on plantations
specializing in products for export.
These include rubber, copra, palm oil,
spices, and sugarcane.
Chickens are the most widely found livestock, but goats,
cattle, and sheep are also raised.
Indonesia's forests yield many resins, medicines, fibers, and fruits.
is a plant with many uses, and rattan is made into wicker products, such as
The waters surrounding the islands provide ample quantities of
fish for local consumption.
Many illegal fires are set to clear thousands of acres of tropical rain
forest for farming and logging.
In 1997 and 1998, when the normal monsoon
rains did not arrive, the fires raged out of control, causing severe air pollution
and health problems.
Indonesia is the world's largest producer of liquefied
natural gas and a leading producer of tin.
Bauxite (aluminum ore), nickel,
copper, gold, and coal are also mined.
Indonesia's leading exports include natural gas and
petroleum, textiles and clothing, wood products, shoes, and electrical and
Leading imports include machinery, transportation and
electrical equipment, chemicals, and foods.
Indonesia's chief trading partners
are the United States, Singapore, and Japan.
A road and railway network connects cities
in Java and Sumatra.
Sea and air transportation services link the various
The nation's largest airport, the Sukarno-Hatta International Airport,
is located outside Jakarta.
Garuda Indonesia, the national airline, provides
both domestic and international service.
(also known as Djakarta) in western Java, is the
capital of Indonesia and the economic center of the nation.
Home to approximately
7 million people, Jakarta is by far the most populous city in Indonesia.
Indonesia's second largest city, is located in
A major port, Surabaya was the primary naval base of the Dutch
East Indies before 1942.
The city remains a major point of export for Indonesian
sugar, coffee, and spices.
Also a center of manufacturing, Surabaya's industries
include fishing, shipbuilding, textile manufacturing, and petroleum refining.
Many of Indonesia's arts developed as a result of foreign contact.
and Buddhist influences are seen in many temples, such as those found on the
island of Bali and in the Borobudur shrine in central Java.
Drama is often in the form of puppet plays called wayang.
plays, puppets are used to enact stories from such ancient Hindu epic literature
as the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
The wayang are
accompanied by music played by a gamelan,
an orchestra of mostly
On the island of Bali, girls from the age of 5 learn dances that tell old
From 1949 until 1959, Indonesia had a parliamentary form of government.
It proved unsuccessful, and Indonesia returned to the government of its 1945
Under this constitution, which was revised in 1999, the president
is the head of state, the head of government, and the supreme commander of
the armed forces.
The president is elected for a 5-year term by the People's
This assembly includes the 500 members of the national
legislature and an additional 200 representatives of various organizations
The president is assisted by a cabinet of ministers.
The legislature, called the House of People's Representatives, consists
of 38 members appointed by the armed forces and 462 additional members elected
by the people.
Governors are appointed by the central government to administer
Indonesia's many provinces.
Supreme court justices are appointed by the president.
For many decades scientists believed that the earliest human beings lived
In 1891, skull and bone fragments of "Java Man," who lived
about 1 million years ago, were found there.
But fossil remains of humanlike
beings found more recently in eastern Africa predate those in Indonesia.
The Hindu Era.
Indian traders and priests from Asia began
to settle in parts of Sumatra and Java around the AD 100's.
They later introduced
both the Buddhist and Hindu religions and founded several kingdoms.
important of these were Sriwidjaya, which flourished on Sumatra from the 600's
to the 1200's, and Majapahit, which was dominant on Java from the 1200's to
Islam was first introduced to the islands around 1100.
replaced Hinduism as the major religion.
The Arrival of Europeans.
The Portuguese who captured Melaka,
in Malaysia, in 1511 were the first Europeans to come to the islands.
traders founded the Dutch East India Company in 1602.
It lasted until 1798,
when the government of the Netherlands took over its functions.
European countries, including the United Kingdom, France, and Spain, developed
commercial interests on some of the islands.
They were soon barred by the
Dutch, who gradually established a full colony in the region called the Netherlands
From the 1600's to the 1800's, the Netherlands slowly spread
its influence over the islands.
The Dutch Colonial Period.
In the early 1800's, the United
Kingdom temporarily occupied Java and some of the other islands.
previously interested only in trade, then moved to establish strict political
control, which it maintained for the next century.
In 1918, a limited voice
in government was given to Indonesians with the formation of the Volksraad
The Road to Independence.
During World War II (1939-45),
Japan's early military successes inspired Indonesian nationalists.
also encouraged self-government after they occupied the Indonesian islands.
On August 17, 1945, after Japan surrendered to the Allies, a revolutionary
government was set up by nationalist leader Sukarno (1901-70) to resist
reoccupation by the Netherlands.
Indonesia was declared a republic with a
presidential form of government.
The Netherlands refused to recognize the
self-proclaimed nation, and fighting continued.
Finally, on December 27, 1949,
Indonesia officially gained its independence.
Sukarno served as president of Indonesia
from 1949 to 1967.
In 1960, he dissolved the legislature and appointed a new body to set in action
a policy referred to as Guided Democracy.
In 1965, he withdrew Indonesia
from the United Nations.
Later that year, Indonesian Communists attempted
a coup against the government.
About 500,000 people died in the fighting before
the revolt was put down by the army.
A new government was formed, led by General
Suharto (1921- ).
Sukarno was stripped of power, although he
retained the title of president until 1967.
Indonesia rejoined the United
Nations in 1966.
The former Dutch colony of West New Guinea remained under
Dutch rule until 1962.
In 1969, the United Nations officially gave Indonesia
control of the vast territory, which was renamed Irian Jaya.
During the 1970's, the Indonesian government put down revolts on Irian
Jaya and other outlying areas.
When civil war broke out on Portuguese East
Timor in 1975, Indonesians occupied the colony and declared it a province
of Indonesia the following year.
After officially becoming president in 1968, Suharto strengthened the central
government, and the economy flourished.
But by 1998, riots sparked by rising
prices and widespread unemployment forced him to resign.
His successor, B.
Habibie, proved unable to unify the country.
In 1999, in the first democratic transfer of power in Indonesia's history,
Abdurrahman Wahid was elected president and Megawati Sukarnoputri, Sukarno's
daughter, was elected vice president.
The new legislature placed East Timor
under the transitional authority of the United Nations.
Wahid was unable to
end economic hardships or ethnic and religious violence and was impeached
by the legislature in July 2001.
Megawati then became president.
achieved independence on May 20, 2002.
In 2002, the government took steps to control militant groups, but terrorist
bombs later ripped through a nightclub in Bali, killing more than 200 people.
Changes in government included constitutional amendments that would allow
for direct presidential elections by the people and the elimination of a reserved
bloc of parliamentary seats for the military beginning in 2004.
also signed a short-lived peace agreement with rebels in Aceh province,
who had long sought independence.
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