Officially the Republic of Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It consists of more than seventeen thousand islands, including Sumatra, Java, Borneo (Kalimantan), Sulawesi, and New Guinea (Papua). Indonesia is the world’s largest island country and the 14th-largest country by land area, at 1,904,569 square kilometers (735,358 square miles). With over 267 million people, it is the world’s 4th-most-populous country as well as the most-populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world’s most-populous island, is home to more than half of the country’s population.
The sovereign state is a presidential, constitutional republic with an elected legislature. It has 34 provinces, of which five have special status. The country’s capital, Jakarta, is the second-most populous urban area in the world. The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and the eastern part of Malaysia. Other neighboring countries include Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, Palau, and India‘s Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Despite its large population and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support one of the world’s highest levels of biodiversity.
A Borobudur ship carved on Borobudur temple, c. 800 CE. Outrigger boats from the archipelago may have made trade voyages to the east coast of Africa as early as the 1st century CE.
The Indonesian archipelago has been a valuable region for trade since at least the 7th century when Srivijaya and later Majapahit traded with entities from mainland China and the Indian subcontinent. Local rulers gradually absorbed foreign influences from the early centuries and Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished. Sunni traders and Sufi scholars brought Islam, while Europeans introduced Christianity through colonization. Although sometimes interrupted by the Portuguese, French and British, the Dutch were the foremost colonial power for much of their 350-year presence in the archipelago. The concept of “Indonesia” as a nation-state emerged in the early 20th century and the country proclaimed its independence in 1945. However, it was not until 1949 that the Dutch recognized Indonesia’s sovereignty following an armed and diplomatic conflict between the two.