Influences from India early created a
Hindu-Buddhist mixed culture in the Indonesian island
world. Islam came to the area during the 12th century.
In the 18th century, Indonesia became a Dutch colony,
which was occupied by Japan during the Second World War.
At the end of the war in August 1945, nationalist leader
Sukarno proclaimed Indonesia's independence. But the
Dutch returned and war broke out between Sukarnos
nationalists and the Netherlands. In 1949 peace was
achieved and Indonesia gained its independence with
Sukarno as president.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Indonesia, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The oldest traces of human life in the area,
including the so-called Java Man, are 1 million to 1.5
million years old. The remains of hunter and gatherer
cultures on Borneo and Sulawesi can be dated between
40,000 and 5,000 years back in time. About 3,000 BC,
agricultural peoples migrated from China, Taiwan and the
At the time of Christ's birth, there were several
small kingdoms that, especially in Java, had developed a
high culture. In addition to rice cultivation, they also
knew about metalworking and shipping and traded with
India and China. The close relations with India led to
the emergence of a Hindu-Buddhist mixed culture.
The Kingdom of Shrivijaya on Sumatra developed during
the 600s into a local great power like the Javanese
Majapahit, which emerged in the late 1200s. During their
heyday, these kingdoms controlled large parts of the
island world. When Majapahit's power slowly weakened
during the 1400s, Islam, introduced by Arab merchants as
early as the 1100-1200s, had established itself on the
islands. When the sailor Marco Polo on his way back from
China in 1292 stopped at northern Sumatra, he found a
completely Muslim city, Perlak. As trade was mostly
proceeding along the coasts of Sumatra and Javas, it was
there that Islam first gained a foothold.
The first Europeans to establish themselves were the
Portuguese, who wanted to have a monopoly on the spice
trade and make Asia Christian. They settled on the
Moluccas and Timor, but were driven back from the
islands for some half a century with the exception of
East Timor, which remained Portuguese until 1975 (see
Dutch colonial rule
From the beginning of the 17th century, the Dutch
succeeded by playing the local kings against each other,
acquiring a series of monopolies over the trade of, for
example, sugar, rice, opium and fabrics. In 1602, all
Dutch business operations were merged under the Dutch
East India Company. However, greed, corruption and
increased competition drove the company into bankruptcy
in 1798. Its holdings were taken over by the Dutch
(Dutch) state which wanted to establish a colonial
government in Indonesia. The plans were delayed by
Napoleon conquering the Netherlands in 1811 and also
claiming Java. Now, however, the British took the
opportunity to take on Java and appoint Singapore's
founder, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, as its governor.
When Napoleon was finally defeated, the Netherlands
regained the colony in 1816. However, the Dutch faced
fierce resistance from the local population and war
broke out in various places. The so-called Java War of
1825-1830 became the Javanese aristocracy's last
resistance to Dutch rule. The war was led by the
national hero Diponegoro and lost by the Javanese. In
Bali, a local king and a thousand of his subjects
committed suicide rather than submit.
In the middle of the 19th century, the Dutch colonial
empire was expanded to include Kalimantan and Sulawesi
(formerly Celebes). Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) gained
control over the Dutch only after the First World War.
A nationalist movement is created
Under the Dutch government, all higher positions were
held by Europeans, while the domestic upper class was
placed on lower positions in the administration. From
1830 to 1832 the "cultivation system" was introduced,
which forced the peasants to pay high taxes to the
colonial power. To cope with the taxes, farmers must
grow profitable export crops such as coffee, sugar,
indigo, tea, spices and tobacco, instead of rice and
other food crops. This led to food shortages and
over-utilization of the soil. At the end of the 19th
century, the cultivation system gave way to free
enterprise, and large plantations were built. Now, an
export economy was rapidly developing. With
industrialization in the west, Indonesia's natural
rubber and crude oil became increasingly important.
In 1908, Indonesia's first nationalist party was
formed, which was followed by a Muslim party and a
Communist party: the latter, however, was banned by the
Dutch in the 1920s. In 1927, the 26-year-old military
Sukarno founded a new nationalist party (Partai Nasional
Indonesia, PNI). It was quickly dissolved by the Dutch.
Sukarno was imprisoned and deported to a remote island.
When the Japanese conquered Indonesia during World
War II, many Indonesians were initially positive to the
occupation, which was seen as a liberation from the
hated Dutch government. But the Japanese pursued a
brutal occupation policy; the local population was
treated ruthlessly and many were forced to join the
Japanese army. However, the Indonesians were allowed to
start working within the state administration, which
strengthened their self-esteem. Nationalist leader
Sukarno was released. In addition, Bahasa Indonesia (see
Population and Languages) became official language
alongside the Japanese.
The Republic of Indonesia is proclaimed
Two days after Japan's surrender, Sukarno proclaimed
Indonesia's independence on August 17, 1945. However,
the Allies chose to return the country to the
Netherlands. British forces took over control until now,
and the Japanese troops were ordered not to surrender
their weapons to the Indonesians.
Fighting broke out between Indonesian nationalists on
the one hand and Dutch and British on the other, mainly
on Java. The British withdrew in 1946, but the war
against the Dutch continued until 1949, when peace was
reached through UN negotiations. In December of that
year, Indonesia became independent and Indonesia's
United States was formed with Sukarno as president. The
Netherlands retained Papua (Irian Jaya) for the time
In 1950, the federal constitution was repealed.
Indonesia became a Union state in accordance with the
nationalists' slogan - "a country, a language, a
people". A provisional constitution provided for the
government to be accountable to a people-elected
parliament. President Sukarno's powers of power were
drastically curtailed. However, the parliamentary system
led to constant government crises. At the same time,
Indonesia was divided by military and Muslim resistance
movements. To unify the country, in 1959 Sukarno
introduced a system he called "controlled democracy". A
1945 constitution with strong presidential rule was
reintroduced. The only groups with political influence,
besides the president, were the army and the Communist
Party (Partai Communist Indonesia, PKI), which Sukarno
also sought support from, and played against each other.
Sukarno's time in power
In the 1960s, Indonesia was considered one of the
poorest countries in the world. Sukarno ignored the
advice of foreign experts and donors, while building
expensive monuments and government buildings. Contested
land reforms were implemented, where landlords were
forced to give land to poor farmers. The Communist Party
got more and more voters.
In foreign policy, Sukarno wanted to ally himself
with "the new forces in China" against "Western
imperialism". The Soviet Union was Indonesia's largest
aid provider and arms supplier, but relations with China
Sukarno saw himself as a revolutionary hero in the
fight against colonialism. In 1955, in Bandung, he
gathered leaders from other countries who fought for his
independence. There, a third path between communism and
capitalism was proclaimed. At the same time, the concept
of "the Third World" was launched and the alliance-free
movement was born.
Elsewhere, Sukarno pursued an aggressive foreign
policy. He succeeded, after fighting with the Dutch over
Papua (Irian Jaya), to get Indonesia's supremacy over
the area recognized by the UN in 1963. In the same year
Malaysia was formed by the former British Malaya and the
two states Sabah and Sarawak at Borneo as well as
Singapore (which quickly withdrew clock again). Sukarno
opposed the new state formation and nationalized British
and US companies in Indonesia as punishment for their
support to Malaysia. Sukarno saw the federation as an
imperialist threat to Indonesia, and in 1963 he launched
a brief war against Malaysia. In a famous 1964 speech,
he said that "the United States can go to hell with its
The coup attempt and the murder of generals
During Sukarno's last year in power, the bureaucracy
was paralyzed by corruption, inflation was 1,500 percent
and the country was close to anarchy. The army was
overruled, and it was rumored that it was preparing a
coup to prevent the Communists from taking power on the
day Sukarno was to retire.
On September 30, 1965, six generals and one colonel
were assassinated in a coup attempt. The government
succeeded the next day in regaining power through the
highest ranking general who survived the coup, Suharto.
He had command of the Kostrad elite and now also took
control of the army, the navy and the police. Suharto
led the attack against the coup makers, who were on an
airbase outside Jakarta. After less than 30 hours, and
without much resistance, the coup had been shut down.
Although nearly half a century has elapsed, it is
still a mystery today who was behind the coup, and what
role Suharto played. The army immediately blamed the
Communist Party PKI, but later historians believe it was
an internal settlement within the armed forces. The fact
that the Communist Party did not mobilize its members
and that the party had a good relationship with Sukarno
suggests this. One of the few coup makers who survived,
Colonel Abdul Latief, said in a 1998 interview that he
personally informed Suharto that a coup was planned,
without Suharto doing anything to prevent it. The coup
makers therefore thought they had his support.
Suharto takes over the board
The coup attempt triggered a violent anti-communist
reaction. Estimates of how many people were killed vary
between 100,000 and one million. Indonesian history
writing puts the number at 500,000. The Communist Party,
then the world's third largest, was banned and
The massacres were triggered by the army, but the
killing was also carried out by local civilian groups
provided by the military with weapons. Muslim
organizations played a major role, and the killing
sometimes took on the character of jihad, holy war. But
even in Hindu Bali, up to 100,000 people were murdered,
and Hindu priests urged new victims. Indonesia's
Chinese, suspected of contacts with China and jealous of
their relative wealth, were persecuted in many areas.
Elsewhere, Christians were the most vulnerable.
Sukarno tried to regain control by distancing himself
from the Communists, splitting the military and building
new political alliances. However, dissatisfaction with
his regime increased, and in 1966 the students
demonstrated against the government.
Sukarno became increasingly dependent on Suharto's
support. In March 1966, he authorized Suharto to do
whatever was necessary to maintain calm. Suharto used
the power of attorney to gradually take over power. A
year later, he managed the country's highest
decision-making body (People's Advisory Assembly, MPR)
to expel Sukarno, who was held under house arrest until
his death in 1970. Suharto became president as early as
1967, but was formally appointed in March 1968.
Three Islamists are executed for the Bali Council in 2002
Three militant Islamists are executed for having executed the Bali Council in
2002 when 202 people were killed.
New law on presidential candidates
A new electoral law means that political parties must get at least 20 percent
of the mandate or 25 percent of the votes in the national parliamentary
elections in order to be able to launch a candidate alone in a presidential
election. However, several parties can come together in an alliance and present
a joint presidential candidate.
The former Governor of the Central Bank is sentenced to prison
Former Governor of Central Bank Burhanuddin Abdullah is sentenced to five
years in prison for fraud and bribery. The verdict is a political success for
President Yudhoyono, who in the election campaign promised hard grip on
The president regrets crimes during the wave of violence in East Timor in
President Yudhoyono deeply regrets the human rights violations committed by
Indonesia during the wave of violence in connection with the release of East
Timor in 1999 (see East Timor, Modern History). However, he does not formally
Indonesia's President Suharto dies at the age of 86 after a long illness.
Suharto has been praised for the good economic development that the country has
had during his time in power and which has traveled many Indonesians out of deep
poverty. At the same time, Suharto was not being investigated for the financial
crimes and human rights violations that he suspected of being guilty during his
long term as President 1967-1998.