Your trip to Indonesia will be a better experience if you learn more about its past and all kinds of influences that made Indonesia just like it is today. That’s why we have prepared a short guide through the history of Indonesia. So, let’s start exploring the dynamic past of this wonderful country.
Not so long ago the belief prevailed that about 500,000 years ago in central Java a primitive humanoid of African origin (Standing man) he lived. Homo erectus inhabited Indonesia after finding the isthmus that existed then and crossing it. Indonesia was its habitat until A wise man appeared. It was then that Homo erectus was wiped out.
However, in 2003, the remains of a small inhabitant of the islands, nicknamed “hobbit”, were discovered, suggesting that Homo erectus survived much longer than previously thoughtand that timeline of Indonesia’s evolutionary history should be reconsidered, even though many scientists remain skeptical when it comes to this theory.
Most Indonesians are descendants of the Malay people, who began migrating from Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China in 4000 BC These settlers were forming small kingdoms and by 700 BC they had already developed sophisticated rice cultivation techniques.
The growing prosperity of these early kingdoms quickly attracted the attention of Indian and Chinese traders and, along with silks and spices, they also brought Hinduism and Buddhism to Indonesia.
These religions quickly took root in the archipelago area and soon became a key element of the great kingdoms of the first millennium AD The Buddhist empire of Srivijaya dominated the Malacca peninsula and southern Sumatrataking advantage of the strategically important Strait of Malacca property, while the Hindu kingdom of Mataram and the Buddhist Sailendra dominated Central Java. On his fertile land which gave them prosperity, they built great monuments of Borobudur and Prambanan.
In 1294, the kingdom of Mataram was replaced by an even more powerful Hindu kingdom, the Majapahit, who made extensive annexations to his territory under the reign of Hayam Wuruk and its prime minister, Gaja Mada. While it may seem exaggerated now, they controlled much of it Sulawesi, Sumatra and Borneoso there is no doubt that most of Bali, Java and Madura they were within its borders.
However, things soon changed. Despite the enormous power and influence of the empire of Majapahitnationally important chasms open, e the golden age of hinduism it quickly came to an end.
Along with Islam came strength, reason and will to face Majapahit and satellite kingdoms and arms were immediately taken against the Hindu kings. In the 15th century Majapahit chiefs took refuge in Bali, where Hindu culture was still preserved, and Java was in the hands of increasingly powerful Islamic sultanates. Meanwhile, the influential mercantile kingdoms of Malacca (in the Malay Peninsula) and Makassar (South Sulawesi) also adopted Islamplanting the seed that was to make modern Indonesia the most populous Muslim country in the world.
The Portuguese had conquered Malacca in 1511 and Europe quickly set its sights on the archipelago’s wealth, which led to two centuries of turmoil in which Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British control was contested. By the 1700s, the Dutch dominated the game and the Dutch East India Company controlled the lucrative spice market, becoming the first multinational corporation in the world.
However, after the bankruptcy of this company, the British imposed the rule of Sir Stamford Raffles (1811-1816) on Java. After the Napoleonic Wars, Britain ceded the island to the Dutch, who retained control until its independence from Indonesia 129 years later.
As you can see, the area of Indonesia in this period was not a peaceful domain, but that’s not all. The Dutch faced numerous rebellions against Prince Diponegoro in Java, who was defeated in 1830 after five years of guerrilla warfare, during which he killed 8,000 Dutch soldiers.
By the early 20th century, the Dutch had managed to get the most out of the archipelago, but Diponegoro’s revolutionary tradition never completely disappeared, and remained so until a young age Sukarno I came. Debate was raised with the Japanese invasion of Indonesia during World War II, but their withdrawal led to the declaration of Indonesian independence on August 17, 1945.
However, the Dutch were not willing to surrender so easily. With the support of the United Kingdom, which had entered Indonesia to accept the Japanese surrender, they moved quickly to assert their authority over the country. The resistance was tough, with four stormy years guerrilla warfare. US and UN opposition to the reimposition of colonialism and the growing number of casualties forced the Netherlands to withdraw. Finally, on December 27, 1949, the Indonesian flag finally flew over the Istana Merdeka (Palace of Freedom).
The unit in war quickly became a division in peace. Religious fundamentalists, separatists and nationalists were provoking the central government. After nearly a decade of political deadlock and economic depression, Sukarno took the step in 1957 and with military backing declared Guided Democracy (euphemism for dictatorship) and enforced nearly four decades of authoritarianism.
Despite moves towards a one-party state, the Communist Party of Indonesia (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI), with three million members, was the largest in the world in 1965 and Sukarno had known the importance of enlisting their support. However, with the PKI’s growing influence over the government, tensions with the military have also increased.
The situation became really critical on the night of September 30, 1965. It was then that some of the members of the palace guard launched a coup attempt. It was immediately crushed by General Suharto, who perhaps unfairly hit the PKI and became the pretext for a cleanup operation launched by the military. It ended with the elimination of half a million Communists and sympathizers.
Subsequently, strong evidence emerged from declassified documents, proving this both the US (opposing communism) and the UK (trying to protect their interests in Malaysia) aided and abetted the Suharto purge, drawing up lists of communist agitators. In 1968, Suharto overthrew Sukarno and declared himself president.
Suharto brought unity through repression, annexing Irian Jaya (Papua) in 1969, reacting to the insurrection with an iron fist. In 1975 he invaded Portuguese Timor, causing tens of thousands of deaths. The separatist ambitions of Aceh and Papua also met with a fierce military response. But despite the endemic corruption, 1980 and 1990 brought an economic boom to Indonesiawhich experienced a dizzying growth and the emergence of large buildings that changed the profile of the capital.
In the late 1990s, with the Asian economy in free fall, Suharto’s house of cards began to crumble. Indonesia went bankrupt overnight and the country found a clear scapegoat in the dictatorial regime, with its endemic corruption. In 1998 protests spread across the country and the May riots claimed thousands of lives, many of them Chinese. After three decades of dictatorship, Suharto resigned on May 21, 1998.
Unrestrained joy held back when Vice President BJ Habibie he took the lead by promising reforms that took centuries to materialize. In November of that year, the unrest turned into shaking of the foundations of many Indonesian cities.
The promise of elections managed to calm things down, but the separatists took advantage of the government’s weakness. Violence prevailed in the Moluccas, Irian Jaya, East Timor and Aceh. East Timor gained its independence after a referendum in August 1999but not before the retreating Indonesian military destroyed its infrastructure and claimed thousands of lives.
Given the hectic climate, the legislative elections of June 1999 went relatively easily; Megawati Sukarnoputri (daughter of Sukarno) and its reformist Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) was the next most popular choice (33%). But months later, in separately held presidential elections, a narrow victory was achieved Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), whose efforts to fight corruption met stiff resistance. Megawati finally took over as president in 2001, but her tenure has been a disappointment for many Indonesians:
- corruption has been perpetuated,
- military might remained intact,
- the persistently high poverty rate,
- major terrorist attacks occurred in 2002.
Megawati lost the 2004 presidential election at Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), former army officer serving in East Timor. This “thinking general” managed to impose a crackdown on Islamic militants. He allocated more money for education and health care and introduced a basic pension.
SBY’s tenure has also been marked by a series of disasters, starting with the tsunami (December 26, 2004), which devastated Aceh, in northern Sumatra. In 2006 an earthquake hit Yogyakarta, killing 6800, and another in 2009 devastated Padang in Sumatra.
The 2009 election was easier than many had anticipated, and SBY won a comfortable re-election on a platform of moderate policies. In parliamentary elections held earlier that year, extremist Islamic parties, which had predicted a strong rise, ended up with only 8% of the vote. Moderates have triumphed, including the SBY party.
It can be said that the last two years have provided a solid foundation for the creation of a healthy, true democratic system that does not include serious political plots that could affect the peace of the Indonesian inhabitants. One thing is certain: after their dynamic past and drastic changes, the time has come when they lived in a peaceful environment.
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