Slovakia, officially the Slovak Republic (Slovak: Slovenská republika, listen ), is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the southwest, and the Czech Republic to the northwest. Slovakia’s territory spans about 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi) and is mostly mountainous. The population is over 5.4 million and consists mostly of ethnic Slovaks. The capital and largest city is Bratislava, and the second-largest city is Košice. The official language is Slovak.
The Slavs arrived in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 7th century they played a significant role in the creation of Samo’s Empire and in the 9th century established the Principality of Nitra, which was later conquered by the Principality of Moravia to establish Great Moravia. In the 10th century, after the dissolution of Great Moravia, the territory was integrated into the Principality of Hungary, which would become the Kingdom of Hungary in 1000. In 1241 and 1242, much of the territory was destroyed by the Mongols during their invasion of Central and Eastern Europe. The area was recovered largely thanks to Béla IV of Hungary who also settled Germans who became an important ethnic group in the area, especially in what are today parts of central and eastern Slovakia. After World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Czechoslovak National Council established Czechoslovakia (1918–1939). A separate (First) Slovak Republic (1939–1945) existed during World War II as a totalitarian, clero-fascist one-party client state of Nazi Germany. At the end of World War II, Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent country. After a coup in 1948 Czechoslovakia became a totalitarian one-party socialist state under a communist administration, during which the country was part of the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. Attempts to liberalize communism in Czechoslovakia culminated in the Prague Spring, which was crushed by the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. In 1989, the Velvet Revolution ended the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia peacefully. Slovakia became an independent state on 1 January 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce.
Slovakia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy, a very high Human Development Index, a very high standard of living and performs favourably in measurements of civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance and peacefulness. The country maintains a combination of a market economy with a comprehensive social security system. Citizens are provided with universal health care, free education and one of the longest paid parental leaves in the OECD. The country joined the European Union on 1 May 2004 and the Eurozone on 1 January 2009. Slovakia is also a member of the Schengen Area, NATO, the United Nations, the OECD, the WTO, CERN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group. As part of Eurozone, Slovak legal tender is the euro, the world’s 2nd-most-traded currency. Slovakia is the world’s largest per-capita car producer with a total of 1,110,000 cars manufactured in the country in 2019 alone and the 5th largest car producer in the European Union, representing 43% of Slovakia’s total industrial output.
Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco, is a sovereign city-state and microstate on the French Riviera in Western Europe. It is bordered by France to the north, east, west and by the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The principality is home to 38,682 residents, of which 9,486 are Monegasque nationals; it is widely recognised for being one of the most expensive and wealthiest places in the world. The official language is French, although Monégasque, Italian and English are spoken and understood by a sizeable group.With an area of 2.1 km2 (0.81 sq mi), it is one of the smallest sovereign states in Europe and the second-smallest in the world, after Vatican City. Its 19,009 inhabitants per square kilometre (49,230/sq mi) make it the most densely-populated sovereign state in the world. Monaco has a land border of 5.47 km (3.40 mi) and the world’s shortest coastline of approximately 3.83 km (2.38 mi); it has a width that varies between 1,700 and 349 m (5,577 and 1,145 ft). The highest point in the state is a narrow pathway named Chemin des Révoires on the slopes of Mont Agel, in the Les Révoires ward, which is 161 metres (528 feet) above sea level. The principality is about 15 km (9.3 mi) from the border with Italy. Its most populous ward is Larvotto/Bas Moulins with a population of 5,443 as of 2008. Through land reclamation, Monaco’s land mass has expanded by 20 percent. In 2005, it had an area of only 1.974 km2 (0.762 sq mi).
The principality is governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state. Although Prince Albert II is a constitutional monarch, he wields immense political power; the Minister of State is the head of government. The officeholder can be either a Monegasque or French citizen; the monarch consults with the Government of France before an appointment. The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since 1297. The state’s sovereignty was officially recognised by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861, with Monaco becoming a full United Nations voting member in 1993. Despite Monaco’s independence and separate foreign policy, its defence is the responsibility of France. However, Monaco does maintain two small military units.
Economic development was spurred in the late 19th century with the opening of the country’s first casino, Monte Carlo, as well as a railway connection to Paris. Since then, Monaco’s mild climate, scenery and gambling facilities have contributed to the principality’s status as a tourist destination and recreation centre for the rich. In more recent years, Monaco has become a major banking centre and has sought to diversify its economy into the services sector and small, high-value-added, non-polluting industries. The state has no income tax, low business taxes and is well known for being a tax haven. Over 30% of the resident population are millionaires, with real estate prices reaching €100,000 ($142,000) per square metre in 2018.
Monaco is not formally a part of the European Union (EU), but it participates in certain EU policies, including customs and border controls. Through its relationship with France, Monaco uses the euro as its sole currency; prior to this it used the Monégasque franc. Monaco joined the Council of Europe in 2004 and is a member of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). It is also the host of the annual street circuit motor race Monaco Grand Prix, one of the original Grands Prix of Formula One and birthplace of Scuderia Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. The principality has a club football team, AS Monaco, who compete in the French Ligue 1 and have become French champions on multiple occasions. A centre of research into marine conservation, Monaco is home to one of the world’s first protected marine habitats, an Oceanographic Museum and the International Atomic Energy Agency Environment Labs, which is the only marine laboratory in the United Nations structure.
The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands (Marshallese: Aolepān Aorōkin Ṃajeḷ), is an island country and an associated state of the United States near the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, slightly west of the International Date Line. Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country’s population of 58,413 people (at the 2018 World Bank Census) is spread out over 29 coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets. The capital and largest city is Majuro. It has the largest portion of its territory made of water of any sovereign state, at 97.87%.
The islands share maritime boundaries with Wake Island to the north, Kiribati to the southeast, Nauru to the south, and Federated States of Micronesia to the west. About 52.3% of Marshall Islanders (27,797 at the 2011 Census) live on Majuro. Data from the United Nations indicates an estimated population in 2018 of 58,413. In 2016, 73.3% of the population were defined as being “urban”. The UN also indicates a population density of 295 per km2 (765 people per mi2) and its projected 2020 population is 59,190.Micronesian colonists reached the Marshall Islands using canoes circa 2nd millennium BC, with interisland navigation made possible using traditional stick charts. They eventually settled here. Islands in the archipelago were first explored by Europeans in the 1520s, starting with Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer in the service of Spain, Juan Sebastián Elcano and Miguel de Saavedra. Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar reported sighting an atoll in August 1526. Other expeditions by Spanish and English ships followed. The islands derive their name from John Marshall, who visited in 1788. The islands were historically known by the inhabitants as “jolet jen Anij” (Gifts from God).Spain claimed the islands in 1592, and the European powers recognized its sovereignty over the islands in 1874. They had been part of the Spanish East Indies formally since 1528. Later, Spain sold some of the islands to the German Empire in 1885, and they became part of German New Guinea that year, run by the trading companies doing business in the islands, particularly the Jaluit Company. In World War I, the Empire of Japan occupied the Marshall Islands, which, in 1920, the League of Nations combined with other former German territories to form the South Seas Mandate. During World War II, the United States took control of the islands in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign in 1944. Nuclear testing began on Bikini Atoll in 1946 and concluded in 1958.
The US government formed the Congress of Micronesia in 1965, a plan for increased self-governance of Pacific islands. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1979 provided independence to the Marshall Islands, whose constitution and president (Amata Kabua) were formally recognized by the US. Full sovereignty or self-government was achieved in a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Marshall Islands has been a member of the Pacific Community (SPC) since 1983 and a United Nations member state since 1991. Politically, the Marshall Islands is a parliamentary republic with an executive presidency in free association with the United States, with the US providing defense, subsidies, and access to U.S.-based agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Postal Service. With few natural resources, the islands’ wealth is based on a service economy, as well as some fishing and agriculture; aid from the United States represents a large percentage of the islands’ gross domestic product. The country uses the United States dollar as its currency. In 2018, it also announced plans for a new cryptocurrency to be used as legal tender.The majority of the citizens of the Republic of Marshall Islands, formed in 1982, are of Marshallese descent, though there are small numbers of immigrants from the United States, China, Philippines, and other Pacific islands. The two official languages are Marshallese, which is one of the Oceanic languages, and English. Almost the entire population of the islands practices some religion: three-quarters of the country follows either the United Church of Christ – Congregational in the Marshall Islands (UCCCMI) or the Assemblies of God.
Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives, is a small archipelagic state in South Asia, situated in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. It lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India, about 700 kilometres (430 mi) from the Asian continent’s mainland. The chain of 26 atolls stretches from Ihavandhippolhu Atoll in the north to Addu Atoll in the south (across the Equator). Comprising a territory spanning roughly 298 square kilometres (115 sq mi), Maldives is one of the world’s most geographically dispersed sovereign states as well as the smallest Asian country by land area and population, with around 515,696 inhabitants. Malé is the capital and the most populated city, traditionally called the “King’s Island” where the ancient royal dynasties ruled for its central location.The Maldivian Archipelago is located on the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean; this also forms a terrestrial ecoregion, together with the Chagos Archipelago and Lakshadweep. With an average ground-level elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, it is the world’s lowest-lying country, with even its highest natural point being one of the lowest in the world, at 5.1 metres (17 ft).In the 12th century Islam reached the Maldivian Archipelago, which was consolidated as a sultanate, developing strong commercial and cultural ties with Asia and Africa. From the mid-16th-century the region came under the increasing influence of European colonial powers, with Maldives becoming a British protectorate in 1887. Independence from the United Kingdom came in 1965, and a presidential republic was established in 1968 with an elected People’s Majlis. The ensuing decades have seen political instability, efforts at democratic reform, and environmental challenges posed by climate change.Maldives became a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). It is also a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Non-Aligned Movement. The World Bank classifies the Maldives as having an upper-middle income economy. Fishing has historically been the dominant economic activity, and remains the largest sector by far, followed by the rapidly growing tourism industry. Maldives rate “high” on the Human Development Index, with per-capita income significantly higher than other SAARC nations. Maldives was a member of the Commonwealth from July 1982 until withdrawing from the organisation in October 2016 in protest at allegations by the other nations of its human rights abuses and failing democracy. The Maldives rejoined the Commonwealth on 1 February 2020 after showing evidence of functioning democratic processes and popular support.
Liechtenstein, officially the Principality of Liechtenstein, is a German-speaking microstate situated in the Alps and in the southwest of Central Europe. The principality is a semi-constitutional monarchy headed by the Prince of Liechtenstein; the Prince’s extensive powers are equivalent to those of a President in a semi-presidential system.
Liechtenstein is bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and Austria to the east and north. It is Europe’s fourth-smallest country, with an area of just over 160 square kilometres (62 square miles) and a population of 38,749. Divided into 11 municipalities, its capital is Vaduz, and its largest municipality is Schaan. It is also the smallest country to border two countries. Liechtenstein is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world, along with Uzbekistan.
Economically, Liechtenstein has one of the highest gross domestic products per person in the world when adjusted for purchasing power parity. The country has a strong financial sector centered in Vaduz. It was once known as a billionaire tax haven, but is no longer on any blacklists of uncooperative tax haven countries. An Alpine country, Liechtenstein is mountainous, making it a winter sport destination.
Liechtenstein is a member of the United Nations, the European Free Trade Association, and the Council of Europe. Although not a member of the European Union, it participates in both the Schengen Area and the European Economic Area. It has a customs union and a monetary union with Switzerland.
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies, in the Caribbean region of North America. It is 34 kilometres (21 miles) in length and up to 23 km (14 mi) in width, covering an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi). It is in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 km (62 mi) east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean Islands. Barbados is east of the Windwards, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 13°N of the equator. It is about 168 km (104 mi) east of both the countries of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and 180 km (110 mi) south-east of Martinique and 400 km (250 mi) north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is outside the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. Its capital and largest city is Bridgetown.
Inhabited by Kalinago people since the 13th century, and prior to that by other Amerindians, Barbados was visited by Spanish navigators in the late 15th century and claimed for the Spanish Crown. It first appeared on a Spanish map in 1511. The Portuguese Empire claimed the island between 1532 and 1536, but later abandoned it in 1620 with their only remnants being an introduction of wild boars for a good supply of meat whenever the island was visited. An English ship, the Olive Blossom, arrived in Barbados on 14 May 1625; its men took possession of it in the name of King James I. In 1627, the first permanent settlers arrived from England, and it became an English and later British colony. As a wealthy sugar colony, it became an English centre of the African slave trade until that trade was outlawed by the Slave Trade Act 1807, with final emancipation of slaves in Barbados occurring over a period of years following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
On 30 November 1966, Barbados became an independent state and Commonwealth realm with Elizabeth II as its queen, though the country is set to remove her as its head of state and become a republic by 30 November 2021. It has a population of 287,010 people, predominantly of African descent. Despite being classified as an Atlantic island, Barbados is considered to be a part of the Caribbean, where it is ranked as a leading tourist destination. Of the tourists, 40% come from the UK, with the US and Canada making up the next large groups of visitors to the island.
Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a landlocked East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine federated states (Bundesländer), one of which is Vienna, Austria’s capital and its largest city. It is bordered by Germany to the northwest; the Czech Republic to the north; Slovakia to the northeast; Hungary to the east; Slovenia and Italy to the south; and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. Austria occupies an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi) and has a population of nearly 9 million people. While German is the country’s official language, many Austrians communicate informally in a variety of Bavarian dialects.Austria initially emerged as a margraviate around 976 and developed into a duchy and archduchy. In the 16th century, Austria started serving as the heart of the Habsburg Monarchy and the junior branch of the House of Habsburg – one of the most influential royal dynasties in history. As an archduchy, it was a major component and administrative centre of the Holy Roman Empire. Early in the 19th century, Austria established its own empire, which became a great power and the leading force of the German Confederation but pursued its own course independently of the other German states. Following the Austro-Prussian War and the compromise with Hungary, the Dual Monarchy was established.
Austria was involved in World War I under Emperor Franz Joseph following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the presumptive successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne. After the defeat and the dissolution of the Monarchy, the Republic of German-Austria was proclaimed with the intent of the union with Germany, which eventually failed because of the Allied Powers and the state remained unrecognized. In 1919 the First Austrian Republic became the legal successor of Austria. In 1938, the Austrian-born Adolf Hitler, who became the Chancellor of the German Reich, achieved the annexation of Austria by the Anschluss. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 and an extended period of Allied occupation, Austria was re-established as a sovereign and self-governing democratic nation known as the Second Republic.
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a sovereign island country in the West Indies in the Americas, lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two major islands, Antigua and Barbuda separated by 63km (39 miles), and smaller islands (including Great Bird, Green, Guiana, Long, Maiden, Prickly Pear, York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda). The permanent population number is about 95,900 (2018 est.), with 97% being resident on Antigua. The capital and largest port and city is St. John’s on Antigua, with Codrington being the largest town on Barbuda. Lying near each other, Antigua and Barbuda are in the middle of the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 17°N of the equator.
The island of Antigua was explored by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named for the Church of Santa María La Antigua. Antigua was colonized by Britain in 1632; Barbuda island was first colonised in 1678. Antigua and Barbuda joined the West Indies Federation in 1958. With the breakup of the federation, it became one of the West Indies Associated States in 1967. Following self-governance in its internal affairs, independence was granted from United Kingdom on 1 November 1981. Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the Commonwealth and Elizabeth II is the country’s queen and head of state.The economy of Antigua and Barbuda is particularly dependent on tourism, which accounts for 80% of GDP. Like other island nations, Antigua and Barbuda are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise, and increased intensity of extreme weather like hurricanes, which have direct impacts on the island through coastal erosion, water scarcity, and other challenges.
Malta in Maltese, officially known as the Republic of Malta (Maltese: Repubblika ta’ Malta) and formerly Melita, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. With a population of about 515,000 over an area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi), Malta is the world’s tenth smallest country in area and fourth most densely populated sovereign country. Its capital is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area at 0.8 km2 (0.31 sq mi). The official and national language is Maltese, which is descended from Sicilian Arabic that developed during the Emirate of Sicily, while English serves as the second official language. Italian and Sicilian also previously served as official and cultural languages on the island for centuries, with Italian being an official language in Malta until 1934 and a majority of the current Maltese population being at least conversational in the Italian language.
Malta has been inhabited since approximately 5900 BC. Its location in the centre of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French, and British. Most of these foreign influences have left some sort of mark on the country’s ancient culture.
Malta became a British colony in 1813, serving as a way station for ships and the headquarters for the British Mediterranean Fleet. It was besieged by the Axis powers during World War II and was an important Allied base for operations in North Africa and the Mediterranean.
The British Parliament passed the Malta Independence Act in 1964, giving Malta independence from the United Kingdom as the State of Malta, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and queen. The country became a republic in 1974. It has been a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations since independence, and joined the European Union in 2004; it became part of the eurozone monetary union in 2008.
Malta has had Christians since the time of Early Christianity, though was predominantly Muslim while under Arab rule, at which time Christians were tolerated. Norman rulers expelled all Muslims who did not convert, and Aragonese rulers expelled unconverted Jews. Today, Catholicism is the state religion, but the Constitution of Malta guarantees freedom of conscience and religious worship.Malta is a tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni, Valletta, and seven megalithic temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Germany (German: Deutschland, German pronunciation: [ˈdɔʏtʃlant]), officially the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland), is a country in Central and Western Europe. Covering an area of 357,022 square kilometres (137,847 sq mi), it lies between the Baltic and North seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, and France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.
Various Germanic tribes have inhabited the northern parts of modern Germany since classical antiquity. A region named Germania was documented before AD 100. Beginning in the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century, northern German regions became the centre of the Protestant Reformation. Following the Napoleonic Wars and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the German Confederation was formed in 1815. In 1871, Germany became a nation state when most of the German states unified into the Prussian-dominated German Empire. After World War I and the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the Empire was replaced by the semi-presidential Weimar Republic. The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 led to the establishment of a dictatorship, World War II, and the Holocaust. After the end of World War II in Europe and a period of Allied occupation, two new German states were founded: the Federal Republic of Germany, generally known as West Germany, and the German Democratic Republic, East Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany was a founding member of the European Economic Community and the European Union, while the German Democratic Republic was a communist Eastern Bloc state and member of the Warsaw Pact. After the fall of communism, German reunification saw the former East German states join the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990.
Today, Germany is a federal parliamentary republic led by a chancellor. With over 83 million inhabitants of its 16 constituent states, it is the second-most populous country in Europe after Russia, as well as the most populous member state of the European Union. Its capital and largest city is Berlin, and its financial centre is Frankfurt; the largest urban area is the Ruhr.
Germany is a great power with a strong economy; it has the largest economy in Europe, the world’s fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the fifth-largest by PPP. As a global leader in several industrial, scientific and technological sectors, it is both the world’s third-largest exporter and importer of goods. As a highly developed country ranking simultaneously very high in the Human Development Index, it offers social security and a universal health care system, environmental protections, and a tuition-free university education. Germany is also a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the G20, and the OECD. Known for its long and rich cultural history, Germany has many World Heritage sites and is among the top tourism destinations in the world.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK or U.K.) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the northwestern coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the northeastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland. Otherwise, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the southwest, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The total area of the United Kingdom is 94,000 square miles (240,000 km2).
The United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the world’s longest-serving current head of state. The United Kingdom’s capital is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million.
The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers. Other major cities include Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester.
The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The union between the Kingdom of England (which included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, followed by the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK’s name was adopted in 1927 to reflect the change. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world’s landmass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture and political systems of many of its former colonies.
The United Kingdom has the world’s fifth-largest economy by nominal gross domestic product (GDP), and the ninth-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). It has a high-income economy and a very high human development index rating, ranking 15th in the world. It was the world’s first industrialised country and the world’s foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.
The United Kingdom is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It was a member of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC) from 1 January 1973 until withdrawing on 31 January 2020.
Italy (Italian: Italia [iˈtaːlja]), officially the Italian Republic (Italian: Repubblica Italiana [reˈpubːlika itaˈljaːna]), is a country consisting of a continental part, delimited by the Alps and a peninsula surrounded by several islands. Italy is located in south-central Europe, and is considered part of western Europe. A unitary parliamentary republic with Rome as its capital, the country covers a total area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial enclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in Tunisian waters (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the third-most populous member state of the European Union.
Spain (Spanish: España, [esˈpaɲa]), officially the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: Reino de España), is a country in Southwestern Europe with some pockets of territory across the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagos: the Canary Islands off the coast of North Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country’s mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean respectively.
With an area of 505,990 km2 (195,360 sq mi), Spain is the largest country in Southern Europe, the second-largest country in Western Europe and the European Union, and the fourth-largest country by area on the European continent. With a population exceeding 47.3 million, Spain is the sixth-most populous country in Europe, and the fourth-most populous country in the European Union. Spain’s capital and largest city is Madrid; other major urban areas include Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza, Málaga, and Bilbao.
Modern humans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 35,000 years ago. Iberian cultures along with ancient Phoenician, Greek, Celtic and Carthaginian settlements developed on the peninsula until it came under Roman rule around 200 BC, after which the region was named Hispania, based on the earlier Phoenician name Sp(a)n or Spania. At the end of the Western Roman Empire, Germanic tribal confederations migrated from Central Europe, invaded the Iberian peninsula and established relatively independent realms in its western provinces. One of them, the Visigoths, forcibly integrated all remaining independent territories in the peninsula, including the Byzantine province of Spania, into the Visigothic Kingdom.
In the early eighth century the Visigothic Kingdom was conquered by the Umayyad Islamic Caliphate. The Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula (al-Andalus) soon became autonomous from Baghdad. A handful of small Christian pockets in the north were left out of Muslim rule, along the presence of the Carolingian Empire near the Pyrenées, eventually led to the emergence of the Christian kingdoms of León, Castile, Aragon, Portugal and Navarre. Over seven centuries, an intermittent southwards expansion of these kingdoms (metahistorically dubbed as a reconquest: the Reconquista) culminated with the Christian seizure of the last Muslim polity (the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada) in 1492, the same year Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World. A process of political conglomeration among the Christian kingdoms also ensued, and the late 15th-century saw the dynastic union of Castile and Aragon under the Catholic Monarchs, sometimes considered to be the emergence of Spain as a unified country. The Conquest of Navarre occurred in 1512, while the Kingdom of Portugal was also ruled by the Hapsburg Dynasty between 1580 and 1640.
In the early modern period, Spain ruled one of the largest empires in history which was also one of the first global empires, spawning a large cultural and linguistic legacy that includes over 570 million Hispanophones, making Spanish the world’s second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese. Spain hosts the world’s third-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Spain is a secular parliamentary democracy and a parliamentary monarchy, with King Felipe VI as head of state. It is a highly developed country and a high income country, with the world’s fourteenth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the sixteenth-largest by PPP. It is a member of the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Eurozone, the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), the Union for the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Schengen Area, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and many other international organisations. While not an official member, Spain has a “Permanent Invitation” to the G20 summits, participating in every summit, which makes it a de facto member of the group.
Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative provinces, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of nearly 38.5 million people, Poland is the fifth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland’s capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.
Poland’s topographically diverse territory extends from the beaches along the Baltic Sea in the north to the Sudetes and Carpathian Mountains in its south. The country is bordered by Lithuania and Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast to the northeast, Belarus and Ukraine to the east, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to the south, and Germany to the west.The history of human activity on Polish soil spans thousands of years. Throughout the late antiquity period it became extensively diverse, with various cultures and tribes settling on the vast Central European Plain. However, it was the Western Polans who dominated the region and gave Poland its name. The establishment of Polish statehood can be traced to 966, when the pagan ruler of a realm coextensive with the territory of present-day Poland embraced Christianity and converted to Catholicism. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025, and in 1569 it cemented its longstanding political association with Lithuania by signing the Union of Lublin. This union formed the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest (over 1,000,000 square kilometres – 400,000 square miles) and most populous nations of 16th and 17th century Europe, with a uniquely liberal political system which adopted Europe’s first modern constitution, the Constitution of 3 May 1791.With the passing of prominence and prosperity, the country was partitioned by neighbouring states at the end of the 18th century, and regained independence in 1918 with the Treaty of Versailles. After a series of territorial conflicts, the new multi-ethnic Poland restored its position as a key player in European politics. In September 1939, World War II began with the invasion of Poland by Germany, followed by the Soviets invading Poland in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Approximately six million Polish citizens, including three million of the country’s Jews, perished during the course of the war. As a member of the Eastern Bloc, the Polish People’s Republic proclaimed forthwith was a chief signatory of the Warsaw Treaty amidst global Cold War tensions. In the wake of the 1989 events, notably through the emergence and contributions of the Solidarity movement, the communist government was dissolved and Poland re-established itself as a semi-presidential democratic republic.
Poland has a developed market and is a regional power in Central Europe, with the largest stock exchange in the East-Central European zone. It has the sixth largest economy in the European Union by nominal GDP and the fifth largest by GDP (PPP). It’s one of the most dynamic economies in the world, simultaneously achieving a very high rank on the Human Development Index. Poland is a developed country, which maintains a high-income economy along with very high standards of living, life quality, safety, education, and economic freedom. Alongside a developed educational system, the state also provides free university education, social security, and a universal health care system. The country has 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 15 of which are cultural. Poland is a member state of the Schengen Area, the United Nations, NATO, the OECD, the Three Seas Initiative and the Visegrád Group.
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It shares land borders with Bulgaria to the south, Ukraine to the north, Hungary to the west, Serbia to the southwest, and Moldova to the east and has its opening to the Black Sea. It has a predominantly temperate-continental climate. With a total area of 238,397 square kilometres (92,046 square miles), Romania is the twelfth-largest country in Europe and the seventh-most populous member state of the European Union, having approximately 19.3 million inhabitants (as of 2020). Its capital and largest city is Bucharest. Other major urban areas include Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Iași, Constanța, Craiova, Brașov, and Galați.
The River Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, rises in Germany’s Black Forest and flows in a generally southeasterly direction for 2,857 km (1,775 mi), coursing through ten countries before emptying into Romania’s Danube Delta. The Carpathian Mountains, which cross Romania from the north to the southwest, include Moldoveanu Peak, at an altitude of 2,544 m (8,346 ft).Modern Romania was formed in 1859 through a personal union of the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. The new state, officially named Romania since 1866, gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. Following the outbreak of World War I, after declaring its neutrality in 1914, Romania fought on the side of the Allied Powers beginning in 1916. Afterwards Bukovina, Bessarabia, Transylvania as well as parts of Banat, Crișana, and Maramureș became part of the sovereign Kingdom of Romania. In June–August 1940, as a consequence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and Second Vienna Award, Romania was compelled to cede Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union, and Northern Transylvania to Hungary. In November 1940, Romania signed the Tripartite Pact and, consequently, in June 1941 entered World War II on the Axis side, fighting against the Soviet Union until August 1944, when it joined the Allies and recovered Northern Transylvania. Following the war, under the occupation of the Red Army’s forces, Romania became a socialist republic and a member of the Warsaw Pact. After the 1989 Revolution, Romania began a transition towards democracy and a market economy.
Romania ranks 52nd in the Human Development Index, and is a developing country with a high-income economy. It has the world’s 45th largest economy by nominal GDP, with an annual economic growth rate of 3.5% as of 2020. Following rapid economic growth in the early 2000s, Romania has an economy based predominantly on services and is a producer and net exporter of machines and electric energy, featuring companies like Automobile Dacia and OMV Petrom. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1955, part of NATO since 2004, and part of the European Union since 2007. The vast majority of the population identifies as ethnic Romanian and Eastern Orthodox Christian and are native speakers of Romanian, a Romance language.
Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,689 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.5 million, making it the 22nd most densely populated country in the world and the 6th most densely populated country in Europe, with a density of 376 per square kilometre (970/sq mi). The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liège, Bruges, Namur, and Leuven.
Legally, Belgium is a sovereign state and a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Its institutional organization is complex and is structured on both regional and linguistic grounds. It is divided into three highly autonomous regions: Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south, and the Brussels-Capital Region. Brussels is the smallest and most densely populated region, as well as the richest region in terms of GDP per capita.
Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups or communities: the Dutch-speaking Flemish Community, which constitutes about 60 percent of the population, and the French-speaking Community, which comprises about 40 percent of all Belgians. A small German-speaking Community, numbering around one percent, exists in the East Cantons. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual (French and Dutch), although French is the dominant language. Belgium’s linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its political history and complex system of governance, made up of six different governments.
Historically, Belgium is part of an area known as the Low Countries, a somewhat larger region than the current Benelux group of states that also included parts of northern France and western Germany. Its modern name is derived from the Latin word Belgium, used in Julius Caesar’s “Gallic Wars”, to describe the region in the period around 55 BCE. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan center of commerce and culture. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, earning the moniker the “Battlefield of Europe”, a reputation strengthened by both world wars. The country emerged in 1830 following the Belgian Revolution, when it seceded from the Netherlands.
Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa. The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens fueled by differences in language and culture and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993. Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups have remained, if not increased; there is significant separatism particularly among the Flemish; controversial language laws exist such as the municipalities with language facilities; and the formation of a coalition government took 18 months following the June 2010 federal election, a world record. Unemployment in Wallonia is more than double that of Flanders, which boomed after the war.Belgium is one of the six founding countries of the European Union and its capital, Brussels, hosts the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, as well as one of two seats of the European Parliament (the other being Strasbourg). Belgium is also a founding member of the Eurozone, NATO, OECD, and WTO, and a part of the trilateral Benelux Union and the Schengen Area. Brussels hosts the headquarters of many major international organizations such as NATO.Belgium is a developed country, with an advanced high-income economy. It has very high standards of living, quality of life, healthcare, education, and is categorized as “very high” in the Human Development Index. It also ranks as one of the safest or most peaceful countries in the world.
The Czech Republic, also called by its short-form name, Czechia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe bordered by Austria, Germany, Poland and Slovakia. The Czech Republic has hilly landscape that covers an area of 78,866 square kilometers (30,450 sq mi) with a mostly temperate continental climate and oceanic climate. It is a unitary parliamentary republic.
The Duchy of Bohemia under Great Moravia in 1002 was formally recognized as an Imperial State of the Holy Roman Empire and became a kingdom in 1198. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the whole Crown of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy. The Protestant Bohemian Revolt led to the Thirty Years’ War. After the Battle of the White Mountain, the Habsburgs consolidated their rule. With the dissolution of the Holy Empire in 1806, the Crown lands became part of the Austrian Empire.
In the 19th century, the Czech lands became more industrialized and were part of the First Czechoslovak Republic following the collapse of the Austria-Hungary after World War I. After the Munich Agreement in 1938, Nazi Germany systematically took control over the Czech lands. Czechoslovakia was restored in 1945 until 1 January 1993 when it dissolved with its constituent states becoming the independent states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czech Republic is a member of NATO, EU, OECD, OSCE and CoE.
The Czech Republic is a developed country with an advanced, high income social market economy. It is a welfare state with a European social model, universal health care and tuition-free university education. It ranks 13th in the UN inequality-adjusted human development and 14th in the World Bank Human Capital Index ahead of countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and France. It ranks as the 11th safest and most peaceful country and 32nd in democratic governance.
Greece is a country located on the continent of Europe. The people here are called Unani or Yavan. They are called Greek in English and other Western languages. People living here call their country “Ellas”. It is a group of islands located northeast of the Mediterranean Sea. Ancient Greeks migrated from this island to many other areas where they still exist as a minority, such as Turkey, Egypt, Western Europe etc.Athens, also known as Athena, is the capital and largest city of the European country Greece. It is one of the oldest cities in the world.
Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located on the Iberian Peninsula, in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe, being bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments. The official and national language is Portuguese.
Portugal is the oldest nation state on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the oldest in Europe, its territory having been continuously settled, invaded and fought over since prehistoric times. It was inhabited by pre-Celtic and Celtic peoples, visited by Phoenicians-Carthaginians, Ancient Greeks and ruled by the Romans, who were followed by the invasions of the Suebi and Visigothic Germanic peoples. After the Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, most of its territory was part of Al-Andalus. Portugal as a country was established during the early Christian Reconquista. Founded in 868, the County of Portugal gained prominence after the Battle of São Mamede (1128). The Kingdom of Portugal was later proclaimed following the Battle of Ourique (1139), and independence from León was recognized by the Treaty of Zamora (1143).In the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal established the first global maritime and commercial empire, becoming one of the world’s major economic, political and military powers. During this period, today referred to as the Age of Discovery, Portuguese explorers pioneered maritime exploration with the discovery of what would become Brazil (1500). During this time Portugal monopolized the spice trade, divided the world into hemispheres of dominion with Castile, and the empire expanded with military campaigns in Asia. However, events such as the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the country’s occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, and the independence of Brazil (1822) erased to a great extent Portugal’s prior opulence.After the 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy, the democratic but unstable Portuguese First Republic was established, later being superseded by the Estado Novo authoritarian regime. Democracy was restored after the Carnation Revolution (1974), ending the Portuguese Colonial War. Shortly after, independence was granted to almost all its overseas territories. The handover of Macau to China (1999) marked the end of what can be considered one of the longest-lived colonial empires.
Portugal has left a profound cultural, architectural and linguistic influence across the globe, with a legacy of around 250 million Portuguese speakers, and many Portuguese-based creoles. It is a developed country with an advanced economy and high living standards. Additionally, it is highly placed in rankings of moral freedom (2nd), peacefulness (3rd), democracy (7th), press freedom (10th), stability (15th), social progress (18th), and prosperity (26th). A member of the United Nations, the European Union, the Schengen Area and the Council of Europe (CoE), Portugal was also one of the founding members of NATO, the eurozone, the OECD, and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.
Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north, Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund Strait. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. The capital city is Stockholm. Sweden has a total population of 10.3 million of which 2.6 million have a foreign background. Persons with foreign backgrounds are defined as persons who are foreign born, or born in Sweden with foreign born parents. It has a low population density of 25 inhabitants per square kilometre (65/sq mi), with 1 437 persons per km2 in localities. 87% of Swedes live in urban areas, which cover 1.5% of the entire land area. The highest concentration is in the central and southern half of the country.
Sweden is part of the geographical area of Fennoscandia. The climate is in general mild for its northerly latitude due to significant maritime influence. In spite of the high latitude, Sweden often has warm continental summers, being located in between the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea and the vast Eurasian Russian landmass. The general climate and environment vary significantly from the south and north due to the vast latitudal difference, and much of Sweden has reliably cold and snowy winters. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, while the north is heavily forested and includes a portion of the Scandinavian Mountains.
Germanic peoples have inhabited Sweden since prehistoric times, emerging into history as the Geats (Swedish Götar) and Swedes (Svear) and constituting the sea peoples known as the Norsemen. An independent Swedish state emerged during the early 12th century. After the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century killed about a third of the Scandinavian population, the Hanseatic League threatened Scandinavia’s culture, finances and languages. This led to the forming of the Scandinavian Kalmar Union in 1397, which Sweden left in 1523. When Sweden became involved in the Thirty Years War on the Reformist side, an expansion of its territories began and eventually the Swedish Empire was formed. This became one of the great powers of Europe until the early 18th century. Swedish territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were gradually lost during the 18th and 19th centuries, ending with the annexation of present-day Finland by Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814, when Norway was militarily forced into a personal union, which peacefully dissolved in 1905. Since then, Sweden has been at peace, maintaining an official policy of neutrality in foreign affairs. In 2014, Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace, breaking even Switzerland’s record for peace. Sweden was formally neutral through both world wars and the Cold War, albeit Sweden has since 2009 openly moved towards cooperation with NATO.
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy, with legislative power vested in the 349-member unicameral Riksdag. It is a unitary state, currently divided into 21 counties and 290 municipalities. Sweden maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. It has the world’s eleventh-highest per capita income and ranks very highly in quality of life, health, education, protection of civil liberties, economic competitiveness, income equality, gender equality, prosperity and human development. Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995, but has rejected NATO membership, as well as Eurozone membership following a referendum. It is also a member of the United Nations, the Nordic Council, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Hungary is a country in Central Europe. Spanning 93,030 square kilometres (35,920 sq mi) in the Carpathian Basin, it borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Romania to the east and southeast, Serbia to the south, Croatia and Slovenia to the southwest, and Austria to the west. With about 10 million inhabitants, Hungary is a medium-sized member state of the European Union. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken Uralic language in the world, and among the few non-Indo-European languages to be widely spoken in Europe. Hungary’s capital and largest city is Budapest; other major urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs, and Győr.
The territory of present Hungary was for centuries inhabited by a succession of peoples, including Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, Huns, West Slavs and the Avars. The foundations of the Hungarian state were established in the late ninth century AD by the Hungarian grand prince Árpád following the conquest of the Carpathian Basin. His great-grandson Stephen I ascended the throne in 1000, converting his realm to a Christian kingdom. By the 12th century, Hungary became a regional power, reaching its cultural and political height in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Hungary was partially occupied by the Ottoman Empire (1541–1699). The country came under Habsburg rule entirely at the turn of the 18th century, and later joined Austria to form the Austro–Hungarian Empire, a major European power.The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed after World War I, and the subsequent Treaty of Trianon established Hungary’s current borders, resulting in the loss of 71% of its territory, 58% of its population, and 32% of ethnic Hungarians. Following the tumultuous interwar period, Hungary joined the Axis Powers in World War II, suffering significant damage and casualties. Postwar Hungary became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, which contributed to the establishment of a socialist republic spanning four decades (1949–1989). Following the failed 1956 revolution against the Soviet-backed government, Hungary became a comparatively freer, though still repressive, member of the Eastern Bloc. The seminal opening of the previously-restricted border with Austria in 1989 accelerated the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, and subsequently the Soviet Union. On 23 October 1989, Hungary became a democratic parliamentary republic.Hungary is an OECD high-income economy, and has the world’s 54th-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the 53rd-largest by PPP. It ranks 45th on the Human Development Index, due in large part to its social security system, universal health care, and tuition-free secondary education. Hungary’s rich cultural history includes significant contributions to the arts, music, literature, sports, science and technology. It is the thirteenth-most popular tourist destination in Europe, drawing 15.8 million international tourists in 2017, owing to attractions such as the largest thermal water cave system in the world, second largest thermal lake, the largest lake in Central Europe and the largest natural grasslands in Europe.Hungary’s cultural, historical, and academic prominence classify it as a middle power in global affairs. Hungary joined the European Union in 2004 and has been part of the Schengen Area since 2007. It is a member of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations, NATO, WTO, World Bank, IIB, the AIIB, the Council of Europe, and the Visegrád Group.
Belarus, officially the Republic of Belarus and formerly known as Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested. Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including Kievan Rus’, the Principality of Polotsk (11th to 14th centuries), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.
In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, different states arose competing for legitimacy amidst the Civil War, ultimately ending in the rise of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorussian SSR) which became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1922. Belarus lost almost half of its territory to Poland after the Polish–Soviet War (1919–1921). Much of the borders of Belarus took their modern shape in 1939, when some lands of the Second Polish Republic were reintegrated into it after the Soviet invasion of Poland, and were finalized after World War II. During WWII, military operations devastated Belarus, which lost about a quarter of its population and half of its economic resources. The republic was redeveloped in the post-war years. In 1945, the Byelorussian SSR became a founding member of the United Nations, along with the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR. The parliament of the republic proclaimed the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990, and during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 25 August 1991. In 2000, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty for greater cooperation, forming the Union State.
Alexander Lukashenko has served as the country’s first president since 1994. Belarus has been labeled “Europe’s last dictatorship”, on account of the country’s poor human rights record and Lukashenko’s authoritarian government. Lukashenko continued a number of Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of large sections of the economy. Elections under Lukashenko’s rule have been widely criticized as unfair and political opposition has been violently suppressed. Belarus is also the only country in Europe officially using the death penalty.Over 70% of Belarus’s population of 9.49 million resides in urban areas. More than 80% of the population is ethnic Belarusian, with sizable minorities of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians. Since a referendum in 1995, the country has had two official languages: Belarusian and Russian. The Constitution of Belarus does not declare any official religion, although the primary religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The second-most widespread religion, Roman Catholicism, has a much smaller following; nevertheless, Belarus celebrates both the Orthodox and the Catholic dates for Christmas and Easter as national holidays.Belarus has been a member of the United Nations since its founding; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, CSTO, EEU, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Belarus has shown no aspirations for joining the European Union but nevertheless maintains a bilateral relationship with the Union, and likewise participates in two EU projects: the Eastern Partnership and the Baku Initiative.
Serbia (Serbian: Србија, romanized: Srbija, pronounced [sř̩bija]), officially the Republic of Serbia (Serbian: Република Србија, romanized: Republika Srbija, pronounced [repǔblika sř̩bija]), is a landlocked country situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe in the southern Pannonian Plain and the central Balkans. It borders Hungary to the north, Romania to the northeast, Bulgaria to the southeast, North Macedonia to the south, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the west, and Montenegro to the southwest. The country claims a border with Albania through the disputed territory of Kosovo. Serbia’s population numbers approximately seven million. Its capital, Belgrade, ranks among the largest and oldest citiеs in southeastern Europe.Continuously inhabited since the Paleolithic Age, the territory of modern-day Serbia faced Slavic migrations to Southeastern Europe in the 6th century, establishing several regional states in the early Middle Ages at times recognised as tributaries to the Byzantine, Frankish and Hungarian kingdoms. The Serbian Kingdom obtained recognition by the Holy See and Constantinople in 1217, reaching its territorial apex in 1346 as the relatively short-lived Serbian Empire. By the mid-16th century, the Ottomans annexed the entirety of modern-day Serbia; their rule was at times interrupted by the Habsburg Empire, which began expanding towards Central Serbia from the end of the 17th century while maintaining a foothold in Vojvodina. In the early 19th century, the Serbian Revolution established the nation-state as the region’s first constitutional monarchy, which subsequently expanded its territory. Following disastrous casualties in World War I, and the subsequent unification of the former Habsburg crownland of Vojvodina (and other lands) with Serbia, the country co-founded Yugoslavia with other South Slavic nations, which would exist in various political formations until the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbia formed a union with Montenegro, which was peacefully dissolved in 2006, restoring Serbia’s independence as a sovereign state for the first time since 1918. In 2008, the parliament of the province of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, with mixed responses from the international community. Serbia is one of the European countries with high numbers of registered national minorities.A unitary parliamentary constitutional republic, Serbia is a member of the UN, CoE, OSCE, PfP, BSEC, CEFTA, and is acceding to the WTO. Since 2014, the country has been negotiating its EU accession with the perspective of joining the European Union by 2025. Since 2007, Serbia formally adheres to the policy of military neutrality. The country provides social security, universal health care system, and a free primary and secondary education to its citizens. An upper-middle-income economy with a dominant service sector, the country ranks relatively high on the Human Development Index (63rd) and Social Progress Index (45th) as well as the Global Peace Index (50th).
Bulgaria ( Bulgarian: България, romanized: Balgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgarian: Република България, romanized: Republika Balgariya, IPA: [rɛˈpublikɐ bɐɫˈɡarijɐ]), is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. The capital and largest city is Sofia; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe’s sixteenth-largest country.
One of the earliest societies in the lands of modern-day Bulgaria was the Neolithic Karanovo and Varna cultures, which dates back to 6,500 BC and 4,400 BC respectively. In the 6th to 3rd century BC the region was a battleground for ancient Thracians, Greeks, Persians, Celts, Macedonians and Scythians; stability came when the Roman Empire conquered the region in AD 45. The Eastern Roman Empire lost some of these territories to the numerous early Slavs. In the 7th century those territories were invaded by Bulgars from Old Great Bulgaria. In AD 680, leaded by Asparuh, they successfully attacked from the adjacent to the north Bulgar territories, named Ongal, allied with the local Slavs and founded there the First Bulgarian Empire in AD 681. It dominated most of the Balkans and significantly influenced Slavic cultures by developing the Cyrillic script. This state lasted until the early 11th century, when Byzantine emperor Basil II conquered and dismantled it. A successful Bulgarian revolt in 1185 established a Second Bulgarian Empire, which reached its apex under Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria (1218–1241). After numerous exhausting wars and feudal strife, the empire disintegrated in 1396 and fell under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries.
The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 resulted in the formation of the third and current Bulgarian state. Many ethnic Bulgarians were left outside the new nation’s borders, which stoked irredentist sentiments that led to several conflicts with its neighbours and alliances with Germany in both world wars. In 1946 Bulgaria came under the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc and became a one-party socialist state. The ruling Communist Party gave up its monopoly on power after the revolutions of 1989 and allowed multiparty elections. Bulgaria then transitioned into a democracy and a market-based economy. Since adopting a democratic constitution in 1991, Bulgaria has been a unitary parliamentary republic composed of 28 provinces, with a high degree of political, administrative, and economic centralisation.
Bulgaria is a member of the European Union, NATO, and the Council of Europe; it is a founding state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and has taken a seat on the United Nations Security Council three times. Its market economy is part of the European Single Market and mostly relies on services, followed by industry—especially machine building and mining—and agriculture. Bulgaria is a developing country with an upper-middle-income economy, very high Human Development Index; although it has the lowest GDP per capita and joint-lowest Human Development Index in the European Union. Widespread corruption is a major socioeconomic issue; Bulgaria ranked as the most corrupt country in the European Union in 2018. The country also faces a demographic crisis, with its population shrinking annually since the late 1980s; it currently numbers roughly seven million, down from a peak of nearly nine million in 1988.
Denmark, officially the Kingdom of Denmark, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. Denmark proper, which is the southernmost of the Scandinavian countries, consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and an archipelago of 443 named islands, with the largest being Zealand, Funen and the North Jutlandic Island. The islands are characterised by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and a temperate climate. Denmark lies southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and is bordered to the south by Germany. The Kingdom of Denmark is constitutionally a unitary state comprising Denmark proper and the two autonomous territories in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark has a total area of 42,943 km2 (16,580 sq mi) as of 2020, and the total area including Greenland and the Faroe Islands is 2,210,579 km2 (853,509 sq mi). Denmark proper has a population of 5.83 million (as of 2020).The unified kingdom of Denmark emerged in the 8th century as a proficient seafaring nation in the struggle for control of the Baltic Sea. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were ruled together under one sovereign ruler in the Kalmar Union, established in 1397 and ending with Swedish secession in 1523. The areas of Denmark and Norway remained under the same monarch until 1814, Denmark–Norway. Beginning in the 17th century, there were several devastating wars with the Swedish Empire, ending with large cessions of territory to Sweden. After the Napoleonic Wars, Norway was ceded to Sweden, while Denmark kept the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. In the 19th century there was a surge of nationalist movements, which were defeated in the First Schleswig War. After the Second Schleswig War in 1864, Denmark lost the Duchy of Schleswig to Prussia. Denmark remained neutral during World War I; however, in 1920 the northern half of Schleswig became Danish again. In April 1940, a German invasion saw brief military skirmishes while the Danish resistance movement was active from 1943 until the German surrender in May 1945. An industrialised exporter of agricultural produce in the second half of the 19th century, Denmark introduced social and labour-market reforms in the early 20th century that created the basis for the present welfare state model with a highly developed mixed economy.
The Constitution of Denmark was signed on 5 June 1849, ending the absolute monarchy, which had begun in 1660. It establishes a constitutional monarchy organised as a parliamentary democracy. The government and national parliament are seated in Copenhagen, the nation’s capital, largest city, and main commercial centre. Denmark exercises hegemonic influence in the Danish Realm, devolving powers to handle internal affairs. Home rule was established in the Faroe Islands
in 1948; in Greenland home rule was established in 1979 and further autonomy in 2009. Denmark became a member of the European Economic Community (now the EU) in 1973, but negotiated certain opt-outs; it retains its own currency, the krone. It is among the founding members of NATO, the Nordic Council, the OECD, OSCE, and the United Nations; it is also part of the Schengen Area. Denmark has close ties to its Scandinavian neighbours also linguistically, with the Danish language being partially mutually intelligible with both Norwegian and Swedish.
Denmark is considered to be one of the most economically and socially developed countries in the world. Danes enjoy a high standard of living and the country ranks highly in some metrics of national performance, including education, health care, protection of civil liberties, democratic governance, LGBT equality, prosperity, and human development. The country ranks as having the world’s highest social mobility, a high level of income equality, the lowest perceived level of corruption in the world, the eleventh-highest HDI in the world, one of the world’s highest per capita incomes, and one of the world’s highest personal income tax rates.
Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe whose mainland territory comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; Mainland Norway and the remote island of Jan Mayen as well as the archipelago of Svalbard form Metropolitan Norway. Bouvet Island, located in the Subantarctic, is a dependency of the Kingdom of Norway. Norway also lays claims to the Antarctic territories of Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land.
Norway has a total area of 385,207 square kilometres (148,729 sq mi) and a population of 5,312,300 (as of August 2018). The country shares a long eastern border with Sweden (1,619 km or 1,006 mi long). Norway is bordered by Finland and Russia to the north-east, and the Skagerrak strait to the south, with Denmark on the other side. Norway has an extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea. The maritime influence also dominates Norway’s climate with mild lowland temperatures on the sea coasts, whereas the interior, while colder, is also a lot milder than areas elsewhere in the world on such northerly latitudes. Even during polar night in the north, temperatures above freezing are commonplace on the coastline. The maritime influence brings high rainfall and snowfall to some areas of the country.
Harald V of the House of Glücksburg is the current King of Norway. Erna Solberg has been prime minister since 2013 when she replaced Jens Stoltenberg. As a unitary sovereign state with a constitutional monarchy, Norway divides state power between the parliament, the cabinet and the supreme court, as determined by the 1814 constitution. The kingdom was established in 872 as a merger of many petty kingdoms and has existed continuously for 1,148 years. From 1537 to 1814, Norway was a part of the Kingdom of Denmark–Norway, and from 1814 to 1905, it was in a personal union with the Kingdom of Sweden. Norway was neutral during the First World War. Norway remained neutral until April 1940 when the country was invaded and occupied by Germany until the end of Second World War.
Norway has both administrative and political subdivisions on two levels: counties and municipalities. The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act. Norway maintains close ties with both the European Union and the United States. Norway is also a founding member of the United Nations, NATO, the European Free Trade Association, the Council of Europe, the Antarctic Treaty, and the Nordic Council; a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO, and the OECD; and a part of the Schengen Area. In addition, the Norwegian languages share mutual intelligibility with Danish and Swedish.
Norway maintains the Nordic welfare model with universal health care and a comprehensive social security system, and its values are rooted in egalitarian ideals. The Norwegian state has large ownership positions in key industrial sectors, having extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, and fresh water. The petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). On a per-capita basis, Norway is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas outside of the Middle East.The country has the fourth-highest per-capita income in the world on the World Bank and IMF lists. On the CIA’s GDP (PPP) per capita list (2015 estimate) which includes autonomous territories and regions, Norway ranks as number eleven. It has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, with a value of US$1 trillion. Norway has had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world since 2009, a position also held previously between 2001 and 2006; it also has the highest inequality-adjusted ranking per 2018. Norway ranked first on the World Happiness Report for 2017 and currently ranks first on the OECD Better Life Index, the Index of Public Integrity, and the Democracy Index. Norway also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George’s Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.Geopolitically, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland (officially named Ireland), which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In 2011, the population of Ireland was about 6.6 million, ranking it the second-most populous island in Europe after Great Britain. As of 2016, 4.8 million live in the Republic of Ireland, and 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.The geography of Ireland comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. Its lush vegetation is a product of its mild but changeable climate which is free of extremes in temperature. Much of Ireland was woodland until the end of the Middle Ages. Today, woodland makes up about 10% of the island, compared with a European average of over 33%, and most of it is non-native conifer plantations. There are twenty-six extant land mammal species native to Ireland. The Irish climate is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and thus very moderate, and winters are milder than expected for such a northerly area, although summers are cooler than those in continental Europe. Rainfall and cloud cover are abundant.
The earliest evidence of human presence in Ireland is dated at 10,500 BC. Gaelic Ireland had emerged by the 1st century AD. The island was Christianised from the 5th century onward. Following the 12th century Anglo-Norman invasion, England claimed sovereignty. However, English rule did not extend over the whole island until the 16th–17th century Tudor conquest, which led to colonisation by settlers from Britain. In the 1690s, a system of Protestant English rule was designed to materially disadvantage the Catholic majority and Protestant dissenters, and was extended during the 18th century. With the Acts of Union in 1801, Ireland became a part of the United Kingdom. A war of independence in the early 20th century was followed by the partition of the island, creating the Irish Free State, which became increasingly sovereign over the following decades, and Northern Ireland, which remained a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland saw much civil unrest from the late 1960s until the 1990s. This subsided following a political agreement in 1998. In 1973 the Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community while the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland, as part of it, did the same.
Irish culture has had a significant influence on other cultures, especially in the field of literature. Alongside mainstream Western culture, a strong indigenous culture exists, as expressed through Gaelic games, Irish music and the Irish language. The island’s culture shares many features with that of Great Britain, including the English language, and sports such as association football, rugby, horse racing, and golf.
Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia, is a country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe on the Adriatic Sea. It borders Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to the southeast, and it shares a maritime border with Italy. Its capital and largest city, Zagreb, forms one of the country’s primary subdivisions, along with twenty counties. Croatia has an area of 56,594 square kilometres (21,851 square miles) and a population of 4.07 million.
The Croats arrived in the area in the 6th century and organised the territory into two duchies by the 9th century. Croatia was first internationally recognized as an independent state on 7 June 879 during the reign of Duke Branimir. Tomislav became the first king by 925, elevating Croatia to the status of a kingdom. During the succession crisis after the Trpimirović dynasty ended, Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary in 1102. In 1527, faced with Ottoman conquest, the Croatian Parliament elected Ferdinand I of Austria to the Croatian throne. In October 1918, the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, independent from Austria-Hungary, was proclaimed in Zagreb, and in December 1918 it was merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, most of the Croatian territory was incorporated into a Nazi installed puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia. A resistance movement led to the creation of the Federal State of Croatia, which after the war became a founding member and constituent of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 25 June 1991, Croatia declared independence and the Croatian War of Independence was fought for four years following the declaration.
A sovereign state, Croatia is a republic governed under a parliamentary system. It is a member of the European Union, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the World Trade Organization and is a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean. As an active participant in UN peacekeeping forces, Croatia has contributed troops to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and took a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008–2009 term. Since 2000, the Croatian government has constantly invested in infrastructure, especially transport routes and facilities along the Pan-European corridors.
Croatia is classified by the World Bank as a high-income economy and ranks very high on the Human Development Index. The economy is dominated by the service and industrial sectors and agriculture. Tourism is a significant source of revenue, with Croatia ranked among the 20 most popular tourist destinations in the world. The state controls a part of the economy, with substantial government expenditure. The European Union is Croatia’s most important trading partner. Croatia provides social security, universal health care, and tuition-free primary and secondary education, while supporting culture through numerous public institutions and corporate investments in media and publishing.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina, abbreviated BiH or B&H, sometimes called Bosnia–Herzegovina and often known informally as Bosnia, is a country in South and Southeast Europe, located within the Balkans. Sarajevo is the capital and largest city.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is bordered by Serbia to the east, Montenegro to the southeast, and Croatia to the north and southwest. It is not entirely landlocked; to the south it has a narrow coast on the Adriatic Sea, which is about 20 kilometres (12 miles) long and surrounds the town of Neum. The inland Bosnia region has a moderate continental climate, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters. In the central and eastern interior of the country the geography is mountainous, in the northwest moderately hilly, and in the northeast predominantly flatland. The smaller southern region, Herzegovina, has a Mediterranean climate and mostly mountainous topography.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been settled since at least the Upper Paleolithic but permanent human settlement traces back to the Neolithic age, during which time it was inhabited by cultures such as Butmir, Kakanj, and Vučedol. After the arrival of the first Indo-Europeans, it was populated by several Illyrian and Celtic civilizations. Culturally, politically, and socially, the country has a rich but complex history, having been first settled by the South Slavic peoples that populate the area today from the 6th through to the 9th centuries. In the 12th century the Banate of Bosnia was established, which evolved into the Kingdom of Bosnia in the 14th century, after which it was annexed into the Ottoman Empire, under whose rule it remained from the mid-15th to the late 19th centuries. The Ottomans brought Islam to the region, and altered much of the cultural and social outlook of the country. This was followed by annexation into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, which lasted up until World War I. In the interwar period, Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and after World War II, it was granted full republic status in the newly formed Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the republic proclaimed independence in 1992, which was followed by the Bosnian War, lasting until late 1995 and culminating with the Dayton Agreement.
The country is home to three main ethnic groups or, officially, constituent peoples, as specified in the constitution. Bosniaks are the largest group of the three, with Serbs second, and Croats third. A native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of ethnicity, is usually identified in English as a Bosnian. Minorities, defined under the constitutional nomenclature “Others”, include Jews, Roma, Ukrainians, and Turks. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a bicameral legislature and a three-member Presidency composed of a member of each major ethnic group. However, the central government’s power is highly limited, as the country is largely decentralized and comprises two autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, with a third unit, the Brčko District, governed under local government. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of 10 cantons.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a developing country and ranks highly in terms of human development. Its economy is dominated by the industry and agriculture sectors, followed by the tourism and service sectors, the former of which has seen a significant rise in recent years. The country has a social security and universal healthcare system, and primary- and secondary-level education is tuition-free. It is a member of the UN, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, PfP, Central European Free Trade Agreement, and a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean upon its establishment in July 2008. The country is an applicant for membership to the European Union and has been a candidate for NATO membership since April 2010, when it received a Membership Action Plan.
Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a great country in the Baltic region of Europe. Lithuania is one of the Baltic states. Situated on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the southeast of Sweden and Denmark, Lithuania is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2019. The capital and largest city is Vilnius and other major cities are Kaunas and Klaipėda. Lithuanians are Balts. The official language, Lithuanian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family, the other being Latvian.
For centuries, the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea were inhabited by various Baltic tribes. In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas and the Kingdom of Lithuania was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe; present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were the territories of the Grand Duchy. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state personal union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighbouring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772 to 1795, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania’s territory.
As World War I neared its end, Lithuania’s Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the founding of the modern Republic of Lithuania. During the Second World War, Lithuania was first occupied by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On 11 March 1990, a year before the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Baltic state to proclaim its independence, resulting in the restoration of the independent State of Lithuania.Lithuania is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy, a very high Human Development Index, also a very high standard of living and favourable performance in metrics of civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance and peacefulness. Lithuania is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, eurozone, Schengen Agreement, NATO and OECD. It is also a member of the Nordic Investment Bank and participates in the Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries.
North Macedonia (Macedonia until February 2019), officially the Republic of North Macedonia, is a country in Southeast Europe. It gained independence in 1991 as one of the successor states of Yugoslavia. North Macedonia is a landlocked country bordering with Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west. It constitutes approximately the northern third of the larger geographical region of Macedonia. Skopje, the capital and largest city, is home to a quarter of the country’s 2.06 million population. The majority of the residents are ethnic Macedonians, a South Slavic people. Albanians form a significant minority at around 25%, followed by Turks, Romani, Serbs, Bosniaks, and Aromanians.
The history of the region begins with the kingdom of Paeonia, a mixed Thraco-Illyrian polity. In the late sixth century BC, the area was subjugated by the Persian Achaemenid Empire, then incorporated into the kingdom of Macedonia in the fourth century BC. The Romans conquered the region in the second century BC and made it part of the larger province of Macedonia. The area remained part of the Byzantine Empire, but was often raided and settled by Slavic tribes beginning in the sixth century of the Christian era. Following centuries of contention between the Bulgarian, Byzantine, and Serbian Empire, it was part of the Ottoman dominion from the mid-14th until the early 20th century, when, following the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, the modern territory of North Macedonia came under Serbian rule.
During the First World War, it was ruled by Bulgaria, but after the end of the war it returned to being under Serbian rule as part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. During the Second World War, it was ruled by Bulgaria again and in 1945 it was established as a constituent state of communist Yugoslavia, which it remained until its peaceful secession in 1991. The country became a member of the United Nations in April 1993, but as a result of a dispute with Greece over the name “Macedonia”, it was admitted under the provisional description “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (abbreviated as “FYR Macedonia” or “FYROM”). In June 2018, Macedonia and Greece resolved the dispute with an agreement that the country should rename itself “Republic of North Macedonia”. This renaming came into effect in February 2019.
A unitary parliamentary constitutional republic, North Macedonia is a member of the UN, NATO, the Council of Europe, the World Bank, OSCE, CEFTA, and the WTO. Since 2005, it has also been a candidate for joining the European Union. North Macedonia is an upper-middle-income country and has undergone considerable economic reform since independence in developing an open economy. North Macedonia is a developing country, ranking 82nd on the Human Development Index, and provides a social security, universal health care system, and free primary and secondary education to its citizens.
Slovenia, officially the Republic of Slovenia, is a country located in Central Europe at the crossroads of main European cultural and trade routes.
It is bordered by Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the northeast, Croatia to the southeast, and the Adriatic Sea to the southwest. Slovenia covers 20,271 square kilometers (7,827 sq mi) and has a population of 2.095 million. One of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is now a parliamentary republic and member nation of the European Union, United Nations, and NATO. The capital and largest city is Ljubljana.Slovenia has a mostly mountainous terrain with a mainly continental climate, with the exception of the Slovene Littoral, which has a sub-Mediterranean climate, and of the Julian Alps in the northwest, which have an Alpine climate. Additionally, the Dinaric Alps and the Pannonian Plain meet on the territory of Slovenia. The country, marked by significant biological diversity, is one of the most water-rich in Europe, with a dense river network, a rich aquifer system, and significant karst underground watercourses. Over half of the territory is covered by forest. The human settlement of Slovenia is dispersed and uneven.Slovenia has historically been the crossroads of Slavic, Germanic, and Romance languages and cultures. Ethnic Slovenes make up more than 80% of the population. The South Slavic language Slovene is the official language throughout the country. Slovenia is a largely secularized country, but Catholicism and Lutheranism have significantly influenced its culture and identity. The economy of Slovenia is small, open and export-oriented and is thus strongly influenced by the conditions of its exporting partners’ economies. This is especially true with Germany, Slovenia’s biggest trade partner. Like most of the developed world, Slovenia was severely hurt by the Eurozone crisis beginning in 2009, but started to recover in 2014. The main economic driver for the country is the services industry, followed by manufacturing and construction.Historically, the territory of Slovenia has formed part of many different states, such as: the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Carolingian Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, the Republic of Venice, the Illyrian Provinces of the First French Empire, the Austrian Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire. In October 1918, the Slovenes exercised self-determination for the first time by co-founding the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. In December 1918 they merged with the Kingdom of Serbia into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929).
During World War II (1939–1945) Germany, Italy, and Hungary occupied and annexed the territories included in today’s Slovenia (1941–1945), with a tiny area transferred to the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi puppet state. In 1945 Slovenia became a founding member of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, renamed in 1963 as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In the first years after World War II this state was initially allied with the Eastern Bloc, but because of the Tito-Stalin split in 1948 it never subscribed to the Warsaw Pact and in 1961 became one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement.In June 1991, after the introduction of multi-party representative democracy, Slovenia became the first republic that split from Yugoslavia and became an independent sovereign state. In 2004, it entered NATO and the European Union; in 2007 became the first formerly communist country to join the Eurozone; and in 2010 it joined the OECD, a global association of high-income developed countries. Slovenia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy and a very high Human Development Index. It ranks 12th in the inequality-adjusted human development index.
Latvia, officially known as the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since Latvia’s independence in 1918, it has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). Its capital and largest city is Riga; other notable major cities in Latvia are Daugavpils, Liepāja, Jelgava and Jūrmala. The country has a temperate seasonal climate. The Baltic Sea moderates the climate, although the country has four distinct seasons and snowy winters.
After centuries of Swedish, Polish and Russian rule, a rule mainly executed by the Baltic German aristocracy, the Republic of Latvia was established on 18 November 1918 when it broke away from the Russian Empire and declared independence in the aftermath of World War I. However, by the 1930s the country became increasingly autocratic after the coup in 1934 establishing an authoritarian regime under Kārlis Ulmanis. The country’s de facto independence was interrupted at the outset of World War II, beginning with Latvia’s forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union, followed by the invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany in 1941, and the re-occupation by the Soviets in 1944 (Courland Pocket in 1945) to form the Latvian SSR for the next 45 years.
The peaceful Singing Revolution, starting in 1987, called for Baltic emancipation from Soviet rule and condemning the Communist regime’s illegal takeover. It ended with the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia on 4 May 1990 and restoring de facto independence on 21 August 1991. Latvia is a democratic sovereign state, parliamentary republic. Capital city Riga served as the European Capital of Culture in 2014. Latvian is the official language. Latvia is a unitary state, divided into 119 administrative divisions, of which 110 are municipalities and nine are cities. Latvians and Livonians are the indigenous people of Latvia. Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two surviving Baltic languages.
Despite foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian nation maintained its identity throughout the generations via the language and musical traditions. However, as a consequence of centuries of Russian rule (1710–1918) and later Soviet occupation, 26.9% of the population of Latvia are ethnic Russians, some of whom (10.7% of Latvian residents) have not gained citizenship, leaving them with no citizenship at all. Until World War II, Latvia also had significant minorities of ethnic Germans and Jews. Latvia is historically predominantly Lutheran Protestant, except for the Latgale region in the southeast, which has historically been predominantly Roman Catholic. The Russian population is largely Eastern Orthodox Christians.
Latvia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy and ranks 39th in the Human Development Index. It performs favorably in measurements of civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance, living standards, and peacefulness. Latvia is a member of the European Union, Eurozone, NATO, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, CBSS, the IMF, NB8, NIB, OECD, OSCE, and WTO. A full member of the Eurozone, it began using the euro as its currency on 1 January 2014, replacing the Latvian lats.
Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia. The territory of Estonia consists of the mainland and of 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea, covering a total area of 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and Tartu are the largest cities and urban areas in the country. Other notable cities include Narva, Pärnu, Kohtla-Järve and Viljandi. The official language of the country, Estonian, is the second-most-spoken Finnic language.
The territory of Estonia has been inhabited since at least 9,000 BC. Ancient Estonians became some of the last European pagans to adopt Christianity following the Livonian Crusade in the 13th century. After centuries of successive rule by Germans, Danes, Swedes, Poles and Russians, a distinct Estonian national identity began to emerge in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This culminated in independence from Russia in 1920 after a brief War of Independence at the end of World War I, where Estonians, led by General Laidoner, had to fight for their newborn freedom. Initially democratic prior to the Great Depression, Estonia experienced authoritarian rule from 1934 during the Era of Silence. During World War II (1939–1945), Estonia was repeatedly contested and occupied by the Soviet Union and Germany, ultimately being incorporated into the former. After the loss of its de facto independence for the Soviet Union, Estonia’s de jure state continuity was preserved by diplomatic representatives and the government-in-exile. In 1987 the peaceful Singing Revolution began against Soviet rule, resulting in the restoration of de facto independence on 20 August 1991.
The sovereign state of Estonia is a democratic unitary parliamentary republic divided into fifteen counties. With a population of 1.3 million, Estonia is one of the least populous members of the European Union, the Eurozone, the OECD, the Schengen Area, NATO, and from 2020, the United Nations Security Council.Estonia is a developed country with an advanced, high-income economy that was among the fastest-growing in the EU since its entry in 2004. The country ranks very high in the Human Development Index, and compares well in measures of economic freedom, civil liberties, education, and press freedom. Estonian citizens receive universal health care, free education, and the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD. One of the world’s most digitally-advanced societies,
in 2005 Estonia became the first state to hold elections over the Internet, and in 2014, the first state to provide e-residency.
Montenegro is a country in southeast Europe on the Adriatic coast of the Balkans. It borders Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north, Serbia to the east, Albania to the southeast, the Adriatic Sea and Croatia to the west. The largest and capital city Podgorica covers 10.4% of Montenegro’s territory and is home to 29.9% of the country’s population, while Cetinje has the status of old royal capital. Major group in the country are Montenegrins. Serbs form a significant minority at 28.7%, followed by Bosniaks, Albanians and Croats.
During the Early Medieval period, three principalities were located on the territory of modern-day Montenegro: Duklja, roughly corresponding to the southern half; Travunia, the west; and Rascia proper, the north. The Principality of Zeta emerged in the 14th and 15th centuries. The name Montenegro was first used to refer to the country in the late 15th century. After falling under Ottoman rule, Montenegro regained its independence in 1696 under the rule of the House of Petrović-Njegoš, first as a theocracy and later as a secular principality. Montenegro’s independence was recognized by the Great Powers at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. In 1910, the country became a kingdom. After World War I, it became part of Yugoslavia. Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, the republics of Serbia and Montenegro together proclaimed a federation. Following the independence referendum held in May 2006, Montenegro declared its independence and the confederation peacefully dissolved. Between 1990 and 2020, Montenegro was governed by the Democratic Party of Socialists and its minor coalition partners.
Classified by the World Bank as an upper middle-income country, Montenegro is a member of the UN, NATO, the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe, and the Central European Free Trade Agreement. Montenegro is a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean. It is also in the process of joining the European Union.
Macau, also spelled Macao and officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is a city and special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China in the western Pearl River Delta by the South China Sea. With a population of about 650,000 and an area of 32.9 km2 (12.7 sq mi), it is the most densely populated region in the world.
Macau is a former colony of the Portuguese Empire, after Ming China leased the territory as a trading post in 1557. Portugal paid an annual rent and administered the territory under Chinese sovereignty until 1887, when it gained perpetual colonial rights in the Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Peking. The colony remained under Portuguese rule until 1999, when it was transferred to China. Macau is a special administrative region of China, which maintains separate governing and economic systems from those of mainland China under the principle of “one country, two systems”.Originally a sparsely populated collection of coastal islands, the territory has become a major resort city and a top destination for gambling tourism, with a gambling industry seven times larger than that of Las Vegas. The city has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, and its GDP per capita by purchasing power parity is one of the highest in the world; however, income inequality remains high. It has a very high Human Development Index, as calculated by the Macau government, and the fourth-highest life expectancy in the world. The territory is highly urbanised and most development is built on reclaimed land; two-thirds of the total land area is reclaimed from the sea.
Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude (137 kilometres or 85 miles) north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bordering the Straits of Malacca to the west, the Riau Islands to the south, and the South China Sea to the east. The country’s territory is composed of one main island, 63 satellite islands and islets, and one outlying islet, the combined area of which has increased by 25% since the country’s independence as a result of extensive land reclamation projects. It has the second greatest population density in the world. The country has almost 5.7 million residents, 61% (3.4 million) of whom are Singaporean citizens. There are four official languages of Singapore: English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil, with English being the lingua franca. Multiracialism is enshrined in the constitution, and continues to shape national policies in education, housing, and politics.
Although its history stretches back millennia, modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the British Empire. In 1867, the colonies in East Asia were reorganised and Singapore came under the direct control of Britain as part of the Straits Settlements. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan in 1942, but returned to British control as a separate crown colony following Japan’s surrender in 1945. Singapore gained self-governance in 1959, and in 1963 became part of the new federation of Malaysia, alongside Malaya, North Borneo, and Sarawak. Ideological differences led to Singapore being expelled from the federation two years later, thereby becoming an independent country.
After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation rapidly developed to become one of the Four Asian Tigers based on external trade, becoming a highly developed country; it is ranked ninth on the UN Human Development Index, and has the second-highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the world. Singapore is the only country in Asia with an AAA sovereign rating from all major rating agencies. It is a major financial and shipping hub, consistently ranked the most expensive city to live in since 2013, and has been identified as a tax haven. Singapore is placed highly in key social indicators: education, healthcare, quality of life, personal safety and housing, with a home-ownership rate of 91%. Singaporeans enjoy one of the world’s longest life expectancies, fastest Internet connection speeds and one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
Singapore is a unitary parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. While elections are considered generally free, the government exercises significant control over politics and society, and the People’s Action Party has ruled continuously since independence. One of the five founding members of ASEAN, Singapore is also the headquarters of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat and Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) Secretariat, as well as many international conferences and events. Singapore is also a member of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, East Asia Summit, Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Kuwait, officially the State of Kuwait, is a country in Western Asia. Situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, it borders Iraq to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south. As of 2016, Kuwait has a population of 4.5 million people: 1.3 million are Kuwaitis and 3.2 million are expatriates. Expatriates account for approximately 70% of the population.Oil reserves were discovered in commercial quantities in 1938. In 1946, crude oil was exported for the first time. From 1946 to 1982, the country underwent large-scale modernization. In the 1980s, Kuwait experienced a period of geopolitical instability and an economic crisis following the stock market crash. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded, and later annexed, by Saddam’s Iraq. The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait came to an end in 1991 after military intervention by a military coalition led by the United States. Kuwait is a non-NATO ally of the United States. Kuwait is also a major ally of ASEAN, while maintaining a very strong relationship with China.Kuwait is a constitutional sovereign state with a semi-democratic political system. Kuwait has a World Bank high-income economy backed by the world’s sixth largest oil reserves. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world. According to the World Bank, the country has the nineteenth highest per capita income. The Constitution was promulgated in 1962. Kuwait is home to the largest opera house in the Middle East. The Kuwait National Cultural District is a member of the Global Cultural Districts Network.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, sometimes simply called the Emirates, is a sovereign state in Western Asia located at the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders Oman and Saudi Arabia, and has maritime borders in the Persian Gulf with Qatar and Iran. It is a federal elective constitutional monarchy formed from a federation of seven emirates, consisting of Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. Their boundaries have numerous enclaves within each other. Each emirate is governed by a ruler, who together form the Federal Supreme Council, and one of whom serves as President of the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, the UAE’s population was 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million were Emirati citizens and 7.8 million were expatriates. The estimated population of the UAE in 2020 was 9.89 million.Islam is the official religion and Arabic is the official language. The UAE’s oil reserves are the sixth-largest in the world while its natural gas reserves are the world’s seventh-largest. Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and the first President of the UAE, oversaw the development of the Emirates and steered oil revenues into healthcare, education, and infrastructure. The UAE’s economy is the most diversified in the Gulf Cooperation Council, while its most populous city of Dubai is a global city and international aviation and maritime trade hub. The country has become less reliant on oil and gas, and is economically focusing on tourism and business. The UAE government does not levy income tax, although there is a system of corporate tax in place and value-added tax at 5% was established in 2018.The UAE’s rising international profile has led to it being recognised as a regional and a middle power. The UAE is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OPEC, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (HKSAR), is a metropolitan area and special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China on the eastern Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea. With over 7.5 million residents of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre (426 sq mi) territory, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated places in the world.
Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong Island at the end of the First Opium War in 1842. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War and was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898. The whole territory was transferred to China in 1997. As a special administrative region, Hong Kong maintains separate governing and economic systems from that of mainland China under the principle of “one country, two systems”.Originally a sparsely populated area of farming and fishing villages, the territory has become one of the world’s most significant financial centres and commercial ports. It is the world’s tenth-largest exporter and ninth-largest importer. Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and its currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is the eighth most traded currency in the world. Hong Kong is home to the second-highest number of billionaires of any city in the world, the highest number of billionaires of any city in Asia, and the largest concentration of ultra high-net-worth individuals of any city in the world. Although the city has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, severe income inequality exists among its residents.Hong Kong is a highly developed territory and ranks fourth on the UN Human Development Index. The city has the largest number of skyscrapers of any city in the world, and its residents have some of the highest life expectancies in the world. The dense space led to a developed transportation network with public transport rates exceeding 90 percent.
Japan or Nihon is an island country in East Asia located in the northwest Pacific Ocean. It is bordered by the Sea of Japan to the west and extends from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan comprises an archipelago of 6852 islands covering 377,975 square kilometers (145,937 sq mi); the country’s five main islands, from north to south, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. Tokyo is Japan’s capital and largest city; other major cities include Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Kobe, and Kyoto.
Japan is the eleventh-most populous country in the world, as well as one of the most densely populated and urbanized. About three-fourths of the country’s terrain is mountainous, concentrating its population of 126.2 million on narrow coastal plains. Japan is divided into 47 administrative prefectures and eight traditional regions. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with more than 37.4 million residents.
Japan has been inhabited since the Upper Paleolithic period (30,000 BC), though the first mentions of the archipelago appear in Chinese chronicles from the 1st century AD. Between the 4th and 9th centuries, the kingdoms of Japan became unified under an emperor and his imperial court based in Heian-kyō. Beginning in the 12th century, however, political power was held by a series of military dictators (shōgun) and feudal lords (daimyō), and enforced by a class of warrior nobility (samurai). After a century-long period of civil war, the country was reunified in 1603 under the Tokugawa shogunate, which enacted an isolationist foreign policy. In 1854, a United States fleet forced Japan to open trade to the West, which led to the end of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial power in 1868. In the Meiji period, the Empire of Japan adopted a Western-styled constitution and pursued a program of industrialization and modernization. In 1937, Japan invaded China; in 1941, it entered World War II as an Axis power. After suffering defeat in the Pacific War and two atomic bombings, Japan surrendered in 1945 and came under a seven-year Allied occupation, during which it adopted a new constitution. Since 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature, the National Diet.
Japan is a great power and a member of numerous international organizations, including the United Nations (since 1956), the OECD, and the G7. Although it has renounced its right to declare war, the country maintains Self-Defense Forces that are ranked as the world’s fourth-most powerful military. After World War II, Japan experienced high economic growth, becoming the second-largest economy in the world by 1990 before being surpassed by China in 2010. Despite stagnant growth since the Lost Decade, the country’s economy remains the third-largest by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by PPP. A leader in the automotive and electronics industries, Japan has made significant contributions to science and technology. Ranked the second-highest country on the Human Development Index in Asia after Singapore, Japan has the world’s second-highest life expectancy, though it is experiencing a decline in population. Japanese culture is well-known around the world, including its art, cuisine, music, and popular culture, which encompasses prominent animation and video game industries.
The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, is the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope, which includes the apostolic episcopal see of the Diocese of Rome with universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, as well as a sovereign entity of international law, governing the Vatican City.
According to Catholic tradition it was founded in the first century by Saints Peter and Paul, by virtue of Petrine and papal primacy, and it is the focal point of full communion for Catholic Christians around the world. As a sovereign entity, the Holy See is headquartered in, operates from, and exercises “exclusive dominion” over the independent Vatican City State enclave in Rome, of which the pope is sovereign. It is organized into polities of the Latin Church and the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches, and their dioceses and religious institutes.
Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia. Referred to as the Heart of Asia, it is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, Tajikistan to the northeast, and China to the northeast and east. Occupying 652,864 square kilometers (252,072 sq mi) of land, the country is predominantly mountainous with plains in the north and the southwest, which are separated by the Hindu Kush mountain range. As of 2021, its population is 40.2 million (officially estimated to be 32.9 million), composed mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. Kabul is the country’s largest city and serves as its capital.
Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic era, and the country’s strategic location along the historic Silk Road has led it to being described, picturesquely, as the ‘roundabout of the ancient world’. Popularly referred to as the graveyard of empires, the land has historically been home to various peoples and has witnessed numerous military campaigns, including those by the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Maurya Empire, Arab Muslims, the Mongols, the British, the Soviet Union, and most recently by an American-led coalition. Afghanistan also served as the source from which the Greco-Bactrians and the Mughals, among others, rose to form major empires. The various conquests and periods in both the Iranian and Indian cultural spheres made the area a center for Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and later Islam throughout history.The modern state of Afghanistan began with the Durrani dynasty in the 18th century, with the Durrani Afghan Empire being formed by Ahmad Shah Durrani. The Durrani Empire led conquests in which, at its peak, encompassed land that spanned from eastern Iran to northern India. Following its decline and the death of Ahmad Shah Durrani, and Timur Shah, it was divided into multiple smaller independent kingdoms, including but not limited to: Herat, Kandahar and Kabul. Afghanistan would be reunited in the 19th century after 70 years of civil war from 1793-1863, with wars of unification led by Dost Mohammad Khan, where he conquered the independent principalities in Afghanistan. Dost Mohammad died in 1863, weeks after his last campaign to unite Afghanistan, and as a result, threw Afghanistan back into civil war with his successors. During this time, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the Great Game between the British Empire (in British-ruled India) and the Russian Empire. From India, the British attempted to subjugate Afghanistan but were repelled in the First Anglo-Afghan War. However, the Second Anglo-Afghan War saw a British victory and the successful establishment of British political influence over Afghanistan. Following the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, Afghanistan became free of foreign dominance, and eventually emerged as the independent Kingdom of Afghanistan in June 1926 under Amanullah Khan. This monarchy lasted almost 50 years, until Zahir Shah was overthrown in 1973, following which the Republic of Afghanistan was established.
Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan’s history has been dominated by extensive warfare, including coups, invasions, insurgencies, and civil wars which would end twice with the victory of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Mujahideen fought against them in the Soviet–Afghan War and continued fighting amongst themselves following Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The Taliban controlled most of the country by 1996, but their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan received little international recognition before its overthrow in the 2001 United States invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban returned to power in 2021 following Kabul’s capture by the Taliban and the concurrent overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, ending the 2001–2021 war. Although initially claiming to form an inclusive government for the country, the Taliban in September 2021 re-established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan with an interim government made up entirely of Taliban members; the regime currently remains internationally unrecognized.Afghanistan is prominently rich in natural resources, including lithium, iron, zinc, and copper, amongst many others. It is also the world’s largest producer of opium, second largest producer of cannabis, and third largest of both saffron and cashmere. The country is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and a founding member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Due to the effects of war in recent decades, the country has dealt with high levels of terrorism, poverty, and child malnutrition. Afghanistan’s economy is the world’s 96th-largest, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $72.9 billion by purchasing power parity; the country fares much worse in terms of per-capita GDP (PPP), ranking 169th out of 186 countries as of 2018.
Albania ( (listen) a(w)l-BAY-nee-ə; Albanian: Shqipëri or Shqipëria), officially the Republic of Albania (Albanian: Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas within the Mediterranean Sea and shares land borders with Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south. Tirana is its capital and largest city, followed by Durrës, Vlorë, and Shkodër.
Albania displays varied climatic, geological, hydrological, and morphological conditions, defined in an area of 28,748 km2 (11,100 sq mi). It possesses significant diversity with the landscape ranging from the snow-capped mountains in the Albanian Alps as well as the Korab, Skanderbeg, Pindus and Ceraunian Mountains to the hot and sunny coasts of the Albanian Adriatic and Ionian Sea along the Mediterranean Sea.
Albania has been inhabited by different civilisations over time, such as the Illyrians, Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans. The Albanians established the autonomous Principality of Arbër in the 12th century. The Kingdom of Albania and Principality of Albania formed between the 13th and 14th centuries. Prior to the Ottoman conquest of Albania in the 15th century, the Albanian resistance to Ottoman expansion into Europe led by Skanderbeg won them acclaim over most of Europe. Albania remained under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries, during which many Albanians (known as Arnauts) attained high-ranking offices in the empire, especially in the Southern Balkans and Egypt. Between the 18th and 19th centuries, cultural developments, widely attributed to Albanians having gathered both spiritual and intellectual strength, conclusively led to the Albanian Renaissance. After the defeat of the Ottomans in the Balkan Wars, the modern nation state of Albania declared independence in 1912. In the 20th century, the Kingdom of Albania was invaded by Italy, which formed Greater Albania before becoming a protectorate of Nazi Germany. Enver Hoxha formed the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania after World War II, modeled under the terms of Hoxhaism. The Revolutions of 1991 concluded the fall of communism in Albania and eventually the establishment of the current Republic of Albania.
Albania is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic. It is a developing country, ranking 67th in the Human Development Index, with an upper-middle income economy dominated by the service sector, followed by manufacturing. It went through a process of transition following the end of communism in 1990, from centralised planning to a market-based economy. Albania provides universal health care and free primary and secondary education to its citizens. Albania is a member of the United Nations, World Bank, UNESCO, NATO, WTO, COE, OSCE, and OIC. It has been an official candidate for membership in the European Union since 2014. It is one of the founding members of the Energy Community, including the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and Union for the Mediterranean.
Algeria, officially the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country in North Africa. Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia; to the east by Libya; to the southeast by Niger; to the southwest by Mali, Mauritania, and Western Sahara; to the west by Morocco; and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. It is considered part of the Maghreb region of North Africa. It has a semi-arid geography, with most of the population living in the fertile north and the Sahara dominating the geography of the south. Algeria covers an area of 2,381,741 square kilometres (919,595 sq mi), making it the world’s tenth largest nation by area, and the largest nation in Africa, being more than 200 times as large as the smallest country in the continent, The Gambia. With a population of 44 million, Algeria is the ninth-most populous country in Africa, and the 32nd-most populous country in the world. The capital and largest city is Algiers, located in the far north on the Mediterranean coast.
Algeria produced and is linked to many civilizations, empires and dynasties, including ancient Numidians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Umayyads, Abbasids, Rustamids, Idrisids, Aghlabids, Fatimids, Zirids, Hammadids, Almoravids, Almohads, Zayyanids, Spaniards, Ottomans and the French colonial empire, with the latter expanded into its present-boundaries. After 132 years of being part of France, tensions between France and the local Algerian populace led to the start of the Algerian War which concluded with Algeria obtaining its independence on 5 July 1962 with the establishment of the People’s Democratic Republic on 20 September of that year.
The vast majority of Algeria’s population is Arab-Berber, practicing Islam, and using the official languages of Arabic and Berber. The native Algerian Arabic is the main spoken language. French also serves as an administrative and educational language in some contexts, but it has no official status.
Algeria is a semi-presidential republic, with local constituencies consisting of 58 provinces and 1,541 communes. Algeria is a regional power in North Africa, and a middle power in global affairs. It has the highest Human Development Index of all non-island African countries and one of the largest economies on the continent, based largely on energy exports. Algeria has the world’s sixteenth-largest oil reserves and the ninth-largest reserves of natural gas. Sonatrach, the national oil company, is the largest company in Africa, supplying large amounts of natural gas to Europe. Algeria’s military is one of the largest in Africa, and has the largest defence budget on the continent. It is a member of the African Union, the Arab League, the OIC, OPEC, the United Nations, and the Arab Maghreb Union, of which it is a founding member.
Andorra, officially the Principality of Andorra, is a sovereign landlocked microstate on the Iberian Peninsula, in the eastern Pyrenees, bordered by France to the north and Spain to the south. Believed to have been created by Charlemagne, Andorra was ruled by the count of Urgell until 988, when it was transferred to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Urgell. The present principality was formed by a charter in 1278. It is headed by two co-princes: the bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain and the president of France. Its capital and largest city is Andorra la Vella.
Andorra is the sixth-smallest state in Europe, with an area of 468 square kilometres (181 sq mi) and a population of approximately 79,034. The Andorran people are a Romance ethnic group of originally Catalan descent. Andorra is the world’s 16th-smallest country by land and 11th-smallest by population. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 1,023 metres (3,356 feet) above sea level. The official language is Catalan, but Spanish, Portuguese, and French are also commonly spoken.Tourism in Andorra brings an estimated 10.2 million visitors to the country annually. Andorra is not a member state of the European Union. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993.
Angola ( (listen); Portuguese: [ɐ̃ˈɡɔlɐ]), officially the Republic of Angola (Portuguese: República de Angola), is a country located on the west coast of central-southern Africa. It is the second-largest Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) country in both total area and population (behind Brazil in both cases), and is the seventh-largest country in Africa. It is bordered by Namibia to the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Zambia to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Angola has an exclave province, the province of Cabinda, that borders the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The capital and most populous city is Luanda.
Angola has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Age. Its formation as a nation-state originates from Portuguese colonisation, which initially began with coastal settlements and trading posts founded in the 16th century. In the 19th century, European settlers gradually began to establish themselves in the interior. The Portuguese colony that became Angola did not have its present borders until the early 20th century, owing to resistance by native groups such as the Cuamato, the Kwanyama and the Mbunda.
After a protracted anti-colonial struggle, Angola achieved independence in 1975 as a Marxist–Leninist one-party Republic. The country descended into a devastating civil war the same year, between the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba, the insurgent National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, an originally Maoist and later anti-communist group supported by the United States and South Africa, and the militant organization National Liberation Front of Angola, backed by Zaire. The country has been governed by MPLA ever since its independence in 1975. Following the end of the war in 2002, Angola emerged as a relatively stable unitary, presidential constitutional republic.
Angola has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, and its economy is among the fastest-growing in the world, especially since the end of the civil war; however, economic growth is highly uneven, with most of the nation’s wealth concentrated in a disproportionately small part of the population; the largest investment and trade partners are China and the United States. The standard of living remains low for most Angolans; life expectancy is among the lowest in the world, while infant mortality is among the highest.
Since 2017, the government of João Lourenço has made fighting corruption its flagship, so much so that many individuals of the previous government are either jailed or awaiting trial. Whilst this effort has been recognised by foreign diplomats to be legitimate, some skeptics see the actions as being politically motivated.Angola is a member of the United Nations, OPEC, African Union, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, and the Southern African Development Community. As of 2021, the Angolan population is estimated at 32.87 million. Angola is multicultural and multiethnic. Angolan culture reflects centuries of Portuguese influence, namely the predominance of the Portuguese language and of the Catholic Church, intermingled with a variety of indigenous customs and traditions.
Argentina (Spanish pronunciation: [aɾxenˈtina] (listen)), officially the Argentine Republic (Spanish: República Argentina), is a country in the southern half of South America. Argentina covers an area of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 sq mi), making it the second-largest country in South America after Brazil, the fourth-largest country in the Americas, and the eighth-largest country in the world. It shares the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, and is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south. Argentina is a federal state subdivided into twenty-three provinces, and one autonomous city, which is the federal capital and largest city of the nation, Buenos Aires. The provinces and the capital have their own constitutions, but exist under a federal system. Argentina claims sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and a part of Antarctica.
The earliest recorded human presence in modern-day Argentina dates back to the Paleolithic period. The Inca Empire expanded to the northwest of the country in Pre-Columbian times. The country has its roots in Spanish colonization of the region during the 16th century. Argentina rose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish overseas viceroyalty founded in 1776. The declaration and fight for independence (1810–1818) was followed by an extended civil war that lasted until 1861, culminating in the country’s reorganization as a federation. The country thereafter enjoyed relative peace and stability, with several waves of European immigration, mainly Italians and Spaniards, radically reshaping its cultural and demographic outlook; over 60% of the population has full or partial Italian ancestry, and Argentine culture has significant connections to Italian culture.The almost-unparalleled increase in prosperity led to Argentina becoming the seventh-wealthiest nation in the world by the early 20th century. In 1896, Argentina’s GDP per capita surpassed that of the United States and was consistently in the top ten before at least 1920. Currently, it is ranked 62nd in the world. Following the Great Depression in the 1930s, Argentina descended into political instability and economic decline that pushed it back into underdevelopment, although it remained among the fifteen richest countries for several decades. Following the death of President Juan Perón in 1974, his widow and vice president, Isabel Perón, ascended to the presidency, before being overthrown in 1976. The following military junta, which was supported by the United States, persecuted and murdered thousands of political critics, activists, and leftists in the Dirty War, a period of state terrorism and civil unrest that lasted until the election of Raúl Alfonsín as president in 1983.
Argentina is a regional power, and retains its historic status as a middle power in international affairs. A major non-NATO ally of the United States, Argentina is a developing country that ranks 46th in the Human Development Index, the second-highest in Latin America after Chile. It maintains the second-largest economy in South America, and is a member of G-15 and G20. Argentina is also a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, World Trade Organization, Mercosur, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Organization of Ibero-American States.
Armenia ( (listen)), officially the Republic of Armenia, is a landlocked country in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia. It is a part of the Caucasus region; and is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the Lachin corridor (under a Russian peacekeeping force) and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan to the south. Yerevan is the capital, largest city and the financial center.
Armenia is a unitary, multi-party, democratic nation-state with an ancient cultural heritage. The first Armenian state of Urartu was established in 860 BC, and by the 6th century BC it was replaced by the Satrapy of Armenia. The Kingdom of Armenia reached its height under Tigranes the Great in the 1st century BC and in the year 301 became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. The ancient Armenian kingdom was split between the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires around the early 5th century. Under the Bagratuni dynasty, the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia was restored in the 9th century. Declining due to the wars against the Byzantines, the kingdom fell in 1045 and Armenia was soon after invaded by the Seljuk Turks. An Armenian principality and later a kingdom Cilician Armenia was located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea between the 11th and 14th centuries.
Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the traditional Armenian homeland composed of Eastern Armenia and Western Armenia came under the rule of the Ottoman and Persian empires, repeatedly ruled by either of the two over the centuries. By the 19th century, Eastern Armenia had been conquered by the Russian Empire, while most of the western parts of the traditional Armenian homeland remained under Ottoman rule. During World War I, 1.5 million Armenians living in their ancestral lands in the Ottoman Empire were systematically exterminated in the Armenian genocide. In 1918, following the Russian Revolution, all non-Russian countries declared their independence after the Russian Empire ceased to exist, leading to the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia. By 1920, the state was incorporated into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, and in 1922 became a founding member of the Soviet Union. In 1936, the Transcaucasian state was dissolved, transforming its constituent states, including the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, into full Union republics. The modern Republic of Armenia became independent in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Armenia is a developing country and ranks 85th on the Human Development Index (2021). Its economy is primarily based on industrial output and mineral extraction. While Armenia is geographically located in the South Caucasus, it is generally considered geopolitically European. Since Armenia aligns itself in many respects geopolitically with Europe, the country is a member of numerous European organizations including the Council of Europe, the Eastern Partnership, Eurocontrol, the Assembly of European Regions, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Armenia is also a member of certain regional groups throughout Eurasia, including the Asian Development Bank, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Eurasian Union, and the Eurasian Development Bank. Armenia supports the de facto independent Artsakh, which was proclaimed in 1991. Armenia also recognises the Armenian Apostolic Church, the world’s oldest national church, as the country’s primary religious establishment. The unique Armenian alphabet was created by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD.
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. With an area of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi), Australia is the largest country by area in Oceania and the world’s sixth-largest country. Australia is the oldest, flattest, and driest inhabited continent, with the least fertile soils. It is a megadiverse country, and its size gives it a wide variety of landscapes and climates, with deserts in the centre, tropical rainforests in the north-east, and mountain ranges in the south-east.
The ancestors of Aboriginal Australians began arriving from south east Asia approximately 65,000 years ago, during the last ice age. Arriving by sea, they settled the continent and had formed approximately 250 distinct language groups by the time of European settlement, maintaining some of the longest known continuing artistic and religious traditions in the world. Australia’s written history commenced with the European maritime exploration of Australia. The Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon was the first known European to reach Australia, in 1606. In 1770, the British explorer James Cook mapped and claimed the east coast of Australia for Great Britain, and the First Fleet of British ships arrived at Sydney in 1788 to establish the penal colony of New South Wales. The European population grew in subsequent decades, and by the end of the 1850s gold rush, most of the continent had been explored by European settlers and an additional five self-governing British colonies established. Democratic parliaments were gradually established through the 19th century, culminating with a vote for the federation of the six colonies and foundation of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system and wealthy market economy.
Politically, Australia is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, comprising six states and ten territories. Australia’s population of nearly 26 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Canberra is the nation’s capital, while its most populous city and financial centre is Sydney. The next four largest cities are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. Australia’s demography has been shaped by centuries of immigration: immigrants account for 30% of the country’s population, and almost half of Australians have at least one parent born overseas. Australia’s abundant natural resources and well-developed international trade relations are crucial to the country’s economy, which generates its income from various sources including services, mining exports, banking, manufacturing, agriculture and international education.Australia is a highly developed country with a high-income economy. As of 2022, it was the world’s fourteenth-largest economy with the ninth-highest per capita income. In 2017, it ranked as fifth-highest Human Development Index. Australia is a regional power, and has the world’s thirteenth-highest military expenditure. Australia ranks amongst the highest in the world for quality of life, democracy, health, education, economic freedom, civil liberties, safety, and political rights, with all its major cities faring exceptionally in global comparative livability surveys. It is a member of international groupings including the United Nations, the G20, the OECD, the WTO, ANZUS, AUKUS, Five Eyes, the Quad, APEC, the Pacific Islands Forum, the Pacific Community and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Azerbaijan (UK: (listen), US: ; Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan [ɑːzæɾbɑjˈdʒɑn]), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan, is a transcontinental country located at the boundary of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is a part of the South Caucasus region and is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia (Republic of Dagestan) to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia and Turkey to the west, and Iran to the south. Baku is the capital and largest city.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic proclaimed its independence from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic in 1918 and became the first secular democratic Muslim-majority state. In 1920, the country was incorporated into the Soviet Union as the Azerbaijan SSR. The modern Republic of Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence on 30 August 1991, shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the same year. In September 1991, the ethnic Armenian majority of the Nagorno-Karabakh region formed the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh. The region and seven surrounding districts are internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan pending a solution to the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh through negotiations facilitated by the OSCE, although became de facto independent with the end of the First Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994. Following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020, the seven districts and parts of Nagorno-Karabakh were returned to Azerbaijani control.Azerbaijan is a unitary semi-presidential republic. It is one of six independent Turkic states and an active member of the Organization of Turkic States and the TÜRKSOY community. Azerbaijan has diplomatic relations with 182 countries and holds membership in 38 international organizations, including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Non-Aligned Movement, the OSCE, and the NATO PfP program. It is one of the founding members of GUAM, the CIS, and the OPCW. Azerbaijan is also an observer state of the WTO.
The vast majority of the country’s population (97%) is nominally Muslim, but the constitution does not declare an official religion and all major political forces in the country are secularist. Azerbaijan is a developing country and ranks 88th on the Human Development Index. It has a high rate of economic development, literacy, and a low rate of unemployment. However, the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, in power since 1993, has been accused of authoritarian leadership under the leadership of both Heydar Aliyev and his son Ilham Aliyev, and deteriorating the country’s human rights record, including increasing restrictions on civil liberties, particularly on press freedom and political repression.
The Bahamas ( (listen)), officially the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a country within the Lucayan Archipelago of the West Indies in the Atlantic. It takes up 97% of the Lucayan Archipelago’s land area and is home to 88% of the archipelago’s population. The archipelagic state consists of more than 3,000 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, and is located north of Cuba and northwest of the island of Hispaniola (split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and the Turks and Caicos Islands, southeast of the US state of Florida, and east of the Florida Keys. The capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force describes The Bahamas’ territory as encompassing 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of ocean space.
The Bahama Islands were inhabited by the Lucayans, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taíno, for many centuries. Christopher Columbus was the first European to see the islands, making his first landfall in the “New World” in 1492 when he landed on the island of San Salvador. Later, the Spanish shipped the native Lucayans to and enslaved them on Hispaniola, after which the Bahama islands were mostly deserted from 1513 until 1648 due to nearly all native Bahamians being forcefully removed through enslavement or dying due to diseases brought to the islands by the Europeans. In 1649, English colonists from Bermuda, known as the Eleutheran Adventurers, settled on the island of Eleuthera.
The Bahamas became a British crown colony in 1718, when the British clamped down on piracy. After the American Revolutionary War, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists to the Bahamas; they took enslaved people with them and established plantations on land grants. Enslaved African people and their descendants constituted the majority of the population from this period on. The slave trade was abolished by the British in 1807; slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834. Subsequently, the Bahamas became a haven for freed African slaves. Africans liberated from illegal slave ships were resettled on the islands by the Royal Navy, while some North American slaves and Seminoles escaped to the Bahamas from Florida. Bahamians were even known to recognise the freedom of enslaved people carried by the ships of other nations which reached the Bahamas. Today Black-Bahamians make up 90% of the population of 400,516.The country gained governmental independence in 1973, led by Sir Lynden O. Pindling. Charles III is currently its monarch. In terms of gross domestic product per capita, the Bahamas is one of the richest independent countries in the Americas (following the United States and Canada), with an economy based on tourism and offshore finance.
Bahrain ( (listen) bah-RAYN; ; Arabic: البحرين, romanized: al-Bahrayn, locally [æl baħˈreːn] (listen)), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, is an island country in Western Asia. It is situated on the Persian Gulf, and comprises a small archipelago made up of 50 natural islands and an additional 33 artificial islands, centered on Bahrain Island which makes up around 83 percent of the country’s landmass. Bahrain is situated between Qatar and the northeastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the King Fahd Causeway. According to the 2020 census, the country’s population numbers 1,501,635, of which 712,362 are Bahraini nationals. Bahrain spans some 760 square kilometres (290 sq mi), and is the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore. The capital and largest city is Manama.
Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilization. It has been famed since antiquity for its pearl fisheries, which were considered the best in the world into the 19th century. Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to be influenced by Islam, during the lifetime of Muhammad in 628 AD. Following a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was ruled by the Portuguese Empire from 1521 until 1602, when they were expelled by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty. In 1783, the Bani Utbah clan captured Bahrain from Nasr Al-Madhkur and it has since been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family, with Ahmed al Fateh as Bahrain’s first hakim.
In the late 1800s, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom. In 1971, it declared independence. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared an Islamic constitutional monarchy in 2002. In 2011, the country experienced protests inspired by the regional Arab Spring. Bahrain’s ruling Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa royal family has been criticised for violating the human rights of groups including dissidents, political opposition figures, and its majority Shia Muslim population.Bahrain developed the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf, the result of decades of investing in the banking and tourism sectors; many of the world’s largest financial institutions have a presence in the country’s capital. It consequently ranks 35th in the Human Development Index and is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Bahrain is a member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Banglades can refer to:
Bangladesh, country in South Asia
Bangladeš, suburban settlement near Novi Sad, Serbia
Belize ( (listen); Belize Kriol English: Bileez) is a Caribbean and Central American country on the northeastern coast of Central America. It is bordered by Mexico to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Guatemala to the west and south. It also shares a water boundary with Honduras to the southeast. It has an area of 22,970 square kilometres (8,867 sq mi) and a population of 441,471 (2022). Its mainland is about 290 km (180 mi) long and 110 km (68 mi) wide. It is the least populated and least densely populated country in Central America. Its population growth rate of 1.87% per year (2018 estimate) is the second-highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. Its capital is Belmopan, and its largest city is the namesake city of Belize City. Belize is often thought of as a Caribbean country in Central America because it has a history similar to that of English-speaking Caribbean nations. Indeed, Belize’s institutions and official language reflect its history as a British colony.
The Maya civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 BC and AD 300 and flourished until about 1200. European contact began in 1492 when Christopher Columbus sailed along the Gulf of Honduras. European exploration was begun by English settlers in 1638. Spain and Britain both laid claim to the land until Britain defeated the Spanish in the Battle of St. George’s Caye (1798). In 1840 it became a British colony known as British Honduras, and a Crown colony in 1862. Belize achieved its independence from the United Kingdom on 21 September 1981. It is the only mainland Central American country which is a Commonwealth realm, with King Charles III as its monarch and head of state, represented by a governor-general.Belize has a diverse society that is composed of many cultures and languages that reflect its rich history. It is the only Central American country where English is the official language, while Belizean Creole is the most widely spoken dialect. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language, followed by the Mayan languages, German dialects, and Garifuna. Over half the population is multilingual, due to the diverse linguistic backgrounds of the population. It is known for its September Celebrations, its extensive barrier reef coral reefs, and punta music.Belize’s abundance of terrestrial and marine species and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place in the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. It is considered a Central American and Caribbean nation with strong ties to both the American and Caribbean regions. It is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Central American Integration System (SICA), the only country to hold full membership in all three regional organizations.
Benin ( (listen) ben-EEN, bin-EEN; French: Bénin [benɛ̃], Fula: Benen), officially the Republic of Benin (French: République du Bénin), and formerly Dahomey, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, Burkina Faso to the north-west, and Niger to the north-east. The majority of its population lives on the southern coastline of the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea in the northernmost tropical portion of the Atlantic Ocean. The capital is Porto-Novo, and the seat of government is in Cotonou, the most populous city and economic capital. Benin covers an area of 114,763 square kilometres (44,310 sq mi) and its population in 2021 was estimated to be approximately 13 million. It is a tropical nation, dependent on agriculture, and is an exporter of palm oil and cotton. Some employment and income arise from subsistence farming.The official language of Benin is French, with indigenous languages such as Fon, Bariba, Yoruba and Dendi also spoken. The largest religious group in Benin is Sunni Islam (27.7%), followed by Roman Catholicism (25.5%), Vodun (11.6%), and Protestantism. Benin is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, Francophonie, the Community of Sahel–Saharan States, the African Petroleum Producers Association and the Niger Basin Authority.
From the 17th to the 19th century, political entities in the area included the Kingdom of Dahomey, the city-state of Porto-Novo, and other states to the north. This region was referred to as the Slave Coast from the early 17th century due to the high number of people who were sold and trafficked during the Atlantic slave trade to the New World. France took over the territory in 1894, incorporating it into French West Africa as French Dahomey. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France. As a sovereign state, Benin has had democratic governments, military coups, and military governments. A self-described Marxist–Leninist state called the People’s Republic of Benin existed between 1975 and 1990. In 1991, it was replaced by the multi-party Republic of Benin.
Bhutan ( (listen); Dzongkha: འབྲུག་ཡུལ་, romanized: Druk Yul [ʈuk̚˩.yː˩]), officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is situated in the Eastern Himalayas, between China in the north and India in the south. A mountainous country, Bhutan is known as “Druk Yul,” or “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. Nepal and Bangladesh are located near Bhutan but do not share a land border. The country has a population of over 727,145 and territory of 38,394 square kilometres (14,824 sq mi) and ranks 133rd in terms of land area and 160th in population. Bhutan is a Constitutional Democratic Monarchy with King as head of state and Prime Minister as head of government. Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism is the state religion and Je khenpo is the head of state religion.
The subalpine Himalayan mountains in the north rise from the country’s lush subtropical plains in the south. In the Bhutanese Himalayas, there are peaks higher than 7,000 metres (23,000 ft) above sea level. Gangkhar Puensum is Bhutan’s highest peak and is the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. The wildlife of Bhutan is notable for its diversity, including the Himalayan takin. The capital and largest city is Thimphu.
Bhutan and neighbouring Tibet experienced the spread of Buddhism which originated in the Indian subcontinent during the lifetime of Gautama Buddha. In the first millennium, the Vajrayana school of Buddhism spread to Bhutan from the southern Pala Empire of Bengal. During the 16th century, Ngawang Namgyal unified the valleys of Bhutan into a single state. Namgyal defeated three Tibetan invasions, subjugated rival religious schools, codified the Tsa Yig legal system, and established a government of theocratic and civil administrators. Namgyal became the first Zhabdrung Rinpoche and his successors acted as the spiritual leaders of Bhutan like the Dalai Lama in Tibet. During the 17th century, Bhutan controlled large parts of northeast India, Sikkim and Nepal; it also wielded significant influence in Cooch Behar State. Bhutan ceded the Bengal Duars to British India during the Bhutan War in the 19th century. The House of Wangchuck emerged as the monarchy and pursued closer ties with the British in the subcontinent. In 1910, a treaty guaranteed British advice in foreign policy in exchange for internal autonomy in Bhutan. The arrangement continued under a new treaty with India in 1949 (signed at Darjeeling) in which both countries recognised each other’s sovereignty. Bhutan joined the United Nations in 1971. It has since expanded relations with 55 countries. While dependent on the Indian military, Bhutan maintains its own military units.
The 2008 Constitution establishes a parliamentary government with an elected National Assembly and a National Council. Bhutan is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). In 2020, Bhutan ranked third in South Asia after Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the Human Development Index. Bhutan is also a member of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, the Non-Aligned Movement, BIMSTEC, the IMF, the World Bank, UNESCO and the World Health Organization (WHO). Bhutan ranked first in SAARC in economic freedom, ease of doing business, peace and lack of corruption in 2016. Bhutan has one of the largest water reserves for hydropower in the world. Melting glaciers caused by climate change are a growing concern in Bhutan.
Bolivia, officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is a landlocked country located in western-central South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay to the southeast, Argentina to the south, Chile to the southwest and Peru to the west. The seat of government and executive capital is La Paz, while the constitutional capital is Sucre. The largest city and principal industrial center is Santa Cruz de la Sierra, located on the Llanos Orientales (tropical lowlands), a mostly flat region in the east of the country.
The sovereign state of Bolivia is a constitutionally unitary state, divided into nine departments. Its geography varies from the peaks of the Andes in the West, to the Eastern Lowlands, situated within the Amazon basin. One-third of the country is within the Andean mountain range. With 1,098,581 km2 (424,164 sq mi) of area, Bolivia is the fifth largest country in South America, after Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Colombia (and alongside Paraguay, one of the only two landlocked countries in the Americas), the 27th largest in the world, the largest landlocked country in the Southern Hemisphere, and the world’s seventh largest landlocked country, after Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Chad, Niger, Mali, and Ethiopia.
The country’s population, estimated at 12 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Asians, and Africans. Spanish is the official and predominant language, although 36 indigenous languages also have official status, of which the most commonly spoken are Guarani, Aymara, and Quechua languages.
Before Spanish colonization, the Andean region of Bolivia was part of the Inca Empire, while the northern and eastern lowlands were inhabited by independent tribes. Spanish conquistadors arriving from Cusco and Asunción took control of the region in the 16th century. During the Spanish colonial period Bolivia was administered by the Real Audiencia of Charcas. Spain built its empire in large part upon the silver that was extracted from Bolivia’s mines.
After the first call for independence in 1809, 16 years of war followed before the establishment of the Republic, named for Simón Bolívar. Over the course of the 19th and early 20th century Bolivia lost control of several peripheral territories to neighboring countries including the seizure of its coastline by Chile in 1879. Bolivia remained relatively politically stable until 1971, when Hugo Banzer led a CIA-supported coup d’état which replaced the socialist government of Juan José Torres with a military dictatorship headed by Banzer. Banzer’s regime cracked down on left-wing and socialist opposition and other forms of dissent, resulting in the torture and deaths of a number of Bolivian citizens. Banzer was ousted in 1978 and later returned as the democratically elected president of Bolivia from 1997 to 2001. Under the 2006–2019 presidency of Evo Morales the country saw significant economic growth and political stability.
Modern Bolivia is a charter member of the UN, IMF, NAM, OAS, ACTO, Bank of the South, ALBA, and USAN. Bolivia remains the second poorest country in South America, though it has slashed poverty rates and has the fastest growing economy in South America (in terms of GDP). It is a developing country. Its main economic activities include agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, and manufacturing goods such as textiles, clothing, refined metals, and refined petroleum. Bolivia is very rich in minerals, including tin, silver, lithium, and copper.
Botswana ( (listen), also UK: ), officially the Republic of Botswana (Setswana: Lefatshe la Botswana, [lɪˈfatsʰɪ la bʊˈtswana]), is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Botswana is topographically flat, with approximately 70 percent of its territory being the Kalahari Desert. It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast. It is connected to Zambia across the short Zambezi River border by the Kazungula Bridge.A country of slightly over 2.3 million people, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. About 11.6 percent of the population lives in the capital and largest city, Gaborone. Formerly one of the world’s poorest countries—with a GDP per capita of about US$70 per year in the late 1960s—it has since transformed itself into an upper-middle-income country, with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.Modern-day humans first inhabited the country over 200,000 years ago. The Tswana ethnic group were descended mainly from Bantu-speaking tribes who migrated southward of Africa to modern Botswana around 600 AD, living in tribal enclaves as farmers and herders. In 1885, the British colonised the area and declared a protectorate under the name of Bechuanaland. As decolonisation occurred, Bechuanaland became an independent Commonwealth republic under its current name on 30 September 1966. Since then, it has been a representative republic, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections and the lowest perceived corruption ranking in Africa since at least 1998.The economy is dominated by mining, cattle, and tourism. Botswana has a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about $18,113 as of 2021, one of the highest in Africa. Botswana is the world’s biggest diamond producing country. Its relatively high gross national income per capita (by some estimates the fourth-largest in Africa) gives the country a relatively high standard of living and the highest Human Development Index of continental Sub-Saharan Africa. Botswana is the first African country to host Forbes 30 Under 30 and the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup.
Botswana is a member of the African Union, the Southern African Customs Union, the Southern African Development Community, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations. The country has been adversely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Despite the success in programs to make treatments available, and to educate the populace about how to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, the number of people with AIDS rose from 290,000 in 2005 to 320,000 in 2013.: A20 As of 2014, Botswana had the third-highest prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS, with roughly 20% of the population infected. However, in recent years the country has made strides in combatting HIV/AIDS, with efforts being made to provide proper treatment and lower the rate of mother-to-child transmission.
Brazil (Portuguese: Brasil; Brazilian Portuguese: [bɾaˈziw] (listen)), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: República Federativa do Brasil), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3,300,000 sq mi) and with over 217 million people, Brazil is the world’s fifth-largest country by area and the seventh most populous. Its capital is Brasília, and its most populous city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states and the Federal District. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas; one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations, due to over a century of mass immigration from around the world; and the most populous Roman Catholic-majority country.
Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of 7,491 kilometers (4,655 mi). It borders all other countries and territories in South America except Ecuador and Chile and covers roughly half of the continent’s land area. Its Amazon basin includes a vast tropical forest, home to diverse wildlife, a variety of ecological systems, and extensive natural resources spanning numerous protected habitats. This unique environmental heritage positions Brazil at number one of 17 megadiverse countries, and is the subject of significant global interest, as environmental degradation through processes like deforestation has direct impacts on global issues like climate change and biodiversity loss.
The territory which would become known as Brazil was inhabited by numerous tribal nations prior to the landing in 1500 of explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral, who claimed the discovered land for the Portuguese Empire. Brazil remained a Portuguese colony until 1808 when the capital of the empire was transferred from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro. In 1815, the colony was elevated to the rank of kingdom upon the formation of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. Independence was achieved in 1822 with the creation of the Empire of Brazil, a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system. The ratification of the first constitution in 1824 led to the formation of a bicameral legislature, now called the National Congress. Slavery was abolished in 1888. The country became a presidential republic in 1889 following a military coup d’état. An authoritarian military junta came to power in 1964 and ruled until 1985, after which civilian governance resumed. Brazil’s current constitution, formulated in 1988, defines it as a democratic federal republic. Due to its rich culture and history, the country ranks thirteenth in the world by number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.Brazil is a regional and middle power, and is also classified as an emerging power. Categorised as developing country with a high Human Development Index, Brazil is considered an advanced emerging economy, having the twelfth largest GDP in the world by nominal, and ninth by PPP measures, the largest in Latin America. As an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank and a newly industrialized country, Brazil has the largest share of global wealth in South America and it is one of the world’s major breadbaskets, being the largest producer of coffee for the last 150 years. However, the country maintains noticeable amounts of corruption, crime and social inequality. Brazil is a founding member of the United Nations, the G20, BRICS, Mercosul, Organization of American States, Organization of Ibero-American States and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.
Brunei ( (listen) broo-NY, Malay: [brunaɪ] (listen)), formally Brunei Darussalam (Malay: Negara Brunei Darussalam, Jawi: نݢارا بروني دارالسلام, lit. ’Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace’), is a country located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Apart from its South China Sea coast, it is completely surrounded by the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is separated into two parts by the Sarawak district of Limbang. Brunei is the only sovereign state entirely on Borneo; the remainder of the island is divided between Malaysia and Indonesia. As of 2020, its population was 460,345, of whom about 100,000 live in the capital and largest city, Bandar Seri Begawan. The government is an absolute monarchy ruled by its Sultan, entitled the Yang di-Pertuan, and implements a combination of English common law and sharia law, as well as general Islamic practices.
At the peak of the Bruneian Empire, Sultan Bolkiah (reigned 1485–1528) is claimed to have had control over most regions of Borneo, including modern-day Sarawak and Sabah, as well as the Sulu Archipelago off the northeast tip of Borneo, and the islands off the northwest tip of Borneo. Claims also state that they had control over Seludong (or the Kingdom of Maynila, where the modern-day Philippine capital Manila now stands) but Southeast Asian scholars believe this refers to a settlement Mount Selurong in Indonesia. The maritime state of Brunei was visited by Spain’s Magellan Expedition in 1521 and fought against Spain in the 1578 Castilian War.
During the 19th century, the Bruneian Empire began to decline. The Sultanate ceded Sarawak (Kuching) to James Brooke and installed him as the White Rajah, and it ceded Sabah to the British North Borneo Chartered Company. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate and was assigned a British resident as colonial manager in 1906. After the Japanese occupation during World War II, in 1959 a new constitution was written. In 1962, a small armed rebellion against the monarchy was ended with the help of the British.
Brunei has been led by the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah since 1967, and had gained its independence as a British protectorate on 1 January 1984. The country is an autocratic absolute monarchy. Economic growth during the 1990s and 2000s, with the GDP increasing 56% from 1999 to 2008, transformed Brunei into an industrialised country. It has developed wealth from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields. Brunei has the second-highest Human Development Index among the Southeast Asian nations, after Singapore, and is classified as a developed country. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Brunei is ranked fifth in the world by gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity. The IMF estimated in 2011 that Brunei was one of two countries (the other being Libya) with a public debt at 0% of the national GDP.
Burkina Faso (UK: , US: (listen); French: [buʁkina faso], Fula: 𞤄𞤵𞤪𞤳𞤭𞤲𞤢 𞤊𞤢𞤧𞤮) is a landlocked country in West Africa with an area of 274,200 km2 (105,900 sq mi), bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwest. It has a population of 20,321,378. Previously called Republic of Upper Volta (1958–1984), it was renamed Burkina Faso by President Thomas Sankara. Its citizens are known as Burkinabè ( bur-KEE-nə-beh), and its capital and largest city is Ouagadougou.
The largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso is the Mossi people, who settled the area in the 11th and 13th centuries. They established powerful kingdoms such as the Ouagadougou, Tenkodogo, and Yatenga. In 1896, it was colonized by the French as part of French West Africa; in 1958, Upper Volta became a self-governing colony within the French Community. In 1960, it gained full independence with Maurice Yaméogo as president. Throughout the decades post independence, the country was subject to instability, droughts, famines and corruption. Various coups have also taken place in the country, in 1966, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1987, and twice in 2022, in January and in September, as well as an attempt in 1989 and another in 2015.
Thomas Sankara served as the country’s president from 1982 until he was killed in the 1987 coup led by Blaise Compaoré, who became president and ruled the country until his removal on 31 October 2014. Sankara had conducted an ambitious socioeconomic programme which included a nationwide literacy campaign, land redistribution to peasants, railway and road construction, and the outlawing of female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and polygamy.
Burkina Faso has been severely affected by the rise of Islamist terrorism in the Sahel since the mid-2010s. Several militias, partly allied with the Islamic State (IS) or al-Qaeda, operate in Burkina Faso and across the border in Mali and Niger. More than one million of the country’s 21 million inhabitants are internally displaced persons. Burkina Faso’s military seized power in a coup d’état on 23–24 January 2022, overthrowing President Roch Marc Kaboré. On 31 January, the military junta restored the constitution and appointed Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba as interim president, who was himself overthrown in a second coup on 30 September and replaced by military captain Ibrahim Traoré.Burkina Faso is one of the least developed countries with a GDP of $16.226 billion. Approximately 63.8 percent of its population practices Islam, while 26.3 percent practice Christianity. The country’s official language of government and business is French. There are 60 indigenous languages officially recognized by the Burkinabè government, with the most common language, Mooré, spoken by over half the population. The country is governed as a semi-presidential republic with executive, legislative and judicial powers. Burkina Faso is a member of the United Nations, La Francophonie and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It is currently suspended from ECOWAS and the African Union.
Burundi ( (listen), ), officially the Republic of Burundi (Kirundi: Repuburika y’Uburundi [u.βu.ɾǔː.ndi]; Swahili: Jamuhuri ya Burundi; French: République du Burundi [buʁundi, byʁyndi]), is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley at the junction between the African Great Lakes region and East Africa. It is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and southeast, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; Lake Tanganyika lies along its southwestern border. The capital cities are Gitega and Bujumbura, the latter being the country’s largest city.The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least 500 years. For more than 200 of those years, Burundi was an independent kingdom, until the beginning of the 20th century, when it became a German colony. After the First World War and Germany’s defeat, the League of Nations “mandated” the territory to Belgium. After the Second World War, this transformed into a United Nations Trust Territory. Both Germans and Belgians ruled Burundi and Rwanda as a European colony known as Ruanda-Urundi. Burundi and Rwanda had never been under common rule until the time of European colonization of Africa.Burundi gained independence in 1962 and initially had a monarchy, but a series of assassinations, coups and a general climate of regional instability culminated in the establishment of a republic and a one-party state in 1966. Bouts of ethnic cleansing and ultimately two civil wars and genocides during the 1970s and again in the 1990s resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, leaving the economy undeveloped and the population one of the world’s poorest. The year 2015 witnessed large-scale political strife as President Pierre Nkurunziza opted to run for a third term in office, a coup attempt failed and the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections were broadly criticised by members of the international community.
The sovereign state of Burundi’s political system is that of a presidential representative democratic republic based upon a multi-party state. The president of Burundi is the head of state and head of government. There are currently 21 registered parties in Burundi. On 13 March 1992, Tutsi coup leader Pierre Buyoya established a constitution, which provided for a multi-party political process and reflected multi-party competition. Six years later, on 6 June 1998, the constitution was changed, broadening the National Assembly’s seats and making provisions for two vice-presidents. Because of the Arusha Accord, Burundi enacted a transitional government in 2000. In October 2016, Burundi informed the UN of its intention to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.Burundi remains primarily a rural society, with just 13.4% of the population living in urban areas in 2019. The population density of around 315 people per square kilometre (753 per sq mi) is the second highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly 85% of the population are of Hutu ethnic origin, 15% are Tutsi, and fewer than 1% are indigenous Twa. The official languages of Burundi are Kirundi, French, and English, Kirundi being recognised officially as the sole national language.One of the smallest countries in Africa, Burundi’s land is used mostly for subsistence agriculture and grazing, which has led to deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss. As of 2005, the country was almost completely deforested, with less than 6% of its land covered by trees and over half of that being commercial plantations.Burundi is the poorest country in the world according to gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, with $272 in 2022, and a least developed country, facing widespread poverty, corruption, instability, authoritarianism, and illiteracy.
Burundi is densely populated, and many young people emigrate in search of opportunities elsewhere. The World Happiness Report 2018 ranked the country as the world’s least happy with a rank of 156. Burundi is a member of the African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d’Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, is a country on the southern coast of West Africa. Its capital is Yamoussoukro, in the centre of the country, while its largest city and economic centre is the port city of Abidjan. It borders Guinea to the northwest, Liberia to the west, Mali to the northwest, Burkina Faso to the northeast, Ghana to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean) to the south. Its official language is French, and indigenous languages are also widely used, including Bété, Baoulé, Dioula, Dan, Anyin, and Cebaara Senufo. In total, there are around 78 different languages spoken in Ivory Coast. The country has a religiously diverse population, including numerous followers of Christianity, Islam, and indigenous faiths.
Before its colonization by Europeans, Ivory Coast was home to several states, including Gyaaman, the Kong Empire, and Baoulé. The area became a protectorate of France in 1843 and was consolidated as a French colony in 1893 amid the European Scramble for Africa. It achieved independence in 1960, led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who ruled the country until 1993. Relatively stable by regional standards, Ivory Coast established close political-economic ties with its West African neighbours while maintaining close relations with the West, especially France. Its stability was diminished by a coup d’état in 1999, then two civil wars—first between 2002 and 2007 and again during 2010–2011. It adopted a new constitution in 2016.
Ivory Coast is a republic with strong executive power vested in its president. Through the production of coffee and cocoa, it was an economic powerhouse in West Africa during the 1960s and 1970s, then experienced an economic crisis in the 1980s, contributing to a period of political and social turmoil that extended until 2011. Ivory Coast has experienced again high economic growth since the return of peace and political stability in 2011. From 2012 to 2021, the economy grew by an average of 7.4% per year in real terms, the second-fasted rate of economic growth in Africa and fourth-fastest rate in the world. In 2020 Ivory Coast was the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans and had high levels of income for its region. In the 21st century, the economy still relies heavily on agriculture, with smallholder cash-crop production predominating.
Cape Verde ( (listen)) or Cabo Verde ( (listen), ; Portuguese: [ˈkabu ˈveɾdɨ]), officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an archipelago and island country in the central Atlantic Ocean, consisting of ten volcanic islands with a combined land area of about 4,033 square kilometres (1,557 sq mi). These islands lie between 600 and 850 kilometres (320 and 460 nautical miles) west of Cap-Vert, the westernmost point of continental Africa. The Cape Verde islands form part of the Macaronesia ecoregion, along with the Azores, the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Savage Isles.
The Cape Verde archipelago was uninhabited until the 15th century, when Portuguese explorers discovered and colonized the islands, thus establishing the first European settlement in the tropics. Because the Cape Verde islands were located in a convenient location to play a role in the Atlantic slave trade, Cape Verde became economically prosperous during the 16th and 17th centuries, attracting merchants, privateers, and pirates. It declined economically in the 19th century after the suppression of the Atlantic slave trade, and many of its inhabitants emigrated during that period. However, Cape Verde gradually recovered economically by becoming an important commercial center and useful stopover point along major shipping routes. In 1951, Cape Verde was incorporated as an overseas department of Portugal, but its inhabitants continued to campaign for independence, which they achieved in 1975.
Since the early 1990s, Cape Verde has been a stable representative democracy and has remained one of the most developed and democratic countries in Africa. Lacking natural resources, its developing economy is mostly service-oriented, with a growing focus on tourism and foreign investment. Its population of around 483,628 (as of the 2021 Census) is mostly of mixed African and European heritage, and predominantly Roman Catholic, reflecting the legacy of Portuguese rule. A sizeable Cape Verdean diaspora community exists across the world, especially in the United States and Portugal, considerably outnumbering the inhabitants on the islands. Cape Verde is a member state of the African Union.
Cape Verde’s official language is Portuguese. It is the language of instruction and government. It is also used in newspapers, television, and radio. The recognized national language is Cape Verdean Creole, which is spoken by the vast majority of the population.
Cambodia ( (listen); also Kampuchea ; Khmer: កម្ពុជា, UNGEGN: Kâmpŭchéa [kampuciə]), officially the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia, spanning an area of 181,035 square kilometres (69,898 square miles), bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. The capital and largest city is Phnom Penh.
The sovereign state of Cambodia has a population of over 17 million. Buddhism is enshrined in the constitution as the official state religion, and is practised by more than 97% of the population. Cambodia’s minority groups include Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams and 30 hill tribes. Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate of two seasons, and the country is made up of a central floodplain around the Tonlé Sap lake and Mekong Delta, surrounded by mountainous regions. The capital and largest city is Phnom Penh, the political, economic and cultural centre of Cambodia. The kingdom is an elective constitutional monarchy with a monarch, currently Norodom Sihamoni, chosen by the Royal Council of the Throne as head of state. The head of government is the Prime Minister, currently Hun Sen, the longest serving non-royal leader in Southeast Asia, who has ruled since 1985.
The region now known as Cambodia has been inhabited since prehistoric times. In 802 AD, Jayavarman II declared himself king, uniting the warring Khmer princes of Chenla under the name “Kambuja”. This marked the beginning of the Khmer Empire, which flourished for over 600 years. The Indianised kingdom facilitated the spread of first Hinduism and then Buddhism to much of Southeast Asia and undertook many religious infrastructural projects throughout the region. Angkor Wat is the most famous of these structures and is designated as a World Heritage Site. In the fifteenth century, Cambodia experienced a decline of power, while its neighbors Vietnam and Thailand grew stronger. In 1863, Cambodia became a protectorate of France, and later was part of French Indochina.
After a period of Japanese occupation during the Second World War, Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953. Despite Cambodia’s neutrality, the Vietnam War extended into the country in 1965 via the Ho Chi Minh and Sihanouk trails. A 1970 coup installed the US-aligned Khmer Republic, until being overthrown by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. The Khmer Rouge ruled the country and carried out the Cambodian genocide from 1975 until 1979, when they were ousted in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War. The Vietnamese-occupied People’s Republic of Kampuchea became the de facto government, with attempts to rebuild the country after the genocide mired by limited international recognition and ongoing conflict.
Following the 1991 Paris Peace Accords which formally ended the war with Vietnam, Cambodia was governed briefly by a United Nations mission (1992–93). The UN withdrew after holding elections in which around 90 percent of the registered voters cast ballots. The 1997 coup d’état consolidated power under Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), who remain in power. Although constitutionally a multi-party state, the CPP dominates the political system and dissolved its main opposition party in 2017, making Cambodia a de facto one-party state.The United Nations designates Cambodia as a least developed country. Cambodia is a member of the United Nations, ASEAN, the RCEP, the East Asia Summit, the WTO, the Non-Aligned Movement and La Francophonie. While per capita income remains low compared to most neighboring countries, Cambodia has one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. Agriculture remains the dominant economic sector, with strong growth in textiles, construction, garments, and tourism leading to increased foreign investment and international trade. Rich in biodiversity and seasonal tropical forests, Cambodia has a high rate of deforestation and is considered among the most vulnerable countries to climate change.
Cameroon ( (listen); French: Cameroun, Fula: Kamerun), officially the Republic of Cameroon (French: République du Cameroun), is a country in west-central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west and north; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Its coastline lies on the Bight of Biafra, part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. Due to its strategic position at the crossroads between West Africa and Central Africa, it has been categorized as being in both camps. Its nearly 27 million people speak 250 native languages.Early inhabitants of the territory included the Sao civilisation around Lake Chad, and the Baka hunter-gatherers in the southeastern rainforest. Portuguese explorers reached the coast in the 15th century and named the area Rio dos Camarões (Shrimp River), which became Cameroon in English. Fulani soldiers founded the Adamawa Emirate in the north in the 19th century, and various ethnic groups of the west and northwest established powerful chiefdoms and fondoms. Cameroon became a German colony in 1884 known as Kamerun. After World War I, it was divided between France and the United Kingdom as League of Nations mandates. The Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) political party advocated independence, but was outlawed by France in the 1950s, leading to the national liberation insurgency fought between French and UPC militant forces until early 1971. In 1960, the French-administered part of Cameroon became independent, as the Republic of Cameroun, under President Ahmadou Ahidjo. The southern part of British Cameroons federated with it in 1961 to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The federation was abandoned in 1972. The country was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972 and back to the Republic of Cameroon in 1984 by a presidential decree by president Paul Biya. Paul Biya, the incumbent president, has led the country since 1982 following Ahidjo’s resignation; he previously held office as prime minister from 1975 on. Cameroon is governed as a Unitary Presidential Republic.
The official languages of Cameroon are French and English, the official languages of former French Cameroons and British Cameroons. Its religious population is predominantly Christian, with a significant minority practicing Islam, and others following traditional faiths. It has experienced tensions from the English-speaking territories, where politicians have advocated for greater decentralisation and even complete separation or independence (as in the Southern Cameroons National Council). In 2017, tensions over the creation of an Ambazonian state in the English-speaking territories escalated into open warfare.
Large numbers of Cameroonians live as subsistence farmers. The country is often referred to as “Africa in miniature” for its geological, linguistic and cultural diversity. Its natural features include beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas. Its highest point, at almost 4,100 metres (13,500 ft), is Mount Cameroon in the Southwest Region. Its most populous cities are Douala on the Wouri River, its economic capital and main seaport; Yaoundé, its political capital; and Garoua. Limbe in the Southwest has a natural seaport. Cameroon is well known for its native music styles, particularly Makossa, Njang and Bikutsi, and for its successful national football team. It is a member state of the African Union, the United Nations, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the Commonwealth of Nations, Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Canada is a country in North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering over 9.98 million square kilometres (3.85 million square miles), making it the world’s second-largest country by total area. Its southern and western border with the United States, stretching 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world’s longest binational land border. Canada’s capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
Indigenous peoples have continuously inhabited what is now Canada for thousands of years. Beginning in the 16th century, British and French expeditions explored and later settled along the Atlantic coast. As a consequence of various armed conflicts, France ceded nearly all of its colonies in North America in 1763. In 1867, with the union of three British North American colonies through Confederation, Canada was formed as a federal dominion of four provinces. This began an accretion of provinces and territories and a process of increasing autonomy from the United Kingdom. This widening autonomy was highlighted by the Statute of Westminster 1931 and culminated in the Canada Act 1982, which severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Canada is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy in the Westminster tradition. The country’s head of government is the prime minister, who holds office by virtue of their ability to command the confidence of the elected House of Commons, and is appointed by the governor general, representing the monarch of Canada, the head of state. The country is a Commonwealth realm and is officially bilingual (English and French) at the federal level. It ranks among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, education, gender equality and environmental sustainability. It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration. Canada’s long and complex relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture.
A highly developed country, Canada has the 24th highest nominal per capita income globally and the sixteenth-highest ranking on the Human Development Index. Its advanced economy is the eighth-largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed international trade networks. Canada is part of several major international and intergovernmental institutions or groupings including the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the Group of Ten, the G20, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Commonwealth of Nations, the Arctic Council, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and the Organization of American States.
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR; Sango: Ködörösêse tî Bêafrîka IPA: [kōdōrōsésè tí bé.àfríkà]; French: République centrafricaine, RCA; French: [ʁepyblik sɑ̃tʁafʁikɛn], or Centrafrique, [sɑ̃tʁafʁik]) is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the southeast, the DR Congo to the south, the Republic of the Congo to the southwest, and Cameroon to the west.
The Central African Republic covers a land area of about 620,000 square kilometres (240,000 sq mi). As of 2021, it had an estimated population of around 5.5 million. As of 2022, the Central African Republic is the scene of a civil war, ongoing since 2012.
Most of the Central African Republic consists of Sudano-Guinean savannas, but the country also includes a Sahelo-Sudanian zone in the north and an equatorial forest zone in the south. Two-thirds of the country is within the Ubangi River basin (which flows into the Congo), while the remaining third lies in the basin of the Chari, which flows into Lake Chad.
What is today the Central African Republic has been inhabited for millennia; however, the country’s current borders were established by France, which ruled the country as a colony starting in the late 19th century. After gaining independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic was ruled by a series of autocratic leaders, including an abortive attempt at a monarchy.By the 1990s, calls for democracy led to the first multi-party democratic elections in 1993. Ange-Félix Patassé became president, but was later removed by General François Bozizé in the 2003 coup. The Central African Republic Bush War began in 2004 and, despite a peace treaty in 2007 and another in 2011, civil war resumed in 2012. The civil war perpetuated the country’s poor human rights record: it was characterized by widespread and increasing abuses by various participating armed groups, such as arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of movement.
Despite (or perhaps because of, see resource curse) its significant mineral deposits and other resources, such as uranium reserves, crude oil, gold, diamonds, cobalt, lumber, and hydropower, as well as significant quantities of arable land, the Central African Republic is among the ten poorest countries in the world, with the lowest GDP per capita at purchasing power parity in the world as of 2017. As of 2019, according to the Human Development Index (HDI), the country had the second-lowest level of human development (only ahead of Niger), ranking 188 out of 189 countries. The country had the lowest inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), ranking 150th out of 150 countries. The Central African Republic is also estimated to be the unhealthiest country as well as the worst country in which to be young.The Central African Republic is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Chad ( (listen); Arabic: تشاد Tšād, Arabic pronunciation: [tʃaːd]; French: Tchad, pronounced [tʃa(d)]), officially the Republic of Chad, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of North and Central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon to the southwest, Nigeria to the southwest (at Lake Chad), and Niger to the west. Chad has a population of 16 million, of which 1.6 million live in the capital and largest city of N’Djamena.
Chad has several regions: a desert zone in the north, an arid Sahelian belt in the centre and a more fertile Sudanian Savanna zone in the south. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the second-largest wetland in Africa. Chad’s official languages are Arabic and French. It is home to over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. Islam (55.1%) and Christianity (41.1%) are the main religions practiced in Chad.Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium AD, a series of states and empires had risen and fallen in Chad’s Sahelian strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region. France conquered the territory by 1920 and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. In 1960, Chad obtained independence under the leadership of François Tombalbaye. Resentment towards his policies in the Muslim north culminated in the eruption of a long-lasting civil war in 1965. In 1979 the rebels conquered the capital and put an end to the South’s hegemony. The rebel commanders then fought amongst themselves until Hissène Habré defeated his rivals. The Chadian–Libyan conflict erupted in 1978 by the Libyan invasion which stopped in 1987 with a French military intervention (Operation Épervier). Hissène Habré was overthrown in turn in 1990 by his general Idriss Déby. With French support, a modernization of the Chad National Army was initiated in 1991. From 2003, the Darfur crisis in Sudan spilt over the border and destabilised the nation. Already poor, the nation and people struggled to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees who live in and around camps in eastern Chad.
While many political parties participated in Chad’s legislature, the National Assembly, power laid firmly in the hands of the Patriotic Salvation Movement during the presidency of Idriss Déby, whose rule was described as authoritarian. After President Déby was killed by FACT rebels in April 2021, the Transitional Military Council led by his son Mahamat Déby assumed control of the government and dissolved the Assembly. Chad remains plagued by political violence and recurrent attempted coups d’état.
Chad ranks the 3rd lowest in the Human Development Index, with 0.398 in 2019, and a least developed country facing the effects of being one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.
Most of its inhabitants live in poverty as subsistence herders and farmers. Since 2003 crude oil has become the country’s primary source of export earnings, superseding the traditional cotton industry. Chad has a poor human rights record, with frequent abuses such as arbitrary imprisonment, extrajudicial killings, and limits on civil liberties by both security forces and armed militias.
Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America. It is the southernmost country in the world, and the closest to Antarctica, occupying a long and narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Chile covers an area of 756,096 square kilometers (291,930 sq mi), with a population of 17.5 million as of 2017. It shares land borders with Peru to the north, Bolivia to the north-east, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. Chile also controls the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Isla Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. It also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometers (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica under the Chilean Antarctic Territory. The country’s capital and largest city is Santiago, and its national language is Spanish.
Spain conquered and colonized the region in the mid-16th century, replacing Inca rule, but failing to conquer the independent Mapuche who inhabited what is now south-central Chile. In 1818, after declaring independence from Spain, Chile emerged in the 1830s as a relatively stable authoritarian republic. In the 19th century, Chile saw significant economic and territorial growth, ending Mapuche resistance in the 1880s and gaining its current northern territory in the War of the Pacific (1879–83) after defeating Peru and Bolivia. In the 20th century up to the 1970s Chile saw a process of democratization, rapid population growth and urbanization and increasing reliance on exports from copper mining for its economy. During the 1960s and 1970s, the country experienced severe left-right political polarization and turmoil. This development culminated with the 1973 Chilean coup d’état that overthrew Salvador Allende’s democratically elected left-wing government and instituted a 16-year right-wing military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet that left more than 3,000 people dead or missing. The regime ended in 1990 after a referendum in 1988 and was succeeded by a center-left coalition which ruled until 2010.
Chile is a developing country with a high-income economy and ranks 42nd in the Human Development Index. It is among the most economically and socially stable nations in South America, leading Latin America in rankings of competitiveness, per capita income, globalization, state of peace, and economic freedom. Chile also ranks high regionally in sustainability of the state, democratic development, and has the lowest homicide rate in the Americas after Canada. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Pacific Alliance, and joined the OECD in 2010.
China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world’s most populous country, with a population exceeding 1.4 billion, slightly ahead of India. China spans the equivalent of five time zones and borders fourteen countries by land, the most of any country in the world, tied with Russia. Covering an area of approximately 9.6 million square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the world’s third largest country by total land area. The country consists of 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities, and two Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macau). The national capital is Beijing, and the most populous city and financial center is Shanghai.
Modern Chinese trace their origins to a cradle of civilization in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. The semi-legendary Xia dynasty in the 21st century BCE and the well-attested Shang and Zhou dynasties developed a bureaucratic political system to serve hereditary monarchies, or dynasties. Chinese writing, Chinese classic literature, and the Hundred Schools of Thought emerged during this period and influenced China and its neighbors for centuries to come. In the third century BCE, Qin’s wars of unification created the first Chinese empire, the short-lived Qin dynasty. The Qin was followed by the more stable Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), which established a model for nearly two millennia in which the Chinese empire was one of the world’s foremost economic powers. The empire expanded, fractured and re-unified, was conquered and reestablished, absorbed foreign religions and ideas, and made world-leading scientific advances, such as the Four Great Inventions: gunpowder, paper, the compass, and printing. After centuries of disunion following the fall of the Han, the Sui (581–618) and Tang (618–907) dynasties reunified the empire. The multi-ethnic Tang welcomed foreign trade and culture that came over the Silk Road and adapted Buddhism to Chinese needs. The early modern Song dynasty (960–1279) became increasingly urban and commercial. The civilian scholar-official or literati used the examination system and the doctrines of Neo-Confucianism to replace the military aristocrats of earlier dynasties. The Mongol invasion established the Yuan dynasty in 1279, but the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) re-established Han Chinese control. The Manchu-led Qing dynasty nearly doubled the empire’s territory and established a multi-ethnic state that was the basis of the modern Chinese nation, but suffered heavy losses to foreign imperialism in the 19th century.
The Chinese monarchy collapsed in 1912 with the Xinhai Revolution, when the Republic of China (ROC) replaced the Qing dynasty. In its early years as a republic, the country underwent a period of instability known as the Warlord Era before mostly reunifying in 1928 under a Nationalist government. A civil war between the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began in 1927. Japan invaded China in 1937, starting the Second Sino-Japanese War and temporarily halting the civil war. The surrender and expulsion of Japanese forces from China in 1945 left a power vacuum in the country, which led to renewed fighting between the CCP and the Kuomintang. The civil war ended in 1949 with the division of Chinese territory; the CCP established the People’s Republic of China on the mainland while the Kuomintang-led ROC government retreated to the island of Taiwan. Both claim to be the sole legitimate government of China, although the United Nations has recognized the PRC as the sole representation since 1971. From 1959 to 1961, the PRC implemented an economic and social campaign called the Great Leap Forward, that resulted in a sharp economic decline and an estimated 15 to 55 million deaths, mostly through man-made famine. From 1966 to 1976, the turbulent period of political and social chaos within China known as the Cultural Revolution led to greater economic and educational decline, with millions being purged or subjected to either persecution or politicide based on political categories. Since then, the Chinese government has rebuked some of the earlier Maoist policies, conducting a series of political and economic reforms since 1978, which has greatly raised Chinese standards of living, and increased life expectancies.
China is currently governed as a unitary Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic by the CCP. China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a founding member of several multilateral and regional cooperation organizations such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund, the New Development Bank, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the RCEP, and is a member of the BRICS, the G8+5, the G20, the APEC, and the East Asia Summit. It ranks among the lowest in measurements of democracy, civil liberties, government transparency, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and ethnic minorities. The Chinese authorities have been criticized by human rights activists and non-governmental organizations for human rights abuses, including political repression, mass censorship, mass surveillance of their citizens, and violent suppression of protests.
Making up around one-fifth of the world economy, China is the world’s largest economy by GDP by purchasing power parity, the second-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the second-wealthiest country. The country is one of the fastest growing major economies and is the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter. China is a recognized nuclear-weapon state with the world’s largest standing army by military personnel and second-largest defense budget. China is considered to be a potential superpower due to its large markets, high innovation, economic potential, growing military strength, and influence in international affairs.
Colombia ( (listen), ; Spanish: [koˈlombja] (listen)), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a country in South America with an insular region in North America. It is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the north, Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the southeast, Ecuador and Peru to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west and Panama to the northwest. Colombia comprises 32 departments and the Capital District of Bogotá, the country’s largest city. It covers an area of 1,141,748 square kilometers (440,831 sq mi), with a population of 50 million. Colombia’s cultural heritage reflects influences by various Amerindian civilizations, European settlement, enslaved Africans, as well as immigration from Europe and the Middle East. Spanish is the nation’s official language, besides which over 70 languages are spoken.
Colombia has been inhabited by various indigenous peoples since at least 12,000 BCE, including the Muisca, Quimbaya and Tairona. The Spanish landed first in La Guajira in 1499 and by the mid-16th century colonized parts of the region, establishing the New Kingdom of Granada, with Santa Fé de Bogotá as its capital. Independence from the Spanish Empire was achieved in 1819, with what is now Colombia emerging as the United Provinces of New Granada. The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858) and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia was finally declared in 1886. Panama seceded in 1903, leading to Colombia’s present borders. Beginning in the 1960s, the country has suffered from an asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict and political violence, both of which escalated in the 1990s. Since 2005, there has been significant improvement in security, stability and rule of law, as well as unprecedented economic growth and development.Colombia is one of the world’s seventeen megadiverse countries; it has the second-highest level of biodiversity in the world. Its territory encompasses Amazon rainforest, highlands, grasslands and deserts. It is the only country in South America with coastlines and islands along both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Colombia is a member of major global and regional organizations including the UN, the WTO, the OECD, the OAS, the Pacific Alliance and the Andean Community; it is also a NATO Global Partner. Its diversified economy is the third-largest in South America, with macroeconomic stability and favorable long-term growth prospects.
The Comoros, officially the Union of the Comoros, is an independent country made up of three islands in southeastern Africa, located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean. Its capital and largest city is Moroni. The religion of the majority of the population, and the official state religion, is Sunni Islam. As a member of the Arab League, it is the only country in the Arab world which is entirely in the Southern Hemisphere. Comoros proclaimed their independence on July 6, 1975. It is also a member state of the African Union, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Indian Ocean Commission. The country has three official languages: Chi Comori, French and Arabic.
The sovereign state consists of three major islands and numerous smaller islands, all in the volcanic Comoro Islands with the notable exception of Mayotte. Mayotte voted against independence from France in a referendum in 1974, and has since then never been administered by an independent Comoros government, and continues to be administered by France as an overseas department. France has vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions that would affirm Comorian sovereignty over the island. Mayotte became an overseas department and a region of France in 2011 following a referendum which was passed overwhelmingly.
At 1,861 km2 (719 sq mi), the Comoros is the fourth-smallest African country by area. Its population is estimated at 850,886 residents as of 2019.The Comoros was likely first settled by Austronesian/Malagasy peoples, followed by Swahili peoples, Bantu speakers from East Africa, and seafaring Arab traders. It then became part of the French colonial empire during the 19th century, before its independence in 1975. Since then, it has experienced more than 20 coups or attempted coups, with various heads of state assassinated. Along with this constant political instability, it has one of the worst levels of income inequality of any nation, and ranks in the worst quartile on the Human Development Index. As of 2008, about half the population lived below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. The French insular region of Mayotte, the most prosperous territory in the Mozambique Channel, is a major destination for migrants from the Comoros.
The Republic of the Congo (French: République du Congo, Lingala: Republíki ya Kongó), also known as Congo-Brazzaville, the Congo Republic or simply either Congo or the Congo, is a country located in the western coast of Central Africa to the west of the Congo river. It is bordered to the west by Gabon, to its northwest by Cameroon and its northeast by the Central African Republic, to the southeast by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to its south by the Angolan exclave of Cabinda and to its southwest by the Atlantic Ocean.
The region was dominated by Bantu-speaking tribes at least 3,000 years ago, who built trade links leading into the Congo River basin. Congo was formerly part of the French colony of Equatorial Africa. The Republic of the Congo was established on 28 November 1958 and gained independence from France in 1960. It was a Marxist–Leninist state from 1969 to 1992, under the name People’s Republic of the Congo. The country has had multi-party elections since 1992, but a democratically elected government was ousted in the 1997 Republic of the Congo Civil War. President Denis Sassou Nguesso who first came to power in 1979 ruled until 1992 and then again from 1997 onwards.
It is a member of the African Union, the United Nations, La Francophonie, the Economic Community of Central African States, and the Non-Aligned Movement. It has become the 4th-largest oil producer in the Gulf of Guinea, providing the country with a degree of prosperity, with political and economic instability in some areas and unequal distribution of oil revenue nationwide. Its economy is dependent on the oil sector, and economic growth has slowed since the post-2015 drop in oil prices. With a population of 5.2 million, 88.5% of the country practices Christianity.
Costa Rica (UK: , US: (listen); Spanish: [ˈkosta ˈrika]; literally “Rich Coast”), officially the Republic of Costa Rica (Spanish: República de Costa Rica), is a country in the Central American region of North America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, and maritime border with Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around five million in a land area of 51,060 km2 (19,710 sq mi). An estimated 333,980 people live in the capital and largest city, San José, with around two million people in the surrounding metropolitan area.The sovereign state is a unitary presidential constitutional republic. It has a long-standing and stable democracy and a highly educated workforce. The country spends roughly 6.9% of its budget (2016) on education, compared to a global average of 4.4%. Its economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to include sectors such as finance, corporate services for foreign companies, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism. Many foreign manufacturing and services companies operate in Costa Rica’s Free Trade Zones (FTZ) where they benefit from investment and tax incentives.Costa Rica was inhabited by indigenous peoples before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the Federal Republic of Central America, from which it formally declared independence in 1847. Following the brief Costa Rican Civil War in 1948, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming one of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.The country has consistently performed favorably in the Human Development Index (HDI), placing 62nd in the world as of 2020, and fifth in Latin America. It has also been cited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region. It also performs well in comparisons of the state of democracy, press freedom and subjective happiness. It has the 7th freest press according to the Press Freedom Index, it is the 37th most democratic country according to the Freedom in the World index and it is the 12th happiest country in the World Happiness Report.
Cuba ( (listen) KEW-bə, Spanish: [ˈkuβa] (listen)), officially the Republic of Cuba (Spanish: República de Cuba [reˈpuβlika ðe ˈkuβa] (listen)), is an island country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos. Cuba is located where the northern Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Ocean meet. Cuba is located east of the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico), south of both the American state of Florida and the Bahamas, west of Hispaniola (Haiti/Dominican Republic), and north of both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Havana is the largest city and capital; other major cities include Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey. The official area of the Republic of Cuba is 109,884 km2 (42,426 sq mi) (without the territorial waters) but a total of 350,730 km² (135,418 sq mi) including the exclusive economic zone. Cuba is the second-most populous country in the Caribbean after Haiti, with over 11 million inhabitants.The territory that is now Cuba was inhabited by the Ciboney Taíno people from the 4th millennium BC until Spanish colonization in the 15th century. From the 15th century, it was a colony of Spain, and slavery was abolished in 1882, until the Spanish–American War of 1898, when Cuba was occupied by the United States and gained independence in 1902. In 1940, Cuba implemented a new constitution, but mounting political unrest culminated in a coup in 1952 and the subsequent dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which was later overthrown in January 1959 by the 26th of July Movement during the Cuban Revolution, which afterwards established communist rule under the leadership of Fidel Castro. The country was a point of contention during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, and a nuclear war nearly broke out during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba faced a severe economic downturn in the 1990s, known as the Special Period. In 2008, Fidel Castro resigned after 49 years of leadership of Cuba and was replaced by his brother Raúl Castro.
Cuba is one of a few extant Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist states, in which the role of the vanguard Communist Party is enshrined in the Constitution. Cuba has an authoritarian regime where political opposition is not permitted. Censorship of information (including limits to Internet access) is extensive, and independent journalism is repressed in Cuba; Reporters Without Borders has characterized Cuba as one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom.Culturally, Cuba is considered part of Latin America. It is a multiethnic country whose people, culture and customs derive from diverse origins, including the Taíno Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of enslaved Africans and a close relationship with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
Cuba is a founding member of the United Nations, the G77, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, ALBA, and the Organization of American States. It has currently one of the world’s few planned economies, and its economy is dominated by the tourism industry and the exports of skilled labor, sugar, tobacco, and coffee. Cuba has historically—both before and during communist rule—performed better than other countries in the region on several socioeconomic indicators, such as literacy, infant mortality and life expectancy.
Cyprus ( (listen)), officially the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is geographically in Western Asia, its cultural ties and geopolitics are overwhelmingly Southern European. Cyprus is the third-largest and third-most populous island in the Mediterranean. It is located north of Egypt, east of Greece, south of Turkey, and west of Lebanon and Syria. Its capital and largest city is Nicosia. The northeast portion of the island is de facto occupied by Turkish military forces and it is governed by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which was established after the 1974 invasion and which is recognised as a country only by Turkey.
The earliest known human activity on the island dates to around the 10th millennium BC. Archaeological remains include the well-preserved ruins from the Hellenistic period such as Salamis and Kourion, and Cyprus is home to some of the oldest water wells in the world. Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in two waves in the 2nd millennium BC. As a strategic location in the Eastern Mediterranean, it was subsequently occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians, from whom the island was seized in 333 BC by Alexander the Great. Subsequent rule by Ptolemaic Egypt, the Classical and Eastern Roman Empire, Arab caliphates for a short period, the French Lusignan dynasty and the Venetians was followed by over three centuries of Ottoman rule between 1571 and 1878 (de jure until 1914).Cyprus was placed under the United Kingdom’s administration based on the Cyprus Convention in 1878 and was formally annexed by the UK in 1914. The future of the island became a matter of disagreement between the two prominent ethnic communities, Greek Cypriots, who made up 77% of the population in 1960, and Turkish Cypriots, who made up 18% of the population. From the 19th century onwards, the Greek Cypriot population pursued enosis, union with Greece, which became a Greek national policy in the 1950s. The Turkish Cypriot population initially advocated the continuation of the British rule, then demanded the annexation of the island to Turkey, and in the 1950s, together with Turkey, established a policy of taksim, the partition of Cyprus and the creation of a Turkish polity in the north.Following nationalist violence in the 1950s, Cyprus was granted independence in 1960. The crisis of 1963–64 brought further intercommunal violence between the two communities, displaced more than 25,000 Turkish Cypriots into enclaves: 56–59 and brought the end of Turkish Cypriot representation in the republic. On 15 July 1974, a coup d’état was staged by Greek Cypriot nationalists and elements of the Greek military junta in an attempt at enosis. This action precipitated the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on 20 July, which led to the capture of the present-day territory of Northern Cyprus and the displacement of over 150,000 Greek Cypriots and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots. A separate Turkish Cypriot state in the north was established by unilateral declaration in 1983; the move was widely condemned by the international community, with Turkey alone recognising the new state. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of a continuing dispute.
Cyprus is a major tourist destination in the Mediterranean. With an advanced, high-income economy and a very high Human Development Index, the Republic of Cyprus has been a member of the Commonwealth since 1961 and was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement until it joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. On 1 January 2008, the Republic of Cyprus joined the eurozone.
Djibouti, officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Somalia to the south, Ethiopia to the southwest, Eritrea in the north, and the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the east. The country has an area of 23,200 km2 (8,958 sq mi).In antiquity, the territory, together with Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somaliland, was part of the Land of Punt. Nearby Zeila, now in Somaliland, was the seat of the medieval Adal and Ifat Sultanates. In the late 19th century, the colony of French Somaliland was established following treaties signed by the ruling Dir Somali sultans with the French, and its railroad to Dire Dawa (and later Addis Ababa) allowed it to quickly supersede Zeila as the port for southern Ethiopia and the Ogaden. It was renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas in 1967. A decade later, the Djiboutian people voted for independence. This officially marked the establishment of the Republic of Djibouti, named after its capital city. The new state joined the United Nations. In the early 1990s, tensions over government representation led to armed conflict, which ended in a power-sharing agreement in 2000 between the ruling party and the opposition.Djibouti is a multi-ethnic nation with a population of over 920,000 (the smallest in mainland Africa). French and Arabic are the country’s two official languages, Afar and Somali are national languages. About 94% adhere to Islam, which is the official religion and has been predominant in the region for more than a thousand years. The Somalis and Afar make up the two largest ethnic groups, with the former comprising the majority of the population. Both speak a language of the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic languages.Djibouti is near some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, controlling access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. It serves as a key refuelling and transshipment center, and the principal maritime port for imports from and exports to neighboring Ethiopia. A burgeoning commercial hub, the nation is the site of various foreign military bases. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional body also has its headquarters in Djibouti City.
Dominica ( or (listen); Kalinago: Wai‘tu kubuli; French: Dominique; Dominican Creole French: Dominik), officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island country in the Caribbean. The capital, Roseau, is located on the western side of the island. It is geographically situated as part of the Windward Islands chain in the Lesser Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Dominica’s closest neighbours are two constituent territories of the European Union, the overseas departments of France, Guadeloupe to the northwest and Martinique to the south-southeast. Dominica comprises a land area of 750 km2 (290 sq mi), and the highest point is Morne Diablotins, at 1,447 m (4,747 ft) in elevation. The population was 71,293 at the 2011 census.The island was settled by the Arawak arriving from South America in the fifth century. The Kalinago displaced the Arawak by the 15th century. Columbus is said to have passed the island on Sunday, 3 November 1493. It was later colonised by Europeans, predominantly by the French from the 1690s to 1763. The French imported enslaved people from West Africa to Dominica to work on coffee plantations. Great Britain took possession in 1763 after the Seven Years’ War, and it gradually established English as its official language. The island gained independence as a republic in 1978.
Dominica has been nicknamed the “Nature Island of the Caribbean” for its natural environment. It is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles, and in fact it is still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity, as evidenced by the world’s second-largest hot spring, called Boiling Lake. The island has lush mountainous rainforests, and it is the home of many rare plants, animals, and bird species. There are xeric areas in some of the western coastal regions, but heavy rainfall occurs inland. The Sisserou parrot, also known as the Imperial amazon and found only on Dominica, is the island’s national bird and featured on the national flag, making it one of the only two sovereign nations whose official flag features the color purple. The country is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Non-Aligned Movement.
The Dominican Republic ( də-MIN-ik-ən; Spanish: República Dominicana, pronounced [reˈpuβlika ðominiˈkana] (listen)) is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island, which it shares with Haiti, making Hispaniola one of only two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, that is shared by two sovereign states. The Dominican Republic is the second-largest nation in the Antilles by area (after Cuba) at 48,671 square kilometers (18,792 sq mi), and third-largest by population, with approximately 10.7 million people (2022 est.), down from 10.8 million in 2020, of whom approximately 3.3 million live in the metropolitan area of Santo Domingo, the capital city. The official language of the country is Spanish.
The native Taíno people had inhabited Hispaniola before the arrival of Europeans, dividing it into five chiefdoms. They had constructed an advanced farming and hunting society, and were in the process of becoming an organized civilization. The Taínos also inhabited Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. The Genoese mariner Christopher Columbus explored and claimed the island for Castile, landing there on his first voyage in 1492. The colony of Santo Domingo became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas and the first seat of Spanish colonial rule in the New World. It would also become the site to introduce importations of enslaved Africans to the Americas. In 1697, Spain recognized French dominion over the western third of the island, which became the independent state of Haiti in 1804.After more than three hundred years of Spanish rule, the Dominican people declared independence in November 1821. The leader of the independence movement, José Núñez de Cáceres, intended the Dominican nation to unite with the country of Gran Colombia, but the newly independent Dominicans were forcefully annexed by Haiti in February 1822. Independence came 22 years later in 1844, after victory in the Dominican War of Independence. Over the next 72 years, the Dominican Republic experienced mostly civil wars (financed with loans from European merchants), several failed invasions by its neighbour, Haiti, and brief return to Spanish colonial status, before permanently ousting the Spanish during the Dominican War of Restoration of 1863–1865. During this period, three presidents were assassinated (José Antonio Salcedo in 1864, Ulises Heureaux in 1899, and Ramón Cáceres in 1911).
The U.S. occupied the Dominican Republic (1916–1924) due to threats of defaulting on foreign debts; a subsequent calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vásquez followed. From 1930 the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo ruled until his assassination in 1961. Juan Bosch was elected president in 1962 but was deposed in a military coup in 1963. A civil war in 1965, the country’s last, was ended by U.S. military intervention and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquín Balaguer (1966–1978 and 1986–1996). Since 1978, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy, and has been led by Leonel Fernández for most of the time after 1996. Danilo Medina succeeded Fernández in 2012, winning 51% of the electoral vote over his opponent ex-president Hipólito Mejía. He was later succeeded by Luis Abinader in the 2020 presidential election after anti-government protests erupted that year.The Dominican Republic has the largest economy (according to the U.S. State Department and the World Bank) in the Caribbean and Central American region and is the seventh-largest economy in Latin America. Over the last 25 years, the Dominican Republic has had the fastest-growing economy in the Western Hemisphere – with an average real GDP growth rate of 5.3% between 1992 and 2018. GDP growth in 2014 and 2015 reached 7.3 and 7.0%, respectively, the highest in the Western Hemisphere. In the first half of 2016, the Dominican economy grew 7.4% continuing its trend of rapid economic growth. Recent growth has been driven by construction, manufacturing, tourism, and mining. The country is the site of the third largest gold mine in the world, the Pueblo Viejo mine. Private consumption has been strong, as a result of low inflation (under 1% on average in 2015), job creation, and a high level of remittances. Income inequality, for generations an unsolved issue, has faded thanks to its rapid economic growth and now the Dominican Republic exhibits a Gini coefficient of 39, similar to that of Israel and Uruguay, and better than countries like the United States, Costa Rica or Chile. Illegal Immigration from Haiti has resulted in government action. Immigration from Haiti has increased tensions between Dominicans and Haitians. The Dominican Republic is also home to 114,050 illegal immigrants from Venezuela. According to the UN, the country struggles with systemic racism and discrimination based on race, mostly targeted towards people of Haitian origin. The Dominican Republic is the most visited destination in the Caribbean. The year-round golf courses are major attractions. A geographically diverse nation, the Dominican Republic is home to both the Caribbean’s tallest mountain peak, Pico Duarte, and the Caribbean’s largest lake and lowest point, Lake Enriquillo. The island has an average temperature of 26 °C (78.8 °F) and great climatic and biological diversity. The country is also the site of the first cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress built in the Americas, located in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone, a World Heritage Site. The Dominican Republic is highly vulnerable to natural disasters.
Ecuador ( (listen) EK-wə-dor; Spanish pronunciation: [ekwaˈðoɾ] (listen); Quechua: Ikwayur; Shuar: Ecuador or Ekuatur), officially the Republic of Ecuador (Spanish: República del Ecuador, which literally translates as “Republic of the Equator”; Quechua: Ikwadur Ripuwlika; Shuar: Ekuatur Nunka), is a country in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometers (621 mi) west of the mainland. The country’s capital and largest city is Quito.
The territories of modern-day Ecuador were once home to a variety of Indigenous groups that were gradually incorporated into the Inca Empire during the 15th century. The territory was colonized by Spain during the 16th century, achieving independence in 1820 as part of Gran Colombia, from which it emerged as its own sovereign state in 1830. The legacy of both empires is reflected in Ecuador’s ethnically diverse population, with most of its 17.8 million people being mestizos, followed by large minorities of Europeans, Native American, and African descendants. Spanish is the official language and is spoken by a majority of the population, though 13 Native languages are also recognized, including Quechua and Shuar.
The sovereign state of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic and a developing country that is highly dependent on commodities, namely petroleum and agricultural products. It is governed as a democratic presidential republic. The country is a founding member of the United Nations, Organization of American States, Mercosur, PROSUR and the Non-Aligned Movement.
One of 17 megadiverse countries in the world, Ecuador hosts many endemic plants and animals, such as those of the Galápagos Islands. In recognition of its unique ecological heritage, the new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights.According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, between 2006 and 2016, poverty decreased from 36.7% to 22.5% and annual per capita GDP growth was 1.5 percent (as compared to 0.6 percent over the prior two decades). At the same time, the country’s Gini index of economic inequality decreased from 0.55 to 0.47.
Egypt (Arabic: مصر Miṣr [mesˁr], Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [mɑsˤr]), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip of Palestine and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. The Gulf of Aqaba in the northeast separates Egypt from Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Cairo is the capital and largest city of Egypt, while Alexandria, the second-largest city, is an important industrial and tourist hub at the Mediterranean coast. At approximately 100 million inhabitants, Egypt is the 14th-most populated country in the world.
Egypt has one of the longest histories of any country, tracing its heritage along the Nile Delta back to the 6th–4th millennia BCE. Considered a cradle of civilisation, Ancient Egypt saw some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanisation, organised religion and central government. Iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy and remain a significant focus of scientific and popular interest. Egypt’s long and rich cultural heritage is an integral part of its national identity, which reflects its unique transcontinental location being simultaneously Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African. Egypt was an early and important centre of Christianity, but was largely Islamised in the seventh century and remains a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, albeit with a significant Christian minority, along with other lesser practiced faiths.
Modern Egypt dates back to 1922, when it gained independence from the British Empire as a monarchy. Following the 1952 revolution, Egypt declared itself a republic, and in 1958 it merged with Syria to form the United Arab Republic, which dissolved in 1961. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Egypt endured social and religious strife and political instability, fighting several armed conflicts with Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, and occupying the Gaza Strip intermittently until 1967. In 1978, Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, officially withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and recognising Israel. After the Arab Spring, which led to the 2011 Egyptian revolution and overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the country faced a protracted period of political unrest. Egypt’s current government, a semi-presidential republic led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has been described by a number of watchdogs as authoritarian or heading an authoritarian regime, responsible for perpetuating the country’s poor human rights record.
Islam is the official religion of Egypt and Arabic is its official language. With over 100 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Arab world, the third-most populous in Africa (after Nigeria and Ethiopia), and the fourteenth-most populous in the world. The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 40,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable land is found. The large regions of the Sahara desert, which constitute most of Egypt’s territory, are sparsely inhabited. About 43% of Egypt’s residents live across the country’s urban areas, with most spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.
Egypt is considered to be a regional power in North Africa, the Middle East and the Muslim world, and a middle power worldwide. It is a developing country, ranking 97th on the Human Development Index. It has a diversified economy, which is the third-largest in Africa, the 33rd-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the 20th-largest globally by PPP. Egypt is a founding member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab League, the African Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the World Youth Forum.
El Salvador ( (listen); Spanish: [el salβaˈðoɾ] (listen), meaning “The Saviour”), officially the Republic of El Salvador (Spanish: República de El Salvador), is a country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador’s capital and largest city is San Salvador. The country’s population in 2022 is estimated to be 6.5 million.Among the Mesoamerican nations that historically controlled the region are the Lenca (after 600 AD), the Mayans, and then the Cuzcatlecs. Archaeological monuments also suggest an early Olmec presence around the first millennium BC. In the beginning of the 16th century, the Spanish Empire conquered the Central American territory, incorporating it into the Viceroyalty of New Spain ruled from Mexico City. However the Viceroyalty of Mexico had little to no influence in the daily affairs of the isthmus, which was colonized in 1524. In 1609, the area was declared the Captaincy General of Guatemala by the Spanish, which included the territory that would become El Salvador until its independence from Spain in 1821. It was forcibly incorporated into the First Mexican Empire, then seceded, joining the Federal Republic of Central America in 1823. When the federation dissolved in 1841, El Salvador became a sovereign state, then formed a short-lived union with Honduras and Nicaragua called the Greater Republic of Central America, which lasted from 1895 to 1898.From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, El Salvador endured chronic political and economic instability characterized by coups, revolts, and a succession of authoritarian rulers. Persistent socioeconomic inequality and civil unrest culminated in the Salvadoran Civil War from 1979 to 1992, fought between the military-led government backed by the United States, and a coalition of left-wing guerrilla groups. The conflict ended with the Chapultepec Peace Accords. This negotiated settlement established a multiparty constitutional republic, which remains in place to this day.
During the civil war, large numbers of Salvadorans emigrated to the United States. By 2008, they were one of the largest immigrant groups in the US.El Salvador’s economy has historically been dominated by agriculture, beginning with the Spanish taking control of the indigenous cacao crop in the 16th century, with production centered in Izalco, along with balsam from the ranges of La Libertad and Ahuachapan. This was followed by a boom in use of the indigo plant in the 19th century, mainly for its use as a dye. Thereafter the focus shifted to coffee, which by the early 20th century accounted for 90% of export earnings. El Salvador has since reduced its dependence on coffee and embarked on diversifying its economy by opening up trade and financial links and expanding the manufacturing sector. The colón, the currency of El Salvador since 1892, was replaced by the United States dollar in 2001.El Salvador ranks 124th among 189 countries in the Human Development Index. Despite high rates of poverty and gang-related violent crime, as of 2019 economic improvements had led to El Salvador experiencing the lowest level of income inequality among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Among 77 countries included in a 2021 study, El Salvador had one of the least complex economies for doing business.
Equatorial Guinea (Spanish: Guinea Ecuatorial; French: Guinée équatoriale; Portuguese: Guiné Equatorial), officially the Republic of Equatorial Guinea (Spanish: República de Guinea Ecuatorial, French: République de Guinée équatoriale, Portuguese: República da Guiné Equatorial), is a country on the west coast of Central Africa, with an area of 28,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi). Formerly the colony of Spanish Guinea, its post-independence name evokes its location near both the Equator and the Gulf of Guinea. As of 2021, the country had a population of 1,468,777.Equatorial Guinea consists of two parts, an insular and a mainland region. The insular region consists of the islands of Bioko (formerly Fernando Pó) in the Gulf of Guinea and Annobón, a small volcanic island which is the only part of the country south of the equator. Bioko Island is the northernmost part of Equatorial Guinea and is the site of the country’s capital, Malabo. The Portuguese-speaking island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe is located between Bioko and Annobón. The mainland region, Río Muni, is bordered by Cameroon on the north and Gabon on the south and east. It is the location of Bata, Equatorial Guinea’s largest city, and Ciudad de la Paz, the country’s planned future capital. Rio Muni also includes several small offshore islands, such as Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico. The country is a member of the African Union, Francophonie, OPEC and the CPLP.
After becoming independent from Spain in 1968, Equatorial Guinea was ruled by President for life Francisco Macías Nguema until he was overthrown in a coup in 1979 by his nephew Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who has served as the country’s president since. Both presidents have been widely characterized as dictators by foreign observers. Since the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producers. It has subsequently become the richest country per capita in Africa, and its gross domestic product (GDP) adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita ranks 43rd in the world; however, the wealth is distributed extremely unevenly, with few people benefiting from the oil riches. The country ranks 144th on the 2019 Human Development Index, with less than half the population having access to clean drinking water and 7.9% of children dying before the age of five.As a former Spanish colony, the country maintains Spanish as its official language alongside French and recently (as of 2010) Portuguese, being the only African country (aside from the largely unrecognized Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) where Spanish is an official language. It is also the most widely spoken language (considerably more than the other two official languages); according to the Instituto Cervantes, 87.7% of the population has a good command of Spanish.Equatorial Guinea’s government is authoritarian and has one of the worst human rights records in the world, consistently ranking among the “worst of the worst” in Freedom House’s annual survey of political and civil rights. Reporters Without Borders ranks President Obiang among its “predators” of press freedom. Human trafficking is a significant problem, with the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report identifying Equatorial Guinea as a source and destination country for forced labour and sex trafficking. The report also noted that Equatorial Guinea “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”
Eritrea ( (listen)), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa region of Eastern Africa, with its capital and largest city at Asmara. It is bordered by Ethiopia in the south, Sudan in the west, and Djibouti in the southeast. The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline along the Red Sea. The nation has a total area of approximately 117,600 km2 (45,406 sq mi), and includes the Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands.
Human remains found in Eritrea have been dated to 1 million years old and anthropological research indicates that the area may contain significant records related to the evolution of humans. Contemporary Eritrea is a multi-ethnic country with nine recognised ethnic groups. Nine different languages are spoken by the nine recognised ethnic groups, the most widely spoken language being Tigrinya, the others being Tigre, Saho, Kunama, Nara, Afar, Beja, Bilen and Arabic. Tigrinya, Arabic, and English serve as the three working languages. Most residents speak languages from the Afroasiatic family, either of the Ethiopian Semitic languages or Cushitic branches. Among these communities, the Tigrinyas make up about 55% of the population, with the Tigre people constituting around 30% of inhabitants. In addition, there are several Nilo-Saharan-speaking Nilotic ethnic groups. Most people in the country adhere to Christianity or Islam, with a small minority adhering to traditional faiths.The Kingdom of Aksum, covering much of modern-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, was established during the first or second century AD. It adopted Christianity around the middle of the fourth century. In medieval times much of Eritrea fell under the Medri Bahri kingdom, with a smaller region being part of Hamasien. The creation of modern-day Eritrea is a result of the incorporation of independent, distinct kingdoms (for example, Medri Bahri and the Sultanate of Aussa) eventually resulting in the formation of Italian Eritrea. After the defeat of the Italian colonial army in 1942, Eritrea was administered by the British Military Administration until 1952. Following the UN General Assembly decision in 1952, Eritrea would govern itself with a local Eritrean parliament, but for foreign affairs and defense, it would enter into a federal status with Ethiopia for ten years. However, in 1962, the government of Ethiopia annulled the Eritrean parliament and formally annexed Eritrea. The Eritrean secessionist movement organised the Eritrean Liberation Front in 1961 and fought the Eritrean War of Independence until Eritrea gained de facto independence in 1991. Eritrea gained de jure independence in 1993 after an independence referendum.
Eritrea is a unitary one-party presidential republic in which national legislative and presidential elections have never been held. Isaias Afwerki has served as president since its official independence in 1993. According to Human Rights Watch, the Eritrean government’s human rights record is among the worst in the world. The Eritrean government has dismissed these allegations as politically motivated. Freedom of the press in Eritrea is extremely limited; the Press Freedom Index consistently ranks it as one of the least free countries. As of 2021 Reporters Without Borders considers the country to have the overall worst press freedom in the world, even lower than North Korea, as all media publications and access are heavily controlled by the government.Eritrea is a member of the African Union, the United Nations, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and is an observer state in the Arab League alongside Brazil and Venezuela.
Eswatini (fmr. "Swaziland")
Eswatini ( ESS-wah-TEE-nee; Swazi: eSwatini [ɛswáˈtʼiːni]), officially the Kingdom of Eswatini and formerly named Swaziland ( SWAH-zee-land; officially renamed in 2018), is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It is bordered by Mozambique to its northeast and South Africa to its north, west, south, and southeast. At no more than 200 km (120 mi) north to south and 130 km (81 mi) east to west, Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa; despite this, its climate and topography are diverse, ranging from a cool and mountainous highveld to a hot and dry lowveld.
The population is composed primarily of ethnic Swazis. The prevalent language is Swazi (siSwati in native form). The Swazis established their kingdom in the mid-18th century under the leadership of Ngwane III. The country and the Swazi take their names from Mswati II, the 19th-century king under whose rule the country was expanded and unified; its boundaries were drawn up in 1881 in the midst of the Scramble for Africa. After the Second Boer War, the kingdom, under the name of Swaziland, was a British high commission territory from 1903 until it regained its full independence on 6 September 1968. In April 2018, the official name was changed from Kingdom of Swaziland to Kingdom of Eswatini, mirroring the name commonly used in Swazi.The government is an absolute monarchy, the last of its kind in Africa, and has been ruled by King Mswati III since 1986. Elections are held every five years to determine the House of Assembly and the Senate majority. Its constitution was adopted in 2005. Umhlanga, the reed dance held in August/September, and incwala, the kingship dance held in December/January, are the nation’s most important events.Eswatini is a developing country and is classified as a lower-middle income economy. As a member of the Southern African Customs Union and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, its main local trading partner is South Africa; to ensure economic stability, Eswatini’s currency, the lilangeni, is pegged to the South African rand. Eswatini’s major overseas trading partners are the United States and the European Union. The majority of the country’s employment is provided by its agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Eswatini is a member of the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations.
The Swazi population faces major health issues: HIV/AIDS and (to a lesser extent) tuberculosis are widespread. 28% of the adult population is HIV-positive. As of 2018, Eswatini has the 12th-lowest life expectancy in the world, at 58 years. The population of Eswatini is young. As of 2018, people aged 14 years or younger constitute 35% of the country’s population and the median age is 22 years.
Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east and northeast, Kenya to the south, South Sudan to the west, and Sudan to the northwest. Ethiopia has a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 square miles). As of 2022, it is home to around 113.5 million inhabitants, making it the 12th-most populous country in the world and the 2nd-most populous in Africa after Nigeria. The national capital and largest city, Addis Ababa, lies several kilometres west of the East African Rift that splits the country into the African and Somali tectonic plates.Anatomically modern humans emerged from modern-day Ethiopia and set out to the Near East and elsewhere in the Middle Paleolithic period. Southwestern Ethiopia has been proposed as a possible homeland of the Afroasiatic language family. In 980 BCE, the Kingdom of D’mt extended its realm over Eritrea and the northern region of Ethiopia, while the Kingdom of Aksum maintained a unified civilization in the region for 900 years. Christianity was embraced by the kingdom in 330, and Islam arrived by the first Hijra in 615. After the collapse of Aksum in 960, a variety of kingdoms, largely tribal confederations, existed in the land of Ethiopia. The Zagwe dynasty ruled the north-central parts until being overthrown by Yekuno Amlak in 1270, inaugurating the Ethiopian Empire and the Solomonic dynasty, claimed descent from the biblical Solomon and Queen of Sheba under their son Menelik I. By the 14th century, the empire grew in prestige through territorial expansion and fighting against adjacent territories; most notably, the Ethiopian–Adal War (1529–1543) contributed to fragmentation of the empire, which ultimately fell under a decentralization known as Zemene Mesafint in the mid-18th century. Emperor Tewodros II ended Zemene Mesafint at the beginning of his reign in 1855, marking the reunification and modernization of Ethiopia.From 1878 onwards, Emperor Menelik II launched a series of conquests known as Menelik’s Expansions, which resulted in the formation of Ethiopia’s current border. Externally, during the late 19th century, Ethiopia defended itself against foreign invasions, including from Egypt and Italy; as a result, Ethiopia and Liberia preserved their sovereignty during the Scramble for Africa. In 1935, Ethiopia was occupied by Fascist Italy and annexed with Italian-possessed Eritrea and Somaliland, later forming Italian East Africa. In 1941, during World War II, it was occupied by the British Army, and its full sovereignty was restored in 1944 after a period of military administration. The Derg, a Soviet-backed military junta, took power in 1974 after deposing Emperor Haile Selassie and the Solomonic dynasty, and ruled the country for nearly 17 years amidst the Ethiopian Civil War. Following the dissolution of the Derg in 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) dominated the country with a new constitution and ethnic-based federalism. Since then, Ethiopia has suffered from prolonged and unsolved inter-ethnic clashes and political instability marked by democratic backsliding. From 2018, regional and ethnically based factions carried out armed attacks in multiple ongoing wars throughout Ethiopia.Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state with over 80 different ethnic groups. Christianity is the most widely professed faith in the country, with significant minorities of the adherents of Islam and a small percentage to traditional faiths. This sovereign state is a founding member of the UN, the Group of 24, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of 77, and the Organisation of African Unity. Addis Ababa is the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Standby Force and many of the global non-governmental organizations focused on Africa. Ethiopia is considered an emerging power and developing country, having the fastest economic growth in Sub-Saharan African countries because of foreign direct investment in expansion of agricultural and manufacturing industries. However, in terms of per capita income and the Human Development Index, the country is regarded as poor with high rates of poverty, poor respect for human rights, and a literacy rate of only 49%. Agriculture is the largest economic sector in Ethiopia, accounting for 36% of the country’s gross domestic product as of 2020.
Fiji ( (listen) FEE-jee, fee-JEE,; Fijian: Viti, [ˈβitʃi]; Fiji Hindi: फ़िजी, Fijī), officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies about 1,100 nautical miles (2,000 km; 1,300 mi) north-northeast of New Zealand. Fiji consists of an archipelago of more than 330 islands—of which about 110 are permanently inhabited—and more than 500 islets, amounting to a total land area of about 18,300 square kilometres (7,100 sq mi). The most outlying island group is Ono-i-Lau. About 87% of the total population of 924,610 live on the two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. About three-quarters of Fijians live on Viti Levu’s coasts: either in the capital city of Suva; or in smaller urban centres such as Nadi—where tourism is the major local industry; or in Lautoka, where the sugar-cane industry is dominant. The interior of Viti Levu is sparsely inhabited because of its terrain.The majority of Fiji’s islands were formed by volcanic activity starting around 150 million years ago. Some geothermal activity still occurs today on the islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni. The geothermal systems on Viti Levu are non-volcanic in origin and have low-temperature surface discharges (of between roughly 35 and 60 degrees Celsius (95 and 140 °F)).
Humans have lived in Fiji since the second millennium BCE—first Austronesians and later Melanesians, with some Polynesian influences. Europeans first visited Fiji in the 17th century. In 1874, after a brief period in which Fiji was an independent kingdom, the British established the Colony of Fiji. Fiji operated as a Crown colony until 1970, when it gained independence and became known as the Dominion of Fiji. In 1987, following a series of coups d’état, the military government that had taken power declared it a republic. In a 2006 coup, Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power. In 2009, the Fijian High Court ruled that the military leadership was unlawful. At that point, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, whom the military had retained as the nominal head of state, formally abrogated the 1997 Constitution and re-appointed Bainimarama as interim prime minister. Later in 2009, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau succeeded Iloilo as president. On 17 September 2014, after years of delays, a democratic election took place. Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party won 59.2% of the vote, and international observers deemed the election credible.Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific through its abundant forest, mineral, and fish resources. The currency is the Fijian dollar, with the main sources of foreign exchange being the tourist industry, remittances from Fijians working abroad, bottled water exports, and sugar cane. The Ministry of Local Government and Urban Development supervises Fiji’s local government, which takes the form of city and town councils.
Finland (Finnish: Suomi [ˈsuo̯mi] (listen); Swedish: Finland [ˈfɪ̌nland] (listen)), officially the Republic of Finland (Finnish: Suomen tasavalta; Swedish: Republiken Finland (listen to all)), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the northwest, Norway to the north, and Russia to the east, with the Gulf of Bothnia to the west and the Gulf of Finland across Estonia to the south. Finland covers an area of 338,455 square kilometres (130,678 sq mi) with a population of 5.6 million. Helsinki is the capital and largest city, forming a larger metropolitan area with the neighbouring cities of Espoo, Kauniainen, and Vantaa. The vast majority of the population are ethnic Finns. Finnish, alongside Swedish, are the official languages. Swedish is the native language of 5.2% of the population. Finland’s climate varies from humid continental in the south to the boreal in the north. The land cover is primarily a boreal forest biome, with more than 180,000 recorded lakes.Finland was first inhabited around 9000 BC after the Last Glacial Period. The Stone Age introduced several different ceramic styles and cultures. The Bronze Age and Iron Age were characterized by extensive contacts with other cultures in Fennoscandia and the Baltic region. From the late 13th century, Finland gradually became an integral part of Sweden as a consequence of the Northern Crusades. In 1809, as a result of the Finnish War, Finland became part of the Russian Empire as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, during which Finnish art flourished and the idea of independence began to take hold. In 1906, Finland became the first European state to grant universal suffrage, and the first in the world to give all adult citizens the right to run for public office. Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, tried to russify Finland and terminate its political autonomy, but after the 1917 Russian Revolution, Finland declared independence from Russia. In 1918, the fledgling state was divided by the Finnish Civil War. During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War, and Nazi Germany in the Lapland War. It subsequently lost parts of its territory, but maintained its independence.
Finland largely remained an agrarian country until the 1950s. After World War II, it rapidly industrialized and developed an advanced economy, while building an extensive welfare state based on the Nordic model; the country soon enjoyed widespread prosperity and a high per capita income. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and adopted an official policy of neutrality; it joined the OECD in 1969, the NATO Partnership for Peace in 1994, the European Union in 1995, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997, and the Eurozone at its inception in 1999. Finland is a top performer in numerous metrics of national performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life and human development. In 2015, Finland ranked first in the World Human Capital, topped the Press Freedom Index, and was the most stable country in the world during 2011–2016, according to the Fragile States Index; it is second in the Global Gender Gap Report, and has ranked first in every annual World Happiness Report since 2018.
France (French: [fʁɑ̃s] ), officially the French Republic (French: République française [ʁepyblik frɑ̃sɛz]), is a country primarily located in Western Europe. It also comprises overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its metropolitan area extends from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea; overseas territories include French Guiana in South America, Saint Pierre and Miquelon in the North Atlantic, the French West Indies, and many islands in Oceania and the Indian Ocean. Due to its several coastal territories, France has the largest exclusive economic zone in the world. France borders Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Andorra, and Spain in continental Europe, as well as the Netherlands, Suriname, and Brazil in the Americas via its overseas territories in French Guiana and Saint Martin. Its eighteen integral regions (five of which are overseas) span a combined area of 643,801 km2 (248,573 sq mi) and contain close to 68 million people (as of July 2022). France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country’s largest city and main cultural and commercial centre; other major urban areas include Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille, Bordeaux, and Nice.
Inhabited since the Palaeolithic era, the territory of Metropolitan France was settled by Celtic tribes known as Gauls during the Iron Age. Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, leading to a distinct Gallo-Roman culture that laid the foundation of the French language. The Germanic Franks formed the Kingdom of Francia, which became the heartland of the Carolingian Empire. The Treaty of Verdun of 843 partitioned the empire, with West Francia becoming the Kingdom of France in 987. In the High Middle Ages, France was a powerful but highly decentralised feudal kingdom. Philip II successfully strengthened royal power and defeated his rivals to double the size of the crown lands; by the end of his reign, France had emerged as the most powerful state in Europe. From the mid-14th to the mid-15th century, France was plunged into a series of dynastic conflicts involving England, collectively known as the Hundred Years’ War, and a distinct French identity emerged as a result. The French Renaissance saw art and culture flourish, conflict with the House of Habsburg, and the establishment of a global colonial empire, which by the 20th century would become the second-largest in the world. The second half of the 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Huguenots that severely weakened the country. France again emerged as Europe’s dominant power in the 17th century under Louis XIV following the Thirty Years’ War. Inadequate economic policies, inequitable taxes and frequent wars (notably a defeat in the Seven Years’ War and costly involvement in the American War of Independence) left the kingdom in a precarious economic situation by the end of the 18th century. This precipitated the French Revolution of 1789, which overthrew the Ancien Régime and produced the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which expresses the nation’s ideals to this day.
France reached its political and military zenith in the early 19th century under Napoleon Bonaparte, subjugating much of continental Europe and establishing the First French Empire. The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of European and world history. The collapse of the empire initiated a period of relative decline, in which France endured a tumultuous succession of governments until the founding of the French Third Republic during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Subsequent decades saw a period of optimism, cultural and scientific flourishing, as well as economic prosperity, known as the Belle Époque. France was one of the major participants of World War I, from which it emerged victorious at a great human and economic cost. It was among the Allied powers of World War II but was soon occupied by the Axis in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, the short-lived Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The current Fifth Republic was formed in 1958 by Charles de Gaulle. Algeria and most French colonies became independent in the 1960s, with the majority retaining close economic and military ties with France.
France retains its centuries-long status as a global centre of art, science and philosophy. It hosts the fifth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the world’s leading tourist destination, receiving over 89 million foreign visitors in 2018. France is a developed country ranked 28th in the Human Development Index, with the world’s seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and tenth-largest by PPP; in terms of aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world. France performs well in international rankings of education, health care, and life expectancy. It remains a great power in global affairs, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and an official nuclear-weapon state. France is a founding and leading member of the European Union and the Eurozone, as well as a key member of the Group of Seven, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Francophonie.
Gabon (; French pronunciation: [ɡabɔ̃]; Sangu: Ngabu), officially the Gabonese Republic (French: République gabonaise), is a country on the west coast of Central Africa. Located on the equator, it is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west. It has an area of nearly 270,000 square kilometres (100,000 sq mi) and its population is estimated at 2.3 million people. There are coastal plains, mountains (the Cristal Mountains and the Chaillu Massif in the centre), and a savanna in the east.
Since its independence from France in 1960, the sovereign state of Gabon has had three presidents. In the 1990s, it introduced a multi-party system and a democratic constitution that aimed for a more transparent electoral process and reformed some governmental institutions. With petroleum and foreign private investment, it has the fourth highest HDI in the region (after Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa) and the fifth highest GDP per capita (PPP) in all of Africa (after Seychelles, Mauritius, Equatorial Guinea and Botswana). Its GDP grew by more than 6% per year from 2010 to 2012.
The Gambia, officially the Republic of the Gambia, is a country in West Africa. It is the smallest country within mainland Africa and is surrounded by Senegal, except for its western coast on the Atlantic Ocean. The Gambia is situated on both sides of the lower reaches of the Gambia River, the nation’s namesake, which flows through the centre of the Gambia and empties into the Atlantic Ocean, thus the long shape of the country. It has an area of 10,689 square kilometres (4,127 sq mi) with a population of 1,857,181 as of the April 2013 census. Banjul is the Gambian capital and the country’s largest metropolitan area, while the largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama.The Portuguese in 1455 entered the Gambian region, the first Europeans to do so, but never established important trade there. In 1765, the Gambia was made a part of the British Empire by establishment of the Gambia. In 1965, the Gambia gained independence under the leadership of Dawda Jawara, who ruled until Yahya Jammeh seized power in a bloodless 1994 coup. Adama Barrow became the Gambia’s third president in January 2017, after defeating Jammeh in the December 2016 elections. Jammeh initially accepted the results, before refusing to leave office, triggering a constitutional crisis and military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States that resulted in his removal two days after his term was initially scheduled to end.The Gambia is a member of the Commonwealth and English is the sole official language – a legacy of its British past. It is nowadays also a member of the Economic Community of West African States and other international organizations. The Gambia’s economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and especially tourism. In 2015, 48.6% of the population lived in poverty. In rural areas, poverty was even more widespread, at almost 70%.
Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო, romanized: Sakartvelo; IPA: [sɑkʰɑrtʰvɛlɔ] (listen)) is a transcontinental country at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is part of the Caucasus region, bounded by the Black Sea to the west, by Russia to the north and northeast, by Turkey to the southwest, by Armenia to the south, and by Azerbaijan to the southeast. The country covers an area of 69,700 square kilometres (26,900 sq mi), and has a population of 3.7 million people. Tbilisi is its capital as well as its largest city, home to roughly a third of the Georgian population.
During the classical era, several independent kingdoms became established in what is now Georgia, such as Colchis and Iberia. In the early 4th century, ethnic Georgians officially adopted Christianity, which contributed to the spiritual and political unification of the early Georgian states. In the Middle Ages, the unified Kingdom of Georgia emerged and reached its Golden Age during the reign of King David IV and Queen Tamar in the 12th and early 13th centuries. Thereafter, the kingdom declined and eventually disintegrated under the hegemony of various regional powers, including the Mongols, the Turks, and various dynasties of Persia. In 1783, one of the Georgian kingdoms entered into an alliance with the Russian Empire, which proceeded to annex the territory of modern Georgia in a piecemeal fashion throughout the 19th century.
After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Georgia emerged as an independent republic under German protection. Following World War I, Georgia was invaded and annexed by the Soviet Union in 1922, becoming one of its constituent republics. By the 1980s, an independence movement emerged and grew quickly, leading to Georgia’s secession from the Soviet Union in April 1991. For most of the subsequent decade, post-Soviet Georgia suffered from economic crisis, political instability, ethnic conflict, and secessionist wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Following the bloodless Rose Revolution in 2003, Georgia strongly pursued a pro-Western foreign policy; it introduced a series of democratic and economic reforms aimed at integration into the European Union and NATO. The country’s Western orientation soon led to worsening relations with Russia, which culminated in the Russo-Georgian War of 2008; Russia has since been occupying a portion of Georgia.
Georgia is a representative democracy governed as a unitary parliamentary republic. It is a developing country with a very high Human Development Index. Economic reforms since independence have led to higher levels of economic freedom, as well as reductions in corruption indicators, poverty, and unemployment. It was one of the first countries in the world to legalize cannabis, becoming the only former-socialist state to do so. The country is a member of international organizations, such as the Council of Europe, the OSCE, Eurocontrol, the EBRD, the BSEC, the GUAM, the ADB, the WTO, and the Energy Community.
Ghana ( (listen); Twi: Gaana, Ewe: Gana), officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country in West Africa. It abuts the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean to the south, sharing borders with Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, and Togo in the east. Ghana covers an area of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), spanning diverse biomes that range from coastal savannas to tropical rainforests. With nearly 31 million inhabitants (according to 2021 census), Ghana is the second-most populous country in West Africa, after Nigeria. The capital and largest city is Accra; other major cities are Kumasi, Tamale, and Sekondi-Takoradi.
The first permanent state in present-day Ghana was the Bono state of the 11th century. Numerous kingdoms and empires emerged over the centuries, of which the most powerful were the Kingdom of Dagbon in the north and the Ashanti Empire in the south. Beginning in the 15th century, the Portuguese Empire, followed by numerous other European powers, contested the area for trading rights, until the British ultimately established control of the coast by the late 19th century. Following over a century of colonisation, Ghana’s current borders took shape, encompassing four separate British colonial territories: Gold Coast, Ashanti, the Northern Territories, and British Togoland. These were unified as an independent dominion within the Commonwealth of Nations on 6 March 1957, becoming the first colony in West Africa to achieve sovereignty. Ghana subsequently became influential in decolonisation efforts and the Pan-African movement.Ghana is a multi-ethnic country with a diverse population, linguistic and religious groups; while the Akan are the largest ethnic group, they constitute only a plurality. Most Ghanaians are Christians (71.3%); almost a fifth are Muslims; a tenth practise traditional faiths or report no religion. Ghana is a unitary constitutional democracy led by a president who is both head of state and head of government. Ghana has maintained since 1993 one of the freest and most stable governments on the continent, and it performs relatively well in healthcare, economic growth, and human development, so that it has significant influence in West Africa and is highly integrated in international affairs, being a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the Group of 24, and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Grenada ( (listen) grə-NAY-də; Grenadian Creole French: Gwenad ) is an island country in the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea at the southern end of the Grenadines island chain. Grenada consists of the island of Grenada itself, two smaller islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, and several small islands which lie to the north of the main island and are a part of the Grenadines. It is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Its size is 348.5 square kilometres (134.6 sq mi), and it had an estimated population of 112,523 in July 2020. Its capital is St. George’s. Grenada is also known as the “Island of Spice” due to its production of nutmeg and mace crops.
Before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, Grenada was inhabited by the indigenous peoples from South America. Christopher Columbus sighted Grenada in 1498 during his third voyage to the Americas. Following several unsuccessful attempts by Europeans to colonise the island due to resistance from resident Island Caribs, French settlement and colonisation began in 1649 and continued for the next century. On 10 February 1763, Grenada was ceded to the British under the Treaty of Paris. British rule continued until 1974 (except for a brief French takeover between 1779 and 1783). However, on 3 March 1967, it was granted full autonomy over its internal affairs as an Associated State, and from 1958 to 1962 Grenada was part of the Federation of the West Indies, a short-lived federation of British West Indian colonies.
Independence was granted on 7 February 1974 under the leadership of Eric Gairy, who became the first prime minister of Grenada of the sovereign state. The new country became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and is currently headed by King Charles III, King of Grenada. In March 1979, the Marxist–Leninist New Jewel Movement overthrew Gairy’s government in a bloodless coup d’état and established the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop as prime minister. Bishop was later arrested and executed by members of the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA), prompting a U.S.-led invasion in October 1983. Since then, the island has returned to a parliamentary representative democracy and has remained politically stable.
Guatemala ( (listen) GWAH-tə-MAH-lə; Spanish: [ɡwateˈmala] (listen)), officially the Republic of Guatemala (Spanish: República de Guatemala), is a country in Central America. Guatemala is bordered to the north and west by Mexico; to the northeast by Belize and the Caribbean; to the east by Honduras; to the southeast by El Salvador and to the south by the Pacific Ocean. With an estimated population of around 17.6 million, it is the most populous country in Central America and is the 11th most populous country in the Americas. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City, the largest city in Central America.
The core of the Maya civilization, which extended across Mesoamerica, was historically based in the territory of modern Guatemala. In the 16th century, most of this area was conquered by the Spanish and claimed as part of the viceroyalty of New Spain. Guatemala attained independence in 1821 from Spain and Mexico. In 1823 Guatemala became part of the Federal Republic of Central America, which dissolved by 1841.
From the mid- to late 19th century, Guatemala suffered chronic instability and civil strife. Beginning in the early 20th century, it was ruled by a series of dictators backed by the United Fruit Company and the United States government. In 1944, the authoritarian leader Jorge Ubico was overthrown by a pro-democratic military coup, initiating a decade-long revolution that led to sweeping social and economic reforms. A U.S.-backed military coup in 1954 ended the revolution and installed a dictatorship.From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala endured a bloody civil war fought between the US-backed government and leftist rebels, including genocidal massacres of the Maya population perpetrated by the military. Since a United Nations–negotiated peace accord, Guatemala has achieved both economic growth and successful democratic elections, although poverty, crime, drug trafficking and civil instability remain major issues. As of 2014, Guatemala ranks 31st of 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries in terms of the Human Development Index. Although Guatemala is rich in export goods, around a quarter of the population lived in precarious conditions as of 2022. The food crisis resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine had added another 700,000 people to the number. According to the National Institute for Food Security (Sesan), 4.6 million of Guatemala’s 17.4 million people are at risk of food insecurity.Guatemala’s abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems includes many endemic species and contributes to Mesoamerica’s designation as a biodiversity hotspot.
Guinea ( (listen) GHIN-ee), officially the Republic of Guinea (French: République de Guinée), is a coastal country in West Africa. It borders the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Guinea-Bissau to the northwest, Senegal to the north, Mali to the northeast, Cote d’Ivoire to the southeast, and Sierra Leone and Liberia to the south. It is sometimes referred to as Guinea-Conakry after its capital Conakry, to distinguish it from other territories in the eponymous region such as Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea. It has a population of 13.5 million and an area of 245,857 square kilometres (94,926 sq mi).Formerly French Guinea, it achieved independence in 1958. It has a history of military coups d’état. After decades of authoritarian rule, in 2010 it held its first democratic election. As it continued to hold multi-party elections, the country continued to face ethnic conflicts, corruption, and abuses by military and police. In 2011, the United States government claimed that torture by security forces and abuse of women and children (including female genital mutilation) were ongoing human rights issues. In 2021, a military faction overthrew president Alpha Condé and suspended the constitution.Muslims represent 85% of the population. The country is divided into four geographic regions: Maritime Guinea on the Atlantic coast, the Fouta Djallon or Middle Guinea highlands, the Upper Guinea savanna region in the northeast, and the Guinée forestière region of tropical forests. French, the official language of Guinea, is a language of communication in schools, in government administration, and the media. More than 24 indigenous languages are spoken and the largest are Susu, Pular, and Maninka, which dominate respectively in Maritime Guinea, Fouta Djallon, and Upper Guinea, while Guinée forestière is ethnolinguistically diverse. Guinea’s economy is mostly dependent on agriculture and mineral production. It is the world’s second largest producer of bauxite, and has deposits of diamonds and gold. The country was at the core of the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
Guinea-Bissau ( (listen) GHIN-ee biss-OW; Portuguese: Guiné-Bissau; Fula: 𞤘𞤭𞤲𞤫 𞤄𞤭𞤧𞤢𞥄𞤱𞤮, romanized: Gine-Bisaawo; Mandinka: ߖߌߣߍ ߺ ߓߌߛߊߥߏ߫ Gine-Bisawo), officially the Republic of Guinea-Bissau (Portuguese: República da Guiné-Bissau [ʁɛˈpuβlikɐ ðɐ ɣiˈnɛ βiˈsaw]), is a country in West Africa that covers 36,125 square kilometres (13,948 sq mi) with an estimated population of 1,726,000. It borders Senegal to the north and Guinea to the south-east.Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Kaabu, as well as part of the Mali Empire. Parts of this kingdom persisted until the 18th century, while a few others were under some rule by the Portuguese Empire since the 16th century. In the 19th century, it was colonised as Portuguese Guinea. Portuguese control was restricted and weak until the early 20th century with the pacification campaigns, these campaigns solidified Portuguese sovereignty in the area. The final Portuguese victory over the remaining bastion of mainland resistance, the Papel ruled Kingdom of Bissau in 1915 by the Portuguese military office Teixeira Pinto, and recruited Wolof mercenary Abdul injai was the event to solidify mainland control. The Bissagos, Islands off the coast of Guinea Bissau were officially conquered in 1936, ensuring Portuguese control of both the mainland and islands off of the region. Upon independence, declared in 1973 and recognised in 1974, the name of its capital, Bissau, was added to the country’s name to prevent confusion with Guinea (formerly French Guinea). Guinea-Bissau has a history of political instability since independence, and only one elected president (José Mário Vaz) has successfully served a full five-year term. The current president is Umaro Sissoco Embaló, who was elected on 29 December 2019.Only about 2% of the population speaks Portuguese, the official language, as a first language, and 33% speak it as a second language. However, Guinea-Bissau Creole, a Portuguese-based creole, is the national language and also considered the language of unity. According to a 2012 study, 54% of the population speak Creole as a first language and about 40% speak it as a second language. The remainder speak a variety of native African languages. The nation is home to numerous followers of Islam, Christianity and traditional faiths, though no single religious group represents a majority of the population. The country’s per-capita gross domestic product is one of the lowest in the world.
Guinea-Bissau is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, and the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, and was a member of the now-defunct Latin Union.
Guyana ( (listen) or (listen)), officially the Co‑operative Republic of Guyana, is a country on the northern mainland of South America. Guyana is an indigenous word which means “Land of Many Waters”. The capital city is Georgetown. Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Venezuela to the west, and Suriname to the east. With 215,000 km2 (83,000 sq mi), Guyana is the third-smallest sovereign state by area in mainland South America after Uruguay and Suriname, and is the second-least populous sovereign state in South America after Suriname; it is also one of the least densely populated countries on Earth. It has a wide variety of natural habitats and very high biodiversity.
The region known as “the Guianas” consists of the large shield landmass north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River known as the “land of many waters”. Nine indigenous tribes reside in Guyana: the Wai Wai, Macushi, Patamona, Lokono, Kalina, Wapishana, Pemon, Akawaio and Warao. Historically dominated by the Lokono and Kalina tribes, Guyana was colonised by the Dutch before coming under British control in the late 18th century. It was governed as British Guiana, with a mostly plantation-style economy until the 1950s. It gained independence in 1966, and officially became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970. The legacy of British rule is reflected in the country’s political administration and diverse population, which includes Indian, African, Indigenous, Chinese, Portuguese, other European, and various multiracial groups. In 2017, 41% of the population of Guyana lived below the poverty line.Guyana is the only South American nation in which English is the official language. However, the majority of the population speak Guyanese Creole, an English-based creole language, as a first language. Guyana is part of the Anglophone Caribbean. It is part of the mainland Caribbean region maintaining strong cultural, historical, and political ties with other Caribbean countries as well as serving as the headquarters for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). In 2008, the country joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member.
Guyana’s economy has been undergoing a transformation since the discovery of crude oil in 2015 and commercial drilling in 2019, being one of the only economies to grow in 2020 despite the pandemic at 49% GDP growth through the year. Due to Guyana’s small population and as much as 11 billion barrels in oil reserves, the country is on course to become one of the richest in the world by 2030. The discovery of over 11 billion barrels of oil reserves off the coast of Guyana in the last 5 years is the largest addition to global oil reserves in the last 50 years.
Haiti ( (listen);Haitian Creole: Ayiti [ajiti]; French: Haïti [a.iti]), officially the Republic of Haiti (Haitian Creole: Repiblik d Ayiti); French: République d’Haïti) and formerly known as Hayti, is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea, east of Cuba and Jamaica, and south of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island which it shares with the Dominican Republic. To its south-west lies the small Navassa Island, which is claimed by Haiti but is disputed as a United States territory under federal administration. Haiti is 27,750 km2 (10,714 sq mi) in size, the third largest country in the Caribbean by area, and has an estimated population of 11.4 million, making it the most populous country in the Caribbean. The capital is Port-au-Prince.
The island was originally inhabited by the indigenous Taíno people, who originated in South America. The first Europeans arrived on 5 December 1492 during the first voyage of Christopher Columbus, who initially believed he had found India or China. Columbus subsequently founded the first European settlement in the Americas, La Navidad, on what is now the northeastern coast of Haiti. The island was claimed by Spain and named La Española, forming part of the Spanish Empire until the early 17th century. However, competing claims and settlements by the French led to the western portion of the island being ceded to France in 1697, which was subsequently named Saint-Domingue. French colonists established lucrative sugarcane plantations, worked by vast numbers of slaves brought from Africa, which made the colony one of the richest in the world.
In the midst of the French Revolution (1789–99), slaves, maroons, and free people of color launched the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), led by a former slave and the first black general of the French Army, Toussaint Louverture. After 12 years of conflict, Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces were defeated by Louverture’s successor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines (later Emperor Jacques I), who declared Haiti’s sovereignty on 1 January 1804—the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second republic in the Americas, the first country in the Americas to abolish slavery, and the only state in history established by a successful slave revolt. Apart from Alexandre Pétion, the first President of the Republic, all of Haiti’s first leaders were former slaves. After a brief period in which the country was split in two, President Jean-Pierre Boyer united the country and then attempted to bring the whole of Hispaniola under Haitian control, precipitating a long series of wars that ended in the 1870s when Haiti formally recognized the independence of the Dominican Republic.
Haiti’s first century of independence was characterized by political instability, ostracism by the international community, and the payment of a crippling debt to France. Political volatility and foreign economic influence in the country prompted the U.S. to occupy the country from 1915 to 1934. Following a series of short-lived presidencies, François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier took power in 1956, ushering in a long period of autocratic rule continued by his son, Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, that lasted until 1986; the period was characterized by state-sanctioned violence against the opposition and civilians, corruption, and economic stagnation. After 1986, Haiti began attempting to establish a more democratic political system.
Haiti is a founding member of the United Nations, Organization of American States (OAS), Association of Caribbean States, and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. In addition to CARICOM, it is a member of the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Historically poor and politically unstable, Haiti has the lowest Human Development Index in the Americas, as well as widespread slavery. Since the turn of the 21st century, the country has endured a coup d’état, which prompted U.N. intervention, as well as a catastrophic earthquake that killed over 250,000 people. With its deteriorating economic situation, as well as recent calls by the IMF to cut fuel subsidies, Haiti has been experiencing a socioeconomic and political crisis marked by riots and protests, widespread hunger, and increased gang activity.
Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea. Its capital and largest city is Tegucigalpa.
Honduras was home to several important Mesoamerican cultures, most notably the Maya, before the Spanish Colonization in the sixteenth century. The Spanish introduced Catholicism and the now predominant Spanish language, along with numerous customs that have blended with the indigenous culture. Honduras became independent in 1821 and has since been a republic, although it has consistently endured much social strife and political instability, and remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. In 1960, the northern part of what was the Mosquito Coast was transferred from Nicaragua to Honduras by the International Court of Justice.The nation’s economy is primarily agricultural, making it especially vulnerable to natural disasters such as Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The lower class is primarily agriculturally based while wealth is concentrated in the country’s urban centers. Honduras has a Human Development Index of 0.625, classifying it as a nation with medium development. When adjusted for income inequality, its Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index is 0.443.Honduran society is predominantly Mestizo; however, there are also significant American Indian, black and white communities in Honduras. The nation had a relatively high political stability until its 2009 coup and again with the 2017 presidential election.Honduras spans about 112,492 km2 (43,433 sq mi) and has a population exceeding 10 million. Its northern portions are part of the western Caribbean zone, as reflected in the area’s demographics and culture. Honduras is known for its rich natural resources, including minerals, coffee, tropical fruit, and sugar cane, as well as for its growing textiles industry, which serves the international market.
Iceland (Icelandic: Ísland; [ˈiːstlant] (listen)) is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean and in the Arctic Ocean. Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Iceland’s capital and largest city is Reykjavík, which (along with its surrounding areas) is home to over 65% of the population. Iceland is the biggest part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that rises above sea level, and its central volcanic plateau is erupting almost constantly. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, and most of its islands have a polar climate.
According to the ancient manuscript Landnámabókcode: isl promoted to code: is , the settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Norwegians, and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, immigrated to Iceland, bringing with them thralls (i.e., slaves or serfs) of Gaelic origin.
The island was governed as an independent commonwealth under the native parliament, the Althing, one of the world’s oldest functioning legislative assemblies. Following a period of civil strife, Iceland acceded to Norwegian rule in the 13th century. The establishment of the Kalmar Union in 1397 united the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Iceland thus followed Norway’s integration into that union, coming under Danish rule after Sweden seceded from the union in 1523. The Danish kingdom forcefully introduced Lutheranism to Iceland in 1550.In the wake of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Iceland’s struggle for independence took form and culminated in independence in 1918 with the establishment of the Kingdom of Iceland, sharing through a personal union the incumbent monarch of Denmark. During the occupation of Denmark in World War II, Iceland voted overwhelmingly to become a republic in 1944, thus ending the remaining formal ties with Denmark. Although the Althing was suspended from 1799 to 1845, the island republic has been credited with sustaining the world’s oldest and longest-running parliament.
Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on subsistence fishing and agriculture. Industrialization of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity, and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. It became a part of the European Economic Area in 1994; this further diversified the economy into sectors such as finance, biotechnology, and manufacturing.
Iceland has a market economy with relatively low taxes, compared to other OECD countries, as well as the highest trade union membership in the world. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks high in democracy and equality indexes, ranking third in the world by median wealth per adult. In 2021, it was ranked as the third-most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index, and it ranks first on the Global Peace Index. Iceland runs almost completely on renewable energy.
Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation’s Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old West Norse and is closely related to Faroese. The country’s cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature, and medieval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, with a lightly armed coast guard.
India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: Bhārat Gaṇarājya), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia.
Modern humans arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa no later than 55,000 years ago.
Their long occupation, initially in varying forms of isolation as hunter-gatherers, has made the region highly diverse, second only to Africa in human genetic diversity. Settled life emerged on the subcontinent in the western margins of the Indus river basin 9,000 years ago, evolving gradually into the Indus Valley Civilisation of the third millennium BCE.
By 1200 BCE, an archaic form of Sanskrit, an Indo-European language, had diffused into India from the northwest. Its evidence today is found in the hymns of the Rigveda. Preserved by a resolutely vigilant oral tradition, the Rigveda records the dawning of Hinduism in India. The Dravidian languages of India were supplanted in the northern and western regions.
By 400 BCE, stratification and exclusion by caste had emerged within Hinduism,
and Buddhism and Jainism had arisen, proclaiming social orders unlinked to heredity.
Early political consolidations gave rise to the loose-knit Maurya and Gupta Empires based in the Ganges Basin.
Their collective era was suffused with wide-ranging creativity, but also marked by the declining status of women, and the incorporation of untouchability into an organised system of belief. In South India, the Middle kingdoms exported Dravidian-languages scripts and religious cultures to the kingdoms of Southeast Asia.In the early medieval era, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism became established on India’s southern and western coasts.
Muslim armies from Central Asia intermittently overran India’s northern plains,
eventually founding the Delhi Sultanate, and drawing northern India into the cosmopolitan networks of medieval Islam.
In the 15th century, the Vijayanagara Empire created a long-lasting composite Hindu culture in south India.
In the Punjab, Sikhism emerged, rejecting institutionalised religion.
The Mughal Empire, in 1526, ushered in two centuries of relative peace,
leaving a legacy of luminous architecture.
Gradually expanding rule of the British East India Company followed, turning India into a colonial economy, but also consolidating its sovereignty. British Crown rule began in 1858. The rights promised to Indians were granted slowly, but technological changes were introduced, and modern ideas of education and the public life took root. A pioneering and influential nationalist movement emerged, which was noted for nonviolent resistance and became the major factor in ending British rule. In 1947 the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two independent dominions, a Hindu-majority Dominion of India and a Muslim-majority Dominion of Pakistan, amid large-scale loss of life and an unprecedented migration.India has been a federal republic since 1950, governed through a democratic parliamentary system. It is a pluralistic, multilingual and multi-ethnic society. India’s population grew from 361 million in 1951 to 1.211 billion in 2011.
During the same time, its nominal per capita income increased from US$64 annually to US$1,498, and its literacy rate from 16.6% to 74%. From being a comparatively destitute country in 1951,
India has become a fast-growing major economy and a hub for information technology services, with an expanding middle class. It has a space programme which includes several planned or completed extraterrestrial missions. Indian movies, music, and spiritual teachings play an increasing role in global culture.
India has substantially reduced its rate of poverty, though at the cost of increasing economic inequality.
India is a nuclear-weapon state, which ranks high in military expenditure. It has disputes over Kashmir with its neighbours, Pakistan and China, unresolved since the mid-20th century.
Among the socio-economic challenges India faces are gender inequality, child malnutrition,
and rising levels of air pollution.
India’s land is megadiverse, with four biodiversity hotspots. Its forest cover comprises 21.7% of its area. India’s wildlife, which has traditionally been viewed with tolerance in India’s culture, is supported among these forests, and elsewhere, in protected habitats.
Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It consists of over 17,000 islands, including Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, and parts of Borneo and New Guinea. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic state and the 14th-largest country by area, at 1,904,569 square kilometres (735,358 square miles). With over 275 million people, Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most populous country and the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world’s most populous island, is home to more than half of the country’s population.
Indonesia is a presidential republic with an elected legislature. It has 38 provinces, of which nine have special status. The country’s capital, Jakarta, is the world’s second-most populous urban area. Indonesia shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and the eastern part of Malaysia, as well as maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, Palau, and India (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.
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 Christianity was spread by Europeans. Although the Portuguese, the French and British also ruled at some point, the Dutch were the foremost colonial power for much of their presence in the archipelago. The concept of “Indonesia” as a nation-state emerged in the early 20th century, culminating later in the proclamation of Indonesian Independence in 1945. However, it was not until 1949 that the Dutch recognised Indonesia’s sovereignty following an armed and diplomatic conflict between the two.
Indonesia consists of thousands of distinct native ethnic and hundreds of linguistic groups, with Javanese being the largest. A shared identity has developed with the motto “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (“Unity in Diversity” literally, “many, yet one”), defined by a national language, cultural diversity, religious pluralism within a Muslim-majority population, and a history of colonialism and rebellion against it. The economy of Indonesia is the world’s 17th-largest by nominal GDP and the 7th-largest by PPP. It is a regional power and is considered a middle power in global affairs. The country is a member of several multilateral organisations, including the United Nations, World Trade Organization, G20, and a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, East Asia Summit, D-8 and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan to the north, by Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east, and by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf to the south. It covers an area of 1.64 million square kilometres (0.63 million square miles), making it the 17th-largest country. Iran has a population of 86 million, making it the 17th-most populous country in the world, and the second-largest in the Middle East. Its largest cities, in descending order, are the capital Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Karaj, Shiraz, and Tabriz.
The country is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BC. It was first unified by the Medes, an ancient Iranian people, in the seventh century BC, and reached its territorial height in the sixth century BC, when Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Persian Empire, which became one of the largest empires in history and a superpower. The Achaemenid Empire fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC and was subsequently divided into several Hellenistic states. An Iranian rebellion established the Parthian Empire in the third century BC, which was succeeded in the third century AD by the Sassanid Empire, a major world power for the next four centuries. Arab Muslims conquered the empire in the seventh century AD, which led to the Islamization of Iran. It subsequently became a major center of Islamic culture and learning, with its art, literature, philosophy, and architecture spreading across the Muslim world and beyond during the Islamic Golden Age. Over the next two centuries, a series of native Iranian Muslim dynasties emerged before the Seljuk Turks and the Mongols conquered the region. In the 15th century, the native Safavids re-established a unified Iranian state and national identity, and converted the country to Shia Islam. Under the reign of Nader Shah in the 18th century, Iran presided over the most powerful military in the world, though by the 19th century, a series of conflicts with the Russian Empire led to significant territorial losses. The early 20th century saw the Persian Constitutional Revolution. Efforts to nationalize its fossil fuel supply from Western companies led to an Anglo-American coup in 1953, which resulted in greater autocratic rule under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and growing Western political influence. He went on to launch a far-reaching series of reforms in 1963. After the Iranian Revolution, the current Islamic Republic was established in 1979 by Ruhollah Khomeini, who became the country’s first Supreme Leader.The government of Iran is an Islamic theocracy that includes some elements of a presidential system, with the ultimate authority vested in an autocratic “Supreme Leader”; a position held by Ali Khamenei since Khomeini’s death in 1989. The Iranian government is authoritarian, and has attracted widespread criticism for its significant constraints and abuses against human rights and civil liberties, including several violent suppressions of mass protests, unfair elections, and limited rights for women and for children. It is also a focal point for Shia Islam within the Middle East, countering the long-existing Arab and Sunni hegemony within the region. Since the Iranian Revolution, the country is widely considered to be the largest adversary of Israel and also of Saudi Arabia. Iran is also considered to be one of the biggest players within Middle Eastern affairs, with its government being involved both directly and indirectly in the majority of modern Middle Eastern conflicts.
Iran is a regional and middle power, with a geopolitically strategic location in the Asian continent. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the ECO, the OIC, and the OPEC. It has large reserves of fossil fuels—including the second-largest natural gas supply and the third-largest proven oil reserves. The country’s rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by its 26 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Historically a multi-ethnic country, Iran remains a pluralistic society comprising numerous ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups, with the largest of these being Persians, Azeris, Kurds, Mazandaranis, and Lurs.
Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, the Persian Gulf and Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital and largest city is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Iraqi Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Armenians, Yazidis, Mandaeans, Persians and Shabakis with similarly diverse geography and wildlife. The vast majority of the country’s 44 million residents are Muslims – the notable other faiths are Christianity, Yazidism, Mandaeism, Yarsanism and Zoroastrianism. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish; others also recognised in specific regions are Neo-Aramaic, Turkish and Armenian.Starting as early as the 6th millennium BC, the fertile alluvial plains between Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, referred to as Mesopotamia, gave rise to some of the world’s earliest cities, civilisations, and empires, including those of Akkad, Babylon, Assyria and Sumer. Mesopotamia was a “Cradle of Civilisation” that saw the independent development of a writing system, mathematics, timekeeping, a calendar, astrology, and a law code. Following the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, Baghdad became the capital and the largest city of the Abbasid Caliphate, and during the Islamic Golden Age, the city evolved into a significant cultural and intellectual center, and garnered it a worldwide reputation for its academic institutions, including House of Wisdom. The city was largely destroyed at the hands of the Mongol Empire in 1258 during the Siege of Baghdad, resulting in a decline that would linger through many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires.
Modern Iraq dates back to 1920, when the British Mandate for Mesopotamia, joining three Ottoman vilayets, was created under the authority of the League of Nations. A British-backed Kingdom was established in 1921 under Faisal I of Iraq. The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from the UK in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Iraqi Republic created. Iraq was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party from 1968 until 2003. In 1980, Iraq invaded Iran, sparking a protracted war which would last for almost eight years, and end in a stalemate with devastating losses for both countries. After an invasion by the United States and its allies in 2003, Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party was removed from power, and multi-party parliamentary elections were held in 2005. The US presence in Iraq ended in 2011.Iraq is a federal parliamentary republic. The president is the head of state, the prime minister is the head of government, and the constitution provides for two deliberative bodies, the Council of Representatives and the Council of Union. The judiciary is free and independent of the executive and the legislature.Iraq is considered an emerging middle power with a strategic location and a founding member of the United Nations, the OPEC as well as of the Arab League, OIC, Non-Aligned Movement and the IMF. From 1920 to 2005 Iraq experienced spells of significant economic and military growth and briefer instability including wars. Since the inception of the current multipartite system in 2005, the country has seen further growth and steadier international investment, and a major decline in factional domestic attacks. However, recurrent failures to form a working government by members of parliament have been accompanied by politically motivated violence against government institutions.
Israel (; Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל, Yīsrāʾēl; Arabic: إِسْرَائِيل, ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel (מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; دَوْلَة إِسْرَائِيل, Dawlat ʾIsrāʾīl), is a country in Western Asia. It is situated on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea, and shares borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the southwest. Israel also is bordered by the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively. Tel Aviv is the economic and technological center of the country, while its seat of government is in its proclaimed capital of Jerusalem, although Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem is unrecognized internationally.The land held by present-day Israel witnessed some of the earliest human occupations outside Africa and was among the earliest known sites of agriculture. It was inhabited by the Canaanites during the Bronze Age. During the Iron Age, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah emerged, and later fell, respectively, to the Neo-Assyrian Empire (c. 720 BCE) and Neo-Babylonian Empire (586 BCE). During that period, much of the Hebrew Bible was written. The region was then ruled by the Achaemenid, Macedonian, Ptolemaic, and Seleucid empires. A successful Maccabean revolt led to the rise of an independent Hasmonean kingdom, but it was gradually incorporated into the Roman Republic. A series of large-scale Jewish revolts against Roman rule were unsuccessful, leading to wide-scale destruction, a high toll of life, and mass displacement. In the Middle Ages, the region was part of the Byzantine Empire, Rashidun Caliphate, Umayyad Caliphate, Abbasid Caliphate, and Fatimid Caliphate. With the First Crusade, Crusader states were established. The Ayyubids pushed back the crusaders before Muslim rule was fully restored by the Mamluk Sultanate, which ceded the territory to the Ottoman Empire at the outset of the early modern period.
During the 19th century, the Zionist movement began promoting the creation of a Jewish homeland in Ottoman Syria. Following World War I, Britain was granted control of the region by the League of Nations mandate, in what became known as Mandatory Palestine. After World War II, the newly formed United Nations adopted the Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947, recommending the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states, and an internationalized Jerusalem. Partition was accepted by the Jewish leadership, but rejected by Palestinian Arab leaders and the Arab states. Following a civil war within Mandatory Palestine between Yishuv and Palestinian Arab forces, Israel declared independence at the termination of the British Mandate. A day later, several surrounding Arab countries intervened, leading to the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, which concluded with the 1949 Armistice Agreements that saw Israel in control of most of the former mandate territory, while the West Bank and Gaza were held by Jordan and Egypt respectively. Over 700,000 Palestinian Arabs, about half of the pre-war Arab population, were expelled from or fled the territory Israel would come to control. During and immediately after the war, around 260,000 Jews emigrated or fled from the Arab world to Israel.Israel has since fought wars with several Arab countries, and since the 1967 Six-Day War has occupied the Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, though whether Gaza remains occupied following the Israeli disengagement is disputed. Israel has effectively annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, though these actions have been rejected as illegal by the international community, and established settlements within the occupied territories, which are also considered illegal under international law. While Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and has normalized relations with a number of other Arab countries, it remains formally at war with Syria and Lebanon, and efforts to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have thus far stalled.
In its Basic Laws, Israel defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state, and as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The country has a parliamentary system, proportional representation, and universal suffrage. The prime minister serves as head of government, while the Knesset is the unicameral legislature. Israel is a developed country and an OECD member, with a population of over nine million people as of 2021. It has the world’s 29th-largest economy by nominal GDP, and ranks nineteenth in the Human Development Index.
Jamaica ( (listen); Jamaican Patois: Jumieka) is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. Spanning 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the Caribbean (after Cuba and Hispaniola). Jamaica lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola (the island containing the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic); the British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands lies some 215 kilometres (134 mi) to the north-west.Originally inhabited by the indigenous Taíno peoples, the island came under Spanish rule following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. Many of the indigenous people either were killed or died of diseases, after which the Spanish brought large numbers of African slaves to Jamaica as labourers. The island remained a possession of Spain until 1655, when England (later Great Britain) conquered it, renaming it Jamaica. Under British colonial rule Jamaica became a leading sugar exporter, with a plantation economy dependent on the African slaves and later their descendants. The British fully emancipated all slaves in 1838, and many freedmen chose to have subsistence farms rather than to work on plantations. Beginning in the 1840s, the British began using Chinese and Indian indentured labour to work on plantations. The island achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962.With 2.8 million people, Jamaica is the third-most populous Anglophone country in the Americas (after the United States and Canada), and the fourth-most populous country in the Caribbean. Kingston is the country’s capital and largest city. The majority of Jamaicans are of Sub-Saharan African ancestry, with significant European, East Asian (primarily Chinese), Indian, Lebanese, and mixed-race minorities. Due to a high rate of emigration for work since the 1960s, there is a large Jamaican diaspora, particularly in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The country has a global influence that belies its small size; it was the birthplace of the Rastafari religion, reggae music (and associated genres such as dub, ska and dancehall), and it is internationally prominent in sports, most notably cricket, sprinting and athletics.Jamaica is an upper-middle income country with an economy heavily dependent on tourism; it has an average of 4.3 million tourists a year. Jamaica performs favourably in measurements of press freedom and democratic governance. It ranked first in the Caribbean on the World Happiness Report for 2021. Politically it is a Commonwealth realm, with Charles III as its king. His appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, an office held by Patrick Allen since 2009. Andrew Holness has served as Prime Minister of Jamaica since March 2016. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.
Jordan (Arabic: الأردن; tr. Al-ʾUrdunn [al.ʔur.dunː]), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is a country in Western Asia. It is situated at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, within the Levant region, on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the northeast, Syria to the north, and the Palestinian West Bank, Israel, and the Dead Sea to the west. It has a 26 km (16 mi) coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the southwest. The Gulf of Aqaba separates Jordan from Egypt. Amman is Jordan’s capital and largest city, as well as its economic, political, and cultural centre.Modern-day Jordan has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic period. Three stable kingdoms emerged there at the end of the Bronze Age: Ammon, Moab and Edom. Later rulers include the Assyrian Empire, Babylonian Empire, Nabataean Kingdom, the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, including the latter Byzantine Empire, the Rashidun, Umayyad, and Abassid caliphates, and the Ottoman Empire. After the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottomans in 1916 during World War I, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned by Britain and France. The Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921 by the Hashemite, then Emir, Abdullah I, and the emirate became a British protectorate. In 1946, Jordan became an independent state officially known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan, but it was renamed in 1949 to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan after the country captured the West Bank during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and annexed it until it was lost to Israel in 1967. Jordan renounced its claim to the territory in 1988, and became the second Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. Jordan is a founding member of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation. The sovereign state is a semi-constitutional monarchy, and the king holds wide executive and legislative powers.
Jordan is a semi-arid country, covering an area of 89,342 km2 (34,495 sq mi), with a population of 10 million, making it the eleventh-most populous Arab country. The dominant majority, or around 95% of the country’s population, is Sunni Muslim, with a mostly Arab Christian minority. Jordan has been mostly unscathed by the violence that swept the region following the Arab Spring in 2010. From as early as 1948, Jordan has accepted refugees from multiple neighboring countries in conflict. An estimated 2.1 million Palestinian and 1.4 million Syrian refugees are present in Jordan as of a 2015 census. The kingdom is also a refuge to thousands of Christian Iraqis fleeing persecution by the Islamic State. While Jordan continues to accept refugees, the recent large influx from Syria placed substantial strain on national resources and infrastructure.Jordan has a high Human Development Index, ranking 102nd, and is considered an upper middle income economy. The Jordanian economy, one of the smallest economies in the region, is attractive to foreign investors based upon a skilled workforce. The country is a major tourist destination, also attracting medical tourism due to its well developed health sector. Nonetheless, a lack of natural resources, large flow of refugees, and regional turmoil have hampered economic growth.
Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country located mainly in Central Asia and partly in Eastern Europe. It borders Russia to the north and west, China to the east, Kyrgyzstan to the southeast, Uzbekistan to the south, and Turkmenistan to the southwest, with a coastline along the Caspian Sea. Its capital is Astana, known as Nur-Sultan from 2019 to 2022. Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, was the country’s capital until 1997. Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country, the largest and northernmost Muslim-majority country by land area, and the ninth-largest country in the world. It has a population of 19 million people, and one of the lowest population densities in the world, at fewer than 6 people per square kilometre (15 people per square mile).
The country dominates Central Asia economically and politically, generating 60 percent of the region’s GDP, primarily through its oil and gas industry; it also has vast mineral resources. Officially, it is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic with a diverse cultural heritage, and has the highest Human Development Index ranking in the region. Kazakhstan is a member state of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Organization of Turkic States, and the International Organization of Turkic Culture.
The territory of Kazakhstan has historically been inhabited by nomadic groups and empires. In antiquity, the ancient Iranian nomadic Scythians inhabited the land, and the Achaemenid Persian Empire expanded towards the southern territory of the modern country. Turkic nomads, who trace their ancestry to many Turkic states such as the First Turkic Khaganate and the Second Turkic Khaganate, have inhabited the country from as early as the 6th century. In the 13th century, the territory was subjugated by the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan. In the 15th century, as a result of disintegration of Golden Horde, the Kazakh Khanate was established on much of the lands that would later form the territory of modern Kazakhstan.
By the 18th century, Kazakh Khanate disintegrated into three jüz which were absorbed and conquered by the Russian Empire; by the mid-19th century, the Russians nominally ruled all of Kazakhstan as part of the Russian Empire and liberated all of the slaves that the Kazakhs had captured in 1859. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution and subsequent outbreak of the Russian Civil War, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganized several times. In 1936, it was established as the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence during the dissolution of the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991. Human rights organizations have described the Kazakh government as authoritarian, and regularly describe Kazakhstan’s human rights situation as poor.
Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Kenya), is a country in East Africa. At 580,367 square kilometres (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world’s 48th largest country by area. With a population of more than 47.6 million in the 2019 census, Kenya is the 29th most populous country in the world. Kenya’s capital and largest city is Nairobi, while its oldest, currently second largest city, and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. Kisumu City is the third-largest city and also an inland port on Lake Victoria. Other important urban centres include Nakuru and Eldoret. As of 2020, Kenya is the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and South Africa. Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Its geography, climate and population vary widely, ranging from cold snow-capped mountaintops (Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana on Mount Kenya) with vast surrounding forests, wildlife and fertile agricultural regions to temperate climates in western and rift valley counties and dry less fertile arid and semi-arid areas and absolute deserts (Chalbi Desert and Nyiri Desert).
Kenya’s earliest inhabitants were hunter-gatherers, like the present-day Hadza people. According to archaeological dating of associated artifacts and skeletal material, Cushitic speakers first settled in Kenya’s lowlands between 3,200 and 1,300 BC, a phase known as the Lowland Savanna Pastoral Neolithic. Nilotic-speaking pastoralists (ancestral to Kenya’s Nilotic speakers) began migrating from present-day South Sudan into Kenya around 500 BC. Bantu people settled at the coast and the interior between 250 BC and 500 AD. European contact began in 1500 AD with the Portuguese Empire, and effective colonisation of Kenya began in the 19th century during the European exploration of the interior. Modern-day Kenya emerged from a protectorate established by the British Empire in 1895 and the subsequent Kenya Colony, which began in 1920. Numerous disputes between the UK and the colony led to the Mau Mau revolution, which began in 1952, and the declaration of independence in 1963. After independence, Kenya remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The current constitution was adopted in 2010 and replaced the 1963 independence constitution.
Kenya is a presidential representative democratic republic, in which elected officials represent the people and the president is the head of state and government. Kenya is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, COMESA, International Criminal Court, as well as other international organisations. With a GNI of 1,840, Kenya is a lower-middle-income economy. Kenya’s economy is the largest in eastern and central Africa, with Nairobi serving as a major regional commercial hub. Agriculture is the largest sector: tea and coffee are traditional cash crops, while fresh flowers are a fast-growing export. The service industry is also a major economic driver, particularly tourism. Kenya is a member of the East African Community trade bloc, though some international trade organisations categorise it as part of the Greater Horn of Africa. Africa is Kenya’s largest export market, followed by the European Union.
Kiribati , officially the Republic of Kiribati (Gilbertese: [Ribaberiki] Kiribati), is an island country in Oceania in the central Pacific Ocean. The permanent population is over 119,000 (2020), more than half of whom live on Tarawa atoll. The state comprises 32 atolls and one remote raised coral island, Banaba. There is a total land area of 811 square kilometres (313 square miles) dispersed over 3.5 million km2 (1.4 million sq mi) of ocean.
Their spread straddles the equator and the 180th meridian, although the International Date Line goes around Kiribati and swings far to the east, almost reaching the 150° W meridian. This brings Kiribati’s easternmost islands, the southern Line Islands south of Hawaii, into the same day as the Gilbert Islands and places them in the most advanced time zone on Earth: UTC+14. Kiribati is the only country in the world to be situated in all four cardinal hemispheres.Kiribati gained its independence from the United Kingdom, becoming a sovereign state in 1979. The capital, South Tarawa, now the most populated area, consists of a number of islets, connected by a series of causeways. These comprise about half the area of Tarawa atoll. Prior to its independence, the country had exported phosphate; however, those mines are no longer viable with fisheries and export of copra driving much of the economy. Kiribati is one of the least developed countries in the world and is highly dependent on international aid for its economy.
Kiribati is a member of the Pacific Community (SPC), Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, the OACPS and became a full member of the United Nations in 1999 As an island nation, the islands are very vulnerable to climate change and addressing climate change has been a central part of its international policy, as a member of the Alliance of Small Island States.
Kyrgyzstan, or the Kyrgyz Republic, is a landlocked country in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south, and the People’s Republic of China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country’s seven million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians. The Kyrgyz language is closely related to other Turkic languages.
Kyrgyzstan’s history spans a variety of cultures and empires. Although geographically isolated by its highly mountainous terrain, Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road along with other commercial routes. Inhabited by a succession of tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under larger domination. Turkic nomads, who trace their ancestry to many Turkic states. It was first established as the Yenisei Kyrgyz Khaganate later in the 13th century, Kyrgyzstan was conquered by the Mongols; it regained independence, but was later invaded by Dzungar Khanate. After the fall of Dzhungars, Kyrgyz and Kipchaks were an integral part of Kokand Khanate. In 1876, Kyrgyzstan became part of the Russian Empire, and in 1936, the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic was formed to become a constituent republic of the Soviet Union. Following Mikhail Gorbachev’s democratic reforms in the USSR, in 1990 pro-independence candidate Askar Akayev was elected president. On 31 August 1991, Kyrgyzstan declared independence from Moscow and a democratic government was established. Kyrgyzstan attained sovereignty as a nation state after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
After independence, Kyrgyzstan was officially a unitary presidential republic; after the Tulip Revolution it became a unitary parliamentary republic, although it gradually developed an executive president and was governed as a semi-presidential republic before reverting to a presidential system in 2021. Throughout its existence, the country has continued to endure ethnic conflicts, revolts, economic troubles, transitional governments and political conflict.Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organisation of Turkic States, the Türksoy community and the United Nations. It is a developing country ranked 118th in the Human Development Index, and is the second poorest country in Central Asia. The country’s transitional economy is heavily dependent on deposits of gold, coal and uranium.
Laos ( (listen)), officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ, French: République démocratique populaire lao), is a socialist state and the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. At the heart of the Indochinese Peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast, and Thailand to the west and southwest. Its capital and largest city is Vientiane.
Present-day Laos traces its historic and cultural identity to Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th century to the 18th century as one of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Because of its central geographical location in Southeast Asia, the kingdom became a hub for overland trade and became wealthy economically and culturally. After a period of internal conflict, Lan Xang broke into three separate kingdoms: Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak. In 1893, the three territories came under a French protectorate and were united to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation but was re-colonised by France until it won autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. A post-independence civil war began, which saw the communist resistance, supported by the Soviet Union, fight against the monarchy that later came under influence of military regimes supported by the United States. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the communist Pathet Lao came to power, ending the civil war. Laos was then dependent on military and economic aid from the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991.
Laos is a member of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement, the ASEAN, East Asia Summit, and La Francophonie. Laos applied for membership of the World Trade Organization in 1997; on 2 February 2013, it was granted full membership. It is a one-party socialist republic, espousing Marxism–Leninism and governed by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, under which non-governmental organisations have routinely characterised the country’s human rights record as poor, citing repeated abuses such as torture, restrictions on civil liberties and persecution of minorities.
The politically and culturally dominant Lao people make up 53.2% of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong, and other indigenous hill tribes live in the foothills and mountains. Laos’s strategies for development are based on generating electricity from rivers and selling the power to its neighbours, namely Thailand, China and Vietnam, as well as its initiative to become a “land-linked” nation, as evidenced by the construction of four new railways connecting Laos and neighbours. Laos has been referred to as one of Southeast Asia and Pacific’s fastest growing economies by the World Bank with annual GDP growth averaging 7.4% since 2009.
Lebanon ( LEB-ə-non, -nən, Arabic: لُبْنَان, romanized: lubnān, Lebanese Arabic pronunciation: [lɪbˈneːn]), officially the Republic of Lebanon (Arabic: الجمهورية اللبنانية) or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is located between Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, while Cyprus lies to its west across the Mediterranean Sea; its location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has contributed to its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious diversity. It is part of the Levant region of the Middle East. Lebanon is home to roughly six million people and covers an area of 10,452 square kilometres (4,036 sq mi), making it the second smallest country in continental Asia. The official language of the state is Arabic, while French is also formally recognized; the Lebanese dialect of Arabic is used alongside Modern Standard Arabic throughout the country.
The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back over 7000 years, predating recorded history. Modern-day Lebanon was home to the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that flourished for almost 3000 years (c. 3200–539 BC). In 64 BC, the Roman Empire conquered the region, and it eventually became among the empire’s leading centers of Christianity. The Mount Lebanon range saw the emergence of a monastic tradition known as the Maronite Church. Upon the region’s conquest by the early Arab Muslims, the Maronites held onto their religion and identity. However, a new religious group known as the Druze eventually established themselves in Mount Lebanon as well, generating a religious divide that has lasted for centuries. During the Crusades, the Maronites re-established contact with the Roman Catholic Church and asserted their communion with Rome. The Maronite Catholic and the Druze founded modern Lebanon in the early eighteenth century, through the ruling and social system known as the “Maronite-Druze dualism” in Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate.Lebanon was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century and remained under its rule for the next 400 years. Following the empire’s collapse after World War I, the five Ottoman provinces constituting modern-day Lebanon came under the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon, under which its French-ruled predecessor state of Greater Lebanon was established. Following the invasion and occupation of the French Third Republic by Nazi Germany during World War II, French rule over the region weakened. Upon gaining its independence from Free France in 1943, Lebanon established a unique confessionalist form of government, with the state’s major religious sects being apportioned specific political powers. Lebanon initially was relatively stable. This stability was short-lived and was ultimately shattered by the outbreak of large-scale fighting in the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) between various political and sectarian factions. During this period, Lebanon was also subjected to overlapping foreign military occupations by Syria from 1976 to 2005 and by Israel from 1985 to 2000. Since the end of the war, there have been extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.Lebanon is a developing country, ranking 112th on the Human Development Index. It has been classified as an upper middle income state. However, the Lebanese liquidity crisis, corruption as well as recent events have precipitated the collapse of currency, political instability, widespread shortages, high unemployment and poverty. The World Bank defined the economic crisis in Lebanon as one of the worst in the world since the 19th century. Despite the country’s small size, Lebanese culture is renowned both in the Middle East and globally, primarily powered by its extensive diaspora. Lebanon is a founding member of the United Nations and is a member of the Arab League, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Lesotho ( (listen) lə-SOO-too), officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a country landlocked as an enclave in South Africa. It is situated in the Maloti Mountains and contains the highest mountains in Southern Africa. It has an area of over 30,000 km2 (11,600 sq mi) and has a population of about 2 million.
It was previously the British Crown colony of Basutoland, which declared independence from the United Kingdom on 4 October 1966. It is a fully sovereign state and is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the African Union, and the Southern African Development Community. The name Lesotho roughly translates to “land of the Sotho”.
Liberia ( (listen)), officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its northwest, Guinea to its north, Ivory Coast to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean to its south and southwest. It has a population of around 5 million and covers an area of 43,000 square miles (111,369 km2). English is the official language, but over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, reflecting the country’s ethnic and cultural diversity. The country’s capital and largest city is Monrovia.
Liberia began in the early 19th century as a project of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. Between 1822 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, more than 15,000 freed and free-born black people who faced social and legal oppression in the U.S., along with 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to Liberia. Gradually developing an “Americo-Liberian” identity, the settlers carried their culture and tradition with them; the Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after those of the U.S., while its capital was named after ACS supporter and U.S. President James Monroe. Liberia declared independence on July 26, 1847, which the U.S. did not recognize until February 5, 1862. On January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born African American from the U.S. state of Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected Liberia’s first president after the people proclaimed independence.Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence and is Africa’s first and oldest modern republic. It was among the few African countries to maintain its sovereignty during the Scramble for Africa. During World War II, Liberia supported the United States war effort against Germany, and in turn received considerable American investment in infrastructure, which aided the country’s wealth and development. President William Tubman encouraged economic and political changes that heightened the country’s prosperity and international profile; Liberia was a founding member of the League of Nations, United Nations, and the Organisation of African Unity.
The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those living in the more isolated interior. Colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Americo-Liberians promoted religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the native populace. Americo-Liberians formed into a small elite that held disproportionate political power; indigenous Africans were excluded from birthright citizenship in their own land until 1904.In 1980, political tensions from the rule of William R. Tolbert resulted in a military coup during which Tolbert was killed, marking the end of Americo-Liberian rule in the country and beginning over two decades of political instability. Five years of military rule by the People’s Redemption Council and five years of civilian rule by the National Democratic Party of Liberia were followed by the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars. These resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people (about 8% of the population) and the displacement of many more, with Liberia’s economy shrinking by 90%. A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005, in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected president, making history as the first female president on the continent. National infrastructure and basic social services were severely affected by the conflicts as well as by the 2013–2016 outbreak of Ebola virus, with 83% of the population living below the international poverty line as of 2015.
Libya ( (listen); Arabic: ليبيا, romanized: Lībiyā), officially the State of Libya (Arabic: دولة ليبيا, romanized: Dawlat Lībiyā), is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa. It is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad to the south, Niger to the southwest, Algeria to the west, and Tunisia to the northwest. Libya is made of three historical regions: Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 700,000 square miles (1.8 million km2), it is the fourth-largest country in Africa and the Arab world, and the 16th-largest in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves in the world. The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over three million of Libya’s seven million people.Libya has been inhabited by Berbers since the late Bronze Age as descendants from Iberomaurusian and Capsian cultures. In ancient times, the Phoenicians established city-states and trading posts in western Libya, while more recently the Ottoman Empire controlled the northern coastline of Libya. Parts of Libya were variously ruled by Carthaginians, Persians, Egyptians and Macedonians before the entire region becoming a part of the Roman Empire. Libya was an early center of Christianity. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the area of Libya was mostly occupied by the Vandals until the 7th century when invasions brought Islam to the region. In the 16th century, the Spanish Empire and the Knights of St John occupied Tripoli until Ottoman rule began in 1551. Libya was involved in the Barbary Wars of the 18th and 19th centuries. Ottoman rule continued until the Italo-Turkish War, which resulted in the Italian occupation of Libya and the establishment of two colonies, Italian Tripolitania and Italian Cyrenaica (1911–1934), later unified in the Italian Libya colony from 1934 to 1943.
During the Second World War, Libya was an area of warfare in the North African Campaign. The Italian population then went into decline. Libya became independent as a kingdom in 1951. A bloodless military coup in 1969, initiated by a coalition led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, overthrew King Idris I and created a republic. Gaddafi was often described by critics as a dictator, and was one of the world’s longest serving non-royal leaders, ruling for 42 years. He ruled until being overthrown and killed in the 2011 Libyan Civil War during the wider Arab Spring, with authority transferred to the National Transitional Council then to the elected General National Congress. By 2014 two rival authorities claimed to govern Libya, which led to a second civil war, with parts of Libya split between the Tobruk and Tripoli-based governments as well as various tribal and Islamist militias. The two main warring sides signed a permanent ceasefire in 2020, and a unity government took authority to plan for democratic elections, however political rivalries continue to delay this.Libya is a member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the Arab League, the OIC and OPEC. The country’s official religion is Islam, with 96.6% of the Libyan population being Sunni Muslims.
Luxembourg ( (listen) LUK-səm-burg; Luxembourgish: Lëtzebuerg [ˈlətsəbuəɕ] (listen); French: Luxembourg; German: Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a small landlocked country in Western Europe. It borders Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. Its capital and most populous city, Luxembourg, is one of the four institutional seats of the European Union (together with Brussels, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg) and the seat of several EU institutions, notably the Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest judicial authority. Luxembourg’s culture, people, and languages are highly intertwined with its French and German neighbors; while Luxembourgish is legally the only national language of the Luxembourgish people, French and German are also used in administrative and judicial matters and all three are considered administrative languages of the country.With an area of 2,586 square kilometers (998 sq mi), Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in Europe, and the smallest not considered a microstate. In 2022, it had a population of 645,397, which makes it one of the least-populated countries in Europe, albeit with the highest population growth rate; foreigners account for nearly half the population. Luxembourg is a representative democracy headed by a constitutional monarch, Grand Duke Henri, making it the world’s only remaining sovereign grand duchy.
Luxembourg is a developed country with an advanced economy and one of the world’s highest GDP (PPP) per capita. The city of Luxembourg was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 due to the exceptional preservation of the vast fortifications and historic quarters.Luxembourg is a founding member of the European Union, OECD, the United Nations, NATO, and the Benelux. It served on the United Nations Security Council for the first time in 2013 and 2014. As of 2022, Luxembourg citizens had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 189 countries and territories, ranking the Luxembourgish passport fourth in the world, tied with Finland and Italy.
Madagascar (; Malagasy: Madagasikara), officially the Republic of Madagascar (Malagasy: Repoblikan’i Madagasikara, Malagasy pronunciation: [repuˈblikʲanʲ madaɡasʲˈkʲarə̥]; French: République de Madagascar), is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of East Africa across the Mozambique Channel. At 592,800 square kilometres (228,900 sq mi) Madagascar is the world’s second-largest island country, after Indonesia. The nation is home to around 30 million inhabitants and consists of the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world), along with numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent around 90 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is endemic.
Human settlement of Madagascar occurred during or before the mid first millennium AD by Austronesian peoples, presumably arriving on outrigger canoes from present-day Indonesia. These were joined around the 9th century AD by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel from East Africa. Other groups continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group is often divided into 18 or more subgroups, of which the largest are the Merina of the central highlands.
Until the late 18th century, the island of Madagascar was ruled by a fragmented assortment of shifting sociopolitical alliances. Beginning in the early 19th century, most of the island was united and ruled as the Kingdom of Madagascar by a series of Merina nobles. The monarchy ended in 1897 when the island was absorbed into the French colonial empire, from which the island gained independence in 1960. The autonomous state of Madagascar has since undergone four major constitutional periods, termed republics. Since 1992, the nation has officially been governed as a constitutional democracy from its capital at Antananarivo. However, in a 2009 political crisis, president Marc Ravalomanana was made to resign and presidential power was transferred in March 2009 to Andry Rajoelina. Constitutional governance was restored in January 2014, when Hery Rajaonarimampianina was named president following a 2013 election deemed fair and transparent by the international community. Madagascar is a member of the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.
Madagascar belongs to the group of least developed countries, according to the United Nations. Malagasy and French are both official languages of the state. Christianity is the predominant religion in the country, but a significant minority still practice traditional faiths. Ecotourism and agriculture, paired with greater investments in education, health, and private enterprise, are key elements of Madagascar’s development strategy. Under Ravalomanana, these investments produced substantial economic growth, but the benefits were not evenly spread throughout the population, producing tensions over the increasing cost of living and declining living standards among the poor and some segments of the middle class. The economy was weakened by the 2009 political crisis, and as of 2017, quality of life remains low for the majority of the Malagasy population. Madagascar is experiencing an ongoing famine, which experts argue is the first to be caused entirely by climate change.
Malawi (; Chewa: [maláβi] or [maláwi]; Tumbuka: Malaŵi), officially the Republic of Malawi, is a landlocked country in Southeastern Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the west, Tanzania to the north and northeast, and Mozambique to the east, south and southwest. Malawi spans over 118,484 km2 (45,747 sq mi) and has an estimated population of 19,431,566 (as of January 2021). Malawi’s capital (and largest city) is Lilongwe. Its second-largest is Blantyre, its third-largest is Mzuzu and its fourth-largest is its former capital, Zomba. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name for the Chewa people who inhabit the area. The country is nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa” because of the friendliness of its people.The part of Africa now known as Malawi was settled around the 10th century by migrating Bantu groups . Centuries later, in 1891, the area was colonised by the British and became a protectorate of the United Kingdom known as Nyasaland. In 1953, it became a protectorate within the semi-independent Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The Federation was dissolved in 1963. In 1964, the protectorate was ended: Nyasaland became an independent country under Queen Elizabeth II, and was renamed Malawi. Two years later it became a republic. It gained full independence from the United Kingdom, and by 1970 had become a totalitarian one-party state under the presidency of Hastings Banda, who remained in this role until 1994. Today, Malawi has a democratic, multi-party republic headed by an elected president. Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party led the Tonse Alliance grouping of nine political parties and won the court-mandated Presidential Election rerun held on 23 June 2020 after the May 2019 Presidential Election was annulled due to massive electoral irregularities. The country’s military, the Malawian Defence Force, includes an army, a navy, and an air wing. Malawi’s foreign policy is pro-Western. It maintains positive diplomatic relations with most countries, and participates in several international organisations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the African Union (AU).
Malawi is one of the world’s least-developed countries. The economy is heavily based on agriculture, and it has a largely rural and rapidly growing population. The Malawian government depends heavily on outside aid to meet its development needs, although the amount needed (and the aid offered) has decreased since 2000. The Malawian government faces challenges in its efforts to build and expand the economy, improve education, healthcare, and environmental protection, and become financially independent despite widespread unemployment. Since 2005, Malawi has developed several policies that focus on addressing these issues, and the country’s outlook appears to be improving: Key indicators of progress in the economy, education, and healthcare were seen in 2007 and 2008.
Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. HIV/AIDS is highly prevalent, which both reduces the labour force and requires increased government expenditures. The country has a diverse population that includes native peoples, Asians, and Europeans. Several languages are spoken, and there is an array of religious beliefs. Although in the past there was a periodic regional conflict fuelled in part by ethnic divisions, by 2008 this internal conflict had considerably diminished, and the idea of identifying with one’s Malawian nationality had reemerged.
Malaysia ( (listen) mə-LAY-zee-ə, -zhə; Malay: [məlejsiə]) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federal constitutional monarchy consists of thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two regions: Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo’s East Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia, and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur is the national capital, the country’s largest city, and the seat of the legislative branch of the federal government. The nearby planned capital of Putrajaya is the administrative capital, which represents the seat of both the executive branch (the Cabinet, federal ministries, and agencies) and the judicial branch of the federal government. With a population of over 32 million, Malaysia is the world’s 45th-most populous country. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia is in Tanjung Piai. In the tropics, Malaysia is one of 17 megadiverse countries, home to numerous endemic species.
Malaysia has its origins in the Malay kingdoms, which, from the 18th century on, became subject to the British Empire, along with the British Straits Settlements protectorate. Peninsular Malaysia was unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. The independent Malaya united with the then British crown colonies of North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore on 16 September 1963 to become Malaysia. In August 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation and became a separate independent country.The country is multiethnic and multicultural, which has a significant effect on its politics. About half the population is ethnically Malay, with minorities of Chinese, Indians, and indigenous peoples. The country’s official language is Malaysian Malay, a standard form of the Malay language. English remains an active second language. While recognising Islam as the country’s established religion, the constitution grants freedom of religion to non-Muslims. The government is modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is an elected monarch, chosen from among the nine state sultans every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.
After independence, the Malaysian GDP grew at an average rate of 6.5% per annum for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fuelled by its natural resources but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. Malaysia has a newly industrialised market economy, ranked third-largest in Southeast Asia and 36th-largest in the world. It is a founding member of ASEAN, EAS, and OIC and a member of APEC, the Commonwealth, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Mali ( (listen); French pronunciation: [mali]), officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa, with an area of over 1,240,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi). The population of Mali is 21.9 million. 67% of its population was estimated to be under the age of 25 in 2017. Its capital and largest city is Bamako. The sovereign state of Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert. The country’s southern part is in the Sudanian savanna, where the majority of inhabitants live, and both the Niger and Senegal rivers pass through. The country’s economy centres on agriculture and mining. One of Mali’s most prominent natural resources is gold, and the country is the third largest producer of gold on the African continent. It also exports salt.Present-day Mali was once part of three extremely powerful and wealthy West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire (for which Ghana is named), the Mali Empire (for which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. At its peak in 1300, the Mali Empire was the wealthiest country in Africa, covering an area about twice the size of modern-day France and stretched to the west coast of the continent. Mali was also one of the wealthiest countries on earth, and its emperor at its zenith, Mansa Musa, is believed to be possibly the wealthiest individual in history. Besides being an economic powerhouse, medieval Mali was a centre of Islam, culture and knowledge, with Timbuktu becoming a renowned place of learning with its university, one of the oldest in the world still active. The expanding Songhai Empire absorbed the empire in 1468, followed by a Moroccan army which defeated the Songhai in 1591. The Moroccan colonists established a new ruling class, the Arma, who after 1631 became virtually independent of Morocco. In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa, France seized control of Mali, making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) joined with Senegal in 1959, achieving independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation. Shortly thereafter, following Senegal’s withdrawal from the federation, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali. After a long period of one-party rule, a coup in 1991 led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state.
In January 2012, an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali, in which Tuareg rebels took control of a territory in the north, and in April declared the secession of a new state, Azawad. The conflict was complicated by a military coup that took place in March and later fighting between Tuareg and other rebel factions. In response to territorial gains, the French military launched Opération Serval in January 2013. A month later, Malian and French forces recaptured most of the north. Presidential elections were held on 28 July 2013, with a second-round run-off held on 11 August, and legislative elections were held on 24 November and 15 December 2013.
In the early 2020s Mali experienced two military takeovers by Assimi Goïta.
Mauritania ( (listen); Arabic: موريتانيا, Mūrītānyā, French: Mauritanie; Berber: Agawej or Cengit; Pulaar: 𞤃𞤮𞤪𞤭𞤼𞤢𞤲𞤭 Moritani; Wolof: Gànnaar; Soninke:), officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (Arabic: الجمهورية الإسلامية الموريتانية), is a sovereign country in West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara to the north and northwest, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, and Senegal to the southwest. Mauritania is the 11th-largest country in Africa and the 28th-largest in the world, and 90% of its territory is situated in the Sahara. Most of its population of 4.4 million lives in the temperate south of the country, with roughly one-third concentrated in the capital and largest city, Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast.
The country’s name derives from the ancient Berber kingdom of Mauretania, located in North Africa within the ancient Maghreb. Berbers occupied what is now Mauritania beginning in the third century AD. Arabs under the Umayyad Caliphate conquered the area in the late seventh century, bringing Islam, Arab culture, and the Arabic language. In the early 20th century, Mauritania was colonized by France as part of French West Africa. It achieved independence in 1960, but has since experienced recurrent coups and periods of military dictatorship. The most recent coup, in 2008, was led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who won subsequent presidential elections in 2009 and 2014. He was succeeded by Mohamed Ould Ghazouani following the 2019 elections, which were considered Mauritania’s first peaceful transition of power since independence.Mauritania is culturally and politically part of the Arab world: it is a member of the Arab League and Arabic is the sole official language. Reflecting its colonial heritage, French is widely spoken and serves as a lingua franca. The official religion is Islam, and almost all inhabitants are Sunni Muslims. Despite its prevailing Arab identity, Mauritanian society is multiethnic: the Bidhan, or so-called “white moors”, make up 30% of the population, while the Haratin, or so-called “black moors”, comprise 40%. Both groups reflect a fusion of Arab-Berber ethnicity, language, and culture. The remaining 30% of the population comprises various sub-Saharan ethnic groups.
Despite an abundance of natural resources, including iron ore and petroleum, Mauritania remains poor; its economy is based primarily on agriculture, livestock, and fishing. Mauritania is known for its poor human rights record, most notably the continued practice of slavery, a result of a historical caste system between the Bidhan and Haratin. It was the last country in the world to abolish slavery, in 1981, and criminalized it only in 2007.
Mauritius ( (listen) mər-ISH-(ee-)əs, mor-; French: Maurice [mɔʁis, moʁis] (listen); Mauritian Creole: Moris [moʁis]), officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,100 nautical miles) off the southeast coast of the African continent, east of Madagascar. It includes the main island (also called Mauritius), as well as Rodrigues, Agaléga and St. Brandon. The islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues, along with nearby Réunion (a French overseas department), are part of the Mascarene Islands. The main island of Mauritius, where most of the population is concentrated, hosts the capital and largest city, Port Louis. The country spans 2,040 square kilometres (790 sq mi) and has an exclusive economic zone covering 2,300,000 square kilometres (670,000 square nautical miles).Arab sailors were the first to discover the uninhabited island, around 975, and they called it Dina Arobi. The earliest confirmed discovery was in 1507 by Portuguese sailors, who otherwise took little interest in the islands. The Dutch took possession in 1598, establishing a succession of short-lived settlements over a period of about 120 years, before abandoning their efforts in 1710. France took control in 1715, renaming it Isle de France. In 1810, the United Kingdom seized the island, and four years later, in the Treaty of Paris, France ceded Mauritius and its dependencies to the United Kingdom. The British colony of Mauritius included Rodrigues, Agaléga, St. Brandon, the Chagos Archipelago, and, until 1906, the Seychelles. Mauritius and France dispute sovereignty over the island of Tromelin as the Treaty of Paris failed to mention it specifically. Mauritius remained a primarily plantation-based colony of the United Kingdom until independence in 1968.
In 1965, the UK split off the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritian territory to the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). The local population was forcibly expelled between 1968 and 1973 and the largest island, Diego Garcia, was leased to the United States. The sovereignty of the Chagos is disputed between Mauritius and the UK. In 2019, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion ordering the UK to return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius, and in 2021, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled in support of this, saying that the UK has “no sovereignty over the Chagos Islands”.Owing to its geographic location and centuries of colonialism, the people of Mauritius are highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and faith. It is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the most practised religion. Indo-Mauritians make up the bulk of the population with significant Creole, Sino-Mauritian and Franco-Mauritian minorities. The island’s government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and Mauritius is highly ranked for economic and political freedom along with being the only African country with full democracy. Mauritius is also the continent’s only country with “very high” Human Development Index. According to the World Bank, the country is classified as a high-income economy. It is also ranked as the most competitive, and one of the most developed economies in the African region. The country is a welfare state. The government provides free universal healthcare, free education up through the tertiary level and free public transportation for students, senior citizens, and the disabled. In 2019, Mauritius was ranked the most peaceful African country by the Global Peace Index.Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna. Many species are endemic to the island. The island was the only known home of the dodo, which, along with several other avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively soon after the island’s settlement. There are other endemic animals like for example: the Mauritian parakeet, the kestrel, and the pink pigeon.
Mexico (Spanish: México), officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico covers 1,972,550 square kilometers (761,610 sq mi), making it the world’s 13th-largest country by area; with approximately 126,014,024 inhabitants, it is the 10th-most-populous country and has the most Spanish-speakers. Mexico is organized as a federal republic comprising 31 states and Mexico City, its capital. Other major urban areas include Monterrey, Guadalajara, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, and León.Human presence in Pre-Columbian Mexico goes back to 8,000 BCE and it went to become one of the world’s six cradles of civilization. In particular, the Mesoamerican region was home to many intertwined civilizations; including the Olmec, Maya, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, and Purepecha. Last were the Aztecs, who dominated the region in the century before European contact. In 1521, the Spanish Empire and its indigenous allies conquered the Aztec Empire from its capital Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), establishing the colony of New Spain. Over the next three centuries, Spain and the Catholic Church played an important role expanding the territory, enforcing Christianity and spreading the Spanish language throughout. With the discovery of rich deposits of silver in Zacatecas and Guanajuato, New Spain soon became one of the most important mining centers worldwide. Wealth coming from Asia and the New World contributed to Spain’s status as a major world power for the next centuries, and brought about a price revolution in Western Europe. The colonial order came to an end in the early nineteenth century with the War of Independence against Spain.
Mexico’s early history as an independent nation state was marked by political and socioeconomic upheaval, both domestically and in foreign affairs. The Federal Republic of Central America shortly seceded the country. Then two invasions by foreign powers took place: first, by the United States as a consequence of the Texas Revolt by American settlers, which led to the Mexican–American War and huge territorial losses in 1848. After the introduction of liberal reforms in the Constitution of 1857, conservatives reacted with the war of Reform and prompted France to invade the country and install an Empire, against the Republican resistance led by liberal President Benito Juárez, which emerged victorious. The last decades of the 19th century were dominated by the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, who sought to modernize Mexico and restore order. However, the Porfiriato era led to great social unrest and ended with the outbreak in 1910 of the decade-long Mexican Revolution (civil war). This conflict had profound changes in Mexican society, including the proclamation of the 1917 Constitution, which remains in effect to this day. The remaining war generals ruled as a succession of presidents until the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) emerged in 1929. The PRI in turn governed Mexico for the next 70 years, first under a set of paternalistic developmental policies of considerable economic success. During World War II Mexico also played an important role for the U.S. war effort. Nonetheless, the PRI regime resorted to repression and electoral fraud to maintain power; and moved the country to a more US-aligned neoliberal economic policy during the late 20th century. This culminated with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, which caused a major indigenous rebellion in the state of Chiapas. PRI lost the presidency for the first time in 2000, against the conservative party (PAN).
Mexico has the world’s 15th-largest economy by nominal GDP and the 11th-largest by PPP, with the United States being its largest economic partner. As a newly industrialized and developing country with a high Human Development Index, its large economy and population, cultural influence, and steady democratization make Mexico a regional and middle power wich is also identified as an emerging power by several analysts. Mexico ranks first in the Americas and seventh in the world for the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, ranking fifth in natural biodiversity. Mexico’s rich cultural and biological heritage, as well as varied climate and geography, makes it a major tourist destination: as of 2018, it was the sixth most-visited country in the world, with 39 million international arrivals. However, the country continues to struggle with social inequality, poverty and extensive crime. It ranks poorly on the Global Peace Index, due in large part to ongoing conflict between drug trafficking syndicates, which violently compete for the US drug market and trade routes. This “drug war” has led to over 120,000 deaths since 2006. Mexico is a member of United Nations, the G20, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the Organization of American States, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and the Organization of Ibero-American States.
Micronesia (UK: , US: ) is a subregion of Oceania, consisting of about 2,000 small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a close shared cultural history with three other island regions: the Philippines to the west, Polynesia to the east, and Melanesia to the south—as well as with the wider community of Austronesian peoples.
The region has a tropical marine climate and is part of the Oceanian realm. It includes four main archipelagos—the Caroline Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Mariana Islands, and the Marshall Islands—as well as numerous islands that are not part of any archipelago.
Political control of areas within Micronesia varies depending on the island, and is distributed among six sovereign nations. Some of the Caroline Islands are part of the Republic of Palau and some are part of the Federated States of Micronesia (often shortened to “FSM” or “Micronesia”—not to be confused with the identical name for the overall region). The Gilbert Islands (along with the Phoenix Islands and the Line Islands in Polynesia) comprise the Republic of Kiribati. The Mariana Islands are affiliated with the United States; some of them belong to the U.S. Territory of Guam and the rest belong to the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The island of Nauru is its own sovereign nation. The Marshall Islands all belong to the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The sovereignty of Wake Island is contested: it is claimed both by the United States and by the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The United States has actual possession of Wake Island, which is under the immediate administration of the United States Air Force.
Human settlement of Micronesia began several millennia ago. The Micronesian people are considered, by linguistic, archaeological, and human genetic evidence, a subset of the sea-migrating Austronesian people, who include the Polynesian people and the Melanesian people. Based on the current scientific consensus, the Austronesian peoples originated from a prehistoric seaborne migration, known as the Austronesian expansion, from pre-Han Taiwan, at around 3000 to 1500 BCE. Austronesians reached the northernmost Philippines, specifically the Batanes Islands, by around 2200 BCE. Austronesians were the first people to invent oceangoing sailing technologies (notably catamarans, outrigger boats, lashed-lug boat building, and the crab claw sail), which enabled their rapid dispersal into the islands of the Indo-Pacific. From 2000 BCE they assimilated (or were assimilated by) the earlier populations on the islands in their migration pathway.The earliest known contact of Europeans with Micronesia was in 1521, when Spanish ships landed in the Marianas. Jules Dumont d’Urville is usually credited with coining the term “Micronesia” in 1832, but in fact, Domeny de Rienzi used the term a year earlier.
Moldova ( (listen) mol-DOH-və, sometimes UK: MOL-də-və; Romanian pronunciation: [molˈdova]), officially the Republic of Moldova (Romanian: Republica Moldova), is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east, and south. The unrecognised state of Transnistria lies across the Dniester river on the country’s eastern border with Ukraine. Moldova’s capital and largest city is Chișinău.
Most of Moldovan territory was a part of the Principality of Moldavia from the 14th century until 1812, when it was ceded to the Russian Empire by the Ottoman Empire (to which Moldavia was a vassal state) and became known as Bessarabia. In 1856, southern Bessarabia was returned to Moldavia, which three years later united with Wallachia to form Romania, but Russian rule was restored over the whole of the region in 1878. During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Bessarabia briefly became an autonomous state within the Russian Republic, known as the Moldavian Democratic Republic. In February 1918, the Moldavian Democratic Republic declared independence and then integrated into Romania later that year following a vote of its assembly. The decision was disputed by Soviet Russia, which in 1924 established, within the Ukrainian SSR, a so-called Moldavian autonomous republic (MASSR) on partially Moldovan-inhabited territories to the east of Bessarabia.
In 1940, as a consequence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Romania was compelled to cede Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union, leading to the creation of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (Moldavian SSR), which included the greater part of Bessarabia and the westernmost strip of the former MASSR (east of the Dniester). On 27 August 1991, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union was underway, the Moldavian SSR declared independence and took the name Moldova. That same day, Romania became the first country to recognize Moldova’s independence. The constitution of Moldova was adopted in 1994. The strip of the Moldovan territory on the east bank of the Dniester has been under the de facto control of the breakaway government of Transnistria since 1990.
Due to a decrease in industrial and agricultural output following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the service sector has grown to dominate Moldova’s economy and is over 60% of the nation’s GDP. Moldova is the second poorest country in Europe by GDP per capita. It also has the third lowest Human Development Index in Europe, ranking 80th in the world.
Moldova is a parliamentary republic with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. It is a member state of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), and the Association Trio. Moldova has been an official candidate for membership in the European Union since June 2022.
Mongolia ( (listen)) is a landlocked country in East Asia, bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south. It covers an area of 1,564,116 square kilometres (603,909 square miles), with a population of just 3.3 million, making it the world’s most sparsely populated sovereign nation. Mongolia is the world’s largest landlocked country that does not border a closed sea, and much of its area is covered by grassy steppe, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Ulaanbaatar, the capital and largest city, is home to roughly half of the country’s population.
The territory of modern-day Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the First Turkic Khaganate, and others. In 1206, Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous land empire in history. His grandson Kublai Khan conquered China proper and established the Yuan dynasty. After the collapse of the Yuan, the Mongols retreated to Mongolia and resumed their earlier pattern of factional conflict, except during the era of Dayan Khan and Tumen Zasagt Khan. In the 16th century, Tibetan Buddhism spread to Mongolia, being further led by the Manchu-founded Qing dynasty, which absorbed the country in the 17th century. By the early 20th century, almost one-third of the adult male population were Buddhist monks. After the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence, and achieved actual independence from the Republic of China in 1921. Shortly thereafter, the country became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, which had aided its independence from China. In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was founded as a socialist state. After the anti-communist revolutions of 1989, Mongolia conducted its own peaceful democratic revolution in early 1990. This led to a multi-party system, a new constitution of 1992, and transition to a market economy.
Approximately 30% of the population is nomadic or semi-nomadic; horse culture remains integral. Buddhism is the majority religion (51.7%), with the nonreligious being the second-largest group (40.6%). Islam is the third-largest religious identification (3.2%), concentrated among ethnic Kazakhs. The vast majority of citizens are ethnic Mongols, with roughly 5% of the population being Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other ethnic minorities, who are especially concentrated in the west. Mongolia is a member of the United Nations, Asia Cooperation Dialogue, G77, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Non-Aligned Movement and a NATO global partner. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization in 1997 and seeks to expand its participation in regional economic and trade groups.
Morocco ( (listen)), officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the westernmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and has land borders with Algeria to the east, and the disputed territory of Western Sahara to the south. Mauritania lies to the south of Western Sahara. Morocco also claims the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, and several small Spanish-controlled islands off its coast. It spans an area of 446,300 km2 (172,300 sq mi) or 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi), with a population of roughly 37 million. Its official and predominant religion is Islam, and the official languages are Arabic and Berber; the Moroccan dialect of Arabic and French are also widely spoken. Moroccan identity and culture is a mix of Arab, Berber, and European cultures. Its capital is Rabat, while its largest city is Casablanca.In a region inhabited since the Paleolithic Era over 300,000 years ago, the first Moroccan state was established by Idris I in 788. It was subsequently ruled by a series of independent dynasties, reaching its zenith as a regional power in the 11th and 12th centuries, under the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties, when it controlled most of the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Morocco faced external threats to its sovereignty, with Portugal seizing some territory and the Ottoman Empire encroaching from the east. The Marinid and Saadi dynasties otherwise resisted foreign domination, and Morocco was the only North African nation to escape Ottoman dominion. The ‘Alawi dynasty, which rules the country to this day, seized power in 1631, and over the next two centuries expanded diplomatic and commercial relations with the Western world. Morocco’s strategic location near the mouth of the Mediterranean drew renewed European interest; in 1912, France and Spain divided the country into respective protectorates, reserving an international zone in Tangier. Following intermittent riots and revolts against colonial rule, in 1956, Morocco regained its independence and reunified.
Since independence, Morocco has remained relatively stable. It has the fifth-largest economy in Africa and wields significant influence in both Africa and the Arab world; it is considered a middle power in global affairs and holds membership in the Arab League, the Union for the Mediterranean, and the African Union. Morocco is a unitary semi-constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. The executive branch is led by the King of Morocco and the prime minister, while legislative power is vested in the two chambers of parliament: the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. Judicial power rests with the Constitutional Court, which may review the validity of laws, elections, and referendums. The king holds vast executive and legislative powers, especially over the military, foreign policy and religious affairs; he can issue decrees called dahirs, which have the force of law, and can also dissolve the parliament after consulting the prime minister and the president of the constitutional court.
Morocco claims ownership of the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, which it has designated its Southern Provinces. In 1975, after Spain agreed to decolonise the territory and cede its control to Morocco and Mauritania, a guerrilla war broke out between those powers and some of the local inhabitants. In 1979, Mauritania relinquished its claim to the area, but the war continued to rage. In 1991, a ceasefire agreement was reached, but the issue of sovereignty remained unresolved. Today, Morocco occupies two-thirds of the territory, and efforts to resolve the dispute have thus far failed to break the political deadlock.
Myanmar (formerly Burma)
Myanmar, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma (the official name until 1989), is a country in Southeast Asia. It is the largest country by area in Mainland Southeast Asia, and has a population of about 54 million as of 2017. Myanmar is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest. The country’s capital city is Naypyidaw, and its largest city is Yangon (Rangoon).Early civilisations in the area included the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu city-states in Upper Myanmar and the Mon kingdoms in Lower Myanmar. In the 9th century, the Bamar people entered the upper Irrawaddy valley, and following the establishment of the Pagan Kingdom in the 1050s, the Burmese language, culture, and Theravada Buddhism slowly became dominant in the country. The Pagan Kingdom fell to Mongol invasions, and several warring states emerged. In the 16th century, reunified by the Taungoo dynasty, the country became the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia for a short period.The early 19th-century Konbaung dynasty ruled over an area that included modern Myanmar and briefly controlled Manipur and Assam as well. The British East India Company seized control of the administration of Myanmar after three Anglo-Burmese Wars in the 19th century, and the country became a British colony. After a brief Japanese occupation, Myanmar was reconquered by the Allies and gained independence in 1948. Following a coup d’état in 1962, it became a military dictatorship under the Burma Socialist Programme Party.
For most of its independent years, the country has been engulfed in rampant ethnic strife and its myriad ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world’s longest-running ongoing civil wars. During this time, the United Nations and several other organisations have reported consistent and systemic human rights violations in the country. In 2011, the military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed. This, along with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners and successful elections in 2015, improved the country’s human rights record and foreign relations and led to the easing of trade and other economic sanctions, although the country’s treatment of its ethnic minorities, particularly in connection with the Rohingya conflict, continued to be condemned by international organizations and many nations.Following the 2020 Myanmar general election, in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a clear majority in both houses, the Burmese military (Tatmadaw) again seized power in a coup d’état. The coup, which was widely condemned by the international community, led to continuous ongoing widespread protests in Myanmar and has been marked by violent political repression by the military. The military also arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and charged her with crimes ranging from corruption to the violation of COVID-19 protocols, all of which have been labeled as “politically motivated” by independent observers, in order to remove her from public life.Myanmar is a member of the East Asia Summit, Non-Aligned Movement, ASEAN, and BIMSTEC, but it is not a member of the Commonwealth of Nations despite once being part of the British Empire. The country is very rich in natural resources, such as jade, gems, oil, natural gas, teak and other minerals, as well as also endowed with renewable energy, having the highest solar power potential compared to other countries of the Great Mekong Subregion. However, Myanmar has long suffered from instability, factional violence, corruption, poor infrastructure, as well as a long history of colonial exploitation with little regard to human development. In 2013, its GDP (nominal) stood at US$56.7 billion and its GDP (PPP) at US$221.5 billion. The income gap in Myanmar is among the widest in the world, as a large proportion of the economy is controlled by cronies of the military junta. As of 2020, according to the Human Development Index, Myanmar ranks 147 out of 189 countries in terms of human development. Since 2021, more than 600,000 people were displaced across Myanmar due to the surge in violence post-coup, with more than 3 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
Namibia ( (listen), ), officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in Southern Africa. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 200 metres (660 feet) of the Botswanan right bank of the Zambezi River separates the two countries. Namibia gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. Its capital and largest city is Windhoek. Namibia is a member state of the United Nations (UN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the Commonwealth of Nations.
The driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia has been inhabited since pre-historic times by the San, Damara and Nama people. Around the 14th century, immigrating Bantu peoples arrived as part of the Bantu expansion. Since then, the Bantu groups, the largest being the Ovambo, have dominated the population of the country; since the late 19th century, they have constituted a majority. Today Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
It has a population of 2.55 million people and is a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, tourism and the mining industry – including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver and base metals – form the basis of its economy, while the manufacturing sector is comparatively small.
In 1884, the German Empire established rule over most of the territory, forming a colony known as German South West Africa. Between 1904 and 1908, it perpetrated a genocide against the Herero and Nama people. German rule ended in 1915 with a defeat by South African forces. In 1920, after the end of World War I, the League of Nations mandated administration of the colony to South Africa. As mandatory power, South Africa imposed its laws, including racial classifications and rules. From 1948, with the National Party elected to power, this included South Africa applying apartheid to what was then known as South West Africa. In the later 20th century, uprisings and demands for political representation by native African political activists seeking independence resulted in the UN assuming direct responsibility over the territory in 1966, but the country of South Africa maintained de facto rule. In 1973, the UN recognised the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people. Following continued guerrilla warfare, Namibia obtained independence in 1990. However, Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands remained under South African control until 1994.
Nauru ( nah-OO-roo or NOW-roo; Nauruan: Naoero), officially the Republic of Nauru (Nauruan: Repubrikin Naoero) and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country and microstate in Oceania, in the Central Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, about 300 km (190 mi) to the east. It further lies northwest of Tuvalu, 1,300 km (810 mi) northeast of Solomon Islands, east-northeast of Papua New Guinea, southeast of the Federated States of Micronesia and south of the Marshall Islands. With only a 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi) area, Nauru is the third-smallest country in the world behind Vatican City and Monaco, making it the smallest republic as well as the smallest island nation. Its population of about 10,000 is the world’s second-smallest (not including colonies or overseas territories), after Vatican City.
Settled by people from Micronesia circa 1000 BCE, Nauru was annexed and claimed as a colony by the German Empire in the late 19th century. After World War I, Nauru became a League of Nations mandate administered by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese troops, and was bypassed by the Allied advance across the Pacific. After the war ended, the country entered into United Nations trusteeship. Nauru gained its independence in 1968, and became a member of the Pacific Community (PC) in 1969.
Nauru is a phosphate-rock island with rich deposits near the surface, which allowed easy strip mining operations for over a century, though at the cost of seriously harming the island’s environment, causing the island nation to suffer from what is often referred to as the “resource curse”. The large phosphate deposits are a result of the island’s position in the path of bird migration patterns and the accumulation of their guano, which is rich in the nutrients crucial for fertilization, over thousands of years. The phosphate was exhausted in the 1990s, and the remaining reserves are not economically viable for extraction. A trust established to manage the island’s accumulated mining wealth, set up for the day the reserves would be exhausted, has diminished in value. To earn income, Nauru briefly became a tax haven and illegal money laundering centre. At various points since 2001, it has accepted aid from the Australian Government in exchange for hosting the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, a controversial offshore Australian immigration detention facility. As a result of heavy dependence on Australia, some sources have identified Nauru as a client state of Australia. The sovereign state is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations and the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States.
Nepal (English: ; Nepali: नेपाल [nepal]), formerly the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal (Nepali: सङ्घीय लोकतान्त्रिक गणतन्त्र नेपाल), is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is mainly situated in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north, and India in the south, east, and west, while it is narrowly separated from Bangladesh by the Siliguri Corridor, and from Bhutan by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Nepal is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural state, with Nepali as the official language. Kathmandu is the nation’s capital and the largest city.
The name “Nepal” is first recorded in texts from the Vedic period of the Indian subcontinent, the era in ancient Nepal when Hinduism was founded, the predominant religion of the country. In the middle of the first millennium BC, Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in Lumbini in southern Nepal. Parts of northern Nepal were intertwined with the culture of Tibet. The centrally located Kathmandu Valley is intertwined with the culture of Indo-Aryans, and was the seat of the prosperous Newar confederacy known as Nepal Mandala. The Himalayan branch of the ancient Silk Road was dominated by the valley’s traders. The cosmopolitan region developed distinct traditional art and architecture. By the 18th century, the Gorkha Kingdom achieved the unification of Nepal. The Shah dynasty established the Kingdom of Nepal and later formed an alliance with the British Empire, under its Rana dynasty of premiers. The country was never colonised but served as a buffer state between Imperial China and British India. Parliamentary democracy was introduced in 1951 but was twice suspended by Nepalese monarchs, in 1960 and 2005. The Nepalese Civil War in the 1990s and early 2000s resulted in the establishment of a secular republic in 2008, ending the world’s last Hindu monarchy.
The Constitution of Nepal, adopted in 2015, affirms the country as a secular federal parliamentary republic divided into seven provinces. Nepal was admitted to the United Nations in 1955, and friendship treaties were signed with India in 1950 and China in 1960. Nepal hosts the permanent secretariat of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), of which it is a founding member. Nepal is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Bay of Bengal Initiative. The Nepalese Armed Forces are the fifth-largest in South Asia; and are notable for their Gurkha history, particularly during the world wars, and has been a significant contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland [ˈneːdərlɑnt] (listen)), informally Holland, is a country located in Northwestern Europe with overseas territories in the Caribbean. It is the largest of four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands consists of twelve provinces; it borders Germany to the east, and Belgium to the south, with a North Sea coastline to the north and west. It shares maritime borders with the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium in the North Sea. The country’s official language is Dutch, with West Frisian as a secondary official language in the province of Friesland. Dutch Low Saxon and Limburgish are recognised regional languages, while Dutch Sign Language, Sinte Romani and Yiddish are recognised non-territorial languages. Dutch, English and Papiamento are official in the Caribbean territories.The four largest cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Amsterdam is the country’s most populous city and the nominal capital. The Hague holds the seat of the States General, Cabinet and Supreme Court. The Port of Rotterdam is the busiest seaport in Europe. Schiphol is the busiest airport in the Netherlands, and the third busiest in Europe. The Netherlands is a founding member of the European Union, Eurozone, G10, NATO, OECD, and WTO, as well as a part of the Schengen Area and the trilateral Benelux Union. It hosts several intergovernmental organisations and international courts, many of which are centred in The Hague.Netherlands literally means “lower countries” in reference to its low elevation and flat topography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding 1 m (3.3 ft) above sea level, and nearly 26% falling below sea level. Most of the areas below sea level, known as polders, are the result of land reclamation that began in the 14th century. In the Republican period, which began in 1588, the Netherlands entered a unique era of political, economic, and cultural greatness, ranked among the most powerful and influential in Europe and the world; this period is known as the Dutch Golden Age. During this time, its trading companies, the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, established colonies and trading posts all over the world.With a population of 17.7 million people, all living within a total area of 41,850 km2 (16,160 sq mi)—of which the land area is 33,500 km2 (12,900 sq mi)—the Netherlands is the 16th most densely populated country in the world and the second-most densely populated country in the European Union, with a density of 529 people per square kilometre (1,370 people/sq mi). Nevertheless, it is the world’s second-largest exporter of food and agricultural products by value, owing to its fertile soil, mild climate, intensive agriculture, and inventiveness.The Netherlands has been a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with a unitary structure since 1848. The country has a tradition of pillarisation and a long record of social tolerance, having legalised abortion, prostitution and human euthanasia, along with maintaining a liberal drug policy. The Netherlands abolished the death penalty in Civil Law in 1870, though it was not completely removed until a new constitution was approved in 1983. The Netherlands allowed women’s suffrage in 1919 and was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. Its mixed-market advanced economy has the twelfth-highest per capita income globally. The Netherlands ranks among the highest in international indices of press freedom, economic freedom, human development and quality of life, as well as happiness.
New Zealand (Māori: Aotearoa [aɔˈtɛaɾɔa]) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu)—and over 700 smaller islands. It is the sixth-largest island country by area, covering 268,021 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the islands of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. The country’s varied topography and sharp mountain peaks, including the Southern Alps, owe much to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand’s capital city is Wellington, and its most populous city is Auckland.
The islands of New Zealand were the last large habitable land to be settled by humans. Between about 1280 and 1350, Polynesians began to settle in the islands and then developed a distinctive Māori culture. In 1642, the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman became the first European to sight and record New Zealand. In 1840, representatives of the United Kingdom and Māori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, which in its English version declared British sovereignty over the islands. In 1841, New Zealand became a colony within the British Empire. Subsequently, a series of conflicts between the colonial government and Māori tribes resulted in the alienation and confiscation of large amounts of Māori land. New Zealand became a dominion in 1907; it gained full statutory independence in 1947, retaining the monarch as head of state. Today, the majority of New Zealand’s population of 5.1 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Reflecting this, New Zealand’s culture is mainly derived from Māori and early British settlers, with recent broadening of culture arising from increased immigration. The official languages are English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language, with the local dialect of English being dominant.
A developed country, New Zealand ranks highly in international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, education, protection of civil liberties, government transparency, and economic freedom. The country was the first to introduce a minimum wage, and the first to give women the right to vote. New Zealand underwent major economic changes during the 1980s, which transformed it from a protectionist to a liberalised free-trade economy. The service sector dominates the national economy, followed by the industrial sector, and agriculture; international tourism is also a significant source of revenue. Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the prime minister, currently Jacinda Ardern. King Charles III is the country’s monarch and is represented by the governor-general. In addition, New Zealand is organised into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes. The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand’s territorial claim in Antarctica.
New Zealand is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, UKUSA, OECD, ASEAN Plus Six, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Pacific Community and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Nicaragua ( (listen); Spanish: [nikaˈɾaɣwa] (listen)), officially the Republic of Nicaragua (Spanish: República de Nicaragua ), is the largest country in Central America, bordered by Honduras to the north, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Managua is the country’s capital and largest city. As of 2015, it was estimated to be the second largest city in Central America. Nicaragua’s multiethnic population of six million includes people of mestizo, indigenous, European and African heritage. The main language is Spanish. Indigenous tribes on the Mosquito Coast speak their own languages and English.
Originally inhabited by various indigenous cultures since ancient times, the region was conquered by the Spanish Empire in the 16th century. Nicaragua gained independence from Spain in 1821. The Mosquito Coast followed a different historical path, being colonized by the English in the 17th century and later coming under British rule. It became an autonomous territory of Nicaragua in 1860 and its northernmost part was transferred to Honduras in 1960. Since its independence, Nicaragua has undergone periods of political unrest, dictatorship, occupation and fiscal crisis, including the Nicaraguan Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s and the Contra War of the 1980s.
The mixture of cultural traditions has generated substantial diversity in folklore, cuisine, music, and literature, particularly the latter, given the literary contributions of Nicaraguan poets and writers such as Rubén Darío. Known as the “land of lakes and volcanoes”, Nicaragua is also home to the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, the second-largest rainforest of the Americas. The biological diversity, warm tropical climate and active volcanoes make Nicaragua an increasingly popular tourist destination. Nicaragua is a founding member of the United Nations, joined the Non-Aligned Movement early, Organization of American States, ALBA and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
Niger or the Niger ( nee-ZHAIR, NY-jər, French: [niʒɛʁ]), officially the Republic of the Niger (French: République du Niger, Hausa: Jamhuriyar Nijar), is a landlocked country in West Africa. It is a unitary state bordered by Libya to the northeast, Chad to the east, Nigeria to the south, Benin and Burkina Faso to the southwest, Mali to the west, and Algeria to the northwest. It covers a land area of almost 1,270,000 km2 (490,000 sq mi), making it the second-largest landlocked country in West Africa, after Chad. Over 80% of its land area lies in the Sahara. Its predominantly Muslim population of about 25 million live mostly in clusters in the further south and west of the country. The capital Niamey is located in Niger’s southwest corner.
It is listed in the least developed countries group. Some non-desert portions of the country underwent periodic drought and desertification. The economy is concentrated around subsistence agriculture, with some export agriculture in the more fertile south, and export of raw materials, including uranium ore. It faces challenges to development due to its landlocked position, desert terrain, higher fertility rates without birth control and resulting overpopulation.The society reflects a diversity drawn from the independent histories of some ethnic groups and regions and their period living in a single state. Historically, Niger has been on the fringes of some states. Since independence, Nigeriens have lived under 5 constitutions and 3 periods of military rule. After the military coup in 2010, Niger became a democratic, multi-party state. A majority of the population lives in rural areas.
Nigeria ( ny-JEER-ee-ə), officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa. It is situated between the Sahel to the north and the Gulf of Guinea to the south in the Atlantic Ocean. It covers an area of 923,769 square kilometres (356,669 sq mi), and with a population of over 225 million, it is the most populous country in Africa, and the world’s sixth-most populous country. Nigeria borders Niger in the north, Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the east, and Benin in the west. Nigeria is a federal republic comprising 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, where the capital, Abuja, is located. The largest city in Nigeria is Lagos, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and the second-largest in Africa.
Nigeria has been home to several indigenous pre-colonial states and kingdoms since the second millennium BC, with the Nok civilization in the 15th century BC, marking the first internal unification in the country. The modern state originated with British colonialization in the 19th century, taking its present territorial shape with the merging of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914 by Lord Lugard. The British set up administrative and legal structures while practising indirect rule through traditional chiefdoms in the Nigeria region. Nigeria became a formally independent federation on 1 October 1960. It experienced a civil war from 1967 to 1970, followed by a succession of military dictatorships and democratically elected civilian governments until achieving a stable democracy in the 1999 presidential election. The 2015 general election was the first time an incumbent president would lose re-election.Nigeria is a multinational state inhabited by more than 250 ethnic groups speaking 500 distinct languages, all identifying with a wide variety of cultures. The three largest ethnic groups are the Hausa in the north, Yoruba in the west, and Igbo in the east, together comprising over 60% of the total population. The official language is English, chosen to facilitate linguistic unity at the national level. Nigeria’s constitution ensures freedom of religion and it is home to some of the world’s largest Muslim and Christian populations, simultaneously. Nigeria is divided roughly in half between Muslims, who live mostly in the north, and Christians, who live mostly in the south; indigenous religions, such as those native to the Igbo and Yoruba ethnicities, are in the minority.Nigeria is a regional power in Africa and a middle and emerging power in international affairs. Nigeria’s economy is the largest in Africa, the 31st-largest in the world by nominal GDP, and 26th-largest by PPP. Nigeria is often referred to as the Giant of Africa owing to its large population and economy and is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank. However, the country ranks very low in the Human Development Index and remains one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Nigeria is a founding member of the African Union and a member of many international organizations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, NAM, the Economic Community of West African States, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and OPEC. It is also a member of the informal MINT group of countries and is one of the Next Eleven economies.
North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia. It constitutes the northern half of the Korean Peninsula and shares borders with China and Russia to the north, at the Yalu (Amnok) and Tumen rivers, and South Korea to the south at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. North Korea’s border with South Korea is a disputed border as both countries claim the entirety of the Korean Peninsula. The country’s western border is formed by the Yellow Sea, while its eastern border is defined by the Sea of Japan. North Korea, like its southern counterpart, claims to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula and adjacent islands. Pyongyang is the capital and largest city.
In 1910, Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan. In 1945, after the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, Korea was divided into two zones along the 38th parallel, with the north occupied by the Soviet Union and the south occupied by the United States. Negotiations on reunification failed, and in 1948, separate governments were formed: the socialist and Soviet-aligned Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, and the capitalist, Western-aligned Republic of Korea in the south. The Korean War began in 1950, with an invasion by North Korea, and lasted until 1953. The Korean Armistice Agreement brought about a ceasefire and established a demilitarized zone (DMZ), but no formal peace treaty has ever been signed.
Post-war North Korea benefited greatly from economic aid and expertise provided by other Eastern Bloc countries, particularly the Soviet Union and China. However, relations between North Korea and the Soviet Union soured after the ascension of Nikita Khrushchev to the Soviet premiership in 1953, as Khrushchev denounced Stalinism while Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s first leader, upheld it. Kim briefly turned to China in the late 1950s before purging both pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese elements from the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and promoting his personal philosophy of Juche as the state ideology. From the 1970s, South Korea’s economy began to boom whilst North Korea entered a state of stagnation. Pyongyang’s international isolation sharply accelerated from the 1980s onwards as the Cold War came to an end and China opened up to the West. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 then brought about a full-scale collapse of the North Korean economy. From 1994 to 1998, North Korea suffered a famine that resulted in the deaths of between 240,000 and 420,000 people, and the population continues to suffer from malnutrition.
According to Article 1 of the state constitution, North Korea is an “independent socialist state”. It holds elections, though they have been described by independent observers as sham elections, as North Korea is a totalitarian dictatorship, with a comprehensive cult of personality around the Kim family. The Workers’ Party of Korea is the ruling party of North Korea and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea, the sole legal political movement in the country. According to Article 3 of the constitution, Kimilsungism–Kimjongilism is the official ideology of North Korea. The means of production are owned by the state through state-run enterprises and collectivized farms. Most services—such as healthcare, education, housing, and food production—are subsidized or state-funded.
North Korea follows Songun, or “military first” policy, for its Korean People’s Army. It possesses nuclear weapons, and is the country with the second highest number of military and paramilitary personnel, with a total of 7.769 million active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel, or approximately 30% of its population. Its active duty army of 1.28 million soldiers is the fourth-largest in the world, consisting of 4.9% of its population. A 2014 inquiry by the United Nations into abuses of human rights in North Korea concluded that “the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch holding similar views. The North Korean government denies these abuses. In addition to being a member of the United Nations since 1991, North Korea is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, G77, and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Oman ( (listen) oh-MAHN; Arabic: عُمَان ʿUmān [ʕʊˈmaːn]), officially the Sultanate of Oman (Arabic: سلْطنةُ عُمان Salṭanat(u) ʻUmān), is an Arabian country located in southwestern Asia. It is situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and spans the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Oman shares land borders with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, while sharing maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the southeast, and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast. The Madha and Musandam exclaves are surrounded by the United Arab Emirates on their land borders, with the Strait of Hormuz (which it shares with Iran) and the Gulf of Oman forming Musandam’s coastal boundaries. Muscat is the nation’s capital and largest city.
From the 17th century, the Omani Sultanate was an empire, vying with the Portuguese and British empires for influence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. At its peak in the 19th century, Omani influence and control extended across the Strait of Hormuz to Iran and Pakistan, and as far south as Zanzibar. When its power declined in the 20th century, the sultanate came under the influence of the United Kingdom. For over 300 years, the relations built between the two empires were based on mutual benefit. The UK recognized Oman’s geographical importance as a trading hub that secured their trading lanes in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean and protected their empire in the Indian sub-continent. Historically, Muscat was the principal trading port of the Persian Gulf region.
Oman is an absolute monarchy led by a Sultan, with power passed down through the male line. Qaboos bin Said was the Sultan from 1970 until his death on 10 January 2020. Qaboos bin Said, who died childless, had named his cousin, Haitham bin Tariq, as his successor in a letter, and the family confirmed him as the new Sultan of Oman.Formerly a maritime empire, Oman is the oldest continuously independent state in the Arab world. It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It has oil reserves ranked 22nd globally. In 2010, the United Nations Development Programme ranked Oman as the most improved nation in the world in terms of development during the preceding 40 years. A portion of its economy involves tourism and trading fish, dates and other agricultural produce. Oman is categorized as a high-income economy and, as of 2022, ranks as the 64th most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Peace Index.
Pakistan (Urdu: پاکِستان [ˈpaːkɪstaːn]), officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (اِسلامی
جمہوریہ پاکِستان), is a country in South Asia. It is the world’s fifth-most populous country, with a population of almost 243 million people, and has the world’s second-largest Muslim population just behind Indonesia. Pakistan is the 33rd-largest country in the world by area and 2nd largest in South Asia, spanning 881,913 square kilometres (340,509 square miles). It has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south, and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China to the northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor in the north, and also shares a maritime border with Oman. Islamabad is the nation’s capital, while Karachi is its largest city and financial centre.
Pakistan is the site of several ancient cultures, including the 8,500-year-old Neolithic site of Mehrgarh in Balochistan, the Indus Valley civilisation of the Bronze Age, the most extensive of the civilisations of the Afro-Eurasia, and the ancient Gandhara civilization. The region that comprises the modern state of Pakistan was the realm of multiple empires and dynasties, including the Achaemenid; briefly that of Alexander the Great; the Seleucid, the Maurya, the Kushan, the Gupta; the Umayyad Caliphate in its southern regions, the Hindu Shahis, the Ghaznavids, the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals, the Durranis, the Sikh Empire, British East India Company rule, and most recently, the British Indian Empire from 1858 to 1947.
Spurred by the Pakistan Movement, which sought a homeland for the Muslims of British India, and election victories in 1946 by the All-India Muslim League, Pakistan gained independence in 1947 after the Partition of the British Indian Empire, which awarded separate statehood to its Muslim-majority regions and was accompanied by an unparalleled mass migration and loss of life. Initially a Dominion of the British Commonwealth, Pakistan officially drafted its constitution in 1956, and emerged as a declared Islamic republic. In 1971, the exclave of East Pakistan seceded as the new country of Bangladesh after a nine-month-long civil war. In the following four decades, Pakistan has been ruled by governments whose descriptions, although complex, commonly alternated between civilian and military, democratic and authoritarian, relatively secular and Islamist. Pakistan elected a civilian government in 2008, and in 2010 adopted a parliamentary system with periodic elections.Pakistan is a middle power nation, and has the world’s sixth-largest standing armed forces. It is a declared nuclear-weapons state, and is ranked amongst the emerging and growth-leading economies, with a large and rapidly-growing middle class. Pakistan’s political history since independence has been characterised by periods of significant economic and military growth as well as those of political and economic instability. It is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country, with similarly diverse geography and wildlife. The country continues to face challenges, including poverty, illiteracy, corruption and terrorism. Pakistan is a member of the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition, and is designated as a major non-NATO ally by the United States.
Palau, officially the Republic of Palau and historically Belau, Palaos or Pelew, is an island country and microstate in the western Pacific. The nation has approximately 340 islands and connects the western chain of the Caroline Islands with parts of the Federated States of Micronesia. It has a total area of 466 square kilometers (180 sq mi). The most populous island is Koror, home to the country’s most populous city of the same name. The capital Ngerulmud is located on the nearby island of Babeldaob, in Melekeok State. Palau shares maritime boundaries with international waters to the north, the Federated States of Micronesia to the east, Indonesia to the south, and the Philippines to the northwest.
The country was originally settled approximately 3,000 years ago by migrants from Maritime Southeast Asia. Palau was first drawn on a European map by the Czech missionary Paul Klein based on a description given by a group of Palauans shipwrecked on the Philippine coast on Samar. Palau islands were made part of the Spanish East Indies in 1885. Following Spain’s defeat in the Spanish–American War in 1898, the islands were sold to Germany in 1899 under the terms of the German–Spanish Treaty, where they were administered as part of German New Guinea. After World War I, the islands were made a part of the Japanese-ruled South Seas Mandate by the League of Nations. During World War II, skirmishes, including the major Battle of Peleliu, were fought between American and Japanese troops as part of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign. Along with other Pacific Islands, Palau was made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. Having voted in a referendum against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1978, the islands gained full sovereignty in 1994 under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Politically, Palau is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, which provides defense, funding, and access to social services. Legislative power is concentrated in the bicameral Palau National Congress. Palau’s economy is based mainly on tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing, with a significant portion of gross national product (GNP) derived from foreign aid. The country uses the United States dollar as its official currency. The islands’ culture mixes Micronesian, Melanesian, Asian, and Western elements. Ethnic Palauans, the majority of the population, are of mixed Micronesian, Melanesian, and Austronesian descent. A smaller proportion of the population is of Japanese descent. The country’s two official languages are Palauan (a member of the Austronesian language family) and English, with Japanese, Sonsorolese, and Tobian recognized as regional languages.
Palestine (Arabic: فلسطين, romanized: Filasṭīn), officially the State of Palestine (دولة فلسطين, Dawlat Filasṭīn), is a state located in Western Asia. Officially governed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), it claims the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip as its territory, though the entirety of that territory has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War. As a result of the Oslo Accords of 1993–1995, the West Bank is currently divided into 165 Palestinian enclaves that are under partial Palestinian National Authority (PNA) rule; the remainder, including 200 Israeli settlements, is under full Israeli control. The Gaza Strip has been ruled by the militant Islamic group Hamas and has been subject to a long-term blockade by Egypt and Israel since 2007.After World War II, in 1947, the United Nations (UN) adopted a Partition Plan for Mandatory Palestine, which recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states and an internationalized Jerusalem. This Partition Plan was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs. Immediately after the United Nations General Assembly adopted the plan as Resolution 181, a civil war broke out and the plan was not implemented. The day after the establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, neighbouring Arab countries invaded the former British Mandate and engaged Israeli forces in the First Arab–Israeli War. Later, the All-Palestine Government was established by the Arab League on 22 September 1948 to govern the All-Palestine Protectorate in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip. It was soon recognized by all Arab League members except Transjordan, which had occupied and later annexed the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Palestine is currently recognized by 138 of the 193 United Nations (UN) member states. Though jurisdiction of the All-Palestine Government was declared to cover the whole of the former Mandatory Palestine, its effective jurisdiction was limited to the Gaza Strip. Israel later captured the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War in June 1967.
On 15 November 1988 in Algiers, then-Chairman of the PLO Yasser Arafat proclaimed the establishment of the State of Palestine. A year after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the PNA was formed to govern (in varying degrees) areas A and B in the West Bank, comprising 165 enclaves, and the Gaza Strip. After Hamas became the PNA parliament’s leading party in the most recent elections (2006), a conflict broke out between it and the Fatah party, leading to Gaza being taken over by Hamas in 2007 (two years after the Israeli disengagement).
The State of Palestine’s mid-year population in 2021 is 5,227,193. Although Palestine claims Jerusalem as its capital, the city is under the control of Israel; both Palestinian and Israeli claims to the city are mostly unrecognized by the international community. Palestine is a member of the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the G77, the International Olympic Committee, as well as UNESCO, UNCTAD and the International Criminal Court. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state.
Panama ( (listen) PAN-ə-mah, pan-ə-MAH; Spanish: Panamá IPA: [panaˈma] (listen)), officially the Republic of Panama (Spanish: República de Panamá), is a transcontinental country spanning the southern part of North America and the northern part of South America. It is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Its capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half the country’s 4 million people.Panama was inhabited by indigenous tribes before Spanish colonists arrived in the 16th century. It broke away from Spain in 1821 and joined the Republic of Gran Colombia, a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela. After Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada eventually became the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the construction of the Panama Canal to be completed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. The 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties agreed to transfer the canal from the United States to Panama on December 31, 1999. The surrounding territory was first returned in 1979.Revenue from canal tolls continues to represent a significant portion of Panama’s GDP, although commerce, banking, and tourism are major and growing sectors. It is regarded as having a high-income economy. In 2019 Panama ranked 57th in the world in terms of the Human Development Index. In 2018, Panama was ranked the seventh-most competitive economy in Latin America, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Covering around 40 percent of its land area, Panama’s jungles are home to an abundance of tropical plants and animals – some of them found nowhere else on earth. Panama is a founding member of the United Nations and other international organizations such as OAS, LAIA, G77, WHO, and NAM.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (abbreviated PNG; , also US: ; Tok Pisin: Papua Niugini; Hiri Motu: Papua Niu Gini), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (Tok Pisin: Independen Stet bilong Papua Niugini; Hiri Motu: Independen Stet bilong Papua Niu Gini), is a country in Oceania that comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its offshore islands in Melanesia (a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia). Its capital, located along its southeastern coast, is Port Moresby. The country is the world’s third largest island country, with an area of 462,840 km2 (178,700 sq mi).At the national level, after being ruled by three external powers since 1884, including nearly 60 years of Australian administration starting during World War I, Papua New Guinea established its sovereignty in 1975. It became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1975 with Elizabeth II as its queen. It also became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations in its own right.
There are 839 known languages of Papua New Guinea, one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. As of 2019, it is also the most rural, as only 13.25% of its people live in urban centres. Most of the population of more than 8 million people live in customary communities. Although government estimates have placed the country’s population at 9.4 million, it was reported in December 2022 that a yet-to-be-published study suggests the true population is close to 17 million.The country is believed to be the home of many undocumented species of plants and animals.The sovereign state is classified as a developing economy by the International Monetary Fund; nearly 40% of the population are subsistence farmers, living relatively independently of the cash economy. Their traditional social groupings are explicitly acknowledged by the Papua New Guinea Constitution, which expresses the wish for “traditional villages and communities to remain as viable units of Papua New Guinean society” and protects their continuing importance to local and national community life. Papua New Guinea has been an observer state in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since 1976, and has filed its application for full membership status. It is a full member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Pacific Community, and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Paraguay (; Spanish pronunciation: [paɾaˈɣwaj] (listen)), officially the Republic of Paraguay (Spanish: República del Paraguay; Guarani: Tavakuairetã Paraguái), is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. It has a population of seven million, nearly three million of whom live in the capital and largest city of Asunción, and its surrounding metro. Although one of only two landlocked countries in South America (Bolivia is the other), Paraguay has ports on the Paraguay and Paraná rivers that give exit to the Atlantic Ocean, through the Paraná-Paraguay Waterway.Spanish conquistadores arrived in 1524, and in 1537, they established the city of Asunción, the first capital of the Governorate of the Río de la Plata. During the 17th century, Paraguay was the center of Jesuit missions, where the native Guaraní people were converted to Christianity and introduced to European culture. After the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spanish territories in 1767, Paraguay increasingly became a peripheral colony, with few urban centers and settlers. Following independence from Spain in the early 19th century, Paraguay was ruled by a series of authoritarian governments characterized by nationalist, isolationist and protectionist policies. This period ended with the disastrous Paraguayan War (1864–70), during which the country lost half its prewar population and around 25–33% of its territory to the Triple Alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. In the 20th century, Paraguay faced another major international conflict—the Chaco War (1932–35) against Bolivia—in which it prevailed. Afterwards, the country came under a succession of military dictators, culminating in the 35-year regime of Alfredo Stroessner, which lasted until his overthrow in 1989 by an internal military coup. This marked the beginning of Paraguay’s democratic era, which continues to this day.
Paraguay is a developing country. It is a founding member of Mercosur, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Lima Group. Additionally, the city of Luque, in metropolitan Asuncion, is the seat of the South American Football Confederation.
The majority of Paraguay’s seven million people are mestizo, and Guarani culture remains widely influential; more than 90% of the population speak various dialects of the Guarani language alongside Spanish. Despite a history of poverty and political repression, in a 2017 Positive Experience Index based on global polling data, Paraguay ranked as the “world’s happiest place”.
Peru ( (listen); Spanish: Perú [peˈɾu]; Quechua: Piruw [pɪɾʊw]; Aymara: Piruw [pɪɾʊw]), officially the Republic of Peru (Spanish: República del Perú ), is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the south and west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is a megadiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon River. Peru has a population of 32 million, and its capital and largest city is Lima. At 1.28 million km2 (0.5 million mi2), Peru is the 19th largest country in the world, and the third largest in South America.
Peruvian territory was home to several cultures during the ancient and medieval periods, and has one of the longest histories of civilization of any country, tracing its heritage back to the 10th millennium BCE. Notable pre-colonial cultures and civilizations include the Caral-Supe civilization (the earliest civilization in the Americas and considered one of the cradles of civilization,) the Nazca culture, the Wari and Tiwanaku empires, the Kingdom of Cusco, and the Inca Empire, the largest known state in the pre-Columbian Americas.
The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a viceroyalty that encompassed most of its South American territories, with its capital in Lima. Higher education started in the Americas with the official establishment of the National University of San Marcos in Lima in 1551. Peru formally proclaimed independence in 1821, and following the foreign military campaigns of José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar, and the decisive battle of Ayacucho, Peru completed its independence in 1824. In the ensuing years, the country first suffered from political instability until a period of relative economic and political stability began due to the exploitation of guano. Later, the War of the Pacific (1879–1884) with Chile brought Peru to a state of crisis, from which the oligarchy seized power through the Civilista Party. In the 20th century, the country endured coups, social unrest, and internal conflicts, as well as periods of stability and economic upswing. In the 1990s, the country implemented a neoliberal economic model which is still in use to this day. As the 2000s commodities boom took place, Peru experienced a period of constant economic growth and a decrease in poverty.
The sovereign state of Peru is a representative democratic republic divided into 25 regions. Peru has a high level of human development with an upper middle income level ranking 82nd on the Human Development Index. It is one of the region’s most prosperous economies with an average growth rate of 5.9% (in 2017) and it has one of the world’s fastest industrial growth rates at an average of 9.6% (as of 2018). Its main economic activities include mining, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing, along with other growing sectors such as telecommunications and biotechnology. The country forms part of The Pacific Pumas, a political and economic grouping of countries along Latin America’s Pacific coast that share common trends of positive growth, stable macroeconomic foundations, improved governance and an openness to global integration. Peru ranks high in social freedom; it is an active member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Pacific Alliance, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the World Trade Organization; and is considered as a middle power.Peru has a population that includes Mestizos, Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechuan languages, Aymara, or other Indigenous languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.
The Philippines ( (listen); Filipino: Pilipinas), officially the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas), is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. It is situated in the western Pacific Ocean and consists of around 7,641 islands that are broadly categorized under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Philippines is bounded by the South China Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the southwest. It shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Palau to the east and southeast, Indonesia to the south, Malaysia to the southwest, Vietnam to the west, and China to the northwest. The Philippines covers an area of 300,000 km2 (120,000 sq mi) and, as of 2021, it had a population of around 109 million people, making it the world’s thirteenth-most populous country. The Philippines has diverse ethnicities and cultures throughout its islands. Manila is the country’s capital, while the largest city is Quezon City; both lie within the urban area of Metro Manila.
Negritos, some of the archipelago’s earliest inhabitants, were followed by successive waves of Austronesian peoples. Adoption of animism, Hinduism and Islam established island-kingdoms called Kedatuan, Rajahnates, and Sultanates. The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer leading a fleet for Spain, marked the beginning of Spanish colonization. In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villaloboscode: spa promoted to code: es named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain. Spanish settlement through Mexico, beginning in 1565, led to the Philippines becoming ruled by the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years. During this time, Catholicism became the dominant religion, and Manila became the western hub of trans-Pacific trade. In 1896, the Philippine Revolution began, which then became entwined with the 1898 Spanish–American War. Spain ceded the territory to the United States, while Filipino revolutionaries declared the First Philippine Republic. The ensuing Philippine–American War ended with the United States establishing control over the territory, which they maintained until the Japanese invasion of the islands during World War II. Following liberation, the Philippines became independent in 1946. Since then, the unitary sovereign state has often had a tumultuous experience with democracy, which included the overthrow of a decades-long dictatorship by a nonviolent revolution.
The Philippines is an emerging market and a newly industrialized country whose economy is transitioning from being agriculture centered to services and manufacturing centered. It is a founding member of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, ASEAN, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and the East Asia Summit. The location of the Philippines as an island country on the Pacific Ring of Fire that is close to the equator makes it prone to earthquakes and typhoons. The country has a variety of natural resources and is home to a globally significant level of biodiversity.
Qatar (UK: , US: ; Arabic: قطر, romanized: Qaṭar [ˈqɑtˤɑr]; local vernacular pronunciation: [ˈɡɪtˤɑr]), officially the State of Qatar, is a country in Western Asia. It occupies the Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East; it shares its sole land border with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its territory surrounded by the Persian Gulf. The Gulf of Bahrain, an inlet of the Persian Gulf, separates Qatar from nearby Bahrain. The capital is Doha, home to over 80% of the country’s inhabitants, and the land area is mostly made up of flat, low-lying desert.
Qatar has been ruled as a hereditary monarchy by the House of Thani since Mohammed bin Thani signed a treaty with the British in 1868 that recognised its separate status. Following Ottoman rule, Qatar became a British protectorate in 1916, and gained independence in 1971. The current emir is Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who holds nearly all executive and legislative authority under the Constitution of Qatar, as well as controlling the judiciary. He appoints the prime minister and cabinet. The partially-elected Consultative Assembly can block legislation and has a limited ability to dismiss ministers.
In early 2017, the total population of Qatar was 2.6 million, with 313,000 of them Qatari citizens and 2.3 million expatriates. Its official religion is Islam. In terms of income, the country has the fourth-highest GDP (PPP) per capita in the world, and the eleventh-highest GNI per capita (Atlas method). Qatar ranks 42nd in the Human Development Index, the third-highest HDI in the Arab world. It is a high-income economy, backed by the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves. Qatar is one of the world’s largest exporters of liquefied natural gas, and the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide per capita.In the 21st century, Qatar emerged as a middle power in the Arab world through its resource-wealth, as well as its globally expanding media group, Al Jazeera Media Network, and reportedly supporting several rebel groups financially during the Arab Spring. Qatar forms part of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Qatar’s human rights record has been regarded by academics and non-governmental organisations as being generally poor, with restrictions on civil liberties such as the freedoms of association, expression and the press, as well as its treatment of thousands of migrant workers amounting to forced labour for projects in the country. Qatar hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup becoming the first country in the Middle East to do so, 2006 Asian Games, 1988 and 2011 AFC Asian Cup and will host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup and 2030 Asian Games.
Russia (Russian: Россия, Rossiya, [rɐˈsʲijə]), or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the largest country in the world, with its internationally recognised territory covering 17,098,246 square kilometres (6,601,670 sq mi), and encompassing one-eighth of Earth’s inhabitable landmass. Russia extends across eleven time zones and shares land boundaries with fourteen countries, more than any other country but China. It is the world’s ninth-most populous country and Europe’s most populous country, with a population of 146 million people. The country’s capital and largest city is Moscow, the largest city entirely within Europe. Saint Petersburg is Russia’s cultural centre and second-largest city. Other major urban areas include Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, and Kazan.
The East Slavs emerged as a recognisable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries CE. Kievan Rus’ arose as a state in the 9th century, and in 988, it adopted Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire. Rus’ ultimately disintegrated, with the Grand Duchy of Moscow growing to become the Tsardom of Russia. By the early 18th century, Russia had vastly expanded through conquest, annexation, and the efforts of Russian explorers, developing into the Russian Empire, which remains the third-largest empire in history. However, with the Russian Revolution in 1917, Russia’s monarchic rule was abolished and replaced by the Russian SFSR—the world’s first constitutionally socialist state. Following the Russian Civil War, the Russian SFSR established the Soviet Union (with three other Soviet republics), within which it was the largest and principal constituent. At the expense of millions of lives, the Soviet Union underwent rapid industrialization in the 1930s, and later played a decisive role for the Allies of World War II by leading large-scale efforts on the Eastern Front. With the onset of the Cold War, it competed with the United States for global ideological influence; the Soviet era of the 20th century saw some of the most significant Russian technological achievements, including the first human-made satellite and the first human expedition into outer space.
In 1991, the Russian SFSR emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Union as the independent Russian Federation. A new constitution was adopted, and Russia has since been governed as a federal semi-presidential republic. Since the turn of the century, Russia’s political system has been dominated by Vladimir Putin, under whom the country has experienced democratic backsliding and a shift towards authoritarianism. Russia has been involved militarily in a number of post-Soviet states, which has included the internationally unrecognised annexations of Crimea in 2014 from neighbouring Ukraine and four other regions in 2022 during an ongoing invasion. International rankings of Russia place it low in measurements of human rights and freedom of the press; the country also has high levels of perceived corruption.
Ranked worldwide, the Russian economy stands at the ninth-largest by nominal GDP and the sixth-largest by GDP (PPP). Russia possesses the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, and has the fifth-highest military expenditure. Its mineral and energy sources are the world’s largest, and its figures for oil production and natural gas production rank high globally. The country is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council; a member state of the G20, the SCO, BRICS, the APEC, the OSCE, and the WTO; and is the leading member state of the CIS, the CSTO, and the EAEU. Russia is home to 30 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Rwanda ( (listen); Kinyarwanda: u Rwanda [u.ɾɡwaː.nda] (listen)), officially the Republic of Rwanda, is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley of Central Africa, where the African Great Lakes region and Southeast Africa converge. Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is highly elevated, giving it the soubriquet “land of a thousand hills”, with its geography dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the southeast, with numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year. Rwanda has a population of over 12.6 million living on 26,338 km2 (10,169 sq mi) of land, and is the most densely populated mainland African country; among countries larger than 10,000 km2, it is the fifth most densely populated country in the world. One million people live in the capital and largest city Kigali.
Hunter-gatherers settled the territory in the Stone and Iron Ages, followed later by Bantu peoples. The population coalesced first into clans, and then, into kingdoms. In the 15th century, one kingdom, under King Gihanga, managed to incorporate several of its close neighbor territories establishing the Kingdom of Rwanda. The Kingdom of Rwanda dominated from the mid-eighteen century, with the Tutsi kings conquering others militarily, centralising power, and enacting anti-Hutu policies. In 1897, Germany colonized Rwanda as part of German East Africa, followed by Belgium, which took control in 1916 during World War I. Both European nations ruled through the Rwandan king and perpetuated a pro-Tutsi policy. The Hutu population revolted in 1959. They massacred numerous Tutsi and ultimately established an independent, Hutu-dominated republic in 1962 led by President Grégoire Kayibanda. A 1973 military coup overthrew Kayibanda and brought Juvénal Habyarimana to power, who retained the pro-Hutu policy. The Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front launched a civil war in 1990. Habyarimana was assassinated in April 1994. Social tensions erupted in the Rwandan genocide that followed, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu in the span of one hundred days. The RPF ended the genocide with a military victory in July 1994.
Rwanda has been governed as a unitary presidential system with a bicameral parliament ruled by the Rwandan Patriotic Front since 1994. The country has been governed by a centralized authoritarian government, since precolonial times. Although Rwanda has low levels of corruption compared with neighbouring countries, it ranks among the lowest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties and quality of life. The population is young and predominantly rural; Rwanda has one of the youngest populations in the world. Rwandans are drawn from just one cultural and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda. However, within this group there are three subgroups: the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. The Twa are a forest-dwelling pygmy people and are often considered descendants of Rwanda’s earliest inhabitants. Christianity is the largest religion in the country; the principal and national language is Kinyarwanda, spoken by native Rwandans, with English, French and Swahili serving as additional official languages.
The economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country’s leading foreign exchange earner. In the 21st century, Rwanda has been described as an emerging tech hub for Africa, with an increase of start-up companies. The country is a member of the African Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, COMESA, OIF and the East African Community. In June 2022, the country hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) originally scheduled for 2020, when it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts and Nevis ( (listen)), officially the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, is an island country and microstate consisting of the two islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis, both located in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands chain of the Lesser Antilles. With 261 square kilometers of territory, and roughly 50,000 inhabitants, it is the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere, in both area and population, as well as the world’s smallest sovereign federation. The country is a Commonwealth realm, with Charles III as King and head of state. It is the only sovereign federation in the Caribbean.
The capital city is Basseterre, located on the larger island of Saint Kitts. Basseterre is also the main port for passenger entry (via cruise ships) and cargo. The smaller island of Nevis lies approximately 3 km (2 mi) to the southeast of Saint Kitts, across a shallow channel called The Narrows.The British dependency of Anguilla was historically also a part of this union, which was known collectively as Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla. However, Anguilla chose to secede from the union, and remains a British overseas territory. The islands of Sint Eustatius, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten and Anguilla lie to the north-northwest of the country. To the east and northeast are Antigua and Barbuda, and to the southeast is the small uninhabited island of Redonda (part of Antigua and Barbuda) and the island of Montserrat.
Saint Kitts and Nevis were among the first islands in the Caribbean to be colonised by Europeans. Saint Kitts was home to the first British and French Caribbean colonies, and thus has also been titled “The Mother Colony of the West Indies”. It is also the most recent British territory in the Caribbean to become independent, gaining independence in 1983.
Saint Lucia (Saint Lucian Creole French: Sent Lisi, French: Sainte-Lucie) is an island country of the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean. The island was previously called Iouanalao and later Hewanorra, names given by the native Arawaks and Caribs, two Amerindian peoples. Part of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 617 km2 (238 square miles) with an estimated population of over 180,000 people as of 2022. The national capital is the city of Castries.
The first proven inhabitants of the island, the Arawaks, are believed to have first settled in AD 200–400. Around 800 AD, the island would be taken over by the Kalinago. The French were the first Europeans to settle on the island, and they signed a treaty with the native Caribs in 1660. England took control of the island in 1663. In ensuing years, England and France fought 14 times for control of the island, and the rule of the island changed frequently. Eventually, the British took full control in 1814. Because it switched so often between British and French control, Saint Lucia was also known as the “Helen of the West” after the Greek mythological character, Helen of Troy.Representative government was introduced in 1924 with Universal suffrage being established in 1951. From 1958 to 1962, the island was a member of the West Indies Federation. On 22 February 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state, while remaining as a Commonwealth Realm.Saint Lucia is a member of the United Nations, the Organisation of American States, the World Trade Organization, CARICOM and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). It is also a member of Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ( (listen)) is an island country in the Caribbean. It is located in the southeast Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, which lie in the West Indies at the southern end of the eastern border of the Caribbean Sea where the latter meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Its 369 km2 (142 sq mi) territory consists of the main island of Saint Vincent and, south of that, two-thirds of the northern part of the Grenadines, a chain of 32 smaller islands. Some of the Grenadines are inhabited—Bequia, Mustique, Union Island, Canouan, Petit Saint Vincent, Palm Island, Mayreau, Young Island—while others are not: Tobago Cays, Baliceaux, Battowia, Quatre, Petite Mustique, Savan and Petit Nevis. Most of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lies within the Hurricane Alley.
To the north of Saint Vincent lies Saint Lucia, to the east is Barbados, and Grenada lies to the south. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has a population density of over 300 inhabitants/km2 (700 per sq. mi.), with approximately 104,332 total inhabitants.Kingstown is the capital and main port. Saint Vincent has a British colonial history, and is now part of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, CARICOM, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas and the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean States (CELAC).
In April 2021, the La Soufrière volcano erupted several times with “explosive events” continuing. By 12 April, 16,000 residents had evacuated the areas of their homes. Assistance and emergency financial support was being provided by several nearby islands, the United Kingdom and agencies such as the United Nations. The first significant offer of long-term funding, of US$20 million, was announced on 13 April 2021 by the World Bank.
Samoa, officially the Independent State of Samoa and until 1997 known as Western Samoa, is a Polynesian island country consisting of two main islands (Savai’i and Upolu); two smaller, inhabited islands (Manono and Apolima); and several smaller, uninhabited islands, including the Aleipata Islands (Nu’utele, Nu’ulua, Fanuatapu and Namua). Samoa is located 64 km (40 mi) west of American Samoa, 889 km (552 mi) northeast of Tonga (closest foreign country), 1,152 km (716 mi) northeast of Fiji, 483 km (300 mi) east of Wallis and Futuna, 1,151 km (715 mi) southeast of Tuvalu, 519 km (322 mi) south of Tokelau, 4,190 km (2,600 mi) southwest of Hawaii, and 610 km (380 mi) northwest of Niue. The capital city is Apia. The Lapita people discovered and settled the Samoan Islands around 3,500 years ago. They developed a Samoan language and Samoan cultural identity.
Samoa is a unitary parliamentary democracy with 11 administrative divisions. It is a sovereign state and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Western Samoa was admitted to the United Nations on 15 December 1976. Because of the Samoans’ seafaring skills, pre-20th-century European explorers referred to the entire island group (which includes American Samoa) as the “Navigator Islands”. The country was a colony of the German Empire from 1899 to 1915, then came under a joint British and New Zealand colonial administration until 1 January 1962, when it became independent.
San Marino ( (listen), Italian: [sam maˈriːno]), officially the Republic of San Marino (Italian: Repubblica di San Marino; Romagnol: Ripóbblica d’ San Marein), also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino (Italian: Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino), is the fifth-smallest country in the world and a European microstate in Southern Europe enclaved by Italy. Located on the northeastern side of the Apennine Mountains, San Marino covers a land area of just over 61 km2 (24 sq mi), and has a population of 33,562.San Marino is a landlocked country; however, its northeastern end is within 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) of the Italian city of Rimini on the Adriatic coast. The nearest airport is also in Italy. The country’s capital city, the City of San Marino, is located atop Monte Titano, while its largest settlement is Dogana within the largest municipality of Serravalle. San Marino’s official language is Italian.
The country derives its name from Saint Marinus, a stonemason from the then-Roman island of Rab in present-day Croatia. Born in AD 275, Marinus participated in the rebuilding of Rimini’s city walls after their destruction by Liburnian pirates. Marinus then went on to found an independently ruled monastic community on Monte Titano in AD 301; thus, San Marino lays claim to being the oldest extant sovereign state, as well as the oldest constitutional republic.Uniquely, San Marino’s constitution dictates that its democratically elected legislature, the Grand and General Council, must elect two heads of state every six months. Known as captains regent, the two heads of state serve concurrently and hold equal powers until their term expires after six months.
The country’s economy is mainly based on finance, industry, services, retail, and tourism. It is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in GDP per capita, with a figure comparable to the most developed European regions. Its health care system ranks 3rd in the World Health Organization first ever analysis of the world’s health systems. Despite this fact, ranking 44th, its Human Development Index score is the lowest in Western Europe. Among the European microstates, San Marino is the only Summer Olympics Games medals winner.
Sao Tome and Principe
São Tomé and Príncipe (; Portuguese: São Tomé e Príncipe (Portuguese pronunciation: [sɐ̃w̃ tuˈmɛ i ˈpɾĩsɨpɨ]); English: “Saint Thomas and Prince”), officially the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe (Portuguese: República Democrática de São Tomé e Príncipe), is a Portuguese-speaking island country in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa. It consists of two archipelagos around the two main islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, about 150 km (93.21 mi) apart and about 250 and 225 km (155 and 140 mi) off the north-western coast of Gabon. With a population of 201,800 (2018 official estimate), São Tomé and Príncipe is the second-smallest and second-least populous African sovereign state after Seychelles.
The islands were uninhabited until their discovery by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. Gradually colonized and settled throughout the 16th century, they collectively served as a vital commercial and trade centre for the Atlantic slave trade. The rich volcanic soil and proximity to the equator made São Tomé and Príncipe ideal for sugar cultivation, followed later by cash crops such as coffee and cocoa; the lucrative plantation economy was heavily dependent upon African slaves. Cycles of social unrest and economic instability throughout the 19th and 20th centuries culminated in peaceful independence in 1975. São Tomé and Príncipe has since remained one of Africa’s most stable and democratic countries.
The people of São Tomé and Príncipe are predominantly of African and mestiço descent, with most practicing Catholicism. The legacy of Portuguese rule is also visible in the country’s culture, customs, and music, which fuse European and African influences. São Tomé and Príncipe is a founding member state of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.
Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is a country in Western Asia. It covers the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and has a land area of about 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi), making it the fifth-largest country in Asia, the second-largest in the Arab world, and the largest in Western Asia and the Middle East. It is bordered by the Red Sea to the west; Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait to the north; the Persian Gulf, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to the east; Oman to the southeast; and Yemen to the south. Bahrain is an island country off the east coast. The Gulf of Aqaba in the northwest separates Saudi Arabia from Egypt. Saudi Arabia is the only country with a coastline along both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and most of its terrain consists of arid desert, lowland, steppe, and mountains. Its capital and largest city is Riyadh. The country is home to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam.
Pre-Islamic Arabia, the territory that constitutes modern-day Saudi Arabia, was the site of several ancient cultures and civilizations; the prehistory of Saudi Arabia shows some of the earliest traces of human activity in the world. The world’s second-largest religion, Islam, emerged in what is now Saudi Arabia. In the early 7th century, the Islamic prophet Muhammad united the population of Arabian Peninsula and created a single Islamic religious polity. Following his death in 632, his followers rapidly expanded the territory under Muslim rule beyond Arabia, conquering huge and unprecedented swathes of territory (from the Iberian Peninsula in the west to parts of Central and South Asia in the east) in a matter of decades. Arab dynasties originating from modern-day Saudi Arabia founded the Rashidun (632–661), Umayyad (661–750), Abbasid (750–1517), and Fatimid (909–1171) caliphates, as well as numerous other dynasties in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The area of modern-day Saudi Arabia formerly consisted of mainly four distinct historical regions: Hejaz, Najd, and parts of Eastern Arabia (Al-Ahsa) and South Arabia (‘Asir). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by King Abdulaziz (known as Ibn Saud in the West). He united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud. Saudi Arabia has since been an absolute monarchy, where political decisions are made on the basis of consultation among the King, the Council of Ministers, and the country’s traditional elites that oversee a highly authoritarian regime. The ultraconservative Wahhabi religious movement within Sunni Islam has been described as a “predominant feature of Saudi culture”, although the power of the religious establishment has been significantly eroded in the 2010s. In its Basic Law, Saudi Arabia continues to define itself as a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its official religion, Arabic as its official language, and Riyadh as its capital.
Petroleum was discovered in 1938 and followed up by several other finds in the Eastern Province. Saudi Arabia has since become the world’s second-largest oil producer (behind the US) and the world’s largest oil exporter, controlling the world’s second-largest oil reserves and the fourth-largest gas reserves. The kingdom is categorized as a World Bank high-income economy and is the only Arab country to be part of the G20 major economies. The state has attracted criticism for a variety of reasons, including its role in the Yemeni Civil War, alleged sponsorship of Islamic terrorism and its poor human rights record, including the excessive and often extrajudicial use of capital punishment, failure to adopt adequate measures against human trafficking, state-sponsored discrimination against religious minorities and atheists, including antisemitism, and its strict interpretation of Sharia law.Saudi Arabia is considered both a regional and middle power. The Saudi economy is the largest in the Middle East; the world’s eighteenth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the seventeenth-largest by PPP. As a country with a very high Human Development Index, it offers a tuition-free university education, no personal income tax, and a free universal health care system. Saudi Arabia is home to the world’s third-largest immigrant population. It also has one of the world’s youngest populations, with approximately 50 per cent of its population of 34.2 million being under 25 years old. In addition to being a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia is an active and founding member of the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League, Arab Air Carriers Organization and OPEC.
Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country in West Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Senegal is bordered by Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, Guinea to the southeast and Guinea-Bissau to the southwest. Senegal nearly surrounds the Gambia, a country occupying a narrow sliver of land along the banks of the Gambia River, which separates Senegal’s southern region of Casamance from the rest of the country. Senegal also shares a maritime border with Cape Verde. Senegal’s economic and political capital is Dakar.
Senegal is notably the westernmost country in the mainland of the Old World, or Afro-Eurasia. It owes its name to the Senegal River, which borders it to the east and north. The climate is typically Sahelian, though there is a rainy season. Senegal covers a land area of almost 197,000 square kilometres (76,000 sq mi) and has a population of around 17 million. The state is a unitary presidential republic; since the country’s foundation in 1960, it has been recognized as one of the most stable countries on the African continent.The state was formed as part of the independence of French West Africa from French colonial rule. Because of this history, French is the official language, but it is understood only by a minority of the population. Over 30 languages are spoken in Senegal, and Wolof is the most widely spoken one, with 80% of the population speaking it as a first or second language, acting as Senegal’s lingua franca alongside French. Like other post-colonial African states, the country includes a wide mix of ethnic and linguistic communities, with the largest being the Wolof, Fula, and Serer people. Senegalese people are predominantly Muslim.Senegal is classified as a heavily indebted poor country, with relatively low HDI ranked 170th in the Human Development index . Most of the population is on the coast and works in agriculture or other food industries; other major industries include mining, tourism, and services. The country does not have notable natural resources, but the basis of its development lies in education, where almost half the state’s budget is spent. Senegal is a member state of the African Union, the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States. Internationally, Senegal is best known in the sporting world for the Paris-Dakar Rally.
Seychelles ( (listen), ; French: [sɛʃɛl] or [seʃɛl]), officially the Republic of Seychelles (French: République des Seychelles; Creole: La Repiblik Sesel), is an archipelagic country consisting of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. Its capital and largest city, Victoria, is 1,500 kilometres (800 nautical miles) east of mainland Africa. Nearby island countries and territories include the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and the French overseas departments of Mayotte and Réunion to the south; and Maldives and the Chagos Archipelago (administered by the United Kingdom as the British Indian Ocean Territory) to the east. It is the least populated sovereign African country, with an estimated 2020 population of 98,462.Seychelles was uninhabited prior to being encountered by Europeans in the 16th century. It faced competing French and British interests until coming under full British control in the late 18th century. Since proclaiming independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, it has developed from a largely agricultural society to a market-based diversified economy, characterized by rapidly rising service, public sector, and tourism activities. From 1976 to 2015, nominal GDP grew nearly 700%, and purchasing power parity nearly 1600%. Since the late 2010s, the government has taken steps to encourage foreign investment.
As of the early 21st century, Seychelles has the highest nominal per capita GDP of any African nation. It has the second-highest Human Development Index of any African country after Mauritius. It is the only African country classified as a high-income economy by the World Bank.Seychellois culture and society is an eclectic mix of French, British, and African influences, with more recent infusions of Chinese and Indian elements. The country is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. It is bordered by Liberia to the southeast and Guinea surrounds the northern half of the nation. Covering a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi), Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with diverse environments ranging from savanna to rainforests. The country has a population of 7,092,113 as of the 2015 census. The capital and largest city is Freetown. The country is divided into five administrative regions, which are subdivided into 16 districts.Sierra Leone is a constitutional republic with a unicameral parliament and a directly elected president serving a five-year term with a maximum of two terms. The current president is Julius Maada Bio. Sierra Leone is a secular nation with the constitution providing for the separation of state and religion and freedom of conscience (which includes freedom of thoughts and religion). Muslims make up about three-quarters of the population, though with an influential Christian minority. Religious tolerance in the West African nation is very high and is generally considered a norm and part of Sierra Leone’s cultural identity.The geographic area has been inhabited for millennia, but Sierra Leone, as the country and its borders are known today, was founded by the British Crown in two phases: first, the coastal Sierra Leone Colony in 1808 (for returning Africans after the abolition of slavery); second, the inland Protectorate in 1896 (as the Crown needed to establish more dominion inland following the outcome of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885). Hence, the country formally became known as the Sierra Leone Colony and Protectorate or simply British Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone gained independence from the United Kingdom on 27 April 1961, and became a Commonwealth realm on the same day; the country’s name changed to the Dominion of Sierra Leone. Sir Milton Margai became Sierra Leone’s first prime minister.During the few decades following independence, Sierra Leone witnessed an increase in political activities, transformations, turmoil, humanitarian and socio-economic crises. The country had its first general elections as an independent nation on 27 May 1961. Margai’s Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won a plurality of parliamentary seats and he was re-elected Prime Minister. A new constitution was adopted in 1971, paving the way for Sierra Leone becoming a republic, and Siaka Stevens, leader of the All People’s Congress (APC), becoming the first executive president of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Stevens held on to this position for 14 years (until 1985) under a one-party system of government facilitated by the controversial 1978 Constitution. However, Stevens’ hand-picked successor Joseph Saidu Momoh promised to return the country to a multi-party system; a new constitution was adopted in 1991 that provided the means for a multi-party democracy. A brutal civil war broke out the same year, which went on for 11 years with devastating effects on almost everything that defined Sierra Leone as a nation. In just a year after the war broke out (in 1992), President Momoh was ousted in a coup led by Sierra Leone Army captain Valentine Strasser. Strasser was later “ousted” by his army colleague and second-in-command Julius Maada Bio, for failing to commit to a quick transfer to civilian rule. Bio would then return the country back to a democratic republic in 1996 through a general election.In early 1996, despite the country going through a brutal civil war, the emergence of the prospect of a transformation back to a multi-party democracy brought fresh hopes and great expectations among a majority of Sierra Leoneans, as the national debate “Peace before Elections vs Elections before Peace” became a hot topic. Eventually, “Elections before Peace” won the debate. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah won the 1996 presidential election and became the first multi-party democratically elected president of Sierra Leone. Since then, there has been a smooth succession to the presidency all via elections. A brief coup in 1997 led by Sierra Leone Army major Johnny Paul Koroma ousted Kabbah, who went into exile in Guinea. He was reinstated after nine months through military intervention by ECOMOG. Kabbah’s presidency marked the dawn of a new Sierra Leone, which included the end of the civil war in 2002, a focus on fostering national unity and reconciliation, trust in government, peace and stability, the improvement in relations with many countries, and the refounding of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces with special assistance and training led by the Government of the United Kingdom.About 18 ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone; the two largest and most influential ones are the Temne and Mende peoples. About 2% of the country’s population are Creole people, descendants of freed African-American and Afro-Caribbean slaves. English is the official language used in schools and government administration. Krio is the most widely spoken language across Sierra Leone, spoken by 97% of the country’s population. Sierra Leone is rich in natural resources, especially diamond, gold, bauxite and aluminium. The country is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mano River Union, Commonwealth of Nations, IMF, World Bank, WTO, African Development Bank, and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Sierra Leone is home to Sub-Saharan Africa’s first Western-style university: Fourah Bay College (established in 1827).
Solomon Islands is an island country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu. It has a land area of 28,400 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi), and a population of about 700,000. Its capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island, Guadalcanal. The country takes its name from the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands that also includes the North Solomon Islands (a part of Papua New Guinea), but excludes outlying islands, such as the Santa Cruz Islands and Rennell and Bellona.
The islands have been settled since at least some time between 30,000 and 28,800 BCE, with later waves of migrants, notably the Lapita people, mixing and producing the modern indigenous Solomon Islanders population. In 1568, the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to visit them. Though not named by Mendaña, it is believed that the islands were called “the Solomons” by those who later received word of his voyage and mapped his discovery. Mendaña returned decades later, in 1595, and another Spanish expedition, led by Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, visited the Solomons in 1606. Britain defined its area of interest in the Solomon Islands archipelago in June 1893, when Captain Gibson, R.N., of HMS Curacoa, declared the southern Solomon Islands a British protectorate. During World War II, the Solomon Islands campaign (1942–1945) saw fierce fighting between the United States, British Commonwealth forces and the Empire of Japan, including the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The official name of the then-British administration was changed from the “British Solomon Islands Protectorate” to “The Solomon Islands” in 1975, and self-government was achieved the following year. Independence was obtained, and the name changed to just “Solomon Islands” (without the definite article), in 1978. At independence, Solomon Islands became a constitutional monarchy. The King of Solomon Islands is King Charles III, who is represented in the country by a governor-general.
Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia (Somali: Jamhuuriyadda Federaalka Soomaaliya; Arabic: جمهورية الصومال الفيدرالية), is a country in the Horn of Africa. The country is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Kenya to the southwest. Somalia has the longest coastline on Africa’s mainland. Its terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains, and highlands. Hot conditions prevail year-round, with periodic monsoon winds and irregular rainfall. Somalia has an estimated population of around 17.1 million, of which over 2 million live in the capital and largest city Mogadishu, and has been described as Africa’s most culturally homogeneous country. Around 85% of its residents are ethnic Somalis, who have historically inhabited the country’s north. Ethnic minorities are largely concentrated in the south. The official languages of Somalia are Somali and Arabic. Most people in the country are Muslims, the majority of them Sunni.In antiquity, Somalia was an important commercial center. It is among the most probable locations of the ancient Land of Punt. During the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali empires dominated the regional trade, including the Ajuran Sultanate, the Adal Sultanate, and the Sultanate of the Geledi.
In the late 19th century, Somali Sultanates like the Isaaq Sultanate and the Majeerteen Sultanate were colonized by both the Italian and British Empire. European colonists merged the tribal territories into two colonies, which were Italian Somaliland and the British Somaliland Protectorate. Meanwhile, in the interior, the Dervishes led by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan engaged in a two-decade confrontation against Abyssinia, Italian Somaliland, and British Somaliland and were finally defeated in the 1920 Somaliland Campaign. Italy acquired full control of the northeastern, central, and southern parts of the area after successfully waging the Campaign of the Sultanates against the ruling Majeerteen Sultanate and Sultanate of Hobyo. In 1960, the two territories united to form the independent Somali Republic under a civilian government.The Supreme Revolutionary Council seized power in 1969 and established the Somali Democratic Republic, brutally attempting to squash the Somaliland War of Independence in the north of the country. The SRC subsequently collapsed 22 years later, in 1991, with the onset of the Somali Civil War and Somaliland soon declared independence. Somaliland still controls the northwestern portion of Somalia representing just over 27% of its territory. Since this period most regions returned to customary and religious law. In the early 2000s, a number of interim federal administrations were created. The Transitional National Government (TNG) was established in 2000, followed by the formation of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004, which reestablished the Somali Armed Forces.In 2006, with a US backed Ethiopian intervention, the TFG assumed control of most of the nation’s southern conflict zones from the newly formed Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU subsequently splintered into more radical groups, such as Al-Shabaab, which battled the TFG and its AMISOM allies for control of the region. By mid-2012, the insurgents had lost most of the territory they had seized, and a search for more permanent democratic institutions began. Despite this, insurgents still control much of central and southern Somalia, and wield influence in government-controlled areas, with the town of Jilib acting as the insurgents’ de facto capital. A new provisional constitution was passed in August 2012, reforming Somalia as a federation. The same month, the Federal Government of Somalia was formed and a period of reconstruction began in Mogadishu.Somalia has maintained an informal economy mainly based on livestock, remittances from Somalis working abroad, and telecommunications. It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, African Union, Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline that stretch along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; and to the east and northeast by Mozambique and Eswatini. It also completely enclaves the country Lesotho. It is the southernmost country on the mainland of the Old World, and the second-most populous country located entirely south of the equator, after Tanzania. South Africa is a biodiversity hotspot, with unique biomes, plant and animal life. With over 60 million people, the country is the world’s 24th-most populous nation and covers an area of 1,221,037 square kilometres (471,445 square miles). South Africa has three capital cities, with the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government based in Pretoria, Bloemfontein, and Cape Town respectively. The largest city is Johannesburg.
About 80% of the population are Black South Africans. The remaining population consists of Africa’s largest communities of European (White South Africans), Asian (Indian South Africans and Chinese South Africans), and multiracial (Coloured South Africans) ancestry. South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution’s recognition of 11 official languages, the fourth-highest number in the world. According to the 2011 census, the two most spoken first languages are Zulu (22.7%) and Xhosa (16.0%). The two next ones are of European origin: Afrikaans (13.5%) developed from Dutch and serves as the first language of most Coloured and White South Africans; English (9.6%) reflects the legacy of British colonialism and is commonly used in public and commercial life.
The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a coup d’état, and regular elections have been held for almost a century. However, the vast majority of Black South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994. During the 20th century, the black majority sought to claim more rights from the dominant white minority, which played a large role in the country’s recent history and politics. The National Party imposed apartheid in 1948, institutionalising previous racial segregation. After a long and sometimes violent struggle by the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid activists both inside and outside the country, the repeal of discriminatory laws began in the mid-1980s. Since 1994, all ethnic and linguistic groups have held political representation in the country’s liberal democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the “rainbow nation” to describe the country’s multicultural diversity, especially in the wake of apartheid.South Africa is a middle power in international affairs; it maintains significant regional influence and is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and the G20. It is a developing country, ranking 109th on the Human Development Index, the 2nd highest in Africa. It has been classified by the World Bank as a newly industrialised country and has the third-largest economy in Africa and the most industrialized, technologically advanced economy in Africa overall as well as the 33rd-largest in the world. South Africa has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Since the end of apartheid, government accountability and quality of life have substantially improved. However, crime, poverty and inequality remain widespread, with about two-fifths of the total population being unemployed as of 2021, while some three-fifths of the population lived under the poverty line in 2014 and a quarter under $2.15 a day.
South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and sharing a land border with North Korea. Its western border is formed by the Yellow Sea, while its eastern border is defined by the Sea of Japan. South Korea claims to be the sole legitimate government of the entire peninsula and adjacent islands. It has a population of 51.75 million, of which roughly half live in the Seoul Capital Area, the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the world. Other major cities include Incheon, Busan, and Daegu.
The Korean Peninsula was inhabited as early as the Lower Paleolithic period. Its first kingdom was noted in Chinese records in the early 7th century BCE. Following the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea into Silla and Balhae in the late 7th century, Korea was ruled by the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) and the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897). The succeeding Korean Empire (1897–1910) was annexed in 1910 into the Empire of Japan. Japanese rule ended following Japan’s surrender in World War II, after which Korea was divided into two zones; a northern zone occupied by the Soviet Union and a southern zone occupied by the United States. After negotiations on reunification failed, the latter became the Republic of Korea in August 1948 while the former became the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the following month.
In 1950, a North Korean invasion began the Korean War, which saw extensive American-led United Nations intervention in support of the South, while China intervened to support the North, with Soviet assistance. After the war’s end in 1953, the country entered into a military alliance with the U.S., and its devastated economy began to soar, recording the fastest rise in average GDP per capita in the world between 1980 and 1990. Despite lacking natural resources, the nation rapidly developed to become one of the Four Asian Tigers based on international trade and economic globalization, integrating itself within the world economy with export-oriented industrialization; currently being one of the largest exporting nations in the world, along with having one of the largest foreign-exchange reserves in the world. The June Democratic Struggle led to the end of authoritarian rule in 1987 and the country is now considered among the most advanced democracies in Asia, with the highest level of press freedom on the continent.South Korea is a power and a highly developed country and ranked as the fifth-highest country on the Human Development Index (HDI) in the Asia and Oceania region. South Korea has the third-highest life expectancy in the world. In recent years, the country has been facing an aging population and the lowest fertility rate in the world. Its economy ranks as the world’s thirteenth-largest by nominal GDP. Its citizens enjoy one of the world’s fastest Internet connection speeds and the densest high-speed railway network. The country is the world’s ninth-largest exporter and ninth-largest importer. Its armed forces are ranked as one of the world’s strongest militaries, with the world’s second-largest standing army by military and paramilitary personnel. Since the 21st century, South Korea has been renowned for its globally influential pop culture, particularly in music (K-pop), TV dramas (K-dramas) and cinema, a phenomenon referred to as the Korean wave. It is a member of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, the G20, the IPEF, and the Paris Club.
South Sudan (; Dinka: Paguot Thudän), officially the Republic of South Sudan (Dinka: Paankɔc Cuëny Thudän), is a landlocked country in East Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia, Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Kenya. Its population was estimated as 12,778,250 in 2019. Juba is the capital and largest city.
It gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011, making it the most recent sovereign state or country with widespread recognition as of 2022. It includes the vast swamp region of the Sudd, formed by the White Nile and known locally as the Bahr al Jabal, meaning “Mountain River”. Sudan was occupied by Egypt under the Muhammad Ali dynasty and was governed as an Anglo-Egyptian condominium until Sudanese independence in 1956. Following the First Sudanese Civil War, the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was formed in 1972 and lasted until 1983. A second Sudanese civil war soon broke out in 1983 and ended in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Later that year, southern autonomy was restored when an Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan was formed. South Sudan became an independent state on 9 July 2011, following 98.83% support for independence in a January 2011 referendum. It has suffered ethnic violence and endured a civil war characterised by rampant human rights abuses, including various ethnic massacres and killings of journalists by various parties to the conflict from December 2013 until February 2020, when competing combat leaders Salva Kiir Mayardit and Riek Machar struck a unity deal and formed a coalition government, paving the way for refugees to return home.The South Sudanese population is composed mostly of Nilotic peoples, and it is demographically among the youngest nations in the world, with roughly half under 18 years old. The majority of inhabitants adhere to Christianity or various Indigenous faiths. The country is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the East African Community, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
Sri Lanka (UK: , US: (listen); Sinhala: ශ්රී ලංකා, romanized: Śrī Laṅkā (IPA: [ʃriː laŋkaː]); Tamil: இலங்கை, romanized: Ilaṅkai (IPA: [ilaŋɡaj])), formerly known as Ceylon and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia. It lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal, and southeast of the Arabian Sea; it is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. Sri Lanka shares a maritime border with India and the Maldives. Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is its legislative capital, and Colombo is its largest city and financial centre.
Sri Lanka has a population of around 22 million (2020) and is a multinational state, home to diverse cultures, languages, and ethnicities. The Sinhalese are the majority of the nation’s population. The Tamils, who are a large minority group, have also played an influential role in the island’s history. Other long established groups include the Moors, the Burghers, the Malays, the Chinese, and the indigenous Vedda.Sri Lanka’s documented history goes back 3,000 years, with evidence of prehistoric human settlements that dates back at least 125,000 years. The earliest known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, known collectively as the Pāli canon, date to the fourth Buddhist council, which took place in 29 BCE. Also called the Teardrop of India, or the Granary of the East, Sri Lanka’s geographic location and deep harbours have made it of great strategic importance, from the earliest days of the ancient Silk Road trade route to today’s so-called maritime Silk Road. Because its location made it a major trading hub, it was already known to both Far Easterners and Europeans as long ago as the Anuradhapura period (377 BC–1017 AD). During a period of great political crisis in the Kingdom of Kotte, the Portuguese arrived in Sri Lanka and sought to control the island’s maritime trade, with a part of Sri Lanka subsequently becoming a Portuguese possession. After the Sinhalese-Portuguese war, the Dutch and the Kingdom of Kandy took control of those areas. The Dutch possessions were then taken by the British, who later extended their control over the whole island, colonising it from 1815 to 1948. A national movement for political independence arose in the early 20th century, and in 1948, Ceylon became a dominion. The dominion was succeeded by the republic named Sri Lanka in 1972. Sri Lanka’s more recent history was marred by a 26-year civil war, which began in 1983 and ended decisively in 2009, when the Sri Lanka Armed Forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.Sri Lanka is a developing country, ranking 73rd on the Human Development Index. It is the highest-ranked South Asian nation in terms of development and has the second-highest per capita income in South Asia; however, the ongoing economic crisis has resulted in the collapse of the currency, rising inflation, and a humanitarian crisis due to a severe shortage of essentials. It has also led to an eruption of street protests, with citizens successfully demanding that the president and the government step down. The island has had a long history of engagement with modern international groups: it is a founding member of the SAARC and a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G77, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Sudan (English: or ; Arabic: السودان, romanized: as-Sūdān, officially the Republic of the Sudan (Arabic: جمهورية السودان, romanized: Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It shares borders with the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, Egypt to the north, Eritrea to the northeast, Ethiopia to the southeast, Libya to the northwest, South Sudan to the south and the Red Sea. It has a population of 45.70 million people as of 2022 and occupies 1,886,068 square kilometres (728,215 square miles), making it Africa’s third-largest country by area, and the third-largest by area in the Arab League. It was the largest country by area in Africa and the Arab League until the secession of South Sudan in 2011, since which both titles have been held by Algeria. Its capital is Khartoum and its most populated city is Omdurman (part of the metropolitan area of Khartoum).
Sudan’s history goes back to the Pharaonic period, witnessing the Kingdom of Kerma (c. 2500–1500 BC), the subsequent rule of the Egyptian New Kingdom (c. 1500 BC–1070 BC) and the rise of the Kingdom of Kush (c. 785 BC–350 AD), which would in turn control Egypt itself for nearly a century. After the fall of Kush, the Nubians formed the three Christian kingdoms of Nobatia, Makuria, and Alodia, with the latter two lasting until around 1500. Between the 14th and 15th centuries, most of Sudan was gradually settled by Arab nomads. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, central and eastern Sudan were dominated by the Funj sultanate, while Darfur ruled the west and the Ottomans the east.
During the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, slave trade played a big role and was demanded from the Sudanese Kashif as the regular remittance of tribute. In 1811, Mamluks established a state at Dunqulah as a base for their slave trading. Under Turco-Egyptian rule of Sudan after the 1820s, the practice of trading slaves was entrenched along a north–south axis, with slave raids taking place in southern parts of the country and slaves being transported to Egypt and the Ottoman empire.From the early 19th century, the entirety of Sudan was conquered by the Ottomans under the Muhammad Ali dynasty. It was under Turkish rule that Sudan acquired its modern borders and began the process of political, agricultural, and economic development. In 1881, nationalist sentiment in Egypt led to the Orabi Revolt, “weakening” the power of the Egyptian monarchy, and eventually leading to the occupation of Egypt by the United Kingdom. At the same time, religious-nationalist fervour in Sudan erupted in the Mahdist Uprising led by the self-proclaimed Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad, and resulting in the establishment of the Caliphate of Omdurman. The Mahdist forces were eventually defeated by a joint Egyptian-British military force, restoring the authority of the Egyptian monarch. However, Egyptian sovereignty in Sudan would henceforth be rather nominal, as the true power in both Egypt and Sudan was now the United Kingdom. In 1899, under British pressure, Egypt agreed to share sovereignty over Sudan with the United Kingdom as a condominium. In effect, Sudan was governed as a British possession. The 20th century saw the growth of both Egyptian and Sudanese nationalism focusing on ending the United Kingdom’s occupation. The Egyptian revolution of 1952 toppled the monarchy and demanded the withdrawal of British forces from all of Egypt and Sudan. Muhammad Naguib, one of the two co-leaders of the revolution, and Egypt’s first President, who was half-Sudanese and had been raised in Sudan, made securing Sudanese independence a priority of the revolutionary government. The following year, under Egyptian and Sudanese pressure, the United Kingdom agreed to Egypt’s demand for both governments to terminate their shared sovereignty over Sudan and to grant Sudan independence. On 1 January 1956, Sudan was duly declared an independent state.
After Sudan became independent, the Jaafar Nimeiry regime began Islamist rule. This exacerbated the rift between the Islamic North, the seat of the government, and the Animists and Christians in the South. Differences in language, religion, and political power erupted in a civil war between government forces, influenced by the National Islamic Front (NIF), and the southern rebels, whose most influential faction was the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which eventually led to the independence of South Sudan in 2011. Between 1989 and 2019, Sudan experienced a 30-year-long military dictatorship led by Omar al-Bashir, who was accused of human rights abuses, including torture, persecution of minorities, allegations of sponsoring global terrorism, and ethnic genocide due to its actions in the War in the Darfur region that broke out in 2003. Overall, the regime’s actions killed an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people. Protests erupted in 2018, demanding Bashir’s resignation, which resulted in a coup d’état on 11 April 2019 and Bashir’s imprisonment.Islam was Sudan’s state religion and Islamic laws were applied from 1983 until 2020 when the country became a secular state. The economy has been described as lower-middle income, with over 35% population living in poverty, largely relies on agriculture due to long-term international sanctions and isolation, as well as a long history of internal instability and factional violence, to some extent on oil production in the oil fields of South Sudan. Sudan is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, African Union, COMESA, Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Suriname ( (listen); Sranan Tongo: Sranankondre or Sranan [sɾa.naŋ]), officially the Republic of Suriname (Dutch: Republiek Suriname [reːpyˌblik ˌsyːriˈnaːmə], Sranan Tongo: Ripolik fu Sranan), is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, and Brazil to the south. At just under 165,000 square kilometers (64,000 square miles), it is the smallest sovereign state in South America.It has a population of approximately 612,985, dominated by descendants from the slaves and labourers brought in from Africa and Asia by the Dutch Empire and Republic.
Most of the people live by the country’s (north) coast, in and around its capital and largest city, Paramaribo. It is also one of the least densely populated countries on Earth.
Situated slightly north of the equator, Suriname is a tropical country dominated by rainforests. Its extensive tree cover is vital to the country’s efforts to mitigate climate change and maintain carbon negativity. A developing country with a relatively high level of human development, Suriname’s economy is heavily dependent on its abundant natural resources, namely bauxite, gold, petroleum, and agricultural products.
Suriname was inhabited as early as the fourth millennium BC by various indigenous peoples, including the Arawaks, Caribs, and Wayana. Europeans arrived in the 16th century, with the Dutch establishing control over much of the country’s current territory by the late 17th century. During the Dutch colonial period, Suriname was a lucrative source of sugar, its plantation economy driven by African slave labour, and after abolition of slavery in 1863, by indentured servants from Asia, predominantly from then British India, as well as the Dutch East Indies.
In 1954, Suriname became one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On 25 November 1975, it left the Kingdom to become an independent state. Contrary to the preceding war for independence of Dutch colony Indonesia, this was an initiative of the Netherlands’ then left-wing government. Suriname continues to maintain close diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties with the Netherlands.
Suriname is considered a culturally Caribbean country, and is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It is the only sovereign nation outside of Europe where Dutch is the official and prevailing language of government, business, media, and education. According to research by the Dutch Language Union, Dutch is the native language of 60% of Surinamese. Sranan Tongo, an English-based creole language, is a widely used lingua franca.
Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation; (German: Schweiz [ʃvaɪ̯t͡s], French: Suisse [sɥis], Italian: Svizzera [ˈzvit.t͡se.ra], Romansh: Svizra [svi.t͡sra]), is a landlocked country located at the confluence of Western, Central and Southern Europe. It is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons, with federal authorities based in Bern.Switzerland is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. It is geographically divided among the Swiss Plateau, the Alps and the Jura, spanning 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi) with land area comprising 39,997 km2 (15,443 sq mi). The Alps occupy the greater part of the territory.
The Swiss population of approximately 8.7 million is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities and economic centres are located, including Zürich, Geneva and Basel. These three cities are home to the headquarters or offices of international organisations such as the WTO, the WHO, the ILO, FIFA, and the United Nations’s second-largest office.
Switzerland originates from the Old Swiss Confederacy that was established in the Late Middle Ages following a series of military successes against Austria and Burgundy. The Federal Charter of 1291 is considered the country’s founding document, which is celebrated on Swiss National Day. Since the Reformation of the 16th century, Switzerland has maintained a policy of armed neutrality. Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognised in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Switzerland has not fought an international war since 1815. It joined the United Nations only in 2002, though it pursues an active foreign policy, including participation in frequent peace-building processes worldwide. Switzerland is the birthplace of the Red Cross, one of the world’s oldest and best-known humanitarian organisations. It is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), but not part of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area or the Eurozone. However, it participates in the European single market and the Schengen Area through bilateral treaties.
Switzerland has four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Although the majority population are German-speaking, Swiss national identity is rooted in its common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism. This identity, which transcends language, ethnicity, and religion, has led to Switzerland being described as a Willensnationcode: deu promoted to code: de (“nation of volition”) rather than a nation state.Due to its linguistic diversity, Switzerland is known by multiple native names: Schweizcode: deu promoted to code: de [ˈʃvaɪts] (German); Suisse [sɥis(ə)] (French); Svizzeracode: ita promoted to code: it [ˈzvittsera] (Italian); and Svizracode: roh promoted to code: rm [ˈʒviːtsrɐ, ˈʒviːtsʁɐ] (Romansh). On coins and stamps, the Latin name, Confoederatio Helveticacode: lat promoted to code: la – frequently shortened to “Helvetia” – is used instead of the spoken languages.
Switzerland is one of the world’s most developed countries. It has the highest nominal wealth per adult of any country and the eighth-highest gross domestic product per capita. Switzerland ranks 1st in the Human Developement Index since 2021, and it ranks highly also on several international metrics, including economic competitiveness and democratic governance. Its cities such as Zürich, Geneva and Basel rank among the highest in terms of quality of life, albeit with some of the highest costs of living.
Syria (Arabic: سُورِيَا or سُورِيَة, romanized: Sūriyā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية, romanized: al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a Western Asian country located in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant. It is a unitary republic that consists of 14 governorates (subdivisions), and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east and southeast, Jordan to the south, and Israel and Lebanon to the southwest. Cyprus lies to the west across the Mediterranean Sea. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including the majority Syrian Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Armenians, Circassians, Albanians, and Greeks. Religious groups include Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze, and Yazidis. The capital and largest city of Syria is Damascus. Arabs are the largest ethnic group, and Muslims are the largest religious group.
Syria is the only country that politically espouses the left-wing Arab nationalist and socialist ideology known as neo-Ba’athism. Syria is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement. It was suspended from the Arab League in November 2011 and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and self-suspended from the Union for the Mediterranean.The modern Syrian state was established in the mid-20th century after centuries of Ottoman rule. After a period as a French mandate (1923–1946), the newly created state represented the largest Arab state to emerge from the formerly Ottoman-ruled Syrian provinces. It gained de jure independence as a parliamentary republic on 24 October 1945 when the Republic of Syria became a founding member of the United Nations, an act which legally ended the former French Mandate (although French troops did not leave the country until April 1946).
The name “Syria” historically referred to a wider region, broadly synonymous with the Levant, and known in Arabic as al-Sham. The modern state encompasses the sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the 3rd millennium BC. Aleppo and the capital city Damascus are among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. In the Islamic era, Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt.
The post-independence period was tumultuous, with many military coups and coup attempts shaking the country from 1949 to 1971. In 1958, Syria entered a brief union with Egypt called the United Arab Republic, which was terminated by the 1961 Syrian coup d’état. The republic was renamed as the Arab Republic of Syria in late 1961 after the December 1 constitutional referendum of that year, and was increasingly unstable until the 1963 Ba’athist coup d’état, since which the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party has maintained its power. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens.
Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000 and was preceded by his father Hafez al-Assad, who was in office from 1971 to 2000. Throughout his rule, Assad regime and the ruling Ba’ath Party have been condemned and criticized for various human rights abuses, including frequent executions of citizens and political prisoners, and massive censorship. Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in a multi-sided civil war, with a number of countries in the region and beyond involved militarily or otherwise. As a result, a number of self-proclaimed political entities have emerged on Syrian territory, including the Syrian Interim Government, Syrian Salvation Government, Rojava and the Islamic State group. Syria was ranked last on the Global Peace Index from 2016 to 2018, making it the most violent country in the world due to the war. The conflict has killed more than 570,000 people, caused 7.6 million internally displaced people (July 2015 UNHCR estimate) and over 5 million refugees (July 2017 registered by UNHCR), making population assessment difficult in recent years.
Tajikistan ( (listen), ; Tajik: Тоҷикистон, romanized: Tojikiston; Russian: Таджикистан, romanized: Tadzhikistan), officially the Republic of Tajikistan (Tajik: Ҷумҳурии Тоҷикистон, romanized: Jumhurii Tojikiston), is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It has an area of 143,100 km2 (55,300 sq mi) and an estimated population of 9,749,625 people. Its capital and largest city is Dushanbe. It is bordered by Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east. It is separated narrowly from Pakistan by Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. The traditional homelands of the Tajiks include present-day Tajikistan as well as parts of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
The territory that now constitutes Tajikistan was previously home to several ancient cultures, including the city of Sarazm of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including the Oxus civilization, Andronovo culture, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Islam. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Achaemenid Empire, Sasanian Empire, Hephthalite Empire, Samanid Empire, and Mongol Empire. After being ruled by the Timurid Empire and Khanate of Bukhara, the Timurid Renaissance flourished. The region was later conquered by the Russian Empire and subsequently by the Soviet Union. Within the Soviet Union, the country’s modern borders were drawn when it was part of Uzbekistan as an autonomous republic before becoming a full-fledged Soviet republic in 1929.On 9 September 1991, Tajikistan declared itself an independent sovereign nation as the Soviet Union was disintegrating. A civil war was fought almost immediately after independence, lasting from 1992 to 1997. Since the end of the war, newly established political stability and foreign aid have allowed the country’s economy to grow. The country has been led by President Emomali Rahmon since 1994, who rules an authoritarian regime. There is extensive corruption and widespread violations of human rights, including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, worsening political repression, and a lack of religious freedom and other civil liberties.Tajikistan is a presidential republic consisting of four provinces. Most of Tajikistan’s population belongs to the Tajik ethnic group, who speak the Tajik language — the first official language — making it one of the three Persian speaking countries alongside Afghanistan and Iran. Russian is used as the official inter-ethnic language. While the state is constitutionally secular, Islam is nominally adhered to by 98% of the population. In the Gorno-Badakhshan oblast, despite its sparse population, there is large linguistic diversity where Rushani, Shughni, Ishkashimi, Wakhi and Tajik are some of the languages spoken. Mountains cover more than 90% of the country. It is a developing country with a transitional economy that is highly dependent on remittances, aluminium and cotton production. Tajikistan is a member of the United Nations, CIS, OSCE, OIC, ECO, SCO, and CSTO as well as a NATO PfP partner.
Tanzania (; Swahili: [tanzaˈni.a]), officially the United Republic of Tanzania (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a country in East Africa within the African Great Lakes region. It borders Uganda to the north; Kenya to the northeast; Comoro Islands and the Indian Ocean to the east; Mozambique and Malawi to the south; Zambia to the southwest; and Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, is in northeastern Tanzania. According to the United Nations, Tanzania has a population of 63.59 million, making it the most populous country located entirely south of the equator.
Many important hominid fossils have been found in Tanzania, such as 6-million-year-old Pliocene hominid fossils. The genus Australopithecus ranged across Africa between 4 and 2 million years ago, and the oldest remains of the genus Homo are found near Lake Olduvai. Following the rise of Homo erectus 1.8 million years ago, humanity spread all over the Old World, and later in the New World and Australia under the species Homo sapiens. H. sapiens also overtook Africa and absorbed the older species of humanity.
Later in the Stone and Bronze Age, prehistoric migrations into Tanzania included Southern Cushitic speakers who moved south from present-day Ethiopia; Eastern Cushitic people who moved into Tanzania from north of Lake Turkana about 2,000 and 4,000 years ago; and the Southern Nilotes, including the Datoog, who originated from the present-day South Sudan–Ethiopia border region between 2,900 and 2,400 years ago.: page 18 These movements took place at about the same time as the settlement of the Mashariki Bantu from West Africa in the Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika areas. They subsequently migrated across the rest of Tanzania between 2,300 and 1,700 years ago.German rule began in mainland Tanzania during the late 19th century when Germany formed German East Africa. This was followed by British rule after World War I. The mainland was governed as Tanganyika, with the Zanzibar Archipelago remaining a separate colonial jurisdiction. Following their respective independence in 1961 and 1963, the two entities merged in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Tanganyika joined the British Commonwealth in 1961 and Tanzania remains a member of the Commonwealth as a unified republic.Tanzania’s population is composed of about 120 ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. The sovereign state of Tanzania is a presidential constitutional republic and since 1996 its official capital city has been Dodoma where the president’s office, the National Assembly, and all government ministries are located. Dar es Salaam, the former capital, retains most government offices and is the country’s largest city, principal port, and leading commercial centre. Tanzania is a de facto one-party state with the democratic socialist Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in power.
Tanzania is mountainous and densely forested in the north-east, where Mount Kilimanjaro is located. Three of Africa’s Great Lakes are partly within Tanzania. To the north and west lie Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, and Lake Tanganyika, the continent’s deepest lake, known for its unique species of fish. To the south lies Lake Malawi. The eastern shore is hot and humid, with the Zanzibar Archipelago just offshore. The Menai Bay Conservation Area is Zanzibar’s largest marine protected area. The Kalambo Falls, located on the Kalambo River at the Zambian border, is the second-highest uninterrupted waterfall in Africa.Christianity is the largest religion in Tanzania, but there are also substantial Muslim and animist minorities. Over 100 different languages are spoken in Tanzania, making it the most linguistically diverse country in East Africa. The country does not have a de jure official language, although the national language is Swahili. Swahili is used in parliamentary debate, in the lower courts, and as a medium of instruction in primary school. English is used in foreign trade, in diplomacy, in higher courts, and as a medium of instruction in secondary and higher education; although the Tanzanian government is planning to discontinue English as the primary language of instruction, it will be available as an optional course. Approximately 10% of Tanzanians speak Swahili as a first language, and up to 90% speak it as a second language.
Thailand ( TY-land, TY-lənd), historically known as Siam and officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country in Southeast Asia, located at the centre of the Indochinese Peninsula, spanning 513,120 square kilometres (198,120 sq mi), with a population of almost 70 million. The country is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the extremity of Myanmar. Thailand also shares maritime borders with Vietnam to the southeast, and Indonesia and India to the southwest. Bangkok is the nation’s capital and largest city.
Tai peoples migrated from southwestern China to mainland Southeast Asia from the 11th century. Indianised kingdoms such as the Mon, Khmer Empire and Malay states ruled the region, competing with Thai states such as the Kingdoms of Ngoenyang, Sukhothai, Lan Na and Ayutthaya, which also rivalled each other. European contact began in 1511 with a Portuguese diplomatic mission to Ayutthaya, which became a regional power by the end of the 15th century. Ayutthaya reached its peak during the 18th century, until it was destroyed in the Burmese–Siamese War. Taksin quickly reunified the fragmented territory and established the short-lived Thonburi Kingdom. He was succeeded in 1782 by Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, the first monarch of the current Chakri dynasty. Throughout the era of Western imperialism in Asia, Siam remained the only nation in the region to avoid colonization by foreign powers, although it was often forced to cede territory, trade and legal concessions in unequal treaties. The Siamese system of government was centralised and transformed into a modern unitary absolute monarchy in the reign of Chulalongkorn. In World War I, Siam sided with the Allies, a political decision made in order to amend the unequal treaties. Following a bloodless revolution in 1932, it became a constitutional monarchy and changed its official name to Thailand, becoming an ally of Japan in World War II. In the late 1950s, a military coup under Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat revived the monarchy’s historically influential role in politics. Thailand became a major ally of the United States, and played an anti-communist role in the region as a member of the failed SEATO, but from 1975 sought to improve relations with Communist China and Thailand’s neighbours.
Apart from a brief period of parliamentary democracy in the mid-1970s, Thailand has periodically alternated between democracy and military rule. Since the 2000s the country has been caught in continual bitter political conflict between supporters and opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra, which resulted in two coups (in 2006 and 2014), along with the establishment of its current constitution, a nominally democratic government after the 2019 Thai general election, and large pro-democracy protests in 2020–2021 which included unprecedented demands to reform the monarchy. Since 2019, it has been nominally a parliamentary constitutional monarchy; in practice, however, structural advantages in the constitution have ensured the military’s hold on power.Thailand is a middle power in global affairs and a founding member of ASEAN, and ranks very high in the Human Development Index. It has the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia and the 22nd-largest in the world by PPP. Thailand is classified as a newly industrialised economy, with manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism as leading sectors.
East Timor ( (listen)), also known as Timor-Leste , officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is an island country in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the exclave of Oecusse on the island’s north-western half, and the minor islands of Atauro and Jaco. Australia is the country’s southern neighbour, separated by the Timor Sea. The country’s size is 14,874 square kilometres (5,743 sq mi). Dili is its capital and largest city.
East Timor came under Portuguese influence in the sixteenth century, remaining a Portuguese colony until 1975. Internal conflict preceded a unilateral declaration of independence and an Indonesian invasion and annexation. Resistance continued throughout Indonesian rule, and in 1999 a United Nations–sponsored act of self-determination led to Indonesia relinquishing control of the territory. On 20 May 2002, as Timor-Leste, it became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century.
The national government runs on a semi-presidential system, with the popularly elected president sharing power with a prime minister appointed by the National Parliament. Power is centralised under the national government, although many local leaders have informal influence. The country maintains a policy of international cooperation, and is a member of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, an observer of the Pacific Islands Forum, and an applicant for ASEAN membership. The country remains relatively poor, with an economy that relies heavily on natural resources, especially oil, and foreign aid.
The total population is over 1.1 million, and is heavily skewed towards young people due to a high fertility rate. Education has led to the increasing literacy over the past half-century, especially in the two national languages of Portuguese and Tetum. High ethnic and linguistic diversity is reflected by the 30 local dialects spoken in the country. The majority of the population is Catholic, which exists alongside strong local traditions, especially in rural areas.
Togo ( (listen)), officially the Togolese Republic (French: République togolaise), is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, where its capital, Lomé, is located. It covers about 57,000 square kilometres (22,000 square miles) with a population of approximately 8 million, and has a width of less than 115 km (71 mi) between Ghana and its eastern neighbor Benin.From the 11th to the 16th century, tribes entered the region from various directions. From the 16th century to the 18th century, the coastal region was a trading center for Europeans to purchase slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name “The Slave Coast”. In 1884, Germany declared a region including a protectorate called Togoland. After World War I, rule over Togo was transferred to France. Togo gained its independence from France in 1960. In 1967, Gnassingbé Eyadéma led a successful military coup d’état, after which he became president of an anti-communist, single-party state. In 1993, Eyadéma faced multiparty elections marred by irregularities, and won the presidency three times. At the time of his death, Eyadéma was the “longest-serving leader in modern African history”, having been president for 38 years. In 2005, his son Faure Gnassingbé was elected president.
Togo is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation whose economy depends mostly on agriculture. The official language is French, but other languages are spoken, particularly those of the Gbe family. The largest religious group is Christian (47.8%) and the second-largest is those with indigenous beliefs. There is a significant Muslim minority. Togo is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, Francophonie, Commonwealth, and Economic Community of West African States.
Tonga (, ; Tongan: [ˈtoŋa]), officially the Kingdom of Tonga (Tongan: Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga), is a Polynesian country and archipelago. The country has 171 islands – of which 45 are inhabited. Its total surface area is about 750 km2 (290 sq mi), scattered over 700,000 km2 (270,000 sq mi) in the southern Pacific Ocean. As of 2021, according to Johnson’s Tribune, Tonga has a population of 104,494, 70% of whom reside on the main island, Tongatapu. The country stretches approximately 800 km (500 mi) north-south. It is surrounded by Fiji and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northwest; Samoa to the northeast; New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu to the west; Niue (the nearest foreign territory) to the east; and Kermadec (New Zealand) to the southwest. Tonga is about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) from New Zealand’s North Island.
First inhabited roughly 2,500 years ago by the Lapita civilization, Tonga’s Polynesian settlers gradually evolved a distinct and strong ethnic identity, language, and culture as the Tongan people. They were quick to establish a powerful footing across the South Pacific, and this period of Tongan expansionism and colonization is known as the Tuʻi Tonga Empire. From the rule of the first Tongan king, ʻAhoʻeitu, Tonga grew into a regional power. It was a thalassocracy that conquered and controlled unprecedented swathes of the Pacific, from parts of the Solomon Islands and the whole of New Caledonia and Fiji in the west to Samoa and Niue and even as far as parts of modern-day French Polynesia in the east. Tuʻi Tonga became renowned for its economic, ethnic, and cultural influence over the Pacific, which remained strong even after the Samoan revolution of the 13th century and Europeans’ discovery of the islands in 1616.From 1900 to 1970, Tonga had British protected-state status. The United Kingdom looked after Tonga’s foreign affairs under a Treaty of Friendship, but Tonga never relinquished its sovereignty to any foreign power. In 2010, Tonga took a decisive step away from its traditional absolute monarchy and became a fully-functioning constitutional monarchy, after legislative reforms paved the way for its first partial representative elections.
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago ( (listen), ), officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is the southernmost island country in the Caribbean. Consisting of the main islands Trinidad and Tobago, and numerous much smaller islands, it is situated 130 kilometres (81 miles) south of Grenada and 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) off the coast of northeastern Venezuela. It shares maritime boundaries with Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest and Venezuela to the south and west. Trinidad and Tobago is generally considered to be part of the West Indies. The island country’s capital is Port of Spain, while its largest and most populous city is San Fernando.
The island of Trinidad was inhabited for centuries by Indigenous peoples before becoming a colony in the Spanish Empire, following the arrival of Christopher Columbus, in 1498. Spanish governor José María Chacón surrendered the island to a British fleet under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby in 1797. Trinidad and Tobago were ceded to Britain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens as separate states and unified in 1889. Trinidad and Tobago obtained independence in 1962, becoming a republic in 1976.Trinidad and Tobago has the 5th highest GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP) in the Americas for a sovereign state after the United States, Canada, The Bahamas and Guyana as of 2022. It is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Unlike most Caribbean nations and territories, which rely heavily on tourism, the economy is primarily industrial with an emphasis on petroleum and petrochemicals; much of the nation’s wealth is derived from its large reserves of oil and natural gas.Trinidad and Tobago is well known for its African and Indian cultures, reflected in its large and famous Carnival, Diwali, and Hosay celebrations, as well being the birthplace of steelpan, the limbo, and music styles such as calypso, soca, rapso, parang, chutney, and chutney soca.
Tunisia, officially the Republic of Tunisia, is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a part of the Maghreb region of North Africa, bordered by Algeria to the west and southwest, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. It features the archaeological sites of Carthage dating back to the 9th century BC, as well as the Great Mosque of Kairouan. Known for its ancient architecture, souks and blue coasts, it covers 163,610 km2 (63,170 sq mi), and has a population of 12.1 million. It contains the eastern end of the Atlas Mountains and the northern reaches of the Sahara desert; much of its remaining territory is arable land. Its 1,300 km (810 mi) of coastline include the African conjunction of the western and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Basin. Tunisia is home to Africa’s northernmost point, Cape Angela; and its capital and largest city is Tunis, which is located on its northeastern coast, and lends the country its name.
Beginning in early antiquity, Tunisia was inhabited by the indigenous Imazighen. Phoenicians began to arrive in the 12th century BC, establishing several settlements, of which Carthage emerged as the most powerful by the 7th century BC. Carthage was a major mercantile empire and a military rival to the Roman Republic until 146 BC, when it was defeated by the Romans who occupied Tunisia for most of the next 800 years. The Romans introduced Christianity and left architectural legacies like the Amphitheatre of El Jem. In the 7th century AD, Muslims conquered all of Tunisia (finally succeeding in 697 after several attempts starting in 647), and they brought Islam and Arab culture to the local inhabitants. Then, in 1546, the Ottoman Empire established control there, holding sway for over 300 years, until 1881, when the French conquered Tunisia. In 1956, Tunisia gained independence as the Tunisian Republic under the leadership of Habib Bourguiba with the help of activists such as Chedly Kallala, Farhat Hached and Salah ben Youssef. Today, Tunisia’s culture and identity are rooted in this centuries-long intersection of different cultures and ethnicities.
In 2011, the Tunisian Revolution, which was triggered by dissatisfaction with the lack of freedom and democracy under the 24-year rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, overthrew his regime and catalyzed the broader Arab Spring movement across the region. Free multiparty parliamentary elections were held shortly thereafter; the country again voted for parliament on 26 October 2014, and for president on 23 November 2014. After the 2022 constitutional referendum, Tunisia became a unitary presidential representative democratic republic. From 2014 to 2020, it was considered the only democratic state in the Arab World, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, and was rated a hybrid regime in the 2021 Index. It is one of the few countries in Africa ranking high in the Human Development Index, with one of the highest per capita incomes on the continent, ranking 129th in GDP per capita income.
Tunisia is well integrated into the international community. It is a member of the United Nations, La Francophonie, the Arab League, the OIC, the African Union, the COMESA, the Non-Aligned Movement, the International Criminal Court, and the Group of 77, among others. It maintains close economic and political relations with some European countries, particularly with France, and Italy, due to their geographical proximity. Tunisia also has an association agreement with the European Union and has attained the status of a major non-NATO ally of the United States.
Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye [ˈtyɾcije]), officially the Republic of Türkiye (Turkish: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti [ˈtyɾcije dʒumˈhuːɾijeti] (listen)), is a transcontinental country located mainly on the Anatolian Peninsula in Western Asia, with a small portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. It shares borders with the Black Sea to the north; Georgia to the northeast; Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east; Iraq to the southeast; Syria and the Mediterranean Sea to the south; the Aegean Sea to the west; and Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest. Cyprus is located off the south coast. Turks form the vast majority of the nation’s population and Kurds are the largest minority. Ankara is Turkey’s capital, while Istanbul is its largest city and financial centre.
One of the world’s earliest permanently settled regions, present-day Turkey was home to important Neolithic sites like Göbekli Tepe, and was inhabited by ancient civilisations including the Hattians, Hittites, Anatolian peoples, Mycenaean Greeks, Persians and others. Following the conquests of Alexander the Great which started the Hellenistic period, most of the ancient regions in modern Turkey were culturally Hellenised, which continued during the Byzantine era. The Seljuk Turks began migrating in the 11th century, and the Sultanate of Rum ruled Anatolia until the Mongol invasion in 1243, when it disintegrated into small Turkish principalities. Beginning in the late 13th century, the Ottomans united the principalities and conquered the Balkans, and the Turkification of Anatolia increased during the Ottoman period. After Mehmed II conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, Ottoman expansion continued under Selim I. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire became a global power. From the late 18th century onwards, the empire’s power declined with a gradual loss of territories. Mahmud II started a period of modernisation in the early 19th century. The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 restricted the authority of the Sultan and restored the Ottoman Parliament after a 30-year suspension, ushering the empire into a multi-party period. The 1913 coup d’état put the country under the control of the Three Pashas, who facilitated the Empire’s entry into World War I as part of the Central Powers in 1914. During the war, the Ottoman government committed genocides against its Armenian, Greek and Assyrian subjects. After its defeat in the war, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned.The Turkish War of Independence against the occupying Allied Powers resulted in the abolition of the Sultanate on 1 November 1922, the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne (which superseded the Treaty of Sèvres) on 24 July 1923 and the proclamation of the Republic on 29 October 1923. With the reforms initiated by the country’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey became a secular, unitary and parliamentary republic. Turkey played a prominent role in the Korean War and joined NATO in 1952. The country endured several military coups in the latter half of the 20th century. The economy was liberalised in the 1980s, leading to stronger economic growth and political stability. The parliamentary republic was replaced with a presidential system by referendum in 2017.
Turkey is a regional power and a newly industrialized country, with a geopolitically strategic location. Its economy, which is classified among the emerging and growth-leading economies, is the twentieth-largest in the world by nominal GDP, and the eleventh-largest by PPP. In addition to being an early member of NATO, Turkey is a charter member of the United Nations, the IMF, and the World Bank, and a founding member of the OECD, OSCE, BSEC, OIC, OTS and G20. After becoming one of the early members of the Council of Europe in 1950, Turkey became an associate member of the EEC in 1963, joined the EU Customs Union in 1995, and started accession negotiations with the European Union in 2005. Turkey has a rich cultural legacy shaped by centuries of history and the influence of the various peoples that have inhabited its territory over several millennia; it is home to 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is among the most visited countries in the world.
Turkmenistan ( (listen) or (listen); Turkmen: Türkmenistan / Түркменистан, pronounced [tʏɾkmønʏˈθːɑːn]) is a country located in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, east and northeast, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest and the Caspian Sea to the west. Ashgabat is the capital and largest city. The population is about 6 million, the lowest of the Central Asian republics, and Turkmenistan is one of the most sparsely populated nations in Asia.Turkmenistan has long served as a thoroughfare for other nations and cultures. Merv is one of the oldest oasis-cities in Central Asia, and was once the biggest city in the world. It was also one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road. Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, Turkmenistan figured prominently in the anti-Bolshevik movement in Central Asia. In 1925, Turkmenistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR); it became independent after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.Turkmenistan possesses the world’s fifth largest reserves of natural gas. Most of the country is covered by the Karakum Desert. From 1993 to 2017, citizens received government-provided electricity, water and natural gas free of charge.Turkmenistan is an observer state in the Organisation of Turkic States, the Türksoy community and a member of the United Nations. It is also the only permanent neutral country recognized by the UN General Assembly in Asia.The country is widely criticized for its poor human rights, its treatment of minorities, press and religious freedoms. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkmenistan has been ruled by repressive totalitarian regimes, that of President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov (also known as Türkmenbaşy or “Head of the Turkmens”) until his death in 2006, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who became president in 2007 after winning a non-democratic election (he had been vice-president and then acting president previously) and ruled the country until he stepped down in 2022 in favour of his son Serdar, who won a subsequent presidential election described by international observers as neither free nor fair. The use of the death penalty was suspended in 1999, before being formally abolished in 2008.
Tuvalu ( (listen) too-VAH-loo or TOO-və-loo; formerly known as the Ellice Islands) is an island country and microstate in the Polynesian subregion of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean. Its islands are situated about midway between Hawaii and Australia. They lie east-northeast of the Santa Cruz Islands (which belong to the Solomon Islands), northeast of Vanuatu, southeast of Nauru, south of Kiribati, west of Tokelau, northwest of Samoa and Wallis and Futuna, and north of Fiji. Tuvalu is composed of three reef islands and six atolls. They are spread out between the latitude of 5° and 10° south and between the longitude of 176° and 180°. They lie west of the International Date Line. Tuvalu has a population of 10,507 (2017 census). The total land area of the islands of Tuvalu is 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi).
The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesians, according to well-established theories regarding a migration of Polynesians into the Pacific that began about three thousand years ago. Long before European contact with the Pacific islands, Polynesians frequently voyaged by canoe between the islands. Polynesian navigation skills enabled them to make elaborately planned journeys in either double-hulled sailing canoes or outrigger canoes. Scholars believe that the Polynesians spread out from Samoa and Tonga into the Tuvaluan atolls, which then served as a stepping stone for further migration into the Polynesian outliers in Melanesia and Micronesia.In 1568, Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña became the first European to sail through the archipelago, sighting the island of Nui during an expedition he was making in search of Terra Australis. The island of Funafuti was named Ellice’s Island in 1819. Later, the whole group was named Ellice Islands by English hydrographer Alexander George Findlay. In the late 19th century, Great Britain claimed control over the Ellice Islands, designating them as within their sphere of influence. Between 9 and 16 October 1892, Captain Gibson of HMS Curacoa declared each of the Ellice Islands to be a British protectorate. Britain assigned a resident commissioner to administer the Ellice Islands as part of the British Western Pacific Territories (BWPT). From 1916 to 1975, they were managed as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony.
A referendum was held in 1974 to determine whether the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands should each have their own administration. Due to the results of the referendum, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony legally ceased to exist on 1 October 1975, and on 1 January 1976, the old administration was officially separated, and two separate British colonies, Kiribati and Tuvalu, were formed. On 1 October 1978, Tuvalu became fully independent as a sovereign state within the Commonwealth, and is a Constitutional Monarchy with King Charles III as King of Tuvalu. On 5 September 2000, Tuvalu became the 189th member of the United Nations.
The islands do not have a significant amount of soil, so rely heavily on imports and fishing for food, with fishing and tourism being principal parts of the economy. Because it is a small, low-lying island nation, the country is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise due to climate change. It is active in international climate negotiations as part of the Alliance of Small Island States.
Uganda (Yuganda in Ugandan languages), officially the Republic of Uganda (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Uganda), is a landlocked country in East Africa. The country is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate. It has a population of around 49 million, of which 8.5 million live in the capital and largest city of Kampala.
Uganda is named after the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala and whose language Luganda is widely spoken throughout the country. From 1894, the area was ruled as a protectorate by the United Kingdom, which established administrative law across the territory. Uganda gained independence from the UK on 9 October 1962. The period since then has been marked by violent conflicts, including an eight-year-long military dictatorship led by Idi Amin.
The official language is English, although the Constitution states that “any other language may be used as a medium of instruction in schools or other educational institutions or for legislative, administrative or judicial purposes as may be prescribed by law.” Luganda, a central region-based language, is widely spoken across the Central and South Eastern regions of the country, and several other languages are also spoken, including Ateso, Lango, Acholi, Runyoro, Runyankole, Rukiga, Luo, Rutooro, Samia, Jopadhola, and Lusoga. In 2005 Swahili, which is foreign and so viewed as being neutral, was proposed as the Uganda’s second official language. But this has yet to be ratified by parliament. In 2022 Uganda has decided to make Swahili a mandatory subject in the school curriculum.Uganda’s current president is Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who took power in January 1986 after a protracted six-year guerrilla war. Following constitutional amendments that removed term limits for the president, he was able to stand and was elected president in the 2011, 2016 and 2021 general elections.
Ukraine (Ukrainian: Україна, romanized: Ukraïna, pronounced [ʊkrɐˈjinɐ] (listen)) is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the second-largest European country after Russia, which it borders to the east and northeast. Ukraine covers approximately 600,000 square kilometres (230,000 sq mi). Prior to the ongoing Russian invasion, it was the eighth-most populous country in Europe, with a population of around 41 million people. It is also bordered by Belarus to the north; by Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west; and by Romania and Moldova to the southwest; with a coastline along the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to the south and southeast. Kyiv is the nation’s capital and largest city. Ukraine’s state language is Ukrainian; Russian is also widely spoken, especially in the east and south.
During the Middle Ages, the area was a key centre of East Slavic culture under the state of Kievan Rus’, which emerged in the 9th century. The state fragmented into rival principalities, including Galicia–Volhynia, and was ultimately destroyed by the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. The area was then contested, divided, and ruled by a variety of external powers for the next 600 years, including the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Austrian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Tsardom of Russia. The Cossack Hetmanate emerged in central Ukraine in the 17th century, but was partitioned between Russia and Poland, and ultimately absorbed by the Russian Empire. Ukrainian nationalism developed, and following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic was formed. The Bolsheviks consolidated control over much of the former empire and established the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union when it was formed in 1922. In the early 1930s, millions of Ukrainians died in the Holodomor, a man-made famine. During World War II, Ukraine was devastated by the German occupation.
Ukraine gained independence in 1991 as the Soviet Union dissolved, and declared itself neutral. A new constitution was adopted in 1996. A series of mass demonstrations, known as the Euromaidan, led to the establishment of a new government in 2014 after a revolution. Russia then unilaterally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula; and pro-Russian unrest culminated in a war between Russian-backed separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine. Russia later launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Since the outbreak of war with Russia, Ukraine has continued to seek closer ties with the European Union and NATO.Ukraine is a unitary state with a semi-presidential system. It is a developing country, ranking 77th on the Human Development Index. Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe by nominal GDP per capita, and corruption remains a significant issue. However, due to its extensive fertile land, pre-war Ukraine was one of the largest grain exporters in the world. It is a founding member of the United Nations, as well as a member of the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, and the OSCE. It is in the process of joining the European Union and has submitted an application for NATO membership.
United States of America
The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territories, nine Minor Outlying Islands, and 326 Indian reservations. It is the world’s third-largest country by both land and total area. The United States shares land borders with Canada to its north and with Mexico to its south. It has maritime borders with the Bahamas, Cuba, Russia, and other nations. With a population of over 331 million, it is the most populous country in the Americas and the third most populous in the world. The national capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city and financial center is New York City.
Paleo-Americans migrated from Siberia to the North American mainland at least 12,000 years ago, and advanced cultures began to appear later on. These advanced cultures had almost completely declined by the time Europeans arrived in North America and began to colonize the continent. The United States emerged from the Thirteen British Colonies when disputes with the British Crown over taxation and political representation led to the American Revolution (1765–1791), which established the nation’s independence. In the late 18th century, the U.S. began expanding across North America, gradually obtaining new territories, sometimes through war, frequently displacing Native Americans, and admitting new states. By 1848, the United States spanned the continent from east to west. The controversy surrounding the practice of slavery culminated in the secession of the Confederate States of America, which fought the remaining states of the Union during the American Civil War (1861–1865). With the Union’s victory and preservation, slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment.
By 1900, the United States had become the world’s largest economy, and the Spanish–American War and World War I established the country as a world power. After Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. entered World War II on the Allied side. The aftermath of the war left the United States and the Soviet Union as the world’s two superpowers. During the Cold War, both countries engaged in a struggle for ideological dominance but avoided direct military conflict. They also competed in the Space Race, which culminated in the 1969 American spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. Simultaneously, the civil rights movement (1954–1968) led to legislation abolishing state and local Jim Crow laws and other codified racial discrimination against African Americans. The Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991 ended the Cold War, leaving the United States as the world’s sole superpower. The September 11 attacks in 2001 resulted in the United States launching the war on terror, which included the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021) and the Iraq War (2003–2011).
The United States is a federal republic with three separate branches of government, including a bicameral legislature. It is a liberal democracy and market economy; it ranks high in international measures of human rights, quality of life, income and wealth, economic competitiveness, and education; and it has low levels of perceived corruption. It has high levels of incarceration and inequality, allows capital punishment, and lacks universal health care. As a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, the U.S. has been shaped by centuries of immigration.
The United States is a highly developed country, and its economy accounts for approximately a quarter of global GDP and is the world’s largest by GDP at market exchange rates. By value, the United States is the world’s largest importer and second-largest exporter. Although it accounts for just over 4.2% of the world’s total population, the U.S. holds over 30% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share held by any country. The United States is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States, NATO, and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The country makes up more than a third of global military spending and is the foremost military power in the world and a leading political, cultural, and scientific force.
Uruguay ( (listen); Spanish: [uɾuˈɣwaj] (listen)), officially the Republic East of the Uruguay (Spanish: República Oriental del Uruguay), is a country in South America. It shares borders with Argentina to its west and southwest and Brazil to its north and northeast; while bordering the Río de la Plata to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast. It is part of the Southern Cone region of South America. Uruguay covers an area of approximately 181,034 square kilometers (69,898 sq mi) and has a population of an estimated 3.4 million, of whom around 2 million live in the metropolitan area of its capital and largest city, Montevideo.
The area that became Uruguay was first inhabited by groups of hunter–gatherers 13,000 years ago. The predominant tribe at the moment of the arrival of Europeans was the Charrúa people, when the Portuguese first established Colónia do Sacramento in 1680; Uruguay was colonized by Europeans late relative to neighboring countries. The Spanish founded Montevideo as a military stronghold in the early 18th century because of the competing claims over the region. Uruguay won its independence between 1811 and 1828, following a four-way struggle between Portugal and Spain, and later Argentina and Brazil. It remained subject to foreign influence and intervention throughout the 19th century, with the military playing a recurring role in domestic politics. A series of economic crises and the political repression against left-wing guerrilla activity in the late 1960s and early 1970s put an end to a democratic period that had begun in the early 20th century, culminating in the 1973 coup d’état, which established a civic-military dictatorship. The military government persecuted leftists, socialists, and political opponents, resulting in deaths and numerous instances of torture by the military; the military relinquished power to a civilian government in 1985. Uruguay is today a democratic constitutional republic, with a president who serves as both head of state and head of government.
Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, low perception of corruption, and e-government. It is the lowest ranking South American nation in the Global Terrorism Index, and ranks second in the continent on economic freedom, income equality, per-capita income, and inflows of FDI. Uruguay is the third-best country on the continent in terms of Human Development Index, GDP growth, innovation, and infrastructure. Uruguay is regarded as one of the most socially progressive countries in Latin America. It ranks high on global measures of personal rights, tolerance, and inclusion issues, including its acceptance of the LGBT community. The country has legalized cannabis, same-sex marriage, prostitution and abortion. Uruguay is a founding member of the United Nations, OAS, and Mercosur.
Uzbekistan (UK: , US: ; Uzbek: Oʻzbekiston / Ўзбекистон, pronounced [ozbekiˈstɒn]; Russian: Узбекистан), officially the Republic of Uzbekistan (Uzbek: Oʻzbekiston Respublikasi / Ўзбекистон Республикаси; Russian: Республика Узбекистан), is a doubly landlocked country located in Central Asia. It is surrounded by five landlocked countries: Kazakhstan to the north; Kyrgyzstan to the northeast; Tajikistan to the southeast; Afghanistan to the south; and Turkmenistan to the southwest. Its capital and largest city is Tashkent. Uzbekistan is part of the Turkic world, as well as a member of the Organization of Turkic States. The Uzbek language is the majority-spoken language in Uzbekistan, other languages includes Russian and Tajik, spoken predominantly in Samarkand and Bukhara. Islam is the predominant religion in Uzbekistan, most Uzbeks being Sunni Muslims.The first recorded settlers in what is now Uzbekistan were Eastern Iranian nomads, known as Scythians, who founded kingdoms in Khwarazm (8th–6th centuries BC), Bactria (8th–6th centuries BC), Sogdia (8th–6th centuries BC), Fergana (3rd century BC – sixth century AD), and Margiana (3rd century BC – sixth century AD). The area was incorporated into the Iranian Achaemenid Empire and, after a period of Macedonian rule, was ruled by the Iranian Parthian Empire and later by the Sasanian Empire, until the Muslim conquest of Persia in the seventh century.
The early Muslim conquests and the subsequent Samanid Empire converted most of the people, including the local ruling classes, into adherents of Islam. During this period, cities such as Samarkand, Khiva, and Bukhara began to grow rich from the Silk Road, and became a center of the Islamic Golden Age, with figures such as Muhammad al-Bukhari, Al-Tirmidhi, al Khwarizmi, al-Biruni, Avicenna, and Omar Khayyam.
The local Khwarazmian dynasty was destroyed by the Mongol invasion in the 13th century, leading to a dominance by Turkic peoples. Timur (Tamerlane) who in the 14th century established the Timurid Empire was from Shahrisabz and with his capital in Samarkand, which became a centre of science under the rule of Ulugh Beg, giving birth to the Timurid Renaissance.
The territories of the Timurid dynasty were conquered by Uzbek Shaybanids in the 16th century, moving the centre of power to Bukhara. The region was split into three states: the Khanate of Khiva, Khanate of Kokand, and Emirate of Bukhara. Conquests by Emperor Babur towards the east led to the foundation of the Mughal Empire in India.
All of Central Asia was gradually incorporated into the Russian Empire during the 19th century, with Tashkent becoming the political center of Russian Turkestan. In 1924, national delimitation created the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic as an independent republic within the Soviet Union. Shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it declared independence as the Republic of Uzbekistan on 31 August 1991.
Uzbekistan is a secular state, with a presidential constitutional government in place. Uzbekistan comprises 12 regions (vilayats), Tashkent City, and one autonomous republic, Karakalpakstan. While non-governmental human rights organisations have defined Uzbekistan as “an authoritarian state with limited civil rights”, significant reforms under Uzbekistan’s second president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, have been made following the death of the first president, Islam Karimov. Owing to these reforms, relations with the neighbouring countries of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan have drastically improved. A United Nations report of 2020 found much progress toward achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.The Uzbek economy is in a gradual transition to the market economy, with foreign trade policy being based on import substitution. In September 2017, the country’s currency became fully convertible at market rates. Uzbekistan is a major producer and exporter of cotton. With the gigantic power-generation facilities from the Soviet era and an ample supply of natural gas, Uzbekistan has become the largest electricity producer in Central Asia.From 2018 to 2021, the republic received a BB- rating by both Standard and Poor (S&P) and Fitch. Strengths indicated by the Brookings Institution include Uzbekistan having large liquid assets, high economic growth, and low public debt. Among the constraints holding the republic back is the low GDP per capita. Uzbekistan is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Vanuatu (English: (listen) VAH-noo-AH-too or van-WAH-too; Bislama and French pronunciation [vanuatu]), officially the Republic of Vanuatu (French: République de Vanuatu; Bislama: Ripablik blong Vanuatu), is an island country located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is 1,750 km (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 540 km (340 mi) northeast of New Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of the Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji.
Vanuatu was first inhabited by Melanesian people. The first Europeans to visit the islands were a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Fernandes de Queirós, who arrived on the largest island, Espíritu Santo, in 1606. Queirós claimed the archipelago for Spain, as part of the colonial Spanish East Indies, and named it La Austrialia del Espíritu Santo.
In the 1880s, France and the United Kingdom claimed parts of the archipelago, and in 1906, they agreed on a framework for jointly managing the archipelago as the New Hebrides through an Anglo-French condominium.
An independence movement arose in the 1970s, and the Republic of Vanuatu was founded in 1980. Since independence, the country has become a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Venezuela (; American Spanish: [beneˈswela] (listen)), officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Spanish: República Bolivariana de Venezuela), is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continental landmass and many islands and islets in the Caribbean Sea. It has a territorial extension of 916,445 km2 (353,841 sq mi), and its population was estimated at 29 million in 2022. The capital and largest urban agglomeration is the city of Caracas.
The continental territory is bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Colombia, Brazil on the south, Trinidad and Tobago to the north-east and on the east by Guyana. The Venezuelan government maintains a claim against Guyana to Guayana Esequiba. Venezuela is a federal presidential republic consisting of 23 states, the Capital District and federal dependencies covering Venezuela’s offshore islands. Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in Latin America; the vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north and in the capital.
The territory of Venezuela was colonized by Spain in 1522 amid resistance from indigenous peoples. In 1811, it became one of the first Spanish-American territories to declare independence from the Spanish and to form part, as a department, of the first federal Republic of Colombia (historiographically known as Gran Colombia). It separated as a full sovereign country in 1830. During the 19th century, Venezuela suffered political turmoil and autocracy, remaining dominated by regional military dictators until the mid-20th century. Since 1958, the country has had a series of democratic governments, as an exception where most of the region was ruled by military dictatorships, and the period was characterized by economic prosperity. Economic shocks in the 1980s and 1990s led to major political crises and widespread social unrest, including the deadly Caracazo riots of 1989, two attempted coups in 1992, and the impeachment of a President for embezzlement of public funds charges in 1993. The collapse in confidence in the existing parties saw the 1998 Venezuelan presidential election, the catalyst for the Bolivarian Revolution, which began with a 1999 Constituent Assembly, where a new Constitution of Venezuela was imposed. The government’s populist social welfare policies were bolstered by soaring oil prices, temporarily increasing social spending, and reducing economic inequality and poverty in the early years of the regime. However, poverty began to increase in the 2010s. The 2013 Venezuelan presidential election was widely disputed leading to widespread protest, which triggered another nationwide crisis that continues to this day. Venezuela has experienced democratic backsliding, shifting into an authoritarian state. It ranks low in international measurements of freedom of the press and civil liberties and has high levels of perceived corruption.Venezuela is a developing country and ranks 113th on the Human Development Index. It has the world’s largest known oil reserves and has been one of the world’s leading exporters of oil. Previously, the country was an underdeveloped exporter of agricultural commodities such as coffee and cocoa, but oil quickly came to dominate exports and government revenues. The excesses and poor policies of the incumbent government led to the collapse of Venezuela’s entire economy. The country struggles with record hyperinflation, shortages of basic goods, unemployment, poverty, disease, high child mortality, malnutrition, severe crime and corruption. These factors have precipitated the Venezuelan migrant crisis where more than three million people have fled the country. By 2017, Venezuela was declared to be in default regarding debt payments by credit rating agencies. The crisis in Venezuela has contributed to a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation, including increased abuses such as torture, arbitrary imprisonment, extrajudicial killings and attacks on human rights advocates. Venezuela is a charter member of the UN, Organization of American States (OAS), Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), ALBA, Mercosur, Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) and Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI).
Vietnam or Viet Nam (Vietnamese: Việt Nam, [vîət nāːm] (listen)), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is a country in Southeast Asia, at the eastern edge of mainland Southeast Asia, with an area of 311,699 square kilometres (120,348 sq mi) and population of 96 million, making it the world’s fifteenth-most populous country. Vietnam borders China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west. It shares maritime borders with Thailand through the Gulf of Thailand, and the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia through the South China Sea. Its capital is Hanoi and its largest city is Ho Chi Minh City (commonly known as Saigon).
Vietnam was inhabited by the Paleolithic age, with states established in the first millennium BC on the Red River Delta in modern-day northern Vietnam. The Han dynasty annexed Northern and Central Vietnam under Chinese rule from 111 BC, until the first dynasty emerged in 939. Successive monarchical dynasties absorbed Chinese influences through Confucianism and Buddhism, and expanded southward to the Mekong Delta, conquering Champa. The Nguyễn—the last imperial dynasty—surrendered to France in 1883. Following the August Revolution, the nationalist Viet Minh under the leadership of communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh proclaimed independence from France in 1945.
Vietnam went through prolonged warfare in the 20th century. After World War II, France returned to reclaim colonial power in the First Indochina War, from which Vietnam emerged victorious in 1954. As a result of treaties signed two years later, Vietnam was also separated into two parts. The Vietnam War began shortly after, it was the war between communist North supported by the Soviet Union and China, and anti-communist South supported by the United States. Upon the North Vietnamese victory in 1975, Vietnam reunified as a unitary socialist state under the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) in 1976. An ineffective planned economy, a trade embargo by the West, and wars with Cambodia and China crippled the country further. In 1986, the CPV initiated economic and political reforms similar to the Chinese economic reform, transforming the country to a market-oriented economy. The reforms facilitated Vietnamese reintegration into global economy and politics.
A developing country with a lower-middle-income economy, Vietnam is nonetheless one of the fastest growing economies of the 21st century, with GDP predicted to rival developed nations by 2050. Vietnam has high levels of corruption, censorship and a poor human rights record; the country ranks among the lowest in international measurements of civil liberties, freedom of the press and freedom of religion and ethnic minorities. It is part of international and intergovernmental institutions including the ASEAN, the APEC, the CPTPP, the Non-Aligned Movement, the OIF, and the WTO. It has assumed a seat on the United Nations Security Council twice.
Yemen ( (listen); Arabic: ٱلْيَمَن, romanized: al-Yaman), officially the Republic of Yemen, is a country in Western Asia. It is situated on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, and borders Saudi Arabia to the north and Oman to the northeast and shares maritime borders with Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia. Yemen is the second-largest Arab sovereign state in the peninsula, occupying 555,000 square kilometres (214,000 square miles), with a coastline stretching about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles). Its constitutionally stated capital, and largest city, is Sanaa. As of 2021, Yemen has an estimated population of some 30.4 million.
In ancient times, Yemen was the home of the Sabaeans, a trading state that included parts of modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea. Later in 275 AD, the Himyarite Kingdom was influenced by Judaism. Christianity arrived in the fourth century. Islam spread quickly in the seventh century and Yemenite troops were crucial in the early Islamic conquests. Several dynasties emerged in the 9th to 16th centuries, such as the Rasulid dynasty. The country was divided between the Ottoman and British empires in the 1800s. The Zaydi Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen was established after World War I before the creation of the Yemen Arab Republic in 1962. South Yemen remained a British protectorate as the Aden Protectorate until 1967 when it became an independent state and later, a Marxist-Leninist state. The two Yemeni states united to form the modern Republic of Yemen (al-Jumhūrīyah al-Yamanīyah) in 1990. President Ali Abdullah Saleh was the first president of the new republic until his resignation in 2012 in the wake of the Arab Spring.Since 2011, Yemen has been in a state of political crisis starting with street protests against poverty, unemployment, corruption, and president Saleh’s plan to amend Yemen’s constitution and eliminate the presidential term limit. President Saleh stepped down and the powers of the presidency were transferred to Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Since then, the country has been in a civil war (alongside the Saudi Arabian-led military intervention aimed at restoring Hadi’s government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels) with several proto-state entities claiming to govern Yemen: the Cabinet of Yemen/Presidential Leadership Council, Supreme Political Council, and the Southern Transitional Council. At least 56,000 civilians and combatants have been killed in armed violence in Yemen since January 2016. The war has resulted in a famine affecting 17 million people. The lack of safe drinking water, caused by depleted aquifers and the destruction of the country’s water infrastructure, has also caused the largest, fastest-spreading cholera outbreak in modern history, with the number of suspected cases exceeding 994,751. Over 2,226 people have died since the outbreak began to spread rapidly at the end of April 2017. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and conflict has received widespread criticism for having a dramatic worsening effect on Yemen’s humanitarian situation, that some say has reached the level of a “humanitarian disaster” and some have even labelled it as a genocide. It has worsened the country’s already-poor human rights situation.
Yemen is a member of the Arab League, the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It belongs to the least developed country group, referring to its numerous “severe structural impediments to sustainable development”. In 2019, the United Nations reported that Yemen is the country with the most people in need of humanitarian aid, about 24 million people, or 85% of its population. As of 2020, the country is placed the highest in the Fragile State Index, the second worst in the Global Hunger Index, surpassed only by the Central African Republic, and has the lowest Human Development Index out of all non-African countries.
Zambia , officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central, Southern and East Africa, although it is typically referred to as being in Southern Africa at its most central point. Its neighbours are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the northeast, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the south, Namibia to the southwest, and Angola to the west. The capital city of Zambia is Lusaka, located in the south-central part of Zambia. The nation’s population of around 19.5 million is concentrated mainly around Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt Province to the north, the core economic hubs of the country.
Originally inhabited by Khoisan peoples, the region was affected by the Bantu expansion of the thirteenth century. Following the arrival of European explorers in the eighteenth century, the British colonised the region into the British protectorates of Barotseland-North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia comprising 73 tribes, towards the end of the nineteenth century. These were merged in 1911 to form Northern Rhodesia. For most of the colonial period, Zambia was governed by an administration appointed from London with the advice of the British South Africa Company.On 24 October 1964, Zambia became independent of the United Kingdom and prime minister Kenneth Kaunda became the inaugural president. Kaunda’s socialist United National Independence Party (UNIP) maintained power from 1964 until 1991. Kaunda played a key role in regional diplomacy, cooperating closely with the United States in search of solutions to conflicts in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Angola, and Namibia. From 1972 to 1991 Zambia was a one-party state with UNIP as the sole legal political party under the motto “One Zambia, One Nation” coined by Kaunda. Kaunda was succeeded by Frederick Chiluba of the social-democratic Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in 1991, beginning a period of socio-economic development and government decentralisation. Zambia has since become a multi-party state and has experienced several peaceful transitions of power.
Zambia contains abundant natural resources, including minerals, wildlife, forestry, freshwater and arable land. In 2010, the World Bank named Zambia one of the world’s fastest economically reformed countries. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is headquartered in Lusaka.
Zimbabwe , officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in Southeast Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the south-west, Zambia to the north, and Mozambique to the east. The capital and largest city is Harare. The second largest city is Bulawayo. A country of roughly 15 million people, Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, with English, Shona, and Ndebele the most common. It was once referred to by Samora Machel as the “Jewel of Africa” for its great prosperity during the early years of Robert Mugabe.Beginning in the 9th century, during its late Iron Age, the Bantu people (who would become the ethnic Shona) built the city-state of Great Zimbabwe which became one of the major African trade centres by the 11th century, controlling the gold, ivory and copper trades with the Swahili coast, which were connected to Arab and Indian states. By the mid 15th century, the city-state had been abandoned. From there, the Kingdom of Zimbabwe was established, followed by the Rozvi and Mutapa empires.
The British South Africa Company of Cecil Rhodes demarcated the Rhodesia region in 1890 when they conquered Mashonaland and later in 1893 Matabeleland after a fierce resistance by Matabele people known as the First Matabele War. Company rule ended in 1923 with the establishment of Southern Rhodesia as a self-governing British colony. In 1965, the white separatist minority government unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia. The state endured international isolation and a 15-year guerrilla war with black nationalist forces; this culminated in a peace agreement that established universal enfranchisement and de jure sovereignty as Zimbabwe in April 1980. Zimbabwe then joined the Commonwealth of Nations, from which it was suspended in 2002 for breaches of international law by its government under Robert Mugabe and from which it withdrew in December 2003.
Mugabe became Prime Minister of Zimbabwe in 1980, when his ZANU–PF party won the general election following the end of white minority rule; he was the President of Zimbabwe from 1987 until his resignation in 2017. Under Mugabe’s authoritarian regime, the state security apparatus dominated the country and was responsible for widespread human rights violations. From 2000 to 2009 the economy experienced decline and hyperinflation before rebounding after the use of currencies other than the Zimbabwean dollar was permitted, although growth has since faltered “The Zimbabwean dollar once had a 100 trillion dollar bill”. On 15 November 2017, in the wake of over a year of protests against his government as well as Zimbabwe’s rapidly declining economy, Mugabe was placed under house arrest by the country’s national army in a coup d’état, and Mugabe resigned six days later. Emmerson Mnangagwa has since served as Zimbabwe’s president.
Zimbabwe is a member of the United Nations, the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.