Indonesia Facts

Indonesia Facts and History


Indonesia – One of the largest island conglomerates in the world

With a total of more than 13,000 individual islands, Indonesia is one of the largest island conglomerates in the world. The country stretches in north-south direction from Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Palau) to Australia and in east-west direction from Papua New Guinea in the Pacific to towards the Indian Ocean. The islands are distributed from sixth to eleventh north latitude and from 95th to 141st longitude.

The country, which is spread over many islands, is very heterogeneous in terms of culture, nature, climate and vegetation. More than 300 different ethnic groups live together and it is communicated in over 580 different languages, from Polynesian, Austronesian to Malay. This ethnic and linguistic diversity has been preserved throughout Indonesia’s history to this day. In 1928, Malay was made the official state language (Bahasa Indonesia). However, the other languages are still actively used by the various population groups.

The cultural ways of life in Indonesia sometimes differ considerably: in addition to modern society in Jakarta, there is, for example, a Stone Age culture on Java. The islands of Java and Bali are extremely densely populated and consist mainly of a cultural landscape, whereas Sumatra and Kalimantan are still largely overgrown by jungle. Indonesia runs along the Wallace Line. It represents the biogeographical dividing line that separates the Australian flora and fauna from the Asian. This dividing line was named after the natural scientist Alfred Russel Wallace, who explored the island worlds between 1854 and 1862.

The Indonesian island chain lies on the geological plate boundary of the Australian, Indian and Eurasian plates. When these plates move, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can occur as a consequence. With around 130 volcanoes – 65 of which are considered dangerous – there are the most volcanoes in the world. Indonesia is therefore one of the areas with the most earthquakes, around 500, but mostly smaller, occur each year. On December 26, 2004, a quake off Sumatra/Indonesia triggered the devastating tsunami tidal wave. According to official figures, more than 150,000 people were killed in the aftermath of the 2004 Christmas earthquake. The northern island region of Sumatra, Aceh with the capital Banda Aceh, was hardest hit.

The explosion of Krakatau on August 27 and August 28, 1883 in the Sunda Bay between Java and Sumatra led to the almost complete destruction of the volcano. The eruption caused tsunamis with wave heights of up to 40 m. The destructive force of these rock masses that had fallen into the water was less than the tsunamis caused by underwater quakes. These “displacement” waves lose their energy and height much more quickly, so that their effect remains rather local. Around 36,000 people were killed in the outbreak and 165 cities and towns were razed to the ground. The explosion threw huge amounts of ashes into the atmosphere, which were noticeable almost worldwide via the high-altitude winds and led, among other things, to a reflection of the incident sunlight,

Politically, Indonesia is divided into 32 provinces and the capital district Jakarta. Some of the Indonesian provinces, including Aceh in northwest Sumatra, are known for their efforts to achieve political autonomy. In the province of Aceh, the liberation organization Aceh’s (GAM) signed a peace treaty with the Indonesian government on August 15, 2005 after a 29-year struggle for the independence of the Aceh region. The rebels promised to refrain from full independence and agreed on partial autonomy, while the government in Jakarta issued a general amnesty for the convicted GAM members.

The Papua region is still controversial, although the Indonesian government is currently making efforts towards a peaceful settlement that are comparable to those in the Aceh region.

The most widely practiced religion in Indonesia is (Sunni) Islam. Although Indonesia is not a Muslim state in and of itself, it is the most populous Muslim country in the world with around 88% Muslim population! With a total of 246 million residents, it is the fourth largest country in the world in terms of population. About 90% of the population are illiterate. This high illiteracy rate has clear consequences for the country’s economic and social situation.

Name of the country Republic of Indonesia/Republic of Indonesia
Form of government Presidential republic, the government is independent of the confidence of parliament
Geographical location 6 ° to 11 ° south latitude95 ° to 140 ° east longitude
National anthem Indonesia tanah airku
Population approx. 240 million (Credit: Countryaah: Indonesia Population)
Ethnicities Javanese 45%, Sundanese 14%, Madurese 7.5%, Malaysian 7.5%, others 26%
Religions Muslim 88%, Christians (8%) – Protestants 5% and Catholics 3%, Hindus 2%, Buddhists 1%, others 1%
Languages Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) is the official language.English, Dutch and local dialects such as Javanese are also spoken.
Capital Jakarta with approx. 10 million residents – in the metropolitan area approx. 28 million
Surface 1,919,440 km²
Highest mountain Puncak Jaya with a height of 5030 m
Longest river Kapuas with a length of 1,150 km
Largest lake Lake Toba with an area of 1,700 km²
International license plate RI
National currency Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
Difference to CET West Indonesian Time + 6 h: Java, Sumatra, West and Central KaslimantanCentral Indonesian Time + 7 h: Bali, Nusa, Tenggera, South and East Kalimantan

East Indonesian Time + 8 h: Papua, Moluccas

International phone code 0062
Mains voltage, frequency 127/230Volt and 50 Hertz
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .id

Indonesia: history

Until around the year 1000

The Java man lived in Indonesia around 1.7 million years ago.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, 100,000 to around 10,000 years ago the climate in the latitudes of Indonesia was much drier, the water level was lower and the islands of Java, Borneo and Sumatra belonged to a land mass. The Flores man, Homo-Floresiensis, lived 95,000 to 12,000 years ago on the island of Flores of the same name and fell victim to a volcanic eruption 12,000 years ago. This human predecessor was only 90 cm tall and his brain was very small according to his height. Scientists disagree as to whether one should even count him as an ancestor of man. In this context, the old, much discussed question arises as to when, in the history of development, one can even speak of a person.

Different cultural influences early on

India expanded its trade relations with Java in the 2nd century AD. In the 5th century a Hindu kingdom was established in Indonesia. In the 7th century the Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya emerged in the south of the islands of Sumatra. It became the center of Mahayana Buddhism, whose sphere of influence extended to Thailand. In the middle of the 9th century, the Mataram kingdom of the Buddhist Sailendra dynasty emerged on Java. Indian Buddhism, Hinduism and the animistic religions of Java produced their own architectural style on the island, which is reflected in the buildings in Borobudor, the largest Buddhist building in the world, in Prambanan and in the temples on the Dieng plain.

The country was also exposed to Chinese influences. Chinese came to the country as traders in silk and Ming china. They mainly moved along the coast of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Later they also worked in the numerous gold mines that existed. It is believed that the long houses on Borneo are influenced by Chinese bazaar architecture. Today a Chinese minority of around 1.7 million Chinese still live in Indonesia, especially Java.

From the year 1000 to the 18th century

From 1293 to the end of the 16th century, Java and the neighboring islands experienced the heyday of the last Hindu kingdom, Majapahit. From the 15th century, Islam spread in Indonesia. First Aceh became Muslim, then Sumatra; the coast of Borneo, Sulawesi, Java and Kalimantan as well as Sulawesi followed. The Hindu aristocracy from Java fled to Bali.

Important cities and regions throughout history

PasaiIn the 14th century, Pasai was located in the north of the island of Sumatra on the Strait of Malaka, the main port of the country. Here traders from China, Arabia, Persia, India, Siam, Burma and Java met with traders from Java to swap rice and pepper. Between 1290 and 1520 the city developed into an important center of Islam. The Islamic tombstone of Pasai from 1428 is an important monument.

In the middle of the 15th century, with the arrival of the Portuguese, Pasai lost its sphere of influence to the Aceh region. Banten is the name of a province and a small fishing village in western Java. The population spoke Sundanese in contrast to the remaining Javanese-speaking part of the island. The region came under Muslim influence in the 16th century. Around 1550 the province played an important economic role as the main supplier of pepper to China.

In 1596 the Dutch reached Banten under Cornelis de Houtman (1565 to 1599). The Portuguese had already established there in 1522, but could not bring the area under their rule. At that time, there were three marketplaces in the city, which were visited by international traders from China, Turkey and other countries. In 1628 the British decided to make the city their main base in Southeast Asia.


In the 16th and 17th centuries, Aceh, a region in the north of Sumatra with the capital Banda Aceh, was the base for the trade of Muslim merchants in Southeast Asia. MajapahitThe Majapahit Kingdom was established in the 14th century. The then dominated area was the last great Hindu empire and encompassed a large part of what is now Indonesia. In Sumatra and Java there were already rulers of the Srivijaya and Shailendra. In the 15th century, strong Islamization in the region gradually displaced the Hindu and Buddhist religions.


In 1602 the United East India Company (VOC) was founded, which ruthlessly expanded its interests and monopoly in the spice and pepper trade and destroyed other existing structures. In the 17th century the Dutch chose Batavia, today’s Jakarta, as the headquarters of their East India Company and built numerous canals in the city based on the Dutch model, into which the sewage of the residents was also discharged. They made an ideal breeding ground for malaria. Batavia was therefore the most unhealthy city in the entire Orient. The average survival expectation of a Dutch soldier in the city was only one year. In 1799 the East India Company was dissolved and a direct colonial administration was set up in its place.

In the 19th century

In 1811 the Englishman Raffles, who later became the founder of Singapore, occupied the island of Java. The Dutch took over the administration again in 1816. And stop any resistance, including: 1825-1830 the uprising of Prince Diponegoro, 1873-1903 the uprising of Aceh, 1905 the uprising in Bali.

20th century until today

From 1941 to 1945, Indonesia was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. In 1955 a constituent assembly was elected with the mandate to establish a new constitution. The discussion about this new constitution was ended four years later in 1959 and they returned to the provisional one from 1945. The “managed democracy” became the state system. In 1962 West Papua was incorporated into the state structure. Hadji Mohamed Soeharto (born 1921) (German: Suharto) took power in 1966 after the military crushed the Indonesian Communist Party, killing at least 500,000 people.

Soeharto was repeatedly confirmed as president in pseudo-elections until 1998. During his reign, Indonesia occupied East Timor in 1975/1976 after the colonial power Portugal had left the country, which would result in a guerrilla war of over twenty years. Indonesia’s economy prospered from the late 1980s. However, the economic upturn came to an abrupt end in the 1997 Asian crisis. Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie (born 1936) succeeded President Soeharto. On June 7, 1999, the first free elections took place in Indonesia. In October 1999, East Timor, Timor-Leste, gained independence from Indonesia.

From 1999 to 2001 Abdurraham Wahid ruled Indonesia as President. Thereafter, from 2001 to 2004, Megawati Soekarnoputri was elected President of Indonesia as the first woman. The provinces of Aceh and Papua received special autonomy on January 1, 2002. In August 2002 a constitutional reform was decided. The president and his representative should be directly elected by the people. A second chamber of the regional representation was also set up. The MPs at the time were dismissed from the legislature. On April 5, 2004, the ruling party lost the election. On September 20, 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was entrusted with the office as the first directly elected President.

On December 26, 2004, a tsunami caused by a seaquake off Sumatra devastated northern Sumatra and particularly the province of Aceh. More than 150,000 people in Indonesia alone probably lost their lives in the disaster.

Spice trade

With the monsoons changing every six months, traders from China, Arabia and Europe came to Indonesia. Usually they stayed in the country for several months to return home with the favorable monsoons. Both in China and in Europe the demand for spices was immense. The spices were very expensive until the middle of the 17th century, and the profits from trading them were correspondingly high. The merchants and kingdoms involved in the spice trade accumulated great fortunes.

Opium trade

Arab and Indian traders imported opium as a drug as early as the 8th century. Around 1650, however, the Dutch, i.e. the Dutch East India Company, which at that time had the spice monopoly, began to bring opium from the Bengal to Java, Malaysia and Sumatra on a large scale. Opium served them as a medium of exchange for the spices of the Moluccas and the pepper from Sumatra.


The Malaka Strait is one of the most dangerous and busiest shipping routes in the world. Around 35,000 ships pass this annually. Pirates are still at work in the extremely confusing region today. Over 100 incidents occur around each year and it is not uncommon for entire ships to disappear.

Piracy had always existed in the region, but this peaked at the time of the Dutch spice monopoly in the 17th century, when the exploitation of the spice plantations was particularly strong. Piracy was a respected profession among the locals. The Bugis of Sulawesi and the Aceneser of Sumatra belonged to the main group of pirates.

Indonesia Facts