The Republic of Indonesia, world's largest archipelago, is located between the South East Asian peninsula and Australia, between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Indonesia borders Malaysia on the island of Borneo (Kalimantan in Bahasa Indonesia), Papua New Guinea on the island of New Guinea (Irian in Bahasa Indonesia) and East Timor on the island of Timor.
Under the influence of Buddhism, several kingdoms formed on the islands of Sumatra and Java from the 7th to 14th century. The arrival of Arab from Gujarat and Chinese traders later brought Islam, which became the dominant religion.
When the Europeans came in the early 16th century, they found a multitude of small states. These were vulnerable to the Europeans, who were in pursuit of dominating the spice trade. In the 17th century, the Dutch emerged as the most powerful of the Europeans, ousting the British and Portuguese (except for Timor).
After the Dutch East India Companyor VOC was liquidated, its possessions in Indonesia were taken over by the Dutch government.
In 1940 during World War II, Japan had been denied vital aviation fuel by the Dutch Indies government, unable to negotiate for the fuel Japan begins its invasion of Malaya in December. Capturing Indonesia in 1942, Japan found the Indonesian elite to be cooperative trade partners and willing to marshal troops as needed. Sukarno, Mohammad Hatta, and Kyai were decorated by the Emperor of Japan in 1943.
In March 1945 Japan organized a committee for Indonesian independence; after the Pacific war ended in 1945, this group led by Sukarno declared Indonesian independence. The Dutch finally accepted on December 27th 1949, and Sukarno became the country's first president with Muhammad Hatta as the first vice president.
After Sukarno's autocratic rule was almost overthrown, army leader Suharto became president in 1967. Suharto enriched himself and his family through widespread corruption and he was forced to step down after massive demonstrations in 1998.
In the period of 1998 to 2001, the country had four presidents that was Baharuddin Joesoef Habiebie, Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Sukarnoputri.
The country currently suffers from internal economic, political, and religious struggles, and several regions are striving for independence (Aceh, Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya)), while East Timor had already declared its independence.
The highest legislative body is the Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat (MPR, head: Amien Rais) or 'People's Consultative Assembly', consisting of the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat (DPR) or Peoples Representative Council, elected for a five-year term, and the Dewan Perwakilan Daerah (DPD) or Regional Representatives Council. Following elections in 2004, the MPR will become a bicameral parliament, with the creation of the DPD as a new second chamber.
Executive power lies with the President and his/her advisers. The current President is Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Sukarno, who assumed office upon the impeachement of Abdurrahman Wahid.
The MPR formerly met every five years to elect the President. Starting in 2004, the MPR no longer elected the President and Vice-President, and instead popular elections were held. The first popular election for President was held in July 2004. The participants were Wiranto and Salahuddin Wahid (Abdurrahman Wahid's brother), Megawati Sukarnoputri and Hasyim Muzadi, Muhammad Amien Rais and Siswono Yudohusodo, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla and Hamzah Haz and Agum Gumelar.
The next presidential election will be held in September 20, 2004. The first and second winner of the July presidential election will be the contestant, that is Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono & Jusuf Kalla and Megawati Sukarnoputri & Hasyim Muzadi.
Currently, Indonesia has 32 provinces (of those, 2 are special territories and 1 capital city territory). The provinces are subdivided in districts, which are in turn split up in sub-districts and municipalities. The provinces are:
Bali, Bangka-Belitung, Banten, Bengkulu, Central Java, Central Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, East Java, East Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara, South Sumatra, Gorontalo, Jambi, Lampung, Maluku, North Maluku, North Sulawesi, North Sumatra, Papua (Irian Jaya), Riau, Riau Kepulauan, South East Sulawesi, South Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, West Irian Jaya, West Java, West Kalimantan, West Nusa Tenggara, West Sumatra
The special territories (daerah istimewa) are Aceh (or Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam) and Yogyakarta. The capital city territory is Jakarta.
Its location on the edges of tectonic plates means Indonesia is frequently hit by earthquakes and the resulting tsunamis. Indonesia is also rich in volcanoes, the most famous being the now disappeared Krakatau (Krakatoa).
See also: Map of Asia
Indonesia suffered of major economic problems in the late 1990s, but economy has recently stabilised.
The country has extensive natural resources like oil and natural gas, tin, copper and gold. Agriculture mainly produces rice, tea, coffee, spices and rubber.
Indonesia's major trading partners are Japan, the United States and the surrounding nations of Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.
The Indonesian population can be roughly divided into two groups. In the west of the country, the people are mostly Malay, while the people of the east are Papuan. However, the ethnic structure is rather diverse, with several traditional tribes still living in the inlands of Borneo and Irian Jaya. The Chinese form a large ethnic minority (2 to 3 million). Although important to Indonesian economy, they are generally disliked by indigenous Indonesians.
Islam is Indonesia's main religion, with almost 82% of the people adhering to it. The remainder of the population is Christian (9%), Buddhist (2%), and Hindu (7%). Religious conflicts have been numerous in recent years, especially in the Moluccas.
The official language, Bahasa Indonesia - a dialect of Malay - is spoken by almost everybody, although local languages are usually the primary language.
Art forms in Indonesia have been influenced by several cultures. The famous Javanese and Balinese dances, for example, contain aspects of Hindu culture and mythology.
Also well-known are the Javanese and Balinese wayang kulit shadow theatre shows, displaying several mythological events. Several Islands are famous for their batik and ikat cloth.
In the book Max Havelaar, Dutch author Multatuli criticised the Dutch treatment of the Indonesians, which gained him international attention
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