According to Indonesian law, all children are required to attend at least six years of elementary school. The country’s school system is patterned after that of the Dutch, with secondary school curricula divided into mathematics, languages, and economics. Approximately 74 percent of Indonesians aged 15 or older are literate.
Elementary and Secondary Schools
In the late 1980s about 26.7 million Indonesian children attended public elementary schools, and more than 8.9 million students were enrolled in general secondary schools. In addition, more than 1.4 million Indonesian students attended vocational and teacher-training institutes.
Universities and Colleges
In the late 1980s Indonesia’s institutions of higher education were attended by nearly 1.2 million students per year. Institutions with the largest enrollments include the University of Indonesia (1950), in Jakarta; Pajajaran State University (1957), in Bandung; and Gajah Mada University (1949), in Yogyakarta.
Indonesian culture is an intermixture of many diverse civilizations. The Hinduism and Buddhism of India exerted a profound influence on Indonesian life and left a strong imprint on the architecture and sculpture of the country. Arabic influence in Indonesia has been promoted since the 13th century, mainly through the teachings of Islam. The islands have also been affected by Southeast Asian and Polynesian cultures, as well as by the influx of Chinese and Dutch peoples.
Indonesia has about 20 major libraries, which are located primarily in the cities of Bandung, Bogor, Jakarta, and Yogyakarta. The National Archives and the Library of the National Museum (360,000 volumes) are in Jakarta, as is the National Library (750,000 volumes), which includes a number of special collections. The Bali Museum is in Denpasar.
Indonesia, Republic of, island republic of Southeast Asia, constituting most of the Malay Archipelago and including all of the former Netherlands Indies. The country consists of more than 13,600 islands, almost half of which are inhabited, and stretches across some 5150 km (some 3200 mi) of sea in the region of the equator. The republic shares the island of Borneo with Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. Indonesia also shares the island of New Guinea: The western section, known as Irian Jaya (West Irian), is under Indonesian administration, and the eastern section is part of Papua New Guinea. Marine frontiers of Indonesia include the South China Sea, the Celebes Sea, and the Pacific Ocean on the north, and the Indian Ocean on the south and west. Indonesia has an area of 1,919,443 sq km (741,101 sq mi). The capital and largest city of Indonesia is Jakarta.
Land and Resources
A stretch of relatively open water (consisting of the Java, Flores, and Banda seas) divides the major islands of Indonesia into two unequal strings of islands: the comparatively long, narrow islands of Sumatra, Java, Timor, and others on the south, and Borneo (Kalimantan), Celebes (Sulawesi), the Moluccas, and New Guinea on the north. A chain of volcanic mountains rising to heights of more than 3568 m (more than 12,000 ft) extends from west to east through the southern islands from Sumatra to Timor. The highest points on the chain are Kerinci (3800 m/12,467 ft) on Sumatra, and Semeru (3676 m/12,060 ft) on Java. Each of the major northern islands has a central mountain mass, with plains around the coasts. Puncak Jaya (5030 m/16,503 ft), in the Sudirman Range of Irian Jaya, is the highest elevation in the republic. The most extensive lowland areas are on Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and Irian Jaya. Over many centuries periodic volcanic flows from the numerous active volcanoes have deposited rich soils on the lowlands, particularly in Java. Many volcanoes in Indonesia are still active, and earthquakes also occur. Two recent earthquakes include a 1992 earthquake that struck the island of Flores, killing 2000, and an earthquake that hit Sumatra in February 1994, killing 180.
The climate of Indonesia is tropical, with two monsoon seasons—a wet season from November to March and a dry season from June to October. The weather is more moderate between monsoons. The northern parts of the country have only slight differences in precipitation during the wet and dry seasons. Humidity is generally high, averaging about 80 percent yearly; the daily temperature range (about 20° to 32° C/about 70° to 90° F at Jakarta) varies little from winter to summer. Rainfall in the lowlands averages about 1780 to 3175 mm (about 70 to 125 in) annually and in some mountain regions reaches about 6100 mm (about 240 in).
The rich volcanic soil of Indonesia is ideal for growing crops; forests flourish and cover about two-thirds of the land. Tin, bauxite, petroleum, natural gas, copper, nickel, and coal are major mineral resources, and small amounts of silver, diamonds, and rubies are found. Saltwater fish are abundant, and the surrounding seas also yield pearls, shells, and agar, a seaweed substance.
Plants and Animals
Tropical rain forest vegetation prevails in the northern lowlands of Indonesia. Mangrove trees and nipa palm dominate the forests of the southern lowlands. The hill forests consist of oak, chestnut, and mountain plants. The animal life of the Malay Archipelago is representative in Java, Sumatra, and Borneo, but certain types of fauna are peculiar to each island. The orangutan is found only in Sumatra and Borneo; the tiger, in Sumatra and Java; the wild ox, in Java and Borneo; the proboscis monkey, only in Borneo; the elephant, the tapir, and the siamang (black gibbon) are found only in Sumatra. In the south, on Celebes and in the Moluccas, the fauna includes both Asian and Australian types. The fauna of Timor, however, includes only one Australian type, the cuscus, a marsupial. All of the islands abound in birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
The indigenous people of Indonesia are mostly of mixed Malaysian origin. The most distinct ethnic groups are the Javanese and the Sundanese, who live mainly on Java and Madura; the Balinese, in Bali; and the Bataks and Atjehnese, on Sumatra. Other minority groups distributed throughout the islands include a score of related Malay groups, several million Chinese, and other Asian peoples. The number of Dutch, estimated at about 60,000 in the late 1950s, has declined to fewer than 10,000.
Indonesia is the fifth most populous country in the world. According to a 1993 estimate, it had 197,252,428 inhabitants; the overall population density was about 103 persons per sq km (about 266 per sq mi). More than 60 percent of the people live on Java and Madura, which are among the world’s most densely populated regions. In 1989 Sumatra had an estimated 36.9 million inhabitants and Celebes had about 12.6 million.
Indonesia is divided into 27 provinces and districts: Aceh, Bali, Bengkulu, Central Celebes, North Celebes, South Celebes, Southeast Celebes, Jakarta, Jambi, Yogyakarta, Irian Jaya, Central Java, East Java, West Java, Central Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Lampung, Maluku, East Nusatenggara, West Nusatenggara, Riau, North Sumatra, South Sumatra, West Sumatra, and East Timor.
The two largest cities in Indonesia are located on Java. Jakarta, with a population (1990 census) of 8,222,515, is the capital and chief commercial center. Other major cities on Java are Surabaya (2,473,272) and Bandung, (2,056,915), and Semarang (1,249,230). On Sumatra, Medan, the capital of the northern province, had a population of 1,730,052, and Palembang, in the south, had 1,140,918 people. Ujung Pandang (Makassar), on Celebes, had 944,372 inhabitants, and Banjarmasin, on Borneo, 480,737.
Religion and Language
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. Islam in various forms is the faith of more than 85 percent of the population. Other religious groups include more than 17 million Christians, mostly Protestants, and more than 1.5 million Buddhists, most of whom are of Chinese background. Hinduism, once a major influence, is confined primarily to Bali.
More than 100 languages are spoken in Indonesia, but Bahasa Indonesia is the official and most widely spoken tongue. It is based on Malay, long the market language of coastal towns, and it contains elements of Chinese, Indian, Dutch, and English.
Despite the position of Indonesia as a major world exporter of petroleum, natural gas, tin, and rubber, most of the people remain tied to subsistence agriculture, fishing, and forestry. Business or industrial undertakings owned by Indonesians have been few, with production concentrated on export commodities. To rectify the imbalance of a colonial economy, the government nationalized foreign-owned enterprises in the early 1960s. Under the stabilization policies of the government and with large amounts of foreign aid, the Indonesian economy, which verged on bankruptcy before 1966, has shown a remarkable recovery. A five-year plan for 1979 to 1983 aimed to increase employment opportunities, raise food production, establish a more equitable distribution of wealth, and attain a yearly economic growth rate of 6.5 percent. The five-year plan for 1984 to 1989 had a more modest annual growth target of 5 percent, as declines in prices for Indonesia’s primary commodities forced the government to scale down its ambitions. The estimated annual budget in the late 1980s included $10.5 billion in revenue and $13.9 billion in expenditure.
About 12 percent of Indonesia is under cultivation; much of the arable land is on Java. About 55 percent of the country’s approximately 70.4 million workers are engaged in agriculture, either as owners of small farms or as laborers on estates. The small farms, which produce most of the subsistence crops, also contribute substantial proportions of the nation’s rubber crop, tobacco crop, and total export production. Plantation estates produce rubber, tobacco, sugar, palm oil, coffee, tea, and cacao, mostly for export.
Rice is the major staple food of the country, and the annual yield in the late 1980s was about 41.8 million metric tons. Most of the rice is grown on Java. Other important crops are cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, coconuts, sugarcane, soybeans, peanuts, tea, tobacco, and coffee. About 1.1 million metric tons of rubber are produced yearly. Increases in crop production and marketing have been encouraged by farm cooperatives and banks. Large quantities of food, however, including rice, must still be imported.
In the late 1980s the country had about 12.7 million goats, 6.5 million cattle, 5.4 million sheep, 3 million buffalo, 6.5 million pigs, and 410 million chickens.
Forestry and Fishing
About two-thirds of Indonesia is covered with forest and woodland, most of which is concentrated in Borneo, Sumatra, and eastern Indonesia. Almost all forestland is state owned. Roundwood production totaled about 173.6 million cu m (about 6.1 billion cu ft) annually in the late 1980s. Almost all the timber harvest was made up of hardwoods, more than 80 percent of which was used for fuel. In addition, valuable industrial woods were produced in significant quantities, including teak, ebony, bamboo, and rattan. Indonesia is the world’s leading exporter of plywood.
Fish is vital to the Indonesian diet, with much of the annual catch brought in by those who fish part-time at a subsistence level. In the late 1980s, the catch of sea fisheries was 2 million metric tons, and inland fisheries yielded about 638,000 tons. The chief fishes caught include carp, tuna, mackerel, scad, and sardines. Shrimp and prawns are also important to the fishing industry.
Petroleum, natural gas, tin, bauxite, nickel, copper, coal, manganese, and iron ore are the principal mineral resources of Indonesia. In the late 1980s Indonesia ranked among the world leaders in production of petroleum, with nearly 500 million barrels produced annually. Rich reserves are located mostly in Sumatra, Java, and Borneo. The output of natural gas was approximately 41 billion cu m (1.4 trillion cu ft). Indonesia remains one of the largest producers of tin in the world, although annual production has decreased from a peak of nearly 35,000 metric tons (concentrate) in the late 1940s to about 30,600 tons in the late 1980s. Other annual economically important mineral yields include about 505,800 metric tons of bauxite, about 2.7 million tons of coal, and about 1.7 million tons of nickel ore.
Manufacturing in Indonesia contributes more than 18 percent of the gross domestic product, and industrial expansion remains a major goal of government development programs. Many existing enterprises are devoted to petroleum refining, textiles, and food processing. Other products include tobacco products, plywood, cement and other building materials, chemicals, radios and television receivers, and motor vehicles. Manufacturing is concentrated on Java.
About 21 percent of Indonesia’s electricity is generated in hydroelectric facilities, and virtually all the rest is produced in thermal installations. In the late 1980s the country had an installed electricity generating capacity of about 10.4 million kilowatts, and yearly output was about 34.8 billion kilowatt-hours.
Currency and Banking
The new rupiah, worth 1000 old rupiahs, has been the official monetary unit of Indonesia since 1965 (1913 rupiah equal U.S.$1; 1991). The Bank Indonesia is the central bank of Indonesia. About three dozen national and regional banks extend credit to commercial and manufacturing enterprises. The country also has about 80 private commercial banks and foreign bank branches.
Since 1964 nearly all the import and export trade of Indonesia has been conducted by state-owned trading companies. In the late 1980s the important exports included petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, plywood, and textiles. Other export commodities included coffee, rubber, tin, palm oil, tobacco, tea, and pepper. Principal imports included machinery and transportation equipment, electrical equipment, chemicals, rice, iron and steel, and pharmaceuticals. The principal trading partners of Indonesia are Japan, the United States, Singapore, Germany, Taiwan, and South Korea. Yearly export earnings of Indonesia are generally much higher than the cost of its imports; in the late 1980s the country’s exports were valued at $22.7 billion and its imports at $16.3 billion.
Well-maintained inland waterways and interisland shipping are vital to the economy of Indonesia. Since the withdrawal of Dutch equipment and personnel in 1958, rebuilding and development of shipping facilities have progressed slowly. The main ports of international trade are located near Jakarta and Surabaya in Java and at Medan in Sumatra. Borneo and Celebes also maintain smaller ports, mainly for internal traffic.
In the late 1980s, Indonesia had about 250,000 km (about 155,000 mi) of roads, approximately 39 percent of which were paved. The country was served by some 6580 km (some 4090 mi) of operated railroad track, almost all on Sumatra, Java, and Madura. The main international airline is the government-controlled Garuda Indonesian Airways. The chief airports serve Jakarta, Medan, and Denpasar.
In the late 1980s more than 890,000 telephones were in use in Indonesia. Radio Republic Indonesia, the state-owned system, operates 49 stations serving approximately 32.8 million receivers. A government-controlled television broadcasting system, which began operation in 1962, serves an estimated 7.1 million receivers; private commercial television broadcasting began in 1989. Most of Indonesia’s daily newspapers with large circulations, including Kompas, Pos Kota, and Berita Buana, are published in Jakarta.
Since 1908, the beginning of the labor movement in Indonesia, trade unions have been active in the national life. The largest aggregate of trade unions is the All-Indonesia Union of Workers, founded in 1973. The 40-hour workweek is standard throughout Indonesia. Wages are regulated through arbitration. The labor code of 1948 and subsequent legislation provide standards regarding child labor, women in industry, work conditions, hours of work, and vacations.
Indonesia is a constitutional republic. It proclaimed its independence from the Netherlands in 1945, and in 1949 the Netherlands recognized the sovereign Republic of the United States of Indonesia. The following year Indonesia’s federal system was abolished, and the country became a unitary republic.
Three provisional constitutions defined the form of Indonesia’s government. The first one was proclaimed in 1945; the second one was issued in February 1950; and the third one was passed by the provisional House of Representatives in August 1950. In 1959 the constitution of 1945 was reinstated by presidential decree.
Under the constitution of 1945 the chief executive of Indonesia is a president, elected to a five-year term by a national body called the People’s Consultative Assembly, which includes the country’s parliament. The president, who may serve any number of terms, has wide power and can govern by decree in emergencies. The president appoints and presides over a cabinet of ministers.
Legislative power in Indonesia is vested in the House of Representatives, which must approve all statutes and has the right to submit draft bills for ratification by the president. The council is made up of 400 directly elected and 100 appointed members. The People’s Consultative Assembly is composed of all the members of the assembly augmented by 500 representatives of functional groups (such as farmers, businesspeople, intellectuals, and women) and the country’s regions. The main functions of the assembly are to elect the president and vice president and to determine the broad lines of state and government policy. The constitution requires that the assembly meet at least every five years and that the council convene once a year.
Civil and criminal cases are tried by district courts situated throughout Indonesia. Appeals are heard by high courts located in 14 major cities; the final court of appeal is the Supreme Court in Jakarta. One codified criminal law applies to all Indonesia. In civil cases, however, Indonesians are tried under the uncodified customary law (Adat law), and Westerners and Asians of foreign origin or ancestry are held to a system based on continental European civil codes.
Each of the 27 provinces and districts of Indonesia is administered by a governor and by local legislative and administrative bodies.
Indonesia has three major political parties. The largest by far is Sekber Golkar (founded 1964), an alliance of organizations representing workers, farmers, youth, and other interest groups. Other groupings include the United Development party (1973), which has a strongly Muslim orientation, and the small Indonesian Democratic party (1973), a coalition of nationalist and Christian groups.
Health and Welfare
Poor diet, overcrowded housing, lack of sanitation, and impure water contribute to the serious health problems that face Indonesia. The government has instituted programs for raising standards of health, remedying social problems of narcotics addiction and prostitution, and rehabilitating demobilized soldiers. Life expectancy at birth in the late 1980s was 55 years for men and 58 years for women; the infant mortality rate was 83 per 1000 live births. In the late 1980s Indonesia had about 21,500 physicians and more than 112,000 hospital beds.
The armed forces of Indonesia were unified in 1967 and placed under the administration of the ministry of defense and security. Since then the military establishment has exercised decisive authority. The country’s army, navy, and air force have a total of 270,900 troops.
Remains of one of the earliest forms of human life (Pithecanthropus erectus, or Homo erectus, known as Java Man) have been found in the Solo and Brantas river valleys in Central Java, although few traces of human life from Paleolithic and Mesolithic times (Old and Middle Stone ages) have been excavated. Only crude stone implements, such as the rectangular ax, and rock paintings in caves on the eastern islands have been found. Extensive migrations have long taken place in Southeast Asia, leading to the mixture of more than a hundred ethnic and linguistic divisions in the archipelago. A major cultural gap has been noted between the coastal peoples and the interior groups. Two thousand years ago some of the coastal peoples had probably already developed irrigated wet-rice ( sawah) cultivation, but until recently many in the interior still depended on shifting, slash-and-burn agriculture (ladang). Bronze was introduced into the archipelago about 300 BC from northern Vietnam, Thailand, or China, and from that time on both bronze working and ironworking were practiced. Before the penetration of Indian influences in the early centuries of the Christian era, many of the peoples of the islands lived in political groups, rarely larger than family-based tribal units. Such cultural expressions as the wayang (shadow puppet) theater, the gamelan orchestra, and the technique of batik work may also predate Indian influences.
Trade between the Bay of Bengal and Indonesia most likely began in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Although historians now discount earlier theories of Indian military conquests or extensive migration into the region, Indian culture exerted a powerful influence on the character of the states that developed in the archipelago. Direct communication with China probably began between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, with Indonesian exports of cloves, tree resins, and camphor. In the early 5th century Fa-hsien, a Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, and the princely monk Gunavarman from Kashmir wrote of direct voyages between western Indonesia and China.
Rock inscriptions on Java, dating from the middle of either the 5th or 6th century, reveal the existence of the extensive Javanese kingdom of Taruma (centered near present-day Jakarta) that observed Indian religious rites and promoted irrigation works. By the beginning of the 7th century several important kingdoms existed on Java; a harbor-kingdom was also apparently well established on the southeastern coast of Sumatra.
By the 7th century two principal types of political units had emerged in the archipelago: the maritime trading states along the coasts of Sumatra, North Java, Borneo (Kalimantan), Sulawesi (see CELEBES), and some of the other eastern islands; and the rice-based inland kingdoms, particularly of East and Central Java. The greatest maritime empire was Sri Vijaya (see SRI VIJAYA, KINGDOM OF), a Mahayana Buddhist kingdom on Sumatra’s southeast coast, which in the late 7th century was a center of trade with India and China and for some 500 years more or less monopolized much of China’s trade with the western archipelago.
Little archaeological evidence of the Sri Vijayan Empire remains on Sumatra. In contrast, the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Central and East Java left extensive temples, buildings, and inscriptions as evidence of the extent of Indian cultural influences on their religion and state organization. All these Javanese kingdoms were based on wet-rice agriculture and had a complex hierarchical administrative organization headed by a god-king. Inscriptions reveal that under the Sanjaya family the Hindu kingdom of Mataram flourished on the Dieng Plateau in the early 8th century. In the second half of the century a Buddhist kingdom under the Sailendra dynasty developed in the nearby Kedu Plain. The Sailendras built the massive temple monument of Borobudur in the mid-9th century. By this time rulers claiming descent from King Sanjaya (reigned 732-778) of Central Java had founded a new kingdom of Mataram, ruling the east as well as the central part of the island. In the early 10th century, for unknown reasons, the kingdom’s center shifted to the east, where Hindu influence on the state weakened. Under Sindok (reigned 929-947), and later united with Bali under Airlangga, the East Javanese Kingdom evidenced growing interest in overseas trade. After a period of division, the new kingdom of Singosari was founded on Java in 1222 by a commoner, Angrok (reigned 1222-1227) and under the Buddhist king Kertanagara (reigned 1268-1292) ascendancy was asserted over Sumatran areas formerly ruled by Sri Vijaya. Kertanagara’s successor, Vijaya (reigned 1293-1309), repelled a Mongol invasion of Java and founded Majapahit (see MAJAPAHIT, KINGDOM OF), the greatest Javanese empire, in 1293. Majapahit, under Hayam Wuruk, claimed sovereignty over much of what is now Indonesia and parts of Malaya.
The Coming of Islam
By the late 13th century coastal north Sumatran states were beginning to accept Islam; the earliest known Muslim ruler there was Sultan Malik al Saleh of Pasai. Propagated by merchants, initially from south India and Gujarat, the new religion spread slowly until the rise of the sultanate of Malacca (Melaka) on Malaya’s west coast gave it a powerful impetus. During the 15th century European demand for spices from the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, was growing, and by 1436 Malacca had become a major emporium on the trade route between the Moluccas and the West. In addition to its commercial and political power Malacca also became the major diffusion center for Islam. In the previous centuries Singasari and Majapahit had taken over the trade of Java’s north coast principalities, which exchanged Javanese rice for Moluccan spices. Coastal Javanese, particularly those from Tuban and Gresik, now developed close ties with Malacca, converted to Islam, and became an important element in Malacca’s population. Merchant princes from North Java came to run the trade between Malacca and the eastern archipelago, and their growing power exerted commercial and military pressure on Majapahit, contributing to its virtual disappearance by the early 16th century.
In 1511, however, Malacca was captured by the Portuguese. Their intrusion changed the existing pattern of trade in the archipelago and led to the emergence of several strong competing Muslim states that provided alternative trading routes. Muslim Aceh (see ACHIN) in northern Sumatra was Portuguese Malacca’s leading opponent during the 16th century, launching attacks against it, either alone or with other local Muslim states. Under Sultan Iskandar Muda, Aceh controlled all Sumatra’s pepper-trading ports except in the extreme south, and its influence extended to parts of the Malay Peninsula. Two other important trading states of the period were Makassar, in southwestern Sulawesi, which converted to Islam in 1603, and Bantam, the Muslim successor in West Java to the Hindu kingdom of Sunda, which controlled south Sumatra (and thus the Sunda Straits). In the late 16th century a new Muslim kingdom of Mataram arose in Central Java and began to absorb many of Java’s maritime principalities.
The Development of Dutch Influence
The Dutch East India Company, founded in 1602, competed with the Portuguese and the English for the archipelago’s trade. Governor-General Jan Pieterszoon Coen established Batavia (now Jakarta) as the Dutch headquarters and attempted to isolate the interisland network from the extensive international commerce in which it had participated. Dutch power expanded both by direct force and through alliances with native rulers. A brief clash with Mataram in 1629 was followed by a period of coexistence, and in 1678 Mataram ceded the Preanger region of West Java to the company. In 1641 the Dutch captured Malacca, but this no longer ensured control of the spice trade to Europe. To impose a monopoly the company restricted cultivation of cloves to Ambon and of nutmeg and mace to the Banda Islands, destroying the spice trees elsewhere.
During the 18th century the company introduced coffee and other new crops to Java and instituted a system of forced deliveries in which it relied heavily on cooperation from amenable Javanese aristocrats and intermediaries from the growing local Chinese population (whose immigration the Dutch promoted). Its interference in Mataram’s affairs culminated in the kingdom’s division in 1755 into the principalities of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. In the Spice Islands, Dutch trading rights were converted into effective political control; elsewhere in the eastern archipelago most local rulers retained their internal autonomy but were drawn into special relationships with the company. As the century wore on, financial mismanagement and a decline in trade eventually brought the company to bankruptcy and dissolution in 1799. The Dutch government then assumed control of its East Indian possessions.
The Consolidation of Dutch Control
During the Napoleonic Wars, under both the Dutch government and a British occupation (1811-1816), attempts were made to centralize and reform the administration of Java. On reassuming power in 1816, the Dutch wavered between opening the area to individual enterprise and reverting to a monopoly system. Their massive expenditures in suppressing resistance, led by the Javanese prince Diponegoro from about 1825 to 1830, ended this indecision. The Dutch annexed large areas of the Central Javanese principalities and in 1830 they introduced the so-called Culture System, whereby peasants had to devote a percentage of their land (officially one-fifth, but usually far more) to cultivating government-designated export crops instead of rice. Extremely profitable for the Dutch, the system was blamed for widespread famine in parts of Java in the 1840s and 1850s.
Deeper penetration of Javanese society by the Dutch was paralleled by extension of their control to other regions. On Sumatra they had imposed their rule over parts of the interior by 1837, and they annexed the northeast coastal principalities in 1858. Colonial rule outside Java was sometimes indirect.
A campaign by Dutch liberals against the Culture System succeeded by the 1870s in removing some of its harshest aspects. The new Liberal Policy then permitted more laissez-faire practices. Later oil, tin, and rubber began to replace coffee, sugar, and tobacco as the main exports to Europe. These products came largely from outside Java, and many new areas were now taken over. After a 30-year war Aceh was subdued in 1908, and Bali in 1909, by which time Sulawesi, the Moluccas, the Lesser Sundas, and most of Borneo had all been brought under firmer control.
The Growth of Nationalism
At the beginning of the 20th century the Dutch introduced their Ethical Policy, under which agriculture and limited health and educational services were developed, and railways, roads, and interisland shipping expanded. The policy helped create two new social elements—a few Western-educated Indonesians and a smaller group of entrepreneurs, who began to compete with a still predominantly Chinese commercial class. These Indonesians grew resentful of a colonial structure that denied them a role commensurate with their education or abilities.
The first important vehicle for the anti-Dutch nationalist movement was the Sarekat Islam (Islamic Union), established in 1912. Growing out of a protective association for batik merchants, the Sarekat Islam by 1918 claimed a membership of more than 2 million throughout the archipelago. The Dutch response was initially conciliatory, and in 1916 the Volksraad (People’s Council) was established where selected representatives of major population groups were able to deliberate and offer advice. However, after World War I (1914-1918), and especially after an abortive Communist-led insurrection in 1926 and 1927, the government adopted a more repressive policy.
Beginning in the 1920s the nationalist movement was headed by leaders who were not primarily Muslim, notably Sukarno, an advocate of complete independence, who founded the Indonesian Nationalist party (Partai Nasional Indonesia, or PNI) in 1927. Despite the arrests and exiles of Sukarno (1929-1931, 1933-1942), Muhammad Hatta (1934-1942), and other nationalist leaders, and the banning of the PNI and other noncooperating parties, the nationalist movement maintained its momentum. Only after Germany overran the Netherlands during World War II (1939-1945), however, did the Dutch even hint at any postwar devolution (transference or surrender) of political authority.
The Japanese Occupation
During World War II the Japanese invaded and occupied the islands. Anxious to mobilize Indonesian support behind their regime, they gave Sukarno and his associates symbolic political latitude. Strategic concerns over access to resources, particularly petroleum, and the fear of Allied counterattacks bred repression. Moreover, tens of thousands of conscripted laborers worked as virtual slaves, and many of them did not survive.
Beginning in September 1943, the Japanese established militias in Java, Bali, and Sumatra, which gave thousands of young men military training and formed the nucleus of the postwar independence army. Indonesians, however, were alienated by the harsh behavior of the Japanese and by the growing economic hardships. To muster support against anticipated Allied attacks, the Japanese in October 1944 promised Indonesian independence, and subsequently took steps toward granting limited self-government.
The Postwar Struggle for Independence
On August 17, 1945, two days after Japan’s surrender, Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Indonesia and were selected as its president and vice president. When British troops began landing on the islands in late September, a functioning republican administration was already in existence in many parts of Java and Sumatra. When the British withdrew in November 1946, they persuaded the Dutch and the republic to initial the Linggajati Agreement, which recognized the de facto authority of the republic in Java and Sumatra and contained plans for the establishment of a federal Indonesia.
In July 1947, however, charging violations of this agreement, the Dutch launched attacks against the republic, extending their control over about two-thirds of Java and large estates and oil fields in Sumatra. Protests in the United Nations (UN) led to the formation of a UN Good Offices Commission, which oversaw the signing of the Renville Agreement between the two sides. A Dutch blockade of republican territory caused intense economic hardship and increased popular dissatisfaction with the republic’s policy of negotiating with the Dutch rather than consistently confronting them militarily. This was one element in the unsuccessful Communist-led uprising against the republic’s leadership at Madiun in September 1948.
In December 1948, defying UN cease-fire lines, the Dutch again attacked the republic, capturing its capital of Yogyakarta and arresting and exiling most of its top leaders, including Sukarno and Hatta. Despite the apparent success of the initial Dutch attack, republican guerrilla resistance and pressure from the international community forced the Dutch toward accommodation. At a conference in 1949 in The Hague, the Netherlands agreed to transfer sovereignty over all Indonesia, except West Irian (western New Guinea), to the federal Republic of the United States of Indonesia (RUSI) by the end of that year.
The Sukarno Regime
By August 1950 a Unitary State of Indonesia had replaced the RUSI. The new government’s attempts to create a viable state out of Indonesia’s disparate peoples and cultures were complicated by sporadic uprisings of Muslim groups in West Java and Aceh and by Dutch-led antirepublican movements in Sulawesi and the Moluccas. Nationwide elections in late 1955 resulted in a parliament in which no major party had a majority and only one, the Masjumi, had a significant following outside Java. Just as before the elections, parliamentary government was seen by its critics as faction-torn, corrupt, and ineffective, with few ties to the regions it was supposed to represent.
In 1956 President Sukarno called for overhauling the party system and replacing liberal democracy with his Guided Democracy, in which the president would have wider authority. Outer-island resentment at the lack of funds allocated them for economic development, despite their being the major source of Indonesia’s export earnings, was one cause of the military coups on Sumatra and Sulawesi (December 1956 to March 1957) and an assertion of greater local autonomy. Army dissidents in Sumatra, supported by counterparts in Sulawesi and several top Masjumi leaders, proclaimed the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia on February 15, 1958. Despite covert aid to the rebels from the United States and Taiwan, Jakarta’s forces soon defeated them, although actions by the guerrillas continued until 1961.
Under Sukarno’s Guided Democracy (1959-1965), Indonesia pursued an active foreign policy, demanding that the Netherlands surrender West Irian (which, under a UN mandate, was finally turned over to Indonesia in 1962) and opposing the formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Domestically, the economic decline continued, and both the army and the Communists (Partai Komunis Indonesia, or PKI) increased their power, with tension growing between the two groups.
Suharto’s Rise to Power
The situation culminated in a coup attempt on September 30, 1965, led by Lieutenant Colonel Untung of the palace guard, in which six top generals were brutally murdered. General Suharto, head of the army’s strategic command, suppressed the coup attempt, took control of the army, and eventually maneuvered Sukarno into handing over effective power to him in March 1966. Although the identity and motives of the prime instigators of the coup attempt remain a subject of controversy, the army alleged PKI responsibility; during late 1965, despite Sukarno’s efforts to moderate the situation, army units and some Muslim groups, particularly in the countryside, began massacring Communists and their supporters. Estimates of the number killed range between 300,000 and 1 million. The PKI was banned on March 13, 1966, and the government arrested hundreds of thousands of people accused of involvement in the coup attempt. The last of these prisoners have yet to be released, and there have been periodic executions, the most recent in 1990. Of those arrested, only about 800 were ever brought to trial.
The New Order
Assuming a basically pro-Western stance, Suharto’s New Order ended confrontation with Malaysia and has since been a major promoter and participant in the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Advised by Western-trained economists, the army-led government has encouraged direct foreign investment and received loans from the West.
Elections held in 1971 were strictly controlled, and the government organization Golkar (Joint Secretariat of Functional Groups) secured most of the seats in the largely advisory parliament. Golkar again achieved about 62 percent of the vote in the 1977 elections. Suharto was elected president by bodies emerging from both these elections.
In 1975 the state-owned oil enterprise, Pertamina, was unable to meet repayments of debts amounting to $10.5 billion, and the crisis threatened Indonesia’s financial structure. Only through project cancellations, renegotiation of loans, and help from the United States and other Western governments was Jakarta able to salvage the situation by late 1977. Subsequently, world oil prices aided Indonesia’s economic recovery, and oil production and exports have increased.
A second crisis arose with Indonesia’s invasion in December 1975 of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which Indonesia then annexed despite the condemnation of Portugal and the UN. Human-rights organizations claim that more than 100,000 people may have been killed by the Indonesian army during the annexation. Ongoing political tensions in the region led to a massacre of pro-independence demonstrators by Indonesian soldiers in November 1991.
Most opposition to the Suharto regime has come from Muslim groups that have never accepted the government’s attempt to control them and from university students alienated by the regime’s corruption and human-rights violations. Reacting to widespread student demonstrations in early 1978, the government tightened its control over the campuses and the press.
The greatest long-term dangers to the regime, however, were the growing social and economic inequalities, particularly the increasing landlessness among the Javanese peasantry. These inequities were exacerbated by the growth of the population, despite a relatively successful family-planning program in Java. Nevertheless, the army’s aging “Generation of 1945,” having monopolized power under the New Order, seemed intent on maintaining control. Golkar again won an overwhelming majority in the parliamentary elections of May 1982, and in March 1983 the parliament reelected Suharto, who ran unopposed, and broadened his presidential powers. Again running unopposed, Suharto won reelection in March 1988 and in March 1993.