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September 2009

Indonesia, 2002

Indonesia, 2002

The Republic of Indonesia encompasses an area of almost 2 million sq. km. (736,000 sq. mi.), about three times the size of the U.S. state of Texas. Its capital city, Jakarta (on the island of Java), has an estimated population of about 8.8 million; other major cities are: Surabaya, Medan, and Bandung. The estimated population of Indonesia, as of July 2009, is 240.3 million. The major religions in Indonesia are: Muslim 86.1 %, Protestant 5.7%, Catholic 3%, Hindu 1.8%, and other 1%.

During the 7th-14th centuries, the Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya flourished on Sumatra. At its peak, the Srivijaya Empire reached as far as West Java and the Malay Peninsula. By the 14th century, the Hindu Kingdom of Majapahit had risen in eastern Java. Gadjah Mada, the empire's chief minister from 1331 to 1364, succeeded in gaining allegiance from most of what is now modern Indonesia and much of the Malay archipelago as well. Beginning in 1602, the Dutch slowly established themselves as rulers of present-day Indonesia, exploiting the weakness of the small kingdoms that had replaced that of Majapahit. The only exception was East Timor, which remained under Portugal's control until 1975. During 300 years of rule, the Dutch developed the Netherlands East Indies into one of the world's richest colonial possessions.

During the first decade of the 20th century, an Indonesian independence movement began and expanded rapidly. The Japanese occupied Indonesia for three years during World War II (1942-1945). On August 17, 1945, three days after the Japanese surrender to the Allies, a small group of Indonesians, led by Sukarno (also spelled Soekarno) and Mohammad Hatta, proclaimed independence and established the Republic of Indonesia. Shortly after hostilities with the Dutch ended in 1949, Indonesia adopted a new constitution, providing for a parliamentary system of government in which the executive was chosen by and accountable to parliament.

The president, elected for a five-year term, is the top government and political figure. In 2005, Indonesia reached a historic peace agreement with armed separatists in Aceh, which led to democratic elections in December 2006. Indonesia continues to face a low intensity separatist guerilla movement in Papua.

Natural disasters have devastated many parts of Indonesia over the past few years. On December 26, 2004, a 9.1 to 9.3 magnitude earthquake took place in the Indian Ocean, and the resulting tsunami killed over 130,000 people in Aceh and left more than 500,000 homeless. On March 26, 2005, an 8.7 magnitude earthquake struck between Aceh and northern Sumatra, killing 905 people and displacing tens of thousands. After much media attention on the seismic activity on Mt. Merapi in April and May 2006, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake occurred 30 miles to the southwest. It killed more than 5,000 people and left an estimated 200,000 people homeless in the Yogyakarta region.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 8/2009; 3/2009

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