Under influence of Buddhism, several kingdoms formed on the islands of Sumatra and Java from the 7th to 14th century. The arrival of Arab from Gujarat and Chinese traders later brought Islam, which became the dominant religion.
When the Europeans came in the early 16th century, they found a multitude of small states. These were vulnerable to the Europeans, who were in pursuit of dominating the spice trade. In the 17th century, the Dutch emerged as the most powerful of the Europeans, ousting the British and Portuguese (except for Timor).
After the Dutch East India Companyor VOC was liquidated, its possessions in Indonesia were taken over by the Dutch government.
In 1940 during World War II, Japan had been denied vital aviation fuel by the Dutch Indies government, unable to negotiate for the fuel Japan begins its invasion of Malaya in December. Capturing Indonesia in 1942, Japan found the Indonesian elite to be cooperative trade partners and willing to marshal troops as needed. Sukarno, Mohammad Hatta, and Kyai were decorated by the Emperor of Japan in 1943.
In March 1945 Japan organized a committee for Indonesian independence; after the Pacific war ended in 1945, this group led by Sukarno declared Indonesian independence. The Dutch finally accepted on December 27th1949, and Sukarno became the country's first president with Muhammad Hatta as the first vice president.
After Sukarno's autocratic rule was almost overthrown, army leader Suharto became president in 1967. Suharto enriched himself and his family through widespread corruption and he was forced to step down after massive demonstrations in 1998.
In the period of 1998 to 2001, the country had four presidents that was Baharuddin Joesoef Habiebie, Abdurrahman Wahid, and Megawati sukarnoputri.
The country currently suffers from internal economic, political, and religious struggles, and several regions are striving for independence (Aceh, Irian Jaya),while East Timor had already declare his independence.
The MPR formerly met every five years to elect the President. From 2004 the MPR will no longer elect the President and Vice-President. The first popular election for President was held in July 2004. The participants were Wiranto and Salahuddin Wahid (Abdurrahman wahid's brother), Megawati Sukarnoputri and Hasyim Muzadi, Muhammad Amien Rais and Siswono Yudohusodo, Susilo bambang Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla and Hamzah Haz and Agum Gumelar.
The next presidential election will be held in September 5, 2004. The first and second winner of the July presidential election will be the contestant, that is Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono & Jusuf Kalla and Megawati sukarnoputri & Hasyim Muzadi.
Currently, Indonesia has 30 provinces, 2 special territories and 1 capital city territory. The provinces are subdivided in districts, which are in turn split up in sub-districts and municipalities. The provinces are:
The Indonesian population can be roughly divided into two groups. In the west of the country, the people are mostly Malay, while the people of the east are Papuan. However, the ethnic structure is rather diverse, with several traditional tribes still living in the inlands of Borneo and Irian Jaya. The Chinese form a large ethnic minority (2 to 3 million). Although important to Indonesian economy, they are generally disliked by indigenous Indonesians.
Islam is Indonesia's main religion, with almost 82% of the people adhering to it. The remainder of the population is Christian (9%), Buddhist (2%), and Hindu (2%), the latter mainly on the islands of Bali and in Kalimantan. Religious conflicts have been numerous in recent years, especially in the Moluccas.
The official language, Bahasa Indonesia - a dialect of Malay - is spoken by almost everybody, although local dialects are usually the primary language.