The name Indonesia derives from the Latin Indus, meaning “India”, and the Greek nesos, meaning ‘island.” The name dates to the 18th century, far predating the formation of independent Indonesia. In 1850, George Earl, an English ethnologist, proposed the terms Indunesians for the inhabitants of the “Indian Archipelago or Malayan Archipelago.” In the same publication, a student of Earl, James Richardson Logan, used Indonesia as a synonym for Indian Archipelago. However, Dutch academics writings in East Indies publications were reluctant to use Indonesia. Instead, they used the terms Malay Archipelago; the Netherlands East Indies (Nederlandsch Oost Indies), popularly Indie; the East; and even Insulinde. From 1900, the name Indonesia became more common in academic circles outside the Netherlands, and Indonesian nationalist groups adopted it for political expression.
Overview Sophisticated kingdoms existed before the arrival of the Dutch, who consolidated their hold over two centuries, eventually uniting the archipelago in around 1900.
After Japan's wartime occupation ended, independence was proclaimed in 1945 by Sukarno, the independence movement's leader. The Dutch transferred sovereignty in 1949 after an armed struggle.
Long-term leader General Suharto came to power in the wake of an abortive coup in 1965. He imposed authoritarian rule while allowing technocrats to run the economy with considerable success.
But his policy of allowing army involvement in all levels of government, down to village level, fostered corruption. His "transmigration" programmes - which moved large numbers of landless farmers from Java to other parts of the country - fanned ethnic conflict.
Suharto fell from power after riots in 1998 and escaped efforts to bring him to justice for decades of dictatorship.
Post-Suharto Indonesia has made the transition to democracy. Power has been devolved away from the central government and the first direct presidential elections were held in 2004.
But the country faces demands for independence in several provinces, where secessionists have been encouraged by East Timor's 1999 success in breaking away after a traumatic 25 years of occupation.
Militant Islamic groups have flexed their muscles over the past few years. Some have been accused of having links with al-Qaeda organization, including the group blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people.
Lying near the intersection of shifting tectonic plates, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. A powerful undersea quake in late 2004 sent massive waves crashing into coastal areas of Sumatra, and into coastal communities across south and east Asia. The disaster left more than 220,000 Indonesians dead or missing.
Map of Indonesia
Indonesia consists of 17,508 islands, about 6,000 of which are inhabited. These are scattered over both sides of the equator. The five largest islands are Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo), New Guinea or Irian Jaya which is now called Papua (shared with Papua New Guinea), and Sulawesi. Indonesia shares land borders with Malaysia on the Islands of Borneo and Sebatik, Papua New Guinea on the Island of New Guinea, and East Timor on the Island of Timor. Indonesia also shares borders with Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines to the north and Australia to the south across narrow straits of water. The capital, Jakarta, is on Java and is the nation’s largest city, followed by Surabaya, Bandung, Medan, and Semarang. At 1,919,440 square kilometers, Indonesia is the world’s 16th largest country in terms of land area.
Indonesia’s location on the edges of the Pacific, Eurasian, and Australian tectonic plates makes it the site of numerous volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. Indonesia has at least 150 active volcanoes, including Krakatoa, which is famous for its devastating eruptions in the 19th century. Recent disasters due to seismic activity include the 2004 tsunami that killed an estimated 167,736 people in northern Sumatra, and the Yogyakarta earthquake in 2006. However, volcanic ash is a major contributor to the high agricultural fertility that has historically sustained the high population densities of Java and Bali.
Lying along the equator, Indonesia has a tropical climate, with two distinct monsoonal wet and dry seasons. Average annual rainfall in the lowlands varies from 1,780–3,175 millimeters (70–125 in), and up to 6,100 millimeters (240 in) in mountainous regions. Mountainous areas—particularly in the west coast of Sumatra, West Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua—receive the highest rainfall. Humidity is generally high, averaging about 80%. Temperatures vary little throughout the year; the average daily temperature range of Jakarta is 26–30 °C (79–86 °F).