Early period until the 19th century
The Indonesian archipelago is one of the oldest inhabited areas on earth. The so-called Java man (Homo erectus) lived here around 500,000 years ago. The ancestors of today’s Indonesian peoples probably came around 1000 BC. from Asia to the islands. In the 16th century it was first the Portuguese, then later the Dutch colonial power that took control of the Moluccas (Spice Islands), Java and Sumatra. Apart from a brief interlude by the British in the first half, the islands remained firmly in Dutch hands in the 19th century.
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The first half of the 20th century
The first nationalist movements, such as the Indonesian National Party (PNI), founded by the Indonesian Achmed Sukarno in 1927, were the answer to the colonialists’ strict approach to anti-Dutch uprisings. During the Second World War, Indonesia was occupied by Japan (1942 to 45), Sukarno was used by the occupying powers as governor. After the Japanese surrender, on August 17, 1945, he declared the “Republic of Indonesia” to an independent state. Sukarno’s reign lasted until 1965 and was characterized by corruption, anti-Western politics and an increasing dissolution of democracy towards a dictatorial leadership style. In 1965, the military, formerly Sukarno’s ally, took power under General Suharto. Suharto was elected president in 1968.In economic terms,
In 1976, East Timor, which was predominantly populated by Christians and was still part of Portugal, was released from its former colonial power. Despite the strong independence movement there (FRETELIN party, Revolutionary Front for an independent East Timor), Indonesia occupied the country and declared it an Indonesian province. The ongoing conflict claimed many lives over the next few decades. A ceasefire agreement signed between FRETELIN and the Indonesian government in 1983 did not change this.
Domestically, the Suharto government received growing rejection: corruption and the oppression of government opponents and opposition parties led to mass protests by the population, which were put down by the military. The good election results for the ruling party “GOLKAR” were partly due to the fact that only government-compliant parties were admitted. In the second half of the 1990s, the Indonesian government came under further pressure from the Asian economic crisis and the extremely high external debt. In addition to unemployment and the sharp rise in the price of food, the population suffered from the harmful air pollution caused by severe forest fires (1997 in Borneo, Sulawesi and Sumatra). In 1998, President Suharto was replaced by Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, who announced political reforms. In the ongoing conflict over East Timor, Habibie offered limited autonomy, which FRETELIN rejected.
In August 1999 the first free elections in Indonesia took place in four decades. According to AbbreviationFinder, Habibie’s successor was the Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid, who was severely impaired in health. In the same month, the referendum demanded by the independence movement in East Timor was held: 78.5% of the population of East Timor opted for the detachment from Indonesia and for independence. In the months that followed, fighting between pro-Indonesian gangs, supporters of the independence movement and Indonesian military killed many people. The UN deployed a 7,500-strong peacekeeping force to the island, which was replaced by a UN peacekeeping force in February 2000. East Timor was finally released on May 20, 2002.
In August 2000, the trial of former Indonesian President Suharto was launched in the capital Jakarta. He was accused of having enriched himself by up to 1.2 billion marks during his 30-year reign, and his family’s fortune was estimated at 98 million marks. However, the trial was ended in September due to the defendant’s inability to negotiate. Suharto died in 2008.
President Wahid, who was severely affected by health problems, handed over a large part of his official duties to Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri in August 2000, but reserved the right to continue to lay down the most important policy guidelines. In July 2001, the aged president was finally deposed by the parliament and Megawati Sukarnoputri was chosen as his successor. The central element of the new government is the internationally welcomed economic team with the two technocrats Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti in the position of Minister of Economy and Boediono as Minister of Finance.
In August 2002, the reform movement had a resounding success: since the 2004 presidential election, the president has been directly elected by the people and no longer by the MPR’s People’s Consultative Assembly. In addition, the armed forces and police are no longer represented as a separate group in the MPR. The first direct presidential election in 2004 was won by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
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East Timor was not the only province wishing for independence; For example, in Aceh, a province in the far northwest of Sumatra with rich natural gas and oil reserves, there have been repeated bloody clashes between the Indonesian military and representatives of the independence movement. Extensive special autonomy was decided in early 2002 for Aceh and Papua (formerly Irian Jaya). On the Moluccas and in Central Sulawesi / Poso there were repeated riots between Christians and Muslims.
In December 2004, a tsunami triggered by a seaquake off Sumatra hit the Indonesian island world. Many cities were completely destroyed; over 200,000 people lost their lives in the disaster. In July 2006, another tsunami in southern Java caused severe damage. This left more than 40,000 people homeless and at least 600 people lost their lives. An earthquake near Padang (Sumatra) and a flood disaster in Jakarta in late January led to further deaths. In addition, the highest number of bird flu victims worldwide was recorded in Indonesia.