History in Indonesia
As early as the seventh century, powerful Buddhist and Hindu empires challenged each other for supremacy in Indonesia: the Buddhist Srivijaya were centered in Sumatra, while the Hindu Mataram located their capital on Java. The rich architectural and cultural legacy that remains from that time forms the basis for Indonesia's national identity. In the thirteenth century, the Hindu Majapahit of Java faced a strong challenge from Muslim forces, which spread south from the Malay peninsula. Slowly losing ground, the Hindus retreated to Bali, where they remain today. The rest of the islands became Muslim, and various sultanates were established.
Although primarily a Muslim nation, Indonesia is marked by wide religious tolerance. Hinduism thrives on Bali, and Christianity has a significant presence on Flores, Timor, and several other islands. Indonesians speak numerous languages and dialects, but the common language is Bahasa Indonesia. English and Dutch are also widely spoken.
The English and Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in the area in the 16th century but in 1595 the Dutch East India Company took control of trade in the area and named the area the Dutch East Indies. From 1814 until the Japanese invasion during World War II, Indonesia’s people and resources were subjected to Dutch rule.
The Indonesian revolutionary nationalist movement, led by Sukarno, welcomed the Japanese as a potential force of liberation, and at the war's end the movement embarked upon a bloody war of independence against the restored Dutch rule. Although the war dragged on for four long years, from 1945-1949, the independence movement was ultimately victorious.
The Government in 1950 reverted to a unitary state.
In September 1965, a coup was launched by sections of the army with full PKI support. The immediate political struggle, which the Government eventually won, was one of the closest in recent history. With discreet support from the Western powers, the army Chief of Staff, General Suharto, backed Sukarno, and saved the regime. Between 400,000 and one million were massacred by the army in the aftermath of the coup. Sukarno was now politically crippled and, in March 1967, was replaced by Suharto.
Suharto remained as President until his (forced) resignation in May 1998.
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