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BackgroundThis page shows the value of the Background information field for all countries in the Country Guide.
Notes on this field are available at the Information Field Notes page.
AfghanistanAfghanistan was invaded and occupied by the Soviet Union in 1979. The USSR was forced to withdraw 10 years later by anti-communist mujahidin forces supplied and trained by the US, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others. Fighting subsequently continued among the various mujahidin factions, but the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban movement has been able to seize most of the country. In addition to the continuing civil strife, the country suffers from enormous poverty, a crumbling infrastructure, and widespread live mines.
AlbaniaIn 1990 Albania ended 44 years of xenophobic communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven difficult as corrupt governments have tried to deal with severe unemployment, the collapse of a fraudulent nationwide investment scheme, widespread gangsterism, and massive refugee influxes from neighboring Kosovo.
AlgeriaAfter a century of rule by France, Algeria became independent in 1962. The surprising first round success of the fundamentalist FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) party in December 1991 balloting caused the army to intervene, crack down on the FIS, and postpone the subsequent elections. The FIS response has resulted in a continuous low-grade civil conflict with the secular state apparatus, which nonetheless has allowed elections featuring pro-government and moderate religious-based parties. FIS's armed wing, the Islamic Salvation Army, dissolved itself in January 2000 and many armed insurgents surrendered under an amnesty program designed to promote national reconciliation. Nevertheless, some residual fighting continues. Other concerns include large-scale unemployment and the need to diversify the petroleum-based economy.
American SamoaSettled as early as 1000 B. C., Samoa was "discovered" by European explorers in the 18th century. International rivalries in the latter half of the 19th century were settled by an 1899 treaty in which Germany and the US divided the Samoan archipelago. The US formally occupied its portion - a smaller group of eastern islands with the excellent harbor of Pago Pago - the following year.
AndorraLong isolated and impoverished, mountainous Andorra has achieved considerable prosperity since World War II through its tourist industry. Many immigrants (legal and illegal) are attracted to the thriving economy with its lack of income taxes.
AngolaCivil war has been the norm in Angola since independence from Portugal in 1975. A 1994 peace accord between the government and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) provided for the integration of former UNITA insurgents into the government and armed forces. A national unity government was installed in April of 1997, but serious fighting resumed in late 1998, rendering hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Up to 1.5 million lives may have been lost in fighting over the past quarter century.
AnguillaColonized by English settlers from Saint Kitts in 1650, Anguilla was administered by Great Britain until the early 19th century, when the island - against the wishes of the inhabitants - was incorporated into a single British dependency along with Saint Kitts and Nevis. Several attempts at separation failed. In 1971, two years after a revolt, Anguilla was finally allowed to secede; this arrangement was formally recognized in 1980 with Anguilla becoming a separate British dependency.
Antigua and BarbudaThe islands of Antigua and Barbuda became an independent state within the British Commonwealth of Nations in 1981. Some 3,000 refugees fleeing a volcanic eruption on nearby Montserrat have settled in Antigua and Barbuda since 1995.
Arctic OceanA spring 2000 decision by the International Hydrographic Organization delimited a fifth world ocean from the southern portions of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. The new ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica north to 60 degrees south latitude which coincides with the Antarctic Treaty Limit. The Arctic Ocean remains the smallest of the world's five oceans (after the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Southern Ocean).
ArgentinaFollowing independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina experienced periods of internal political conflict between conservatives and liberals and between civilian and military factions. After World War II, a long period of Peronist dictatorship was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976. Democracy returned in 1983, and four free elections since then have underscored Argentina's progress in democratic consolidation.
ArmeniaAn Orthodox Christian country, Armenia was incorporated into Russia in 1828 and the USSR in 1920. Armenian leaders remain preoccupied by the long conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a primarily Armenian-populated exclave, assigned to Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s by Moscow. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the exclave in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By May 1994, when a cease-fire took hold, Armenian forces held not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also a significant portion of Azerbaijan proper. The economies of both sides have been hurt by their inability to make substantial progress toward a peaceful resolution.
ArubaFormerly one of the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba became an autonomous part of the Netherlands in 1986.
Atlantic OceanA spring 2000 decision by the International Hydrographic Organization delimited a fifth world ocean from the southern portions of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. The new ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica north to 60 degrees south latitude which coincides with the Antarctic Treaty Limit. The Atlantic Ocean remains the second-largest of the world's five oceans (after the Pacific Ocean, but larger than the Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, and Arctic Ocean).
AustraliaAustralia became a commonwealth of the British Empire in 1901. It was able to take advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. Long-term concerns include pollution, particularly depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef. A referendum to change Australia's status, from a commonwealth headed by the British monarch to an independent republic, was defeated in 1999.
AustriaOnce the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I. Following annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938 and subsequent occupation by the victorious Allies, Austria's 1955 State Treaty declared the country "permanently neutral" as a condition of Soviet military withdrawal. Neutrality, once ingrained as part of the Austrian cultural identity, has been called into question since the Soviet collapse and Austria's increasingly prominent role in European affairs. A prosperous country, Austria joined the European Union in 1995 and the euro monetary system in 1999.
AzerbaijanAzerbaijan - a nation of Turkic Muslims - has been an independent republic since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite a cease-fire, in place since 1994, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave (largely Armenian populated). Azerbaijan has lost almost 20% of its territory and must support some 750,000 refugees as a result of the conflict. Corruption is ubiquitous and the promise of wealth from Azerbaijan's undeveloped petroleum resources remains largely unfulfilled.
Bahamas, TheSince attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. By the early 1980s, the islands had become a major center for drug trafficking, particularly shipments to the US.
BahrainBahrain's small size and central location among Persian Gulf countries require it to play a delicate balancing act in foreign affairs among its larger neighbors. Possessing minimal oil reserves, Bahrain has turned to petroleum processing and refining, and has transformed itself into an international banking center. The new amir is pushing economic and political reforms, and has worked to improve relations with the Shi'a community.
BangladeshBangladesh came into existence in 1971 when Bengali East Pakistan seceded from its union with West Pakistan. A third of this desperately poor country annually floods during the monsoon rainy season, hampering normal economic development.
BarbadosThe island was uninhabited when first settled by the British in 1627. Its economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production through most of the 20th century. In the 1990s, tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance.
BelarusAfter seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics. Belarus and Russia signed a treaty on a two-state union on 8 December 1999 envisioning greater political and economic integration but, to date, neither side has actively sought to implement the accord.
BelgiumBelgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830 and was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II. It has prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU. Tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy.
BelizeTerritorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize (formerly British Honduras) until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime.
BeninDahomey gained its independence from France in 1960; the name was changed to Benin in 1975. From 1974 to 1989 the country was a socialist state; free elections were reestablished in 1991.
BermudaBermuda was first settled in 1609 by shipwrecked English colonists headed for Virginia. Tourism to the island to escape North American winters first developed in Victorian times. Bermuda has developed into highly successful offshore financial center. A referendum on independence was soundly defeated in 1995.
BhutanUnder British influence a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years later a treaty was signed whereby the country became a British protectorate. Independence was attained in 1949, with India subsequently guiding foreign relations and supplying aid.
BoliviaBolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and counter-coups. Comparatively democratic civilian rule was established in the 1980s, but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest, and drug production. Current goals include attracting foreign investment, strengthening the educational system, continuing the privatization program, and waging an anti-corruption campaign.
Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina's declaration of sovereignty in October of 1991, was followed by a referendum for independence from the former Yugoslavia in February of 1992. The Bosnian Serbs - supported by neighboring Serbia - responded with armed resistance aimed at partitioning the republic along ethnic lines and joining Serb-held areas to form a "greater Serbia." In March 1994, Bosnia's Bosniaks and Croats reduced the number of warring factions from three to two by signing an agreement creating a joint Bosniak/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 21 November 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, the warring parties signed a peace agreement that brought to a halt the three years of interethnic civil strife (the final agreement was signed in Paris on 14 December 1995). The Dayton Agreement divides Bosnia and Herzegovina roughly equally between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian Serb Republika Srpska. In 1995-96, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force (IFOR) of 60,000 troops served in Bosnia to implement and monitor the military aspects of the agreement. IFOR was succeeded by a smaller, NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) whose mission is to deter renewed hostilities. SFOR remains in place, with troop levels to be reduced to about 19,000 by spring 2000.
BotswanaFormerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. The economy, closely tied to South Africa's, is dominated by cattle raising and mining.
BrazilFollowing three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation in 1822. By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil has overcome more than half a century of military intervention in the governance of the country to pursue industrial and agricultural growth and development of the interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, Brazil became Latin America's leading economic power by the 1970s. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem.
British Virgin IslandsFirst settled by the Dutch in 1648, the islands were soon after (1672) annexed by the English. The economy is closely tied to the larger and more populous US Virgin Islands to the west; the US dollar is the legal currency.
BruneiAlthough greatly reduced in size since its heyday of the 16th century, the Sultanate of Brunei sits atop extensive petroleum and natural gas fields, the source of one of the highest per capita GDPs in the less developed countries.
BulgariaHaving fought on the losing side in both World Wars, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People's Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, and Bulgaria began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a market economy while combating inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime. Today, reforms and democratization keep Bulgaria on a path toward eventual integration into the EU and NATO.
Burkina FasoIndependence from France came to Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) in 1960. Governmental instability during the 1970s and 1980s was followed by multiparty elections in the early 1990s. Several hundred thousand farm workers migrate south every year to Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana.
BurundiBetween 1993 and 1999, ethnic violence between Hutu and Tutsi factions in Burundi created hundreds of thousands of refugees and left at least 250,000 dead. Although many refugees have returned from neighboring countries, continued ethnic strife has forced others to flee. Burundian troops, seeking to secure their borders, have intervened in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
CambodiaFollowing a five-year struggle, communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh in 1975 and ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns; over 1 million displaced people died from execution or enforced hardships. A 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside and touched off 13 years of fighting. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy, as did the rapid diminishment of the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1990s. A coalition government, formed after national elections in 1998, brought renewed political stability and the surrender of remaining Khmer Rouge forces.
CameroonThe former French Cameroon and part of British Cameroon merged in 1961 to form the present country. Cameroon has generally enjoyed stability, which has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as a petroleum industry. Despite movement toward democratic reform, political power remains firmly in the hands of an ethnic oligarchy.
CanadaA land of vast distances and rich natural resources, Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 while retaining ties to the British crown. Economically and technologically the nation has developed in parallel with the US, its neighbor to the south across an unfortified border. Its paramount political problem continues to be the relationship of the province of Quebec, with its French-speaking residents and unique culture, to the remainder of the country.
Cape VerdeThe uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century; they subsequently became a trading center for African slaves. Most Cape Verdeans descend from both groups. Independence was achieved in 1975.
Cayman IslandsThe Cayman Islands were colonized from Jamaica by the British during the 18th and 19th centuries. Administered by Jamaica from 1863, they remained a British dependency after 1962 when the former became independent.
Central African RepublicThe former French colony of Ubangi-Shari became the Central African Republic upon independence in 1960. After three tumultuous decades of misrule - mostly by military governments - a civilian government was installed in 1993.
ChadChad, part of France's African holdings until 1960, endured three decades of ethnic warfare as well as invasions by Libya before a semblance of peace was finally restored in 1990. A transitional government eventually suppressed or came to terms with most political-military groups, settled a territorial dispute with Libya on terms favorable to Chad, drafted a democratic constitution, and held multiparty presidential and National Assembly elections in 1996 and 1997 respectively. In 1998 a new rebellion broke out in northern Chad, which continued to escalate throughout 1999. Despite movement toward democratic reform, power remains in the hands of a northern ethnic oligarchy.
ChileA three-year-old Marxist government was overthrown in 1973 by a dictatorial military regime led by Augusto PINOCHET, which ruled until a freely elected president was installed in 1990. Sound economic policies, first implemented by the PINOCHET dictatorship, led to unprecedented growth in 1991-97 and have helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative government. Growth slowed in 1998-99, but will likely recover in 2000.
ChinaFor centuries China has stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences. But in the first half of the 20th century, China was beset by major famines, civil unrest, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under MAO Zedong established a dictatorship that, while ensuring China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, his successor DENG Xiaoping decentralized economic decision making. Output quadrupled in the next 20 years and China now has the world's second largest GDP. Political controls remain tight even while economic controls continue to weaken.
Christmas Islanddiscovery of phosphate rock.
Cocos (Keeling) IslandsA possession of the UK since 1857, the islands were transferred to Australia in 1955.
ColombiaColombia was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Ecuador and Venezuela). A 40-year insurgent campaign to overthrow the Colombian Government escalated during the 1990s, undergirded in part by funds from the drug trade. Although the violence is deadly and large swaths of the countryside are under guerrilla influence, the movement lacks the military strength or popular support necessary to overthrow the government. While Bogota continues to try to negotiate a settlement, neighboring countries worry about the violence spilling over their borders.
ComorosUnstable Comoros has endured 19 coups or attempted coups since gaining independence from France in 1975. In 1997, the islands of Anjouan and Moheli declared their independence from Comoros. A subsequent attempt by the government to reestablish control over the rebellious islands by force failed, and presently the Organization of African Unity is brokering negotiations to effect a reconciliation.
Congo, Democratic Republic of theSince 1994 the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC; formerly called Zaire) has been rent by ethnic strife and civil war, touched off by a massive inflow of refugees from the fighting in Rwanda and Burundi. Troops from Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia have intervened in this devastating conflict. A cease-fire was signed on 10 July 1999, but skirmishing continues.
Congo, Republic of theUpon independence in 1960, the former French region of Middle Congo became the Republic of the Congo. A quarter century of experimentation with Marxism was abandoned in 1990 and a democratically elected government installed in 1992. A brief civil war in 1997 restored former Marxist President SASSOU-NGUESSO.
Cook IslandsNamed after Captain Cook, who sighted them in 1770, the islands became a British protectorate in 1888. By 1900, administrative control was transferred to New Zealand; in 1965 residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand. The emigration of skilled workers to New Zealand and government deficits are continuing problems.
Costa RicaCosta Rica is a Central American success story: since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred its democratic development. Although still a largely agricultural country, it has achieved a relatively high standard of living. Land ownership is widespread. Tourism is a rapidly expanding industry.
Cote d'IvoireClose ties to France since independence in 1960, diversification of agriculture for export, and encouragement of foreign investment have made Cote d'Ivoire the most prosperous of the tropical African states. About 20% of the population are workers from neighboring countries. On 25 December 1999, a military coup - the first ever in Cote d'Ivoire's history - overthrew the government. The new regime has promised to return the country to democratic rule in 2000.
CroatiaIn 1918, the Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes formed a kingdom known after 1929 as Yugoslavia. Following World War II, Yugoslavia became an independent communist state under the strong hand of Marshal TITO. Although Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, it took four years of sporadic, but often bitter, fighting before occupying Serb armies were mostly cleared from Croatian lands. Under UN supervision the last Serb-held enclave in eastern Slavonia was returned to Croatia in 1998.
CubaFidel CASTRO led a rebel army to victory in 1959; his iron will has held the country together since. Cuba's communist revolution, with Soviet support, was exported throughout Latin America and Africa during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. The country is now slowly recovering from a severe economic recession following the withdrawal of former Soviet subsidies, worth $4 billion to $6 billion annually, in 1990. Havana blames its difficulties on the US embargo in place since 1962.
CyprusIndependence from the UK was approved in 1960 with constitutional guarantees by the Greek Cypriot majority to the Turkish Cypriot minority. In 1974 a Greek-sponsored attempt to seize the government was met by military intervention from Turkey, which soon controlled almost 40% of the island. In 1983 the Turkish-held area declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but it is recognized only by Turkey. Cyprus talks resumed in December 1999 to prepare the ground for a comprehensive settlement.
Czech RepublicAfter World War II, Czechoslovakia fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. In 1968, an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops ended the efforts of the country's leaders to liberalize party rule and create "socialism with a human face." Anti-Soviet demonstrations the following year ushered in a period of harsh repression. With the collapse of Soviet authority in 1989, Czechoslovakia regained its freedom through a peaceful "Velvet Revolution." On 1 January 1993, the country underwent a "velvet divorce" into its two national components, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Now a member of NATO, the Czech Republic has moved toward integration in world markets, a development that poses both opportunities and risks.
DenmarkOnce the seat of Viking raiders and later a major north European power, Denmark has evolved into a modern, prosperous nation that is participating in the political and economic integration of Europe. So far, however, the country has opted out of some aspects of the European Union's Maastricht Treaty, including the new joint monetary system.
DjiboutiThe French Territory of the Afars and the Issas became Djibouti in 1977. A peace accord in 1994 ended a three-year uprising by Afars rebels.
DominicaDominica was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans, due chiefly to the fierce resistance of the native Caribs. France ceded possession to Great Britain in 1763, which made the island a colony in 1805. In 1980, two years after independence, Dominica's fortunes improved when a corrupt and tyrannical administration was replaced by that of Mary Eugenia CHARLES, the first female prime minister in the Caribbean, who remained in office for 15 years.
Dominican RepublicA legacy of unsettled, mostly non-representative, rule for much of the 20th century was brought to an end in 1996 when free and open elections ushered in a new government.
EcuadorThe "Republic of the Equator" was one of three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Venezuela). Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999.
EgyptNominally independent from the UK in 1922, Egypt acquired full sovereignty following World War II. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 and the resultant Lake Nasser have altered the time-honored place of the Nile River in the agriculture and ecology of Egypt. A rapidly growing population (the largest in the Arab world) will continue to stress Egyptian society and overtax resources as the country enters the new millennium.
El SalvadorEl Salvador achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and from the Central American Federation in 1839. A 12-year civil war, which cost the lives of some 75,000 people, was brought to a close in 1992 when the government and leftist rebels signed a treaty that provided for military and political reforms.
Equatorial GuineaComposed of a mainland portion and five inhabited islands, Equatorial Guinea has been ruled by ruthless leaders who have badly mismanaged the economy since independence from 190 years of Spanish rule in 1968. Although nominally a constitutional democracy since 1991, the 1996 presidential and 1999 legislative elections were widely seen as being flawed.
EritreaEritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation. Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces; independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 remains unresolved.
EstoniaAfter centuries of Swedish and Russian rule, Estonia attained independence in 1918. Forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1940, it regained its freedom in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since the last Russian troops left in 1994, Estonia has been free to promote economic and political ties with Western Europe.
EthiopiaUnique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule, one exception being the Italian occupation of 1936-41. In 1974 a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SALASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in 1991. A constitution was adopted in 1994 and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A border war with Eritrea that erupted in May 1998 has strengthened the ruling coalition, but has hurt the nation's economy.
Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)Discovered in the 16th century and settled in the mid-18th century, the islands have since been the subject of a territorial dispute, first between Britain and Spain, then between Britain and Argentina. The UK asserted its claim to the islands by establishing a naval garrison there in 1833. Argentina invaded the islands on 2 April 1982. The British responded with an expeditionary force that landed seven weeks later and after fierce fighting forced Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982.
Faroe IslandsThe population of the Faroe Islands is largely descended from Viking settlers who arrived in the 9th century. The islands have been connected politically to Denmark since the 14th century. A high degree of self-government was attained in 1948.
FijiFiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). A 1990 constitution favored native Melanesian control of Fiji, but led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. Amendments enacted in 1997 made the constitution more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian. Fiji has been a major contributor to UN peacekeeping missions in various parts of the world.
FinlandRuled by Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries and by Russia from 1809, Finland finally won its independence in 1917. During World War II, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and fend off invasions by the Soviet Union and Germany. In the subsequent half century, the Finns have made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is now on par with Western Europe. As a member of the European Union, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999.
FranceAlthough ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Since 1958, it has constructed a presidential democracy resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier parliamentary democracies. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the advent of the euro in January 1999. Today, France is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European defense and security apparatus.
French GuianaFirst settled by the French in 1604, French Guiana was the site of notorious penal settlements until 1951. The European Space Agency launches its communication satellites from Kourou.
French PolynesiaThe French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll after a three-year moratorium. The tests were suspended in January 1996.
GabonRuled by autocratic presidents since independence from France in 1960, Gabon introduced a multiparty system and a new constitution in the early 1990s that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and for reforms of governmental institutions. A small population, abundant natural resources, and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the more prosperous black African countries.
Gambia, TheThe Gambia gained its independence from the UK in 1965; it formed a short-lived federation of Senegambia with Senegal between 1982 and 1989. In 1991 the two nations signed a friendship and cooperation treaty. A military coup in 1994 overthrew the president and banned political activity, but a new 1996 constitution and presidential elections, followed by parliamentary balloting in 1997, have completed a nominal return to civilian rule. The Gambia recently emerged from its isolation to accept a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council during 1998-99.
Gaza StripThe Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (the DOP), signed in Washington on 13 September 1993, provides for a transitional period not exceeding five years of Palestinian interim self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Under the DOP, Israel agreed to transfer certain powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority, which includes a Palestinian Legislative Council elected in January 1996, as part of interim self-governing arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A transfer of powers and responsibilities for the Gaza Strip and Jericho took place pursuant to the Israel-PLO 4 May 1994 Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area and in additional areas of the West Bank pursuant to the Israel-PLO 28 September 1995 Interim Agreement, the Israel-PLO 15 January 1997 Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron, the Israel-PLO 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum, and the 4 September 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement. The DOP provides that Israel will retain responsibility during the transitional period for external security and for internal security and public order of settlements and Israeli citizens. Permanent status is to be determined through direct negotiations, which resumed in September 1999 after a three-year hiatus.
GeorgiaGeorgia was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Independent for three years (1918-1921) following the Russian revolution, it was forcibly incorporated into the USSR until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Russian troops remain garrisoned at four military bases and as peacekeepers in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The country continues to move toward a market economy and greater integration with Western institutions.
GermanyAs Western Europe's richest and most populous nation, Germany remains a key member of the continent's economic, political, and defense organizations. European power struggles immersed the country in two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century and left the country occupied by the victorious Allied powers of the US, UK, France, and the Soviet Union in 1945. With the advent of the Cold War, two German states were formed in 1949: the western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR). The democratic FRG embedded itself in key Western economic and security organizations, the EC and NATO, while the communist GDR was on the front line of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. The decline of the USSR and the end of the Cold War allowed for German unification in 1990. Since then Germany has expended considerable funds to bring eastern productivity and wages up to western standards. In January 1999, Germany and 10 other EU countries formed a common European currency, the euro.
GhanaFormed from the merger of the British colony of the Gold Coast and the Togoland trust territory, Ghana in 1957 became the first country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. A long series of coups resulted in the suspension of the constitution in 1981 and the banning of political parties. A new constitution, restoring multiparty politics, was approved in 1992.
GibraltarStrategically important Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain by Spain in 1713. In a 1967 referendum, Gibraltarians ignored Spanish pressure and voted overwhelmingly to remain a British dependency.
GreeceGreece achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it gradually added neighboring islands and territories with Greek-speaking populations. Following the defeat of communist rebels in 1949, Greece joined NATO in 1952. A military dictatorship, which in 1967 had suspended many political liberties and forced the king to flee the country, was itself overthrown seven years later. Democratic elections in 1974 abolished the monarchy and created a parliamentary republic; Greece joined the EU in 1981.
GreenlandThe world's largest island, about 84% ice-capped, Greenland was granted self-government in 1978 by the Danish parliament. The law went into effect the following year.
GrenadaThe smallest independent country in the western hemisphere, Grenada was seized by a Marxist military council on 19 October 1983. Six days later the island was invaded by US forces and those of six other Caribbean nations, which quickly captured the ringleaders and their hundreds of Cuban advisers. Free elections were reinstituted the following year.
GuadeloupeGuadeloupe has been a French possession since 1635. The island of Saint-Martin is divided with the Netherlands (whose southern portion is named Sint Maarten and is part of the Netherlands Antilles).
GuamGuam was ceded to the US by Spain in 1898. Captured by the Japanese in 1941, it was retaken by the US three years later. The military installation on the island is one of the most strategically important US bases in the Pacific.
GuatemalaGuatemala was freed of Spanish colonial rule in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had led to the death of more than 100,000 people and had created some 1 million refugees.
GuernseyThe island of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Dukedom of Normandy, which held sway in both France and England. The islands were the only British soil occupied by German troops in World War II.
GuineaIndependent from France since 1958, Guinea did not hold democratic elections until 1993 when Gen. Lansana CONTE (head of the military government) was elected president in disputed balloting. Security clampdowns continue, although not as severe as in earlier decades. Reelected in 1998, the president faced growing criticism in 1999 for his jailing of a major opposition leader and widespread economic malaise. Unrest in Sierra Leone also continued to threaten Guinea's stability.
Guinea-BissauIn 1994, 20 years after independence from Portugal, the country's first multiparty legislative and presidential elections were held. An army uprising that triggered a bloody civil war in 1998, created hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. The president was ousted by a military junta in May 1999. An interim government turned over power in February 2000 when opposition leader Koumba YALLA took office following two rounds of transparent presidential elections. Guinea-Bissau's transition back to democracy will be complicated by a crippled economy devastated by civil war and the military's predilection for governmental meddling.
GuyanaGuyana achieved independence from the UK in 1966 and became a republic in 1970. In 1989 Guyana launched an Economic Recovery Program, which marked a dramatic reversal from a state-controlled, socialist economy towards a more open, free market system. Results through the first decade have proven encouraging.
HaitiOne of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has been plagued by political violence for most of its history. Over three decades of dictatorship followed by military rule ended in 1990 when Jean-Bertrand ARISTIDE was elected president. Most of his term was usurped by a military takeover, but he was able to return to office in 1994 and oversee the installation of a close associate to the presidency in 1996.
Holy See (Vatican City)Popes in their secular role ruled much of the Italian peninsula, including Rome, for more than a thousand years, until 1870. Disputes between a series of popes and Italy were resolved in 1929 by three Lateran Treaties, which established the independent state of Vatican City out of the former Papal States and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy. In 1984, a concordat between the Vatican and Italy modified certain of the earlier treaty provisions, including the primacy of Roman Catholicism as the Italian state religion. Present concerns of the Holy See include the failing health of Pope John Paul II, who turns 80 on 20 May 2000, interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, and the adjustment of church doctrine in an era of rapid change. About 1 billion people worldwide profess the Catholic faith.
HondurasPart of Spain's vast empire in the New World, Honduras became as independent nation in 1821. After two and one-half decades of mostly military rule, a freely elected civilian government came to power in 1982. During the 1980s, Honduras proved a haven for anti-Sandinista contras fighting the Marxist Nicaraguan government and an ally to Salvadoran government forces fighting against leftist guerrillas.
Hong KongOccupied by the UK in 1841, Hong Kong was formally ceded by China the following year; various adjacent lands were added later in the 19th century. Pursuant to an agreement signed by China and the UK on 19 December 1984, Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 1 July 1997. In this agreement, China has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be practiced in Hong Kong and that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs for the next 50 years.
HungaryHungary was part of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, which collapsed in World War I. It fell under communist rule following World War II. A revolt in 1956 and an announced withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact was met with massive military intervention by Moscow. In the more open GORBACHEV years, Hungary led the movement to dissolve the Warsaw Pact and steadily shifted toward multiparty democracy and a market-oriented economy. Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Hungary developed close political and economic ties to Western Europe. It joined NATO in 1999 and is a frontrunner in a future expansion of the EU.
IcelandSettled by Norwegians and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries, Iceland boasts the world's oldest parliament, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Limited home rule was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.
IndiaNonviolent resistance to British colonialism under Mohandas GANDHI and Jawaharlal NEHRU led to independence in 1947. The subcontinent was divided into the secular state of India and the smaller Muslim state of Pakistan. A third war between the two countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. Fundamental concerns in India include the ongoing dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, massive overpopulation, environmental degradation, extensive poverty, and ethnic strife, all this despite impressive gains in economic investment and output.
Indian OceanA spring 2000 decision by the International Hydrographic Organization delimited a fifth world ocean from the southern portions of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. The new ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica north to 60 degrees south latitude which coincides with the Antarctic Treaty Limit. The Indian Ocean remains the third-largest of the world's five oceans (after the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, but larger than the Southern Ocean and Arctic Ocean).
IndonesiaThe world's largest archipelago, Indonesia achieved independence from the Netherlands in 1949. Current issues include: implementing IMF-mandated reforms of the banking sector, effecting a transition to a popularly elected government after years of rule by dictators, addressing charges of cronyism and corruption among the Chinese-dominated business class, dealing with alleged human rights violations by the military, and resolving growing pressures for some form of autonomy or independence in certain regions such as Aceh and Irian Jaya. On 30 August 1999 a provincial referendum for independence was overwhelmingly approved by the people of Timor Timur. Concurrence followed by Indonesia's national legislature, and the name East Timor was provisionally adopted. The independent status of East Timor has yet to be formally established.
IranKnown as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces subsequently crushed westernizing liberal elements. Militant Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq over disputed territory. The key current issue is how rapidly the country should open up to the modernizing influences of the outside world.
IraqFormerly part of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq became an independent kingdom in 1932. A "republic" was proclaimed in 1958, but in actuality a series of military strongmen have ruled the country since then, the latest being SADDAM Husayn. Territorial disputes with Iran led to an inconclusive and costly eight-year war (1980-1988). In August 1990 Iraq seized Kuwait, but was expelled by US-led, UN coalition forces during January-February 1991. The victors did not occupy Iraq, however, thus allowing the regime to stay in control. Following Kuwait's liberation, the UN Security Council (UNSC) required Iraq to scrap all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to allow UN verification inspections. UN trade sanctions remain in effect due to incomplete Iraqi compliance with relevant UNSC resolutions.
IrelandA failed 1916 Easter Monday Rebellion touched off several years of guerrilla warfare that in 1921 resulted in independence from the UK for the 26 southern counties; the six northern counties (Ulster) remained part of Great Britain. In 1948 Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth; it joined the European Community in 1973. Irish governments have sought the peaceful unification of Ireland and have cooperated with Britain against terrorist groups. A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, approved in 1998, has not yet been implemented.
IsraelFollowing World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. The territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 war are not included in the Isreal country profile, unless otherwise noted. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations are being conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives (from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip) and Israel and Syria, to achieve a permanent settlement. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace.
ItalyItaly became a nation-state belatedly - in 1861 when the city-states of the peninsula and Sicily were united under King Victor EMMANUEL. The Fascist dictatorship of Benito MUSSOLINI that took over after World War I led to a disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany and Italian defeat in World War II. Revival followed. Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC) and joined the growing political and economic unification of Western Europe, including the introduction of the euro in 1999. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, the ravages of organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the more prosperous north.
JamaicaJamaica gained full independence within the British Commonwealth in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence and a dropoff in tourism. Elections in 1980 saw the democratic socialists voted out of office, and a more conservative government installed. Political violence marred elections during the 1990s.
JapanWhile retaining its time-honored culture, Japan rapidly absorbed Western technology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After its devastating defeat in World War II, Japan recovered to become the second most powerful economy in the world and a staunch ally of the US. While the emperor retains his throne as a symbol of national unity, actual power rests in networks of powerful politicians, bureaucrats, and business executives. The economy experienced a major slowdown in the 1990s following three decades of unprecedented growth.
JerseyThe island of Jersey and the other Channel Islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Dukedom of Normandy that held sway in both France and England. These islands were the only British soil occupied by German troops in World War II.
JordanFor most of its history since independence from British administration in 1946, Jordan was ruled by King HUSSEIN (1953-1999). A pragmatic ruler, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population, through several wars and coup attempts. In 1989 he resumed parliamentary elections and gradually permitted political liberalization; in 1994 a formal peace treaty was signed with Israel.
KazakhstanDuring the 1950s and 1960s Soviet citizens were urged to help settle the "New Lands" of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. The influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but including some deported minority nationalities) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Independence has caused many of these newcomers to emigrate. Current issues include: resolving ethnic differences; speeding up market reforms; establishing stable relations with Russia, China, and other foreign powers; and developing and expanding the country's abundant energy resources.
KenyaEthnic divisions account for many of Kenya's problems. During the early 1990s, tribal clashes killed thousands and left tens of thousands homeless. Ethnically split opposition groups allowed the regime of Daniel Toroitich arap MOI, in power since 1978, to be reelected for a fourth term in 1997 in balloting marred by violence and fraud.
KiribatiThe Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati.
Korea, NorthFollowing World War II, Korea was split into a northern, communist half and a southern, Western-oriented half. KIM Chong-il has ruled North Korea since his father and the country's founder, president KIM Il-sung, died in 1994. After decades of mismanagement, the North relies heavily on international food aid to feed its population, while continuing to expend resources to maintain an army of over 1 million, the fifth largest in the world. North Korea's long-range missile development and research into nuclear and chemical weapons are of major concern to the international community.
Korea, SouthFollowing World War II, a republic was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a communist government was installed in the north. Between 1950 and 1953, US and other UN forces intervened to defend South Korea from North Korean attacks supported by the Chinese; an armistice was signed in 1953. Thereafter, South Korea achieved amazing economic growth, with per capita income rising to 13 times the level of North Korea. In 1997, the nation suffered a severe financial crisis from which it continues to make a solid recovery. South Korea has also maintained its commitment to democratize its political processes.
KuwaitKuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2 August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that completely liberated Kuwait in four days. Kuwait has spent more than $5 billion dollars to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91.
KyrgyzstanA Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions, Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864; it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Current concerns include: privatization of state-owned enterprises, expansion of democracy and political freedoms, inter-ethnic relations, and terrorism.
LaosIn 1975 the communist Pathet Lao took control of the government, ending a six-century-old monarchy. Initial closer ties to Vietnam and socialization were replaced with a gradual return to private enterprise, an easing of foreign investment laws, and the admission into ASEAN in 1997.
LatviaAfter a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940. It reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 30% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia continues to revamp its economy for eventual integration into various Western European political and economic institutions.
LebanonLebanon has made progress toward rebuilding its political institutions and regaining its national sovereignty since 1991 and the end of the devastating 16-year civil war. Under the Ta'if Accord - the blueprint for national reconciliation - the Lebanese have established a more equitable political system, particularly by giving Muslims a greater say in the political process while institutionalizing sectarian divisions in the government. Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several successful elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country. Hizballah, the radical Shi'a party, retains its weapons. Foreign forces still occupy areas of Lebanon. Israel maintains troops in southern Lebanon and continues to support a proxy militia, the Army of South Lebanon (ASL), along a narrow stretch of territory contiguous to its border. Syria maintains about 25,000 troops in Lebanon based mainly in Beirut, North Lebanon, and the Bekaa Valley. Syria's troop deployment was legitimized by the Arab League during Lebanon's civil war and in the Ta'if Accord. Damascus justifies its continued military presence in Lebanon by citing the continued weakness of the LAF, Beirut's requests, and the failure of the Lebanese Government to implement all of the constitutional reforms in the Ta'if Accord.
LesothoBasutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. Constitutional government was restored in 1993 after 23 years of military rule.
LiberiaSeven years of civil strife were brought to a close in 1996 when free and open presidential and legislative elections were held. President TAYLOR now holds strong executive power with no real political opposition. The years of fighting coupled with the flight of most businesses has disrupted formal economic activity. A still unsettled domestic security situation has slowed the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country.
LibyaSince he took power in a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI has espoused his own political system - a combination of socialism and Islam - which he calls the Third International Theory. Viewing himself as a revolutionary leader, he used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, even supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism. Libyan military adventures failed, e.g., the prolonged foray of Libyan troops into the Aozou Strip in northern Chad was finally repulsed in 1987. Libyan support for terrorism decreased after UN sanctions were imposed in 1992. Those sanctions were suspended in April 1999.
LiechtensteinThe Principality of Liechtenstein was established within the Holy Roman Empire in 1719; it became a sovereign state in 1806. Until the end of World War I, it was closely tied to Austria, but the economic devastation caused by that conflict forced Liechtenstein to conclude a customs and monetary union with Switzerland. Since World War II (in which Liechtenstein remained neutral) the country's low taxes have spurred outstanding economic growth.
LithuaniaIndependent between the two World Wars, Lithuania was annexed by the USSR in 1940. In March of 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but this proclamation was not generally recognized until September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently has restructured its economy for eventual integration into Western European institutions.
LuxembourgFounded in 963, Luxembourg became a grand duchy in 1815 and an independent state under the Netherlands. It lost more than half of its territory to Belgium in 1839, but gained a larger measure of autonomy. Full independence was attained in 1867. Overrun by Germany in both World Wars, it ended its neutrality in 1948 when it entered into the Benelux Customs Union and when it joined NATO the following year. In 1957, Luxembourg became one of the six founding countries of the European Economic Community (later the European Union) and in 1999 it joined the euro currency area.
MacauColonized by the Portuguese in the 16th century, Macau was the first European settlement in the Far East. Pursuant to an agreement signed by China and Portugal on 13 April 1987, Macau became the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 20 December 1999. China has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be practiced in Macau and that Macau will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs.
Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofInternational recognition of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 was delayed by Greece's objection to the new state's use of what it considered a Hellenic name and symbols. Greece finally lifted its trade blockade in 1995, and the two countries agreed to normalize relations. FYROM's large Albanian minority and the de facto independence of neighboring Kosovo continue to be sources of ethnic tension.
MadagascarFormerly an independent kingdom, Madagascar became a French colony in 1886, but regained its independence in 1960. During 1992-93, free presidential and National Assembly elections were held, ending 17 years of single-party rule.
MalawiEstablished in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi in 1964. After three decades of one-party rule, the country held multiparty elections in 1994 under a provisional constitution, which took full effect the following year.
MalaysiaMalaysia was created in 1963 through the merging of Malaya (independent in 1957) and the former British Singapore, both of which formed West Malaysia, and Sabah and Sarawak in north Borneo, which composed East Malaysia. The first three years of independence were marred by hostilities with Indonesia. Singapore seceded from the union in 1965.
MaldivesThe Maldives were long a sultanate, first under Dutch and then under British protection. They became a republic in 1968, three years after independence. Tourism and fishing are being developed on the archipelago.
MaliThe Sudanese Republic and Senegal became independent of France in 1960 as the Mali Federation. When Senegal withdrew after only a few months, the Sudanese Republic was renamed Mali. Rule by dictatorship was brought to a close in 1991 with a transitional government, and in 1992 when Mali's first democratic presidential election was held. Since his reelection in 1997, President KONARE has continued to push through political and economic reforms and to fight corruption. In 1999 he indicated he would not run for a third term.
MaltaGreat Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both World Wars and remained in the Commonwealth when it became independent in 1964. A decade later Malta became a republic. Over the last 15 years, the island has become a major freight transshipment point, financial center, and tourist destination. It is an official candidate for EU membership.
Man, Isle ofPart of the Norwegian Kingdom of the Hebrides until the 13th century when it was ceded to Scotland, the isle came under the British crown in 1765. Current concerns include reviving the almost extinct Manx Celtic language.
Marshall IslandsAfter almost four decades under US administration as the easternmost part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association. Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the islands between 1947 and 1962.
MartiniqueColonized by France in 1635, the island has subsequently remained a French possession except for three brief periods of foreign occupation.
MauritaniaIndependent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976, but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991. Two multiparty presidential elections since then were widely seen as being flawed; Mauritania remains, in reality, a one-party state. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions between its black minority population and the dominant Maur (Arab-Berber) populace.
MauritiusDiscovered by the Portuguese in 1505, Mauritius was subsequently held by the Dutch, French, and British before independence was attained in 1968. A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, the country has attracted considerable foreign investment and has earned one of Africa's highest per capita incomes. Recent protests over standards of living in the Creole community have slowed economic growth.
MayotteMayotte was ceded to France along with the other Comoros in 1843. It was the only island in the archipelago that voted in 1974 to retain its link with France and forgo independence.
MexicoThe site of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A devaluation of the peso in late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The nation continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states.
Micronesia, Federated States ofIn 1979 the Federated States of Micronesia, a UN Trust Territory under US administration, adopted a constitution. In 1986 independence was attained under a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Present concerns include large-scale unemployment, overfishing, and overdependence on US aid.
MoldovaFormerly ruled by Romania, Moldova became part of the Soviet Union at the close of World War II. Although independent from the USSR since 1991, Russian forces have remained on Moldovan territory east of the Nistru (Dnister) River supporting the Slavic majority population (mostly Ukrainians and Russians) who have proclaimed a "Transnistria" republic.
MonacoEconomic development was spurred in the late 19th century with a railroad linkup to France and the opening of a casino. Since then, the principality's mild climate, splendid scenery, and gambling facilities have made Monaco world famous as a tourist and recreation center.
MongoliaLong a province of China, Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing. A communist regime was installed in 1924. During the early 1990s, the ex-communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) gradually yielded its monopoly on power. In 1996, the Democratic Union Coalition (DUC) defeated the MPRP in a national election and has attempted to establish a number of reforms to modernize the economy. However, many former communists retain key posts and implementation has been difficult.
MontserratMuch of this island has been devastated and two-thirds of the population has fled abroad due to the eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano that began on 18 July 1995.
MoroccoMorocco's long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier was turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997.
MozambiqueAlmost five centuries as a Portuguese colony came to a close with independence in 1975. Large-scale emigration by whites, economic dependence on South Africa, a severe drought, and a prolonged civil war hindered the country's development. The ruling party formally abandoned Marxism in 1989, and a new constitution the following year provided for multiparty elections and a free market economy. A UN-negotiated peace agreement with rebel forces ended the fighting in 1992.
MyanmarDespite multiparty elections in 1990 that resulted in the main opposition party winning a decisive victory, the military junta ruling the country refused to hand over power. Key opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient AUNG San Suu Kyi, under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, continues to have her activities restricted; her supporters are routinely harassed or jailed.
NamibiaSouth Africa occupied the German colony of Sud-West Afrika during World War I and administered it as a mandate until after World War II when it annexed the territory. In 1966 the Marxist South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) guerrilla group launched a war of independence for the area that was soon named Namibia, but it was not until 1988 that South Africa agreed to end its administration in accordance with a UN peace plan for the entire region. Independence came in 1990.
NauruNauru's phosphate deposits began to be mined early in the 20th century by a German-British consortium; the island was occupied by Australian forces in World War I. Upon achieving independence in 1968, Nauru became the smallest independent republic in the world; it joined the UN in 1999.
NepalIn 1951, the Nepalese monarch ended the century-old system of rule by hereditary premiers and instituted a cabinet system of government. Reforms in 1990 established a multiparty democracy within the framework of a constitutional monarchy.
NetherlandsThe Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I but suffered a brutal invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II. A modern, industrialized nation, the Netherlands is also a large exporter of agricultural products. The country was a founding member of NATO and the EC, and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999.
Netherlands AntillesOnce the center of the Caribbean slave trade, the island of Curacao was hard hit by the abolition of slavery in 1863. Its prosperity (and that of neighboring Aruba) was restored in the early 20th century with the construction of oil refineries to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oil fields. The island of Sint Maarten is shared with France (whose northern portion is named Saint Martin and is part of Guadeloupe).
New CaledoniaSettled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, the island was made a French possession in 1853. It served as a penal colony for four decades after 1864. Agitation for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s seems to have dissipated.
New ZealandThe British colony of New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907 and supported the UK militarily in both World Wars. New Zealand withdrew from a number of defense alliances during the 1970s and 1980s. In recent years the government has sought to address longstanding native Maori grievances.
NicaraguaSettled as a colony of Spain in the 1520s, Nicaragua gained its independence in 1821. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978 and resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. Free elections in 1990 and again in 1996 saw the Sandinistas defeated. The country has slowly rebuilt its economy during the 1990s, but was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
NigerNot until 1993, 33 years after independence from France, did Niger hold its first free and open elections. A 1995 peace accord ended a five-year Tuareg insurgency in the north. Coups in 1996 and 1999 were followed by the creation of a National Reconciliation Council that effected a transition to civilian rule in December 1999.
NigeriaFollowing nearly 16 years of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in 1999 and a peaceful transition to civilian government completed. The new president faces the daunting task of rebuilding a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement, and institutionalizing democracy. In addition, the OBASANJO administration must defuse longstanding ethnic and religious tensions, if it is to build a sound foundation for economic growth and political stability.
NiueNiue's remoteness, as well as cultural and linguistic differences between its Polynesian inhabitants and those of the rest of the Cook Islands, have caused it to be separately administered. The population of the island continues to drop (from a peak of 5,200 in 1966 to 2,100 in 2000) with substantial emigration to New Zealand.
Norfolk IslandTwo British attempts at establishing the island as a penal colony (1788-1814 and 1825-55) were ultimately abandoned. In 1856, the island was resettled by Pitcairn Islanders, descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian companions.
Northern Mariana IslandsUnder US administration as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific, the people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in the 1970s not to seek independence but instead to forge closer links with the US. Negotiations for territorial status began in 1972. A covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union with the US was approved in 1975. A new government and constitution went into effect in 1978.
NorwayDespite its neutrality, Norway was not able to avoid occupation by Germany in World War II. In 1949, neutrality was abandoned and Norway became a member of NATO. Discovery of oil and gas in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway's economic fortunes. The current focus is on containing spending on the extensive welfare system and planning for the time when petroleum reserves are depleted. In referenda held in 1972 and 1994, Norway rejected joining the EU.
OmanIn 1970, QABOOS bin Said Al Said ousted his father and has ruled as sultan ever since. His extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world and has preserved a long-standing political and military relationship with Britain. Oman's moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain good relations with all Middle Eastern countries.
Pacific OceanA spring 2000 decision by the International Hydrographic Organization delimited a fifth world ocean from the southern portions of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. The new ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica north to 60 degrees south latitude which coincides with the Antarctic Treaty Limit. The Pacific Ocean remains the largest of the world's five oceans (followed by the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, and Arctic Ocean).
PakistanThe separation in 1947 of British India into the Muslim state of Pakistan (with two sections West and East) and largely Hindu India was never satisfactorily resolved. A third war between these countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan seceding and becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. A dispute over the state of Kashmir is ongoing. In response to Indian nuclear weapons testing, Pakistan conducted its own tests in 1998.
PalauAfter three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independent status in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986, but not ratified until 1993. It entered into force the following year when the islands gained their independence.
PanamaWith US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. On 7 September 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by 1999. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the intervening years. With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were turned over to Panama on 31 December 1999.
Papua New GuineaThe eastern half of the island of New Guinea - second largest in the world - was divided between Germany (north) and the UK (south) in 1885. The latter area was transferred to Australia in 1902, which occupied the northern portion during World War I and continued to administer the combined areas until independence in 1975. A nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville ended in 1997, after claiming some 20,000 lives.
ParaguayIn the disastrous War of the Triple Alliance (1865-70), Paraguay lost two-thirds of all adult males and much of its territory. It stagnated economically for the next half century. In the Chaco War of 1932-35, large, economically important areas were won from Bolivia. The 35-year military dictatorship of Alfredo STROESSNER was overthrown in 1989, and relatively free and regular presidential elections have been held since then.
PeruAfter a dozen years of military rule, Peru returned to democratic leadership in 1980. In recent years, bold reform programs and significant progress in curtailing guerrilla activity and drug trafficking have resulted in solid economic growth.
PhilippinesThe Philippines were ceded by Spain to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. They attained their independence in 1946 after being occupied by the Japanese in World War II. The 21-year rule of Ferdinand MARCOS ended in 1986 when a widespread popular rebellion forced him into exile. In 1992, the US closed down its last military bases on the islands. A quarter-century-old guerrilla war with Muslim separatists on the island of Mindanao, which had claimed 120,000 lives, ended with a treaty in 1996.
Pitcairn IslandsPitcairn Island was discovered in 1767 by the British and settled in 1790 by the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian companions. Outmigration, primarily to New Zealand, has thinned the population from a peak of 233 in 1937 to about 50 today.
PolandPoland gained its independence in 1918 only to be overrun by Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. It became a Soviet satellite country following the war, but one that was comparatively tolerant and progressive. Labor turmoil in 1980 led to the formation of an independent trade union "Solidarity" that over time became a political force and by 1990 had swept parliamentary elections and the presidency. Complete freedom came with the implosion of the USSR in 1991. A "shock therapy" program during the early 1990s enabled the country to transform its economy into one of the most robust in Central Europe, boosting hopes for early acceptance to the EU. Poland joined the NATO alliance in 1999.
PortugalFollowing its heyday as a world power during the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal lost much of its wealth and status with the destruction of Lisbon in a 1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, and the loss of its Brazilian colony in 1822. A 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy; for most of the next six decades repressive governments ran the country. In 1974, a left-wing military coup installed broad democratic reforms. The following year Portugal granted independence to all of its African colonies. Portugal entered the EC in 1985.
Puerto RicoDiscovered by Columbus in 1493, the island was ceded by Spain to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. A popularly elected governor has served since 1948. In plebiscites held in 1967 and 1993, voters chose to retain commonwealth status.
QatarDuring the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the amir who had ruled the country since 1972. He was overthrown in a bloodless coup by his own son in 1995. Oil and natural gas revenues enable Qatar to have a per capita income not far below the leading industrial countries of Western Europe.
ReunionThe Portuguese discovered the uninhabited island in 1513. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French immigration supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Malabar Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 cost the island its importance as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.
RomaniaSoviet occupation following World War II led to the formation of a communist Peoples Republic in 1947 and the abdication of the king. The decades-long rule of President Nicolae CEAUSESCU became increasingly draconian through the 1980s. He was overthrown and executed in late 1989. Former communists dominated the government until 1996 when they were swept from power. Much economic restructuring remains to be carried out before Romania can achieve its hope of joining the EU.
RussiaThe defeat of the Russian Empire in World War I led to the seizure of power by the communists and the formation of the USSR. The brutal rule of Josef STALIN (1924-53) strengthened Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 broke up the USSR into 15 independent republics. Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the strict social, political, and economic controls of the communist period.
RwandaIn 1959, three years before independence, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries. The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions culminating in April 1994 in a genocide in which roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the genocide in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees - many fearing Tutsi retribution - fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC). Since then most of the refugees have returned. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms - including Rwanda's first ever local elections held in March 1999 - the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output and to foster reconciliation. A series of massive population displacements, a nagging Hutu extremist insurgency, and Rwandan involvement in two wars over the past four years in the neighboring DROC continue to hinder Rwanda's efforts.
Saint HelenaUninhabited when first discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, the island was garrisoned by the British during the 17th century. It became famous as the place of Napoleon BONAPARTE's exile, from 1815 until his death in 1821.
Saint Kitts and NevisFirst settled by the British in 1623, the islands along with Anguilla, became an associated state with full internal autonomy in 1967. Anguilla rebelled and was allowed to secede in 1971. St. Kitts and Nevis achieved independence in 1983. In 1998, a vote in Nevis on a referendum to separate from St. Kitts fell short of the two-thirds majority needed.
Saint LuciaThe island, with its fine natural harbor at Castries, was contested between England and France throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries (changing possession 14 times); it was finally ceded to the UK in 1814. Self government was granted in 1967 and independence in 1979.
Saint Pierre and MiquelonFirst settled by the French in the early 17th century, the islands represent the sole remaining vestige of France's once vast North American possessions.
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesDisputed between France and Great Britain in the 18th century, Saint Vincent was ceded to the latter in 1783. Autonomy was granted in 1969, and independence in 1979.
SamoaNew Zealand occupied the German protectorate of Western Samoa at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. It continued to administer the islands as a mandate and then as a trust territory until 1962, when the islands became the first Polynesian nation to reestablish independence in the 20th century. The country dropped the "Western" from its name in 1997.
San MarinoThe world's third smallest state also claims to be the world's oldest republic, founded by Saint Marinus (for whom the country is named) in 301 A. D. San Marino's foreign policy is aligned with that of Italy. Social and political trends in the republic also track closely with those of its larger neighbor.
Sao Tome and PrincipeDiscovered and claimed by Portugal in the late 15th century, the islands' sugar-based economy gave way to coffee and cocoa in the 19th century - all grown with plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century. Although independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s. The first free elections were held in 1991.
Saudi ArabiaIn 1902 Abdul al-Aziz Ibn SAUD captured Riyadh and set out on a 30-year campaign to unify the Arabian peninsula. In the 1930s, the discovery of oil transformed the country. Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Saudi Arabia accepted the Kuwaiti royal family and 400,000 refugees while allowing Western and Arab troops to deploy on its soil for the liberation of Kuwait the following year. A burgeoning population, aquifer depletion, and an economy largely dependent on petroleum output and prices are all major governmental concerns.
SenegalIndependent from France in 1960, Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia in 1982. However, the envisaged integration of the two countries was never carried out, and the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group sporadically has clashed with government forces since 1982. Senegal has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping.
Serbia and MontenegroSerbia and Montenegro have asserted the formation of a joint independent state, but this entity has not been formally recognized as a state by the US. The US view is that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) has dissolved and that none of the successor republics represents its continuation. In 1999, massive expulsions by Serbs of ethnic Albanians living in the autonomous republic of Kosovo provoked an international response, including the bombing of Serbia and the stationing of NATO and Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo.
SeychellesA lengthy struggle between France and Great Britain for the islands ended in 1814, when they were ceded to the latter. Independence came in 1976. Socialist rule was brought to a close with a new constitution and free elections in 1993.
Sierra LeoneSince 1991, civil war between the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (well over one-third of the population) many of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries. A peace agreement, signed on 7 July 1999, offers hope that the country will be able to rebuild its devastated economy and infrastructure, but previous peace efforts have failed. As of late 1999, up to 6,000 UN peacekeepers were in the process of deploying to bolster the peace accord.
SingaporeFounded as a British trading colony in 1819, Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963, but withdrew two years later and became independent. It subsequently became one of the world's most prosperous countries, with strong international trading links (its port is one of the world's busiest) and with per capita GDP above that of the leading nations of Western Europe.
SlovakiaIn 1918 the Slovaks joined the closely related Czechs to form Czechoslovakia. Following the chaos of World War II, Czechoslovakia became a communist nation within Soviet-ruled Eastern Europe. Soviet influence collapsed in 1989 and Czechoslovakia once more became free. The Slovaks and the Czechs agreed to separate peacefully on 1 January 1993. Slovakia has experienced more difficulty than the Czech Republic in developing a modern market economy.
SloveniaIn 1918 the Slovenes joined the Serbs and Croats in forming a new nation, renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. After World War II, Slovenia became a republic of the renewed Yugoslavia, which though communist, distanced itself from Moscow's rule. Dissatisfied with the exercise of power of the majority Serbs, the Slovenes succeeded in establishing their independence in 1991. Historical ties to Western Europe make Slovenia a candidate for future membership in the EU.
Solomon IslandsThe UK established a protectorate over the Solomon Islands in the 1890s. Some of the bitterest fighting of World War II occurred on these islands. Self-government was achieved in 1976 and independence two years later. Current issues include government deficits, deforestation, and malaria control.
SomaliaIntermittent civil war has been a fact of life in Somalia since 1977. In 1991, the northern portion of the country declared its independence as Somaliland; although de facto independent and relatively stable compared to the tumultuous south, it has not been recognized by any foreign government. Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order still had not been restored.
South AfricaAfter the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule.
Southern OceanA spring 2000 decision by the International Hydrographic Organization delimited a fifth world ocean from the southern portions of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. The new ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica north to 60 degrees south latitude which coincides with the Antarctic Treaty Limit. The Southern Ocean is now the fourth-largest of the world's five oceans (after the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean but larger than the Arctic Ocean).
SpainSpain's powerful world empire of the 16th and 17th centuries ultimately yielded command of the seas to England. Subsequent failure to embrace the mercantile and industrial revolutions caused the country to fall behind Britain, France, and Germany in economic and political power. Spain remained neutral in World Wars I and II, but suffered through a devastating Civil War (1936-39). In the second half of the 20th century, it has played a catch-up role in the western international community. Continuing concerns are large-scale unemployment and the Basque separatist movement.
Sri LankaOccupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1802. As Ceylon it became independent in 1948; its name was changed in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted in violence in the mid-1980s. Tens of thousands have died in an ethnic war that continues to fester.
SudanMilitary dictatorships promulgating an Islamic government have mostly run the country since independence from the UK in 1956. Over the past two decades, a civil war pitting black Christians and animists in the south against the Arab-Muslims of the north has cost at least 1.5 million lives in war and famine-related deaths, as well as the displacement of millions of others.
SurinameIndependence from the Netherlands was granted in 1975. Five years later the civilian government was replaced by a military regime that soon declared a socialist republic. It continued to rule through a succession of nominally civilian administrations until 1987, when international pressure finally brought about a democratic election.
SvalbardFirst discovered by the Norwegians in the 12th century, the islands served as an international whaling base during the 17th and 18th centuries. Norway's sovereignty was recognized in 1920; five years later it officially took over the territory.
SwazilandAutonomy for the Swazis of southern Africa was guaranteed by the British in the late 19th century; independence was granted 1968. Student and labor unrest during the 1990s have pressured the monarchy (one of the oldest on the continent) to grudgingly allow political reform and greater democracy.
SwedenA military power during the 17th century, Sweden has not participated in any war in almost two centuries. An armed neutrality was preserved in both World Wars. Sweden's long-successful economic formula of a capitalist system interlarded with substantial welfare elements has recently been undermined by high unemployment, rising maintenance costs, and a declining position in world markets. Indecision over the country's role in the political and economic integration of Europe caused Sweden not to join the EU until 1995, and to forgo the introduction of the euro in 1999.
SwitzerlandSwitzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers and Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, may be rendering obsolete the country's concern for neutrality.
SyriaFollowing the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, Syria was administered by the French until independence in 1946. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. Since 1976, Syrian troops have been stationed in Lebanon, ostensibly in a peacekeeping capacity. Talks with Israel over the return of the Golan Heights have recently been revived.
TaiwanIn 1895, military defeat forced China to cede Taiwan to Japan, however it reverted to Chinese control after World War II. Following the communist victory on the mainland in 1949, 2 million Nationalists fled to Taiwan and established a government that over five decades has gradually democratized and incorporated the native population within its structure. Throughout this period, the island has prospered to become one of East Asia's economic "Tigers." The dominant political issue continues to be the relationship between Taiwan and China and the question of eventual reunification.
TajikistanTajikistan has experienced three changes in government and a civil war since it gained independence in 1991 when the USSR collapsed. A peace agreement among rival factions was signed in 1997, but implementation has progressed slowly. Nevertheless, a number of opposition political parties have been legalized and are participating in elections, suggesting that the country may be stabilizing politically. Russian-led peacekeeping troops are based throughout the country, and Russian-commanded border guards are stationed along the border with Afghanistan.
TanzaniaShortly after independence, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form the nation of Tanzania in 1964. One-party rule came to an end in 1995 with the first democratic elections held in the country since the 1970s.
ThailandA unified Thai kingdom was established in the mid-14th century; it was known as Siam until 1939. Thailand is the only southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. In alliance with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US ally following the conflict.
TogoFrench Togoland became Togo in 1960. Despite the facade of multiparty rule instituted in the early 1990s, the government continues to be dominated by the military, which has maintained its power almost continuously since 1967.
TokelauOriginally settled by Polynesian emigrants from surrounding island groups, the Tokelau Islands were made a British protectorate in 1889. They were transferred to New Zealand administration in 1925.
TongaThe archipelago of "The Friendly Islands" was united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. It became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900. Tonga acquired its independence in 1970 and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.
Trinidad and TobagoThe islands came under British control in the 19th century; independence was granted in 1962. The country is one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean thanks largely to petroleum and natural gas production and processing. Tourism, mostly in Tobago, is targeted for expansion and is growing.
TunisiaFollowing independence from France in 1956, President Habib BOURGIUBA established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In recent years, Tunisia has taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to diffuse rising pressure for a more open political society.
Turkeythe Ottoman Empire. Soon thereafter the country instituted secular laws to replace traditional religious fiats. In 1945 Turkey joined the UN and in 1949 it became a member of NATO. Turkey occupied the northern portion of Cyprus in 1974 to prevent a Greek takeover of the island; relations between the two countries remain strained. Periodic military offensives against Kurdish terrorists have dislocated part of the population in southeast Turkey and have drawn international condemnation.
TurkmenistanAnnexed by Russia between 1865 and 1885, Turkmenistan became a Soviet republic in 1925. It achieved its independence upon the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. President NIYAZOV retains absolute control over the country and opposition is not tolerated. Extensive hydrocarbon/natural gas reserves could prove a boon to this underdeveloped country if extraction and delivery projects can be worked out.
Turks and Caicos IslandsThe islands were under Jamaican jurisdiction until 1962, when they assumed the status of a crown colony. The governor of The Bahamas oversaw affairs from 1965 to 1973. With Bahamian independence, the islands received a separate governor in 1973. Although independence was agreed upon for 1982, the policy was reversed and the islands are presently a British overseas territory.
TuvaluIn 1974, ethnic differences within the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978. In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name ".tv" for $50 million in royalties over the next dozen years.
UgandaUganda achieved independence from the UK in 1962. The dictatorial regime of Idi AMIN (1971-79) was responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents; guerrilla war and human rights abuses under Milton OBOTE (1980-85) claimed another 100,000 lives. During the 1990s the government has promulgated non-party presidential and legislative elections.
UkraineRichly endowed in natural resources, Ukraine has been fought over and subjugated for centuries; its 20th-century struggle for liberty is not yet complete. A short-lived independence from Russia (1917-1920) was followed by brutal Soviet rule that engineered two artificial famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) in which over 8 million died, and World War II, in which German and Soviet armies were responsible for some 7 million more deaths. Although independence was attained in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, true freedom remains elusive as many of the former Soviet elite remain entrenched, stalling efforts at economic reform, privatization, and civic liberties.
United Arab EmiratesThe Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast granted the UK control of their defense and foreign affairs in 19th century treaties. In 1971, six of these states - Abu Zaby, 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubayy, and Umm al Qaywayn - merged to form the UAE. They were joined in 1972 by Ra's al Khaymah. The UAE's per capita GDP is not far below the GDPs of the leading West European nations. Its generosity with oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy stance have allowed it to play a vital role in the affairs of the region.
United KingdomGreat Britain, the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. The UK currently is weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe. A member of the EU, it chose to remain outside of the EMU for the time being. Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK. Regional assemblies with varying degrees of power opened in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 1999.
United StatesThe United States became the world's first modern democracy after its break with Great Britain (1776) and the adoption of a constitution (1789). During the 19th century, many new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two major traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the Civil War (1861-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful nation-state. The economy is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.
UruguayA violent Marxist urban guerrilla movement, the Tupamaros, launched in the late 1960s, led Uruguay's president to agree to military control of his administration in 1973. By the end of the year the rebels had been crushed, but the military continued to expand its hold throughout the government. Civilian rule was not restored until 1985. Uruguay has long had one of South America's highest standards of living; its political and labor conditions are among the freest on the continent.
UzbekistanRussia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1925. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Independent since 1991, the country seeks to gradually lessen its dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves. Current concerns include terrorism by Islamic militant groups from Tajikistan and Afghanistan, a non-convertible currency, and the curtailment of human rights and democratization.
VanuatuThe British and French who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980.
VenezuelaVenezuela was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others being Colombia and Ecuador). For most of the first half of the 20th century, Venezuela was ruled by generally benevolent military strongmen, who promoted the oil industry and allowed for some social reforms. Democratically elected governments have held sway since 1959. Current concerns include: drug-related conflicts along the Colombian border, increasing internal drug consumption, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, and irresponsible mining operations which are endangering the rain forest and indigenous peoples.
VietnamFrance occupied all of Vietnam by 1884. Independence was declared after World War II, but the French continued to rule until 1954 when they were defeated by communist forces under HO Chi Minh, who took control of the north. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later North Vietnamese forces overran the south. Economic reconstruction of the reunited country has proven difficult as aging Communist Party leaders have only grudgingly initiated reforms necessary for a free market.
Virgin IslandsDuring the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.
Wallis and FutunaAlthough discovered by the Dutch and the British in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the French who declared a protectorate over the islands in 1842. In 1959, the inhabitants of the islands voted to become a French overseas territory.
West BankThe Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (the DOP), signed in Washington on 13 September 1993, provides for a transitional period not exceeding five years of Palestinian interim self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Under the DOP, Israel agreed to transfer certain powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority, which includes a Palestinian Legislative Council elected in January 1996, as part of interim self-governing arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A transfer of powers and responsibilities for the Gaza Strip and Jericho took place pursuant to the Israel-PLO 4 May 1994 Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area and in additional areas of the West Bank pursuant to the Israel-PLO 28 September 1995 Interim Agreement, the Israel-PLO 15 January 1997 Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron, the Israel-PLO 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum, and the 4 September 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement. The DOP provides that Israel will retain responsibility during the transitional period for external security and for internal security and public order of settlements and Israeli citizens. Permanent status is to be determined through direct negotiations, which resumed in September 1999 after a three-year hiatus.
Western SaharaMorocco virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. A guerrilla war with the Polisario Front contesting Rabat's sovereignty ended in a 1991 cease fire; a referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed and is not expected to occur until at least 2002.
YemenNorth Yemen became independent of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The British, who had set up a protectorate area around the southern port of Aden in the 19th century, withdrew in 1967 from what became South Yemen. Three years later, the southern government adopted a Marxist orientation. The massive exodus of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis from the south to the north contributed to two decades of hostility between the states. The two countries were formally unified as the Republic of Yemen in 1990. A southern secessionist movement in 1994 was quickly subdued.
ZambiaThe territory of Northern Rhodesia was administered by the South Africa Company from 1891 until takeover by the UK in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, advances in mining spurred development and immigration. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964. In the 1980s and 1990s, declining copper prices and a prolonged drought hurt the economy. Elections in 1991 brought an end to one-party rule, but the subsequent vote in 1996 saw blatant harassment of opposition parties.
ZimbabweThe UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated to keep whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. Robert MUGABE, the nation's first prime minister, has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence.
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