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Geography and Landscape


Indonesia is a republic in Southeast Asia, located between the Asian mainland and Australia. Indonesia is located in the Australasian Middle Sea between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. This sea consists of a number of smaller seas, including the Java Sea, Flores Sea, Arufura Sea, Banda Sea, Timor Sea and South China Sea.

Indonesia Satellite image Indonesia Satellite photoPhoto: Public domain

The archipelago comprises 17,508 (parts of) islands, of which about 990 are inhabited and only about 6,000 have a name.

Indonesia has a land area of approximately 1.95 million km2, making it the largest country in Southeast Asia. From the islet of Sabang in the west to the border of Irian Jaya near Marauke in the east, Indonesia measures about 5100 kilometers, about one eighth of the earth's circumference. The length of the north-south axis is approximately 1760 km.

The total area of Indonesia, including its territorial waters, is more than 5 million km2. Approx. In fact, 64% of the surface of Indonesia consists of water. Indonesians therefore call their country Tanah Air Kita, "our land and water" for a reason.

The largest islands are Kalimantan (539,460 km2), the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, Sumatra (473,606 km2), Irian Jaya (421,981 km2), the Indonesian part of New Guinea, Sulawesi (189,216 km2) and Java (132,187 km2) . Together they cover more than 90% of the republic's total territory.

Within the archipelago, some 30 smaller island groups can be distinguished, which are grouped together in four regions: the Grand Sunda Islands, namely Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi (Celebes) and Kalimantan (Borneo); the Lesser Sunda Islands, stretching from Bali to Timor; the Moluccas, a group of approximately 1000 islands and islets including Ambon, Ceram, Ternate, Tidore, the Banda, Aru and Tanimbar Islands, Halmahera and Morotai; and Irian Jaya with surrounding islands.

Lesser Sunda Islands belong to IndonesiaLesser Sunda Islands belong to IndonesiaPhoto: Lencer CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Indonesia borders East Timor (228 km), Malaysia (1782 km) and Papua New Guinea (820 km). By sea, Indonesia borders Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and Australia. The total length of the coastline is 108,000 km according to the latest satellite images from February 2003.


The enormous variety of landscapes is a result of climatic and geological factors. For example, the islands of Western Indonesia have always been covered with dense tropical rainforests, the East Indonesian islands, on the other hand, are much drier with even savannah landscapes. Most of Indonesia consists of low-lying coastal areas and coral reefs.

Indonesia's highest mountain range, covered with eternal snow, is located in Irian Jaya. Here the Puncak Jaya reaches a height of 5040 meters.

Puncak Jaya, Indonesia's highest mountainPuncak Jaya, Indonesia's highest mountainPhoto: Alfrindra Primaldhi CC 2.0 Generikno changes made


The ecological balance in the rainforest is seriously threatened by human activities or their consequences. For example, logging takes place on a large scale, resulting in increasing erosion. In 1997, huge tracts of rainforest were also lost to forest fires. Indonesia's remaining forest cover covers about 60% of the total land area. This mainly concerns about 100 million hectares of tropical rainforest, the second largest jungle area on earth after Brazil.

Java is one of the most densely populated islands in the world and it is therefore not surprising that more than 90% of its natural vegetation has been destroyed. Most of the remaining primary forest is found only in deserted, mountainous regions above 1,400 meters. Practically all lowland rainforests have been cleared for farms and tree plantations.

River and rainforest in Bogor, West-JavaRiver and rainforest in Bogor, West-JavaPhoto: Mohd Fahmi Mohd Azmi CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The rainforests of the Lesser Sunda Islands (Nusa Tenggara) are much less lush than those of the rest of Indonesia. There is little rainfall in this area and during the dry season the forests are extremely vulnerable to forest fires. Here you will find a savannah landscape.

Kalimantan in the largest timber export area in all of Southeast Asia. Large parts of the forests have therefore been severely damaged.

Large areas of primary rainforest still exist on the island of Sulawesi.

The most extensive rainforest areas of the Moluccas are found on the islands of Halmahera and Ceram.

The island of New Guinea has the most extensive rainforests in all of Southeast Asia, in total about 700,000 km2. About 80-85% of the tropical forest of Irian Jaya, the western part of the island of New Guinea, and 75-80% of that of Papua New Guinea is still in its original state.

The whole of Irian Jaya, with the exception of the southeastern part, is covered with rainforest.

Rivers and Lakes

The large islands are intersected by large rivers that arise in the mountains and flow into the lowlands as broad streams. Some major rivers are the Kapuas and Barito in Borneo, the Musi in Sumatra and the Brantas in Java. Most of the rivers in Java flow to the north and flow into the Java Sea. The rivers in Java are relatively long. The Solo River has its source in Central Java, near the island's south coast, and winds for a distance of about 600 km before flowing into the Java Sea at Surabaya. Kalimantan's river system is impressive, including Indonesia's longest rivers. The west-flowing Sungai Kapuas is longer than 600 km, the east-draining Mahakam and the south-flowing Sungai Barito are about 500 km long.

Lake Danau Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia at 1700 km2; with 450 meters one of the deepest and also one of the highest (900 m) lakes in the world.

Lake Danau Toba is with 1700 km² the largest lake in Southeast AsiaLake Danau Toba is with 1700 km² the largest lake in Southeast AsiaPhoto: PL 05 SIGIT CC 4.0 International no changes made

Borneo has a total of approximately 110 lakes, including some large ones such as that of Jempang (15,000 ha), Semayang (13,000 ha) and Melintang (11,000 ha). The largest lakes of Irian Jaya are the Danau Paniai, formerly the Exchange Lakes, and the Danau Sentani at Jayapura.

Volcanoes and Earthquakes

More than 100 volcanoes are still active on Indonesia. The most famous is the Krakatau or Rakata, an island volcano located between Sumatra and Java. Other well-known volcanoes are the Agung in Bali, the Merapi, Kelud, Semeru, Pangranro and Gede in Java, the Rinjani in Lombok and the Galunggung in West Java. The most active volcano is the Tambora on the island of Sumbawa. The area where all these volcanoes are located is also called the "Ring of Fire". On average, a large eruption is registered about 10 times a year.

This not only causes problems, but also has a positive side. The mineral-rich ash that is emitted spreads through rivers and irrigation canals all over the country. This makes Indonesia one of the most fertile countries in the world. In particular, the young volcanic ash soils of East and West Java are excellent agricultural land, including for wet rice cultivation. The terraced fields or rice fields, so characteristic of the landscape, are often even situated against the slopes of volcanoes. Only Kalimantan has no suitable agricultural land. This is not a volcanic island and the parent rocks present mainly consist of sandstone and granite. Less suitable for agriculture are also the red-yellow leached soils in the wet northwest of Java and the terra-rassa soils on the south coast of the island. In addition to cone-shaped volcanoes, there are also volcanoes with multiple craters and volcanoes with a whole series of secondary cones.

Mount Bromo on Java, IndonesiaMount Bromo on Java, IndonesiaPhoto: Sara Marlowe CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

When Krakatau erupted in 1883, the force of the eruption was comparable to the detonation of several hydrogen bombs. The eruption caused tidal waves that killed more than 35,000 people in Java.

The explosion of Krakatau was surpassed by the 1815 eruption of Tambora volcano on Sumbawa, which killed 90,000 people and ejected ashes darkening the sun for many months.

The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815. The red areas on the map indicate the thickness of the volcanic ashThe eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815. The red areas on the map indicate the thickness of the volcanic ashPhoto: Myself CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In addition to volcanic eruptions, numerous earthquakes also occur. Every year an average of 500 to 1000 tremors are recorded throughout Indonesia, most of which fortunately have only a limited force.

However, when the epicenter of an earthquake is in the sea, such a quake can create a devastating tidal wave or "tsunami," which is often much more dangerous than the quake itself.

Climate and Weather

With the exception of the highlands, most of Indonesia has a very humid (often above 90%) tropical rainy climate, with average monthly temperatures differing little from the high annual average, which is around 25 to 27 °C. The maximum temperature can reach a value of 36 °C.

Climate diagram Jakarta, Java Climate diagram Jakarta, JavaPhoto: Hedwig in Washington CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The temperature in the mountains decreases by about 1 °C per 170 meters ascent. In the central mountains of New Guinea, perpetual snow occurs on the peaks above about 4500 meters and the mercury can drop below freezing point. Parts of Java, Bali, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, the Moluccas and Irian Jaya have a savannah climate with a short dry season. The Palu Valley of Central Sulawesi falls below 500 mm annually, making it the driest area in the archipelago. On the more southeastern islands of Timor and Roti, the dry season can last up to seven months.

There are large differences in terms of precipitation, both in terms of quantity and the season in which it falls. From December to the end of March, prevailing winds from the northeast come over North Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi, but as they cross the equator they deflect and become above Java, Nusa Tenggara and beyond west-northwest. From June to October, the direction is the other way around, with an exceptionally dry air stream from the Australian desert passing the southern half of Indonesia and changing from a southeast to a southwest direction over Sumatra.

Climate diagram Padang, SumatraClimate diagram Padang, SumatraPhoto: Hedwig in Washington CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Then this air flow has absorbed a lot of water vapor. Precipitation is not evenly distributed throughout the year. There are dry and wet months. The number of dry months generally increases from west to east and from north to south. A dry month is said to have less than 60 mm of rainfall. However, in areas that are highly exposed to the monsoons, much heavier rainfall occurs. In Padang, for example, on the southwestern slopes of Sumatra, falls about 4500 mm annually. Average annual rainfall is between 2000 and 3000 mm, in Jakarta 1800 mm.

Climate diagram Manado, CelebesClimate diagram Manado, CelebesPhoto: Hedwig in Washington CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In general, it can be said that October to May in Indonesia is the wet monsoon season ("musim hujan"). In the afternoon it often rains very locally for a few hours, which refreshes everything and the temperature drops slightly. Most rain falls in January and February.

Tropical rainstorm over Medan, SumatraTropical rainstorm over Medan, SumatraPhoto: Tropenmuseum CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The dry season ("musim kemarau"), from May to October, is the most favorable for traveling. It is then very hot, and there is only an occasional shower that refreshes nature.

The very global table below provides a good picture
of the even climate of Indonesia.

min. temp.232323232323232323232323
max. temp.292930303131313131313030
Rainy days131256687668911

Plants and Animals


The Indonesian archipelago has a very rich flora, which changes from west to east in conjunction with the drier climate in this direction. In total there are more than 45,000 flowering plant species, which is about 10% of all kinds of flowers and plants that occur on earth. There are 250 types of bamboo and 150 different types of palms. Some 3,000 tree species are known from the island of Borneo alone, and the rainforests of Irian Jaya are home to more than 2,500 orchid species, including the largest in the world, the tiger orchid with its three-meter trail of flowers. Irian Jaya is also known for its insectivorous pitcher plants.

Sumatra, Borneo and New Guinea are outside the mountain ranges and originally also West and Central Java, respectively, were covered with very dense tropical rainforest. One of the many forest giants here is still the ironwood tree, which stands out for its smooth trunk that can reach a diameter of 2-3 meters and grow up to 40 meters in height. The "waringin" is considered a sacred tree in various parts of Indonesia. The waringin is a fig tree with a tangle of aerial roots that can reach an impressive size.

Waringin or ironwood tree on JavaWaringin or ironwood tree on JavaPhoto:Tropenmuseum CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Much tropical rainforest is disappearing because the expanding population needs more and more agricultural land and therefore more and more forest is cleared. Felling for the timber industry also has a heavy toll on the stock. A good example is Java, where the forest has been replaced almost entirely by agricultural crops and weeds. In Bali and a large part of Sumatra, the tropical forest has been almost completely replaced by cultivated land (rice fields, rubber and palm plantations).

In drier East Indonesia, the partly bare monsoon forest prevails in the dry season; the wood supplying djatibos is important here. Savannah vegetation occurs on the dry eastern Nusa Tenggara. Depending on how dry the climate is, the forests here are partially or completely deciduous, for example the teak tree.

Along the silty seashores one finds mangrove flood forests, which also extend far inland along the rivers; behind it, especially on Sumatra and Borneo, extensive peat swamp forests often grow in nutrient-poor fresh water. The mangrove trees are characterized by their stilt and breath roots. Rhizophora grows along the coast, recognizable by its dagger-shaped fruits, which have already sprouted before they fall from the tree.

Rhizophora stylosa in the mangrove forest of Cilintang, Taman Nasional Ujung Kulon, Bante on JavaRhizophora stylosa in the mangrove forest of Cilintang, Taman Nasional Ujung Kulon, Bante on JavaPhoto: Putra Mahanaim Tampubolon CC 4.0 International no changes made

The vegetation of the mountains changes with height and shows belts comparable to the climate belts found between the equator and the poles: up to 1000 meters the tropical belt; up to 1500 meters the sub-mounted belt; up to 2400 meters the montane zone; up to 4000 meters the subalpine belt; above 4000 meters of grasslands with mosses and lichens and scattered shrubs, similar to the alpine flora. In the Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park we find the last remnants of the Javanese mountain flora above the tree line. The Javanese edelweiss, gentians, blackberries, strawberries and St. John's wort grows here. In the cooler mountain regions many ferns, rhododendrons, turpentines, beech, oak and acacia also grow. Orchids live in the jungle as well as high in the mountains.

Typical trees of the archipelago include the palms: coconut palm, oil palm, nipa palm, lontar palm, pandan palm, sago palm, aren palm (palm wine, sugar), betel palm (betel nut), rattan and the many species of the genus Ficus.
In the western part of the archipelago the hardwood supplying Dipterocarpaceae predominate.

Endangered species of Indonesian flora include the famous Rafflesia arnoldii (Central and South Sumatra), the largest parasitic flower in the world, whose blossom can reach a diameter of one meter. The Rafflesia clings to the roots of its host, the lianas Viatceae, from which it also extracts all nutrients. The bud takes two years to hatch. Rafflesia arnoldii is one of the three national flowers of Indonesia, next to the Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) and the moon orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis).

Rafflesia Arnoldii, the largest flower on earth and one of the national flowers of IndonesiaRafflesia Arnoldii, the largest flower on earth and one of the national flowers of IndonesiaPhoto:Rendra Regen Rais CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Arabian jasmine, one of the national flowers of IndonesiaArabian jasmine, one of the national flowers of IndonesiaPhoto: Kobako CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

Moon orchid, one of the national flowers of IndonesiaMoon orchid, one of the national flowers of IndonesiaPhoto: Orchi CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

On Borneo we find the only black orchid in the world, the Coelogyne pandurata. A common plant is the "melati", a fragrant jasmine variety. The "angrek bulan" or moon orchid, like the melati and the Rafflesia, has been chosen as the national flower.

One of the most beautiful, lush flowering trees in Indonesia is the flamboyant or forest flame, a tree native to Madagascar. The flamboyant is planted throughout Indonesia as a shade tree.

Indonesia is also known for its wide variety of tropical fruits, including blimbing, manggis, durian, nangka, rambutan, jambu air and salak.

Ramutan, IndonesiaRamutan, IndonesiaPhoto: Frank wouters from antwerpen, belgium CC 2.0 Generic no changes made


The animal world of Indonesia shows both Asian and Australian elements. The "Wallace Line" (see below), between the Philippines, Borneo and Bali on the one hand, and Sulawesi and Lombok on the other, roughly indicates the division. Many islands show a mixed fauna and are therefore of great importance to biologists. This transition area is also known as "wallacea".

The fauna of the Grand Sunda Islands, with the exception of Sulawesi, is mainly similar to that of the Asian mainland. Nusa Tenggara, east of Bali, Moluccas (including the Seram pouch) and Irian Barat have a more Australian character, although Asian elements are not lacking. On many islands that were associated with each other or with the continent in the past (Pleistocene), as a result of long-term isolation, new endemic races and species could arise that do not occur anywhere else in the world.

Indonesia's most famous ape is the orangutan ("forest person"), which is only found in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Borneo). The orangutan is a highly endangered species, of which only about 5,000 are left in the wild.

Orangutan, anthropoid ape is only found in IndonesiaOrangutan, anthropoid ape is only found in IndonesiaPhoto: Bernard DUPONT CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The very special looking proboscis monkey is only found on Kalimantan. The male's red nose can grow up to 6 inches long. Gibbons (including siamang, white-handed gibbon, silver gibbon, oenka and Müller's gibbon) are limited to the western islands; Sulawesi and the other eastern islands have different monkey species. The so-called leaf monkeys (langurs or slender monkeys) also occur on Sumatra. There are 30 species and subspecies of these graceful monkeys on Sumatra. The special thing about these monkeys is that they eat a relatively large amount of leaves and seeds. Half-monkeys such as loris and tarsiers, as well as treeshrews, are only found in the west.

Pygmee treeshrew, IndonesiaPygmee treeshrew, IndonesiaPhoto: Paul J. Morris CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The large mammals of the rainforest are only occasionally seen. Elephants are still found in Sumatra and North Kalimantan. The one-horned Javan rhino is only found in the Ujung Kulon reserve in West Java; the two-horned Sumatran rhinoceros in Indonesia only lives in Kalimantan. The Sumatran tiger is only found in the rainforests of Sumatra, the largest feline of Kalimantan is the clouded leopard. The honey bear or Malay bear is found in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Tapirs live in low-lying swamp forests.

Sumatran tiger, IndonesiaSumatran tiger, IndonesiaPhoto: Public domain

Among the ruminants, the banteng or wild buffalo (only in Java), the anoa of Sulawesi and the forest gems of Sumatra deserve mention. The banteng (up to 800 kilos) is closely related to the gaur, the largest wild bovine species. Water buffaloes are domesticated animals. Two species are found in Indonesia: the river buffalo and the swamp buffalo. Both are referred to by the population as carabao or "kebo". The white zebu, called "lembu" or "sapi putih" in Indonesia, probably descends from the wild gaur, but has been domesticated for a long time.

The banteng also known as tembadau, is a species of cattle found in IndonesiaThe banteng or tembadau, is a species of cattle found in IndonesiaPhoto: Buyung Sukananda CC 4.0 International no changes made

Java is home to the Kantjil or Javanese dwarf deer, the Javan deer or "rusa", the rare Javan warthog, the leopard, the black panther and the spotted panther. The Bawean deer is one of the rarest deer species in the world and is only found on the volcanic island of Bawean, 150 km north of Java. The forests of Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park are home to wild boars, forest chickens, langurs, "kijang - a small deer- Javan anteaters," and "luwak", a type of marten.

Bawean deerBawean deerPhoto: Midori GFDL cc-by-sa-2.1-jp no changes made

The mammal fauna of Maluku (Moluccas) consists mainly of small species of higher mammals and marsupials, such as the flying marsupial squirrel, three kinds of cousins, wallabies or tree kangaroos, and 40 species of bats including small insectivores and the large flying dogs or "kalongs". The sea around the island of Aru is known for the "dugongs" or manatees. The "STD-STI" or water monitor occurs on Ambon. The red lorikeet, the blood spot lorikeet, the red crested cockatoo and the blue-rumped honey parrot are in great demand for the live bird trade.

Asian or common water monitor lizzardAsian or common water monitor lizzardPhoto: Tiia Monto CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

There are also many glider kites on Kalimantan and Sumatra, including flying dragon ("Draco"), flying frog, flying gecko and flying cat.

The mangrove forests are inhabited by, among others, crabs, mudhoppers, kingfishers and the bizarre-looking proboscis monkey, which only occurs on the island of Borneo.

Sulawesi is a special case. Most animals are of Asian origin; however, the two types of couscous (including bear couscous) that occur here are unmistakably marsupials and typically Australasian.

Animals that are found nowhere else are dwarf or chamois buffalo (anoa), the babirusa, a wild boar with curved tusks, the reticulated python, the great palm marten, the Sulawesi tarsier or 'tarsier' (with a length of 10 cm the smallest monkey in the world) and the crested macaque or black baboon.

The Togian Islands is home to the largest terrestrial arthropod, the coconut palm lobster or the flapper thief, related to the hermit crab. These huge lobsters, at least the males, can reach a weight of five kilos and their outstretched claws have a wingspan of a whopping three feet.

Coconut crab, robber crab or palmthief crabCoconut crab, robber crab or palmthief crab IndonesiaPhoto: John Tann from Sydney, Australia CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Another special feature is the maleo or hammerhead, a ratite species that buries its eggs in the sand - the eggs are incubated by the volcanic heat.

In Indonesia there are about 1500 bird species, including many Australasian species such as the cassowary (on Irian Jaya there are three species: the helmet cassowary, the orange-necked cassowary and the dwarf cassowary), cockatoos, many other parrot species and more than forty bird of paradise species. which only occur in the North Moluccas, the Aroe Islands and Irian Jaya. Of the bird world, the majestic argus pheasant, trogons, leaf birds, crown pigeons, barbet birds and long-legged grouses should also be mentioned. The peacock is only found in Java.

What is special is that of the 600 bird species identified on Borneo, 128 do not occur in Kalimantan.

The Moluccas are home to approximately 350 bird species, including the endemic Wallace bird of paradise and the large red-crested cockatoo.

Standardwing bird-of-paradise also known as Wallace's standardwingStandardwing bird-of-paradise also known as Wallace's standardwingPhoto: Hectonichus CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The rainforests of Sumatra and Kalimantan are home to exotic birds such as Schneider's pitta, bronze-tailed peacock-pheasant, kingfishers, ibises and nine species of hornbill. Sumatra has 465 bird species, 13 of which are endemic. After Irian Jaya, Sumatra is the richest bird.

In Bali, the bird species are especially interesting, including the very rare, beautiful "jalak putih" or white Bali starling, parrot amadines, rice birds, purple barots, jassanas and weaver birds.

Pulau Komodo is located in the middle of the strait between Sumbawa and Flores. Here comes the Komodo dragon or giant monitor, the largest monitor lizard in the world. Also on the islands of Padar, Rinca, Gili Motong and part of (mainland) West Flores. The Komodo dragon, called "ora" by locals, is one of the oldest living animal species, dating back to the Eocene 60 million years ago. Their current number is estimated at 5000 copies.

Komodo dragon IndonesiaKomodo dragon IndonesiaPhoto: Raul654 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Adult males can reach a weight of 150 pounds and grow up to three meters in length. Females are a lot smaller and lay about thirty eggs at a time.

Crocodiles are limited to the coasts and some rivers. The freshwater crocodile ("buaya") of Irian Jaya can reach a length of seven meters. The green tree python is also found on Irian Jaya and the king cobra is the largest of the many poisonous snake species that live in the forests.

Geckos (Ind. Tokeh) and a smaller species, the "cicak", are everywhere and often live with people in the house.

The number of fish species is very large. The cyprinids, the labyrinth fish and the catfish, which mainly inhabit the freshwater, are absent on the eastern islands, which already have a poorer freshwater fauna. In the waters of Indonesia is the once rarest shell in the world, the Conus gloriamaris, nicknamed the "Glory of the Sea", which was for sale in a catalog for 120 guilders in the mid-eighteenth century, now about 2500 euros.

Conus gloriamaris, once the most expensive shell in the worldConus gloriamaris, once the most expensive shell in the worldPhoto: Amada44 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The coral reefs in the east of the archipelago are among the richest in the world; sea turtles are seriously threatened in their survival there. In the Citirem Nature Reserve, the green sea turtle lays its eggs on the beach in August-October. The Aru Archipelago of the Moluccas is an important nesting area for several species of sea turtles, including the protected leatherback and the Loggerhead tortoise. The Kai Islands are breeding grounds for the green turtle, loggerhead turtle and hawksbill turtle.

In some rivers on Kalimantan a striking animal swims: the "pesut" or Irrawaddi dolphin. This dolphin lives in the shallow and murky water of the Mahakam, among others, where there are relatively many fish.

Indonesia is extremely rich in insects and other invertebrates; the land leeches are well known. Some native insects are very large, such as the Atlas moth and some stick insects, which can grow up to 20 centimeters in length. Irian Jaya has thousands of butterfly species. The most spectacular are undoubtedly the birdwing butterflies, "kupu-kupu sayap burung". They can reach a wingspan of 33 cm.

The "Wallace Line"

The low sea level during the ice ages and the rise since then has had important consequences for the flora and fauna of the archipelago. The dryness of Sahul land during the Ice Age allowed plants and animals to move freely across the area west of the Kalimantan-Bali line during that period.

Only to the east of these islands were they stopped by a deep sea. That same sea also held back the flora and fauna from the eastern part of Indonesia, Sahul land and Australia. This old dividing line is still recognizable in the differences in flora and fauna between the two areas.

The Briton Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1917), a contemporary of Darwin, was the first naturalist to discover that the animal world east of Bali was different from that in the rest of Indonesia.

Alfred Russell Wallace, IndonesiaAlfred Russell Wallace, IndonesiaPhoto: CC-BY-4.0 no changes made

He drew an imaginary boundary, later called the "Wallace Line," which was based on the ancient coastline of the Asian continental shelf and marked the difference between the oriental and Australian fauna. To the west of the line (Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java, Madura and Bali) the animal world is oriental, to the east (Irian Jaya) Australian, while in the transition area (Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and the Moluccas) there is a mixture of these two types of fauna. In November 2010, biologists in the Indonesian jungle discovered a new monkey species with bullet eyes and large ears, the University of Frankfurt announced. It is a new species of the goblin lemurs that look a bit like stuffed animals and that were given the name Tarsius Wallacei, after the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). The Goblin Lemurs are only four inches in size and are among the smallest monkeys in Asia.

Wallace Line IndonesiaWallace Line IndonesiaPhoto: Gunnar Ries CC 2.5 Generic no changes made



Skull Java Man IndonesiaSkull Java Man IndonesiaPhoto:Gerbil CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The first inhabitants of Indonesia lived on Java. The skull of Java man (homo erectus) was found there in 1891. This hominid, which used fire, already walked upright and lived about 500,000 years ago at the beginning of the Pleistocene. The Java man is explicitly not the direct predecessor of the current Indonesian population. In 1931 skulls of a more developed human species, the Solo human, were found.

The first true human species to migrate to the Indonesian archipelago was an Australoid pygmy race, called negritos, from New Guinea and the Lesser Sunda Islands. Later still, about 10,000-12,000 BC, the Wajak man lived in Java, the first homo-sapiens, and the true ancestor of the present population.


Indonesia Sriwijaya Archaeological Park Indonesia Sriwijaya Archaeological ParkPhoto:Gunawan Kartapranata CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Around the 2nd century AD. the first Indian merchants landed in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. It has become clear from ancient writings that Indian historians have been around 600 BC. made mention of Java. The influence of these Indians reached far, but especially the ruling class took over many of these people, especially Hinduism. The many loan words that can be found in the current Indonesian language are also clear evidence of the strong Indian influences. In the 5th century Brahmin sects developed in Java that worship the Hindu god Shiva.

In the 7th century, the Sriwijaya Kingdom came to a head in southern Sumatra, the trading empire that controlled Malacca and Sumatra and shipping from India to China. On Java, especially on the coast, rich and powerful Hindu-Javanese states flourished, including Kediri, Sailendra (Buddhist mountain princes) and Papajaran.

Buddhism is also not to be neglected as a modifying factor in this development: it showed no racial prejudice and displayed a strong missionary activity. The followers of Hinduism and Buddhism, incidentally, lived peacefully side by side.

Towards the end of the 10th century, Java and Sumatra vied for supremacy. The conquests of Airlangga (until 1042) achieved a balance of power in the archipelago: Java controlled the east, Sumatra the west. Sriwijaya was gradually weakened, partly due to a raid by the South Indian Cholas on Malacca and Sumatra. The balance of power remained until the 13th century.

The Majapahit Era, the Golden Age of Indonesia

Majahapit Culture IndonesiaMajahapit Culture IndonesiaPhoto: Gunkarta CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the 14th century, Majapahit Empire was the most important state of Indonesia, as well as the last Javanese-Hindu kingdom. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Muslim merchants set foot ashore and found well-organized kingdoms, especially in Sumatra and Java; this was much less the case in Borneo and hardly the case in Sulawesi. How strong the influence has been from India is evident from the Indian script that was used in many places until the 20th century.

Arabs had already come to Indonesia in the 4th century to trade. In the 14th century, the activities of the Arab traders expanded considerably towards Indonesia. Inevitably, Islam also gradually entered the archipelago, first from the north of Sumatra and then through Java. In general, it can be said that Islam was most successful in those areas where Hinduism was the least successful. At the end of the 15th century, the first two important cities became fully Islamic, Demak and Cirebon in Java.

Later on, the Hindu Majapahit Empire was left with nothing left and replaced by some twenty Muslim kingdoms scattered throughout the archipelago. Often Hindu princes converted to Islam for monetary gain, and the population followed suit without much difficulty. For example, Islam had a major influence on the development of Indonesia in many areas at that time.

The Portuguese Period

Indonesia Padrão 1522 Indonesia Padrão 1522Photo:Hadiyana at the indonesian language wikipedia CC 3.0 no changes made

The Portuguese period did not last very long, from about 1511 (conquest of Malacca) to about 1662. However, it was they who brought European civilization and culture to Indonesia, including Roman Catholicism and the Portuguese language, which in the 16th century was the trade language or 'lingua franca' of the archipelago. It was remarkable that the Portuguese focused entirely on trade and the spread of Christianity, and not so much on conquering areas. Yet they did not have as much influence on the major international trade routes as later on the Dutch.

In 1570 the Portuguese murdered a sultan in order to get more favors from his successor. However, the people did not accept this and chased the Portuguese from the island of Ternate. It would later turn out that this was the beginning of the end of the Portuguese supremacy in Indonesia.

The great influence of the Portuguese expressed itself in, among other things, the language, music, the import of tobacco and the design and construction of ships.

At the beginning of the 16th century, a new Islamic empire also emerged in Aceh.

Indonesia under the VOC and as a colony of the Netherlands

Jan Pietersz.Coen Jan Pietersz.Coen IndonesiaPhoto:Public domain

With the arrival of the Dutch in 1596, a new and radical chapter in the history of Indonesia began, a chapter that would last more than three centuries. In order to give the trade in this area more structure, the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) was founded in 1602, which after a few years had full control over the archipelago. The Dutch appointed an Indian government under a governor-general and in 1619 Jan Pieterszoon Coen made Jacatra the capital Batavia. He also managed to keep the English out of the archipelago. In the eighteenth century, the power of the VOC was gradually diminished and was taken over by the English worldwide. In 1798, all of the VOC's assets and liabilities were taken over by the state. The once powerful Dutch East India Company ceased to exist in December 1799 and at that time the colonial period of the Dutch East Indies began constitutional law.

Fortified "factories" or trading posts were established in strategic places to protect themselves against other European powers. From 1808, the authority of the Dutch was strengthened under Governor General Daendels. At one point, the Dutch also became increasingly involved in the internal affairs of the various Indonesian states. In 1830, the infamous culture system was introduced, with almost all of Java effectively becoming a state-run labor camp. The farmers were forced to grow specific crops, resulting in, among other things, a major famine in 1849-1850 in the rice region of Cirebon.

The English were the major competitors for the VOC from the early 17th century. Despite agreements between the English and Dutch trading companies, the various parties regularly clashed. From 1811-1816 Java was occupied by an English expeditionary force, and the sultan's "kraton" in Yogyakarta was stormed and destroyed. Stamford Raffles, envoy of the English East India Company and founder of Singapore, was appointed governor. In 1816 most areas were returned to the Dutch (according to the London Convention of 1814), and in 1824 the English withdrew completely from Indonesia.

VOC CoinVOC CoinPhoto:The Portable Antiquities Scheme/ The Trustees of the British Museum CC 2.0 no changes made

Dutch colonial rule was based on a racial caste structure and was governed by a sophisticated civil servant system. Before that time, the immense archipelago was efficiently managed with only a few tens of thousands of civil servants.

Inevitable in a situation of oppression by another people is the emergence of nationalistic feelings. The first nationalists were aristocrats and intellectuals, led by the son of a Javanese sultan, Diponegoro. After an incident, a holy guerrilla war (1825-1830; Java war) was unleashed in 1825, in which approximately 15,000 Dutch and 250,000 Indonesians were killed. Most Indonesians died of contagious diseases. After the constitutional reform of 1848 in the Netherlands, the system of forced cultures was abolished in 1854.

In early 1873, the Aceh War began, a chronic guerrilla war as a result of the plans of the Dutch to annex independent Aceh. It was not until 1898, when Van Heutz and Snouck Hurgronje were appointed military governor and advisor for Internal and Arab Affairs respectively, that the effective, often bloody, occupation of the whole of Aceh began. Until the eve of the Second World War, attacks on Dutch people were regularly carried out.

In 1905, mighty Russia was defeated by little Japan, which was good news for the nationalists. Yet around that time the Netherlands was already engaged in the so-called "ethical politics", with the aim of promoting the importance of the indigenous population and their education for independence, especially through better education. However, Indonesia was still fully in the hands of the Dutch in 1911, although immediately afterwards they started to lose their grip on the country again. To counter this, gifted Indonesians were sent to the Netherlands to receive a high education. However, it was counterproductive because these new intellectuals later became the fiercest nationalists and in fact made the Dutch redundant. During the period of the First World War, many nationalist organizations emerged, especially among the Javanese population. In 1927, Partai Nasionalis Indonesia (PNI) was founded, which openly pursued independence ("Merdeka") and was inspired by the Indian Mahatma Gandhi.

This party was led by Sukarno, who quickly developed into a major political personality through his actions. Earlier, the Budi Utomo ("The Beautiful Endeavor") had been founded in 1908, and in 1912 the Sarekat Islam, a mass movement on an Islamic basis.

Due to the global economic crisis, the Dutch and the Indonesians increasingly faced each other. Exploitation of all mineral resources in Indonesia was increased and political concessions were all reversed.

A very violent police force kept the Indonesians in check and nationalist leaders such as Sukarno, Hatta and Sjahrir were arrested. Furthermore, all political parties were banned and all this naturally led to an increasing anti-Dutch mood. The establishment of a Volksraad in 1918 was nothing more than a bogus parliament. In 1938, for example, the Soetjardo petition was rejected, which should have resulted in Indonesia gradually gaining an independent place within the national context.


Indonesia Japanese occupationIndonesia Japanese occupationPhoto: Tropenmuseum CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In January 1942, Japanese troops entered Borneo and Sulawesi, followed by a major attack on Sumatra. Java was captured on February 27, Batavia was captured on March 1 and the Dutch army capitulated on March 9. The Dutch were interned in camps, where many died (an estimated 13% of the 90,000 civilians and 23% of the 37,000 prisoners of war), including many prisoners who had to work on the Burma-Siam railway.

The Japanese eventually promised the Indonesian nationalists and orthodox Muslims independence, but it soon became clear that the intention was to permanently integrate Indonesia into the Japanese empire, politically and economically it was entirely subordinate to Japan. The methods used by the Japanese to achieve this turned out to be even more cruel than was the case among the Dutch. Meanwhile, the economic situation, especially in rural areas, deteriorated rapidly. Thus the large agricultural enterprises came to a standstill and the situation was aggravated by the requisition of rice for the Japanese troops and the recruitment of labor, the "romushas".

Important to the nationalists was that Sukarno was appointed by the Japanese as governor and thus had the opportunity to develop the Indonesian population in a smart way. The language thus became Bahasa Indonesia, a great symbol of national identity and the armed landstorm, founded by the Japanese, was transformed after the war into a revolutionary militia that fought against the Dutch.

When the Japanese suffered the first losses, power increasingly fell in the hands of the Indonesians.

Indonesia becomes independent

Indonesia Politional ActionsIndonesia Politional ActionsPhoto:Daan Noske/ Anefo in the public domain

On August 15, Japan surrendered to the Allies and two days later Soekarno and Hatta declared independence on August 17, 1945 and the Republik Indonesia was a fact. The returned Dutch immediately tried to restore their rule, but encountered fierce resistance, especially in Java and Sumatra. Initially, the Dutch were more bothered by gangs of young people than by the regular army. Initially, the Indonesians received little international support in their fight against the Dutch.

On July 21, 1947, the Netherlands started its first police action, which was stopped on August 5 at the hands of the United Nations. Within the republic it was fermenting between all kinds of groups, which ultimately resulted in a revolt against the pro-Dutch government, led by the communist party PKI.

In 1948 an ultra-conservative government came to power in the Netherlands, which decided to bomb and occupy Yogyakarta in December of that year by Dutch paratroopers. However, this second police action failed completely. Sukarno and many members of his revolutionary cabinet were taken prisoner, but the Dutch faced a lot of opposition from the republican Indonesians. The term "merdeka", meaning freedom, was on everyone's lips at the time.

After world opinion and also the United Nations increasingly supported the Indonesians, the Dutch occupation of Indonesia was soon over. In 1948, the US Congress decided to suspend Marshall support, and on December 27, 1949, the Netherlands transferred sovereignty to a free and independent Indonesia. Initially, the Netherlands and Indonesia were pressed into a union, which, however, was disbanded on August 17. Only in the South Moluccas, where an independent republic had been declared in April 1950, was armed resistance against this development, especially by former KNIL soldiers.

After independence

Sukarno Indonesia Sukarno IndonesiaPhoto:Public domain

On December 16, 1949, Sukarno was elected president of the new federal state of Indonesia by the House of Representatives and the Senate. In September 1950 Indonesia became a member of the United Nations. The army, the PKI and Sukarno became the main centers of power. In this constellation of growing nationalism and advancing inflation, Indonesia canceled the Union with the Netherlands in 1956 because of the New Guinea dispute.
However, the early years of the young state were far from easy. Cabinets came and went at a rapid pace, and in 1955 there were 169 political parties going to the battle for 257 seats in parliament. Sukarno looked at it with sorrow and decided to intervene. He opted for the so-called "guided democracy" and installed a National Council made up of members elected by himself. The traditional "mufakat" was also introduced, meaning decision-making by consensus. Political parties and legislative bodies were sidelined and even dissolved in this system. The freedom of the press also came to an end.

All this was imposed from Java on the other islands, as a result of which they felt neglected and eventually revolted. In February 1959 an uprising broke out in Sumatra and North Celebes. Geeist became more self-determined through the Muslim-oriented islands. The uprising was crushed by Sukarno's troops within months.

In 1962 Sukarno finally wanted to take West New Guinea and the United States also exerted strong pressure on the Netherlands to give up the island. In the same year, the Netherlands transferred the territory to the United Nations, which in turn transferred it to Indonesia in 1963. It was demanded that free elections had to be called within five years. In 1969 all parties agreed that Western New Guinea would integrate with the Republic of Indonesia.

In the late 1950s, Indonesia had increasingly become a dictatorship and in the early 1960s the country left the United Nations and became fiercely anti-Western and militant. Sukarno put Indonesia on a par with the also anti-imperialist China. Sukarno had been so handy to forge all the different population groups and ideologies into one. Self-aggrandizement was not strange, and this was reflected in the construction of prestigious stadiums and other buildings, and sculptures that were strongly reminiscent of the Soviet style. On the other hand, inflation rose enormously, the national debt rose sharply and various groups such as soldiers, Muslims and communists were ready to take over, if necessary via a coup d'état. There was also a sharp contrast between the military top and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).


Indonesia Funeral GeneralsIndonesia Funeral GeneralsPhoto:Public domain

On the night of September 30, 1965, six generals were kidnapped and murdered. Suharto, a previously unknown general, deployed a reserve unit, the KOSTRAD, to teach the "communist conspirators" a lesson. Ultimately, this situation turned into a political carnage in which about half a million people were murdered in cold blood. At that point, the communist party was dissolved and the army took over.

Suharto became president in 1967, who found his base of power in the army. Indonesia received financial aid from all sides, especially from the Netherlands and the United States. This made the country increasingly dependent on the West economically. At home, the people were very dissatisfied with corruption and the development of the economy, and the Suharto regime tried to maintain order by means of strong repressive measures. In 1969, Western New Guinea finally joined Indonesia and further a political reorganization took place, in the sense that a number of groups merged, and continued as Sekber Golkar. This party was strongly supported by the government and won the general election of 1971.

In 1975 the Portuguese troops left East Timor and the liberation movement FRETILIN tried to take power. However, Suharto intervened hard and on July 17 East Timor was unilaterally annexed to Indonesia as the 27th province, under protest from the United Nations.

The 1982 and 1987 elections were again won by the Golkar Party, despite popular discontent and social unrest.

In 1984 a number of Islamic groups revolted against the restrictions on their freedoms. Eighteen people were killed, followed by bomb attacks on Chinese companies and banks.

In the course of 1990 it became known that the government wanted to pursue a policy of "openness". This was expressed in more freedom of the press and a closer approach by Suharto to Islam. It was also remarkable that in 1991 the army killed dozens of protesters, and that Suharto held the army responsible. The years 1991 and 1992 were also marked by tensions in Aceh, resulting in thousands of deaths. In March 1993, Suharto was elected president for the sixth consecutive time. He had to accept General Soetrino, the army candidate, as vice president.

In the mid-1990s the economy grew strongly, but the gap between rich and poor was widening. This resulted in great social tensions, which were reinforced by a rising unemployment rate and many corruption scandals.

In 1996 some new opposition parties were banned and the leader of the Democratic Party, Megawati Sukarnoputri, toppled. The May 1997 general election was again won by the Golkar Party, despite a wave of political violence. Only the Islamic PPP managed to increase its following, gaining 23% of the vote.

The Fall of Suharto

Suharto Indonesia Suharto IndonesiaPhoto:Public domain

In March 1998, Suharto was re-elected president for the seventh time, appointing his daughter and a number of confidants to key positions, despite growing protests against this turn of events. The economic crisis in which the country found itself, the price rises and crop failures also created a very tense atmosphere. Demonstrations by students campaigning for reform and demanding Suharto's resignation became more massive and received the support of various groups from the military and society. Amien Rais, the leader of the Islamic party Muhammadiyah, was emphatic in this, while Megawati Sukarnoputri, the leader of the PDI, waited quietly.

At the beginning of May 1998, violent riots broke out in various cities, and ethnic Chinese in particular suffered; some 100 Chinese women were raped and a total of 1,200 were killed.

On May 18, the Speaker of the People's Congress and the Golkar called on the President to resign. Suharto tried to set up a national committee, but the important religious leaders and many ministers refused to sit on it. Cornered upon which Suharto then decided to step down. Vice president Habibie was then sworn in as president and in the newly formed cabinet everyone belonging to Suharto's clan disappeared.

Period Habibie

Habibie Indonesia Habibie IndonesiaPhoto:Public domain

The IMF appeared to have confidence in Habibie, supporting Indonesia with $42 billion in monthly installments of $1 billion. After this, the course of the rupiah recovered.

Under the new regime, a greater degree of freedom of the press was created, which made the military atrocities in East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya known. Suharto's corruption and self-enrichment were also widely publicized, yet students continued to demand far-reaching reforms. Not only Suharto would have to answer according to the students, but also the People's Congress, which after all was still appointed by Suharto. The students were dealt with harshly and 14 people were killed in Jakarta alone.

After the disappearance of Suharto, things remained restless in Indonesia. At the beginning of 1999 serious riots broke out in the Moluccas and Borneo, resulting in hundreds of victims.

In January 1999, President Habibie announced a referendum on the future of East Timor against the wishes of the military. The East Timorese resistance agreed because it thought that the population would opt for independence. Forces in the army in particular did not want to let go of East Timor, and recruited militias to intimidate the population into opting for autonomy within Indonesia. Still, a large majority of 78.5% opted for independence. When the results were announced on September 4, the militias, with the help of the army, turned to the scorched earth tactic, which drove about 200,000 people mainly to West Timor. The United Nations then put such pressure on the country that the Indonesian government allowed the arrival of UN soldiers. The imprisoned leader of the East Timorese resistance, Gusmao, was released in September and returned to East Timor in early November 1999, which remained under UN supervision for the time being.

Period Wahid

Wahid IndonesiaWahid IndonesiaPhoto:Public domain

Elections were held in early June 1999. Megawati's reformist PDI-P became the largest party, but under new electoral laws obtained too few seats (153) to enforce a presidency. Habibie's Golkar came in second but got more seats (120) in the new parliament thanks to the same rules. Two other reform-minded parties, Abdurrahman Wahids PKB and Amien Rais' PAN, took 11% and a disappointing 7% of the seats respectively.

There was a sharp contrast between the camp of Megawati on the one hand and that of Habibie's Golkar supported by some Islamic parties on the other. In order to break this polarization, the almost blind Abdurrahman Wahid (known by the people as Gus Dur) was put forward by Amien Rais as the third candidate for the presidency. The military supported this proposal, where Wahid was elected president and Megawati elected vice president at Wahid's insistence.

Wahid's short reign was further characterized by constant quarrels between different political factions, a declining economy and bloody ethnic conflicts, particularly in Aceh, Irian Jaya and the Moluccas. When he was also accused of incompetence and corruption, it was soon over with Wahid.

Period Megawati

Mehawati IndonesiaMehawati IndonesiaPhoto:Public domain

On July 23, 2001, he was voted out by parliament and succeeded by Vice President Megawati, the daughter of ex-President Sukarno. Hamzah Haz was elected vice president.

Bloody ethnic and religious conflicts erupted regularly under Megawati's rule. The army took tough action against actions by separatist movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya. Thousands were killed, but Megawati insisted on keeping her father's Indonesia together.

In early 2002, the Indonesian economy was still in crisis and poverty was still increasing. On October 12 of that year, Indonesia was hit by a very violent extremist attack on Bali. Hundreds of deaths, including many Australians, were the result.

Period Yudhonyo

Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Indonesia Susilo Bambang YudhoyonoPhoto: World Economic Forum CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In early October 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was officially declared the winner of the presidential election. The former general defeated incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri in the first direct elections of the head of state in Indonesia. Yudhoyono received 60.6% of the vote; Megawati did not get more than 39.4%.

On Boxing Day in 2004, many countries in southern Asia were hit by a massive natural disaster, including Indonesia.

A seaquake occurred that measured 9.0 on the Richter scale. The epicenter of the quake was off the west coast of Sumatra, near the province of Aceh, which was very badly affected.

The quake caused a wall of water to hit the coast of Sumatra. The waves of this so-called tsunami reached a height of ten meters in some places. In total, more than 140,000 people were killed, including more than 95,000 in Sumatra alone.

In December 2006, the first direct elections will be held in Aceh following the peace agreement with the rebels. Former rebel leader Irwandi Yusuf becomes the new governor. Former president Souharto dies in January 2008. In July 2008 the final report of the truth-finding commission of Indonesia and East Timo will be published, asking Indonesia to apologize for the violence in the struggle for the independence of East Timo. President Yudhoyono expressed deep regret, but no real apologies were made. In the May 2009 parliamentary elections, Yudhoyono's party wins votes, in July 2009 he also wins the presidential election. The Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was arrested in August 2010. Bashir is known as the leader of the terror group Jemaah Islamiah, which has links with al-Qaeda and was behind the 2002 Bali attacks. More than 200 people were killed, mainly tourists from Australia. In 2011, the Dutch government apologized for the massacre in Rawagade during the war of independence. In 2013, the apologies will be repeated in a more general sense.

Joko Widodo meets Vlaimir PutinJoko Widodo meets Vlaimir PutinPhoto: CC 4.0 International no changes made

In the April 2014 elections, the PDI-P and Golkar will be the largest parties. Presidential elections are scheduled for July 2014. Joko Widodo, the governor of Jakarta and ex-general Prabowo Subianto, will fight on July 22, when the electoral council declares that Joko Widodo has become president. In 2015, a number of Europeans and Australians were executed for drug crimes, leading to protests and even recall of ambassadors. In 2016 Indonesia will also have to deal with attacks by the Islamic State. In December 2016, the Netherlands agreed to investigate the end of colonial rule in Indonesia in the 1940s. Dutch troops are suspected of killing tens of thousands of people during the war of independence. In May 2017, the Christian governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced to 2 years for alleged blasphemy. In April 2019 presidential and legislative elections were held simultaneously for the first time, Joko Widodo remains in power.



Anthropologists divide the Indonesian population into three main groups. The Balinese, Madurese, Malays of Sumatra and the Buginese and Massakese of Sulawesi all belong to the deutero-Malay peoples. They generally have a slender physique, copper-colored skin and quite pronounced Mongoloid facial features.

The Dayaks of Kalimantan, the Toradjas and Toalans of Sulawesi, including the Konjos, and the Bataks of Sumatra are referred to as proto-Malay peoples. Their skin is generally lighter and their facial features less Mongolian.

The Austronesian populations of the eastern islands, on the other hand, are darker and have a heavier physique.

Indonesian peopleIndonesian people
Photo: Rachmat04 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The archipelago of Indonesia has more than 300 distinct ethnic groups, each with its own identity. There are enormous physical differences between the people of the different parts of the archipelago in terms of pigmentation, hair type, stature and facial features. This ethnographic diversity can be explained by the successive waves of migration from mainland Asia and perhaps even Africa. The various groups arrived in a series of massive waves of migration at intervals of several centuries. It is still unclear how this all happened. Another, more likely explanation is that small groups from Asia slowly entered the Indonesian area and, over thousands of years, mixed with and eventually largely replaced the native Australoid population.

The vast majority of the population belongs to the Malay race. There are clear, mainly cultural differences between Batak, Dayaks and Toradja's on the one hand, and Javanese, the largest group, Sundanese, Madurese, Malays in the narrow sense, Minangkabauers, Acehnese, Buginese and Balians on the other. The Papuans belonging to the Melanesian group live in Irian Jaya and surrounding islands. Peoples showing characteristics of both the Malays and the Melanesians are found on Maluku and on Nusa Tenggara, especially on Timor. There are some small, isolated groups belonging to the European main race, such as the Kubus in Sumatra and the Mentawaiers.

Minangkabau weddingMinangkabau weddingPhoto: Mamasamala CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Chinese, of whom there are more than 5 million, are by far the most important ethnic subgroup in Indonesian society. The Chinese often live in the port cities and in the larger towns on Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. They dominate trade and are among the wealthy in Indonesia. The economic success of the Chinese does not make the relationship with the other Indonesians any easier.

Brief description of the population of the large islands.


Most of the population of Sumatra lives in the long chain of undulating hills at the foot of the "Bukit Barisan" and along rivers and lakes in the highlands. This is the home of two large indigenous peoples, the Minangkabauers and the Batakkers. Furthermore, a number of smaller ethnic groups live here, such as the Acehnese, Gayos, Alas, Kubu, Kerinci, Rejang, Mentawei, Enggano and Lampung.

The highlands are thus home to more than three million members of the six main Batak tribes, the Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola and Mandailing. They each have their own dialect, customs and architectural style. The Bataks migrated to Sumatra more than 1,500 years ago from the promontories of the Himalaya in northern Myanmar and Thailand.

Among the northern Bataks there are still animists, among the southern Batakkers Muslims, especially the Mandailing. Many Bataks have been converted to Christianity by German and Dutch missionaries.

Descendants of the Batak people in traditional dressDescendants of the Batak people in traditional dressPhoto: Angeline Claudia CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Minangkabau people mainly live in West Sumatra and are related to the Malays of the east coast of Sumatra. There are currently about seven million Minangkabauers, three million in West Sumatra and four million scattered in major cities throughout Indonesia. The Minangkabauers, in contrast to, for example, the Batakkers, traditionally have a high degree of literacy and great administrative qualities. As a result, they have always played an important role in the political, economic and scientific development of Indonesia. Many well-known Indonesian leaders and writers are therefore from West Sumatra.


The Javanese themselves make up about two thirds of the total population and inhabit the fertile plains of Central and East Java, as well as much of the north coast. In the higher parts of West Java the population consists mainly of Muslim Sundanese, on the island of Madura and the opposite parts of East Java many Madurese live. The Sundanese are indistinguishable in appearance from the Javanese of Central and East Java. The Badui live in the far west and the Tenggerezen in the far east. Many Arabs, Chinese and Europeans have settled in the large port cities along the north coast.

Javanese peopleJavanese peoplePhoto: Gunkarta CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Sundanese have a culture all their own, with the complex gamelan and angklung music, the popular jaipongan dances and the lively wayang golek performances.

The steep slopes of the active volcanoes Gunung Semeru and Gunung Bromo have been inhabited by the Hindu Tenggezen people for centuries. The Tenggerezen, of which there are an estimated 40,000 left, are being oppressed by the steadily increasing defeat of Madurese and Central Javanese.

The Baduy belong to the so-called Mandala community, which is based on an Old Javanese faith with Hindu-Buddhist traits.


The largest population group in Bali is formed by the Balinese, who descend from the second wave of migrants.

Balinese Hindu wedding in traditional clothingBalinese Hindu wedding in traditional clothingPhoto: Julien Boulin CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Bali was inhabited relatively early and a Balinese Hindu-Buddhist culture developed with its own high quality character. Bali has the largest Hindu community in the world outside of India. Ninety percent of the Balinese population adheres to Balinese Hinduism.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Balinese lived completely isolated from the rest of the world.


The population of Lombok consists of Muslim Sasaks, Hindu Balinese, Chinese and Arabs. About 10% of Lombok's population is Hindu and most Lombokkers live in towns and villages on the narrow plains in the mid-west of the island. The vast majority of the population consists of Sasaks, who themselves distinguish between two more or less separate groups, the Waktu-telu who live in the mountains and the Waktu-lima who live in the lowlands.

Wedding on Lombok in traditional dressWedding on Lombok in traditional dressPhoto: Anoldent CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The handful of the remaining original inhabitants, the Bodha, live in the isolated southeast of the island.

Nusa Tenggara - The Little Sunda Islands

The inhabitants of the western part of Nusa Tenggara have Mongol characteristics, those of the east tend more towards the Melanesian type.

Nusa Tenggara is one of the poorest and most barren areas in Indonesia. Most of Nusa Tenggara's approximately 10 million residents are farmers or fishermen.

The people of Sumbawa are Muslims. West Sumba has about 350,000 inhabitants, with two separate language groups. The people here still live in traditional stilt houses and the worship of the land and the ancestors is still very much alive. East Sumba is dry and rocky and has about 250,000 inhabitants who all speak the same language.

The Abui people of Takpala Traditional Village on Alor Island, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, retain their traditional Melanesian customsThe Abui people of Takpala Traditional Village on Alor Island, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, retain their traditional Melanesian customsPhoto: David Stanley CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Flores is the largest island in the eastern part of Nusa Tenggara. Today 90% of the approximately 1.4 million inhabitants of Flores are Catholic, but interspersed with many traditional views and customs.

In the east of Nusa Tenggara there are a number of smaller islands, including Solor, Adonara, Lembata, Pantar, Alor, Sawu and Roti. The inhabitants of these islands have been in contact with each other and with the population of the larger islands since time immemorial, and have developed high-quality cultures over the centuries.


Kalimantan is the name of the Indonesian territory that covers two-thirds of the island of Borneo. The first people from mainland Asia reached Borneo around 3000 BC. Most of the population, mainly Chinese and Malaysians, lives in the coastal areas. East Kalimantan ("Kalimantan Timur" or Kaltim) has only 1.5 million inhabitants in an area the size of England and Scotland combined. The majority are farmers from overpopulated Java.

Central Kalimantan is the home of the Dayaks, the collective name for about 200 different peoples living upstream of the major rivers Kapuas, Barito and Mahakam. The Ngaju are the largest of the groups of Dayaks living in the province. Many of them were converted by the Christian faith, but many others held to the ancient faith of the Dayaks called "kaharingan." Well-known other tribes are: Iban, Kenyah, Tunjung, Kayan, Punan and Benuaq.

Dayak celebrationDayak celebrationPhoto: Antonsurya12 CC 4.0 International no changes made

The tribesmen of the Penan are the original inhabitants of Borneo, who even lived here before the Dayaks. There are still about 10,000 Penen living in enclaves in the upper catchment area of the Mahakam and Apo Kayan.

West Kalimantan's large Chinese community ("Kalimantan Barat" or Kalbar) is descended from the gold miners who flocked here in the early 1800s. Most of the Chinese continued to live in these areas and married native women. Their descendants now make up one of the largest Chinese communities in Indonesia.

Sulawesi (Celebes)

The island of Sulawesi is home to the highland Toradjas and the seafaring Buginese. The nine million islanders show a great diversity: for example, more than 40 different languages are spoken. Sulawesi's central location in the Indonesian archipelago has contributed a lot to the heterogeneity of the population.

The coastal and lowlands of South Sulawesi are now inhabited by Mongoloid peoples, collectively referred to as "Buginese," traditionally navigators and shipbuilders.

South Sulawesi has about 6 million inhabitants and an average of 125
inhabitants per km2 it is one of the most densely populated areas of Indonesia.

Between the rugged mountain peaks and fertile plateaus of southern Central Sulawesi is the habitat of many isolated living evolves, who share a common ancestry with the seafaring Buginese, Mandarin and Makassarese. The coastal people of Sulawesi call these peoples the "Toraja", the "highland peoples." Their area of residence is called Tanah Toraja or Toradjaland.

Group portrait with Buton's envoy to SulawesiGroup portrait with Buton's envoy to SulawesiPhoto: Tropenmuseum CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Traditionally, the Toradjas lived in small walled settlements on the hilltops. In the early 20th century, the Dutch colonial administration ordered the Toradjas to move from their hilltops to the more accessible and controllable valleys and plains. The Toradjas owe their fame to the grand and colorful festivals that are held to ensure that the soul of a deceased person can pass to the realm of the dead or "puya" in a manner consistent with their status on Earth. About 2.3 million people live in North Sulawesi, of which more than 200,000 live in the capital Manado.

The Minahasser peoples are descended from the Mongoloid immigrants who settled here thousands of years ago. Their languages are related to the languages spoken in the Philippines. Later on, large numbers of Chinese and Europeans also settled here and marriages between the groups have created a mixed population.


The Moluccas or Maluku is a province with thousands of islands, spread over an area of about 1.5 million km2.

The largest ethnic group in the Moluccas are the Ambonese, who live on Ambon, Saparua, Nusa Laut and Seram.

The pagan Naulu are one of the few remaining peoples of the Moluccas who adhere to their old traditions without any outside religious influence.

Irian Jaya is the western half of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world after Greenland. Irian Jaya is the least populated province of Indonesia. In most areas, fewer than six people per km2 live and there are even areas that are not inhabited.

Men in Kota Ambon (Taman Wisata) display Southeastern Moluccan clothing and customsMen in Kota Ambon display Southeastern Moluccan clothing and customsPhoto: Tropenmuseum CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The indigenous Papuans are classified as the Blacks, who live in the higher areas and have a very dark house, and a mixture of the Black and Melanesian races who live on the coast and in the lower hilly areas.

The first inhabitants of New Guinea arrived from the west, probably some 60,000 years ago. Small groups settled along the coast and in places not far inland. Probably there was hardly any contact between the different groups on the island, resulting in the incredible number of about 800 languages spoken in New Guinea, about 550 in Papua New Guinea and about 250 in Irian Jaya. A number of languages are spoken by only 2000 people.

People from southern China and Taiwan also arrived on the island, but the majority of Papuans managed to resist assimilation with the newcomers, who only settled on a few nearby islands and coastal areas of the island.

The fertile Baliem Valley is home to the Dani, the most famous inland tribe of Irian Jaya. They lived completely isolated until their discovery in 1938. Now, after more than fifty years of contact with the outside world, the lifestyle has changed somewhat, but the men still only wear the characteristic penis sleeves and the women a skirt of grass.

The land of the Asmat, master woodcarvers from the swamps, is located around the town of Agats. The 70,000-member Asmat tribe is the largest in this region and lives in approximately 100 villages located in an area of 27,000 km2. Most of the Asmats living in the swamps have adopted the Christian faith.

The other peoples in this area are divided into two groups: the peoples on the coast and the peoples in the interior. They speak different dialects and have a different way of life, social structure and ceremonies. The coastal peoples are also divided into two groups: the Bisma and the Simai.

Distribution and demographics

In 2017 Indonesia had 260,580,739 inhabitants. This makes the country the fourth country on earth in terms of population.

The population of Indonesia is very unevenly spread across the archipelago: approx. 67% live in Java (population density: more than 800 people per km2), Madura and Bali, while the three islands together cover only 7% of the total area.

In Jakarta, where 10.3 million people live in 2017, the population density is around 17,000 inhabitants per km2. Other major cities are: Surabaya (2.9 million), Bandung (2.5 million), Medan (2.2 million), Semarang (1.6 million).

Efforts of internal emigration ('transmigration') to sparsely populated areas in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Irian Jaya to relieve the pressure of overcrowding in Java have met with limited success. As secondary objectives, regional development and "Indonesianization" were increased (considered by most people outside Java as "Javanization"). Because of the fear of losing their own cultural identity, the programs encountered a lot, sometimes violent, resistance among the population groups in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Irian Jaya. In Irian Jaya in particular, the indigenous population is increasingly likely to become a minority in their own country.

The provinces of Irian Jaya with only 4 inhabitants per km2 and Kalimantan are very sparsely populated. The most densely populated province outside of Java is Lampung.

Population density IndonesiaPopulation density IndonesiaPhoto: Keenan63 CC 4.0 International no changes made

A National Institute for Family Planning has existed since 1968 with the aim of reducing the annual birth surplus. The population has grown less sharply since the 1980s and the birth rate fell from 41.5 per 1000 inhabitants in 1970 to 16 in 2017; the death rate fell from 17.5 to 6.5 in the same period. Population growth is estimated at 0.86%, (2017)
More than 25% of the population is under 15 years old; the average life expectancy is 75.7 years for women and 70.4 years for men. Indonesia thus has a very young population.

Slightly less than half of the population (2017) lives in rural areas, usually, at least as far as Java is concerned, in closed settlements (dessa, kampong) with a population ranging from many hundreds to less than fifty. The Chinese minority mainly lives in urban centers.



The official language in Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia, commercial languages are English and to a decreasing extent Dutch. The many other languages of the archipelago fall into two main groups: the Malay-Polynesian language family and the "non-Austronesian" language family.

The Malay-Polynesian or Austronesian language family consists of about 250 languages, within which 40 main groups can be distinguished, such as Acehs, Malay, Buginese, Javanese and Sundanese.

Non-Austronesian languages include about 240 Papuan languages. More than a hundred of these Papuan languages have less than a thousand speakers.

Textbooks Bahasa IndonesiaTextbooks Bahasa IndonesiaPhoto: Laura Pro CC4.0 International no changes made

In present-day Bahasa Indonesia, the languages of the former rulers are still clearly identifiable. From the Portuguese words come mentega (butter), nona (miss) and sepatu (shoe). From Dutch are among others: mebel (furniture), bangrut (bankruptcy), karcis (cards), handuk (towel), pinter (clever) and donkrak (stupid power). Words like bodigar (bodyguard) and suplai (supply) are derived from English.

Bahasa Indonesia is a non-tonal language that is fairly easy to learn. The language is written in the Roman alphabet, words are pronounced as they are spelled, and the morphology is simple. Verbs and nouns are not conjugated.

The hardest part is using prefixes and suffixes to change base words into verbs and nouns. Accents are not indicated any more than in Dutch. The e at the end of the first syllable is always mute or toneless.

Like other languages, Indonesian has a predilection for abbreviations, which are often incomprehensible to outsiders (e.g. Pukesmas = Pusat Keséhatan Masyarakat).

From Malay to Bahasa Indonesia

The peoples of Sumatra and the Malay peninsula originally spoke different dialects of Malay. From these dialects a court language and a simple variant developed, which spread from Sumatra throughout the archipelago and served as a colloquial language mainly for the trade contacts between the various peoples. The need for a colloquial language was great because hundreds of languages were spoken in the archipelago. The fact that Malay had a simple structure was convenient. Malay, a trading language or "lingua franca" at the time, could easily be spread through the major trading centers on either side of the Straits of Melaka. Foreign groups such as Arabs, Chinese and Europeans also used this language.

Many Dutch migrants used an even simpler version of Malay when dealing with the indigenous population: Pasar Malay. Journalists and writers used Low Malay, a mixture of simple Pasar Malay and Classical Malay, incomprehensible to Javanese, the book language of the royal courts along the Sumatran coast. Writers, who wrote extensively in Low Malay, popularized Low Malay as a writing language.

Malay languageMalay languagePhoto: Kwamikagami at English Wikipedia CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Malay spellings were very diverse until the 20th century, and there was no need to establish a standard. Europeans, on the other hand, had an interest in standardizing Malay, but were unable to answer the question of where the "best" Malay was spoken. The Protestant mission made a first attempt to provide a Bible translation in Classical Malay from the Riau Archipelago. Dutch and native officials used this Malay to communicate with each other, and it was therefore definitively elevated to Standard Malay. Important in this was the teacher C.H. van Ophuijsen, who wrote a "Malay grammar" and a "Malay textbook" at the beginning of the 20th century. As a result, the choice was made for a written language that was close to Classical Malay and that was very different from most other Malay dialects as well as from the popularized Low Malay.

Van Ophuijsen's Standard Malay gradually replaced Javanese Low Malay in the written language. In daily interactions, Malay-speaking Indonesians continued to use their own dialect, widening the gap between writing and colloquialisms.

On October 28, 1928, the participants in the Indonesian Youth Congress took the "Oath of the Young People", in which they promised, among other things, to fight for one language, Bahasa Indonesia. That Indonesian language was Van Ophuijsen's Standard Malay. Until the Second World War, however, Dutch remained an important competitor. Civil servants, for example, used Malay in contact with the population, but Dutch was taught in secondary schools. In 1942, the Japanese occupier banned the use of Dutch, which meant the definitive breakthrough of Indonesian as the national language. It became the language of education, civil service, politics, the press and literature.

Javanese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the worldJavanese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the worldPhoto: Day Translations Team CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In order to obtain uniform grammar and uniform spelling, Indonesia worked together with Malaysia in a language union. In 1972 the two countries agreed on a new spelling, changing for example Djakarta to Jakarta and Aceh to Aceh.

At present, only a minority of the population speak the national language at home; it remains the language of the modern, especially urban elite. A large part of the population speaks no Indonesian at all and continues to communicate at home in the regional language or "Bahasa Daerah".

At the beginning of the eighties of the last century, Dutch was spoken by no more than one million Indonesians. Eighty percent of the population was born after 1950, so that Dutch is rapidly disappearing from Indonesia. The decline of Dutch is offset by the rise of English, a language that is also taught in secondary education.

The name Indonesia (Indonesia), first used by the British ethnologist G.R. Logan in 1850, is derived from the Latin. India and Greek nèsos (= island) means Indian archipelago.

Some words and expressions:



Religion is very important in Indonesia. Belief in an almighty god is the first of the five principles of the Pancasila, the ideological guideline of the Indonesian government, and one of the main factors in promoting the unity of the people.

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but is limited to monotheistic religions; pantheism is allowed only when a supreme deity has been appointed. More than anywhere else in the world, religions from other countries have been accepted here and brought into line with ancient, original animistic traditions.

Religions in IndonesiaReligions in IndonesiaPhoto: Marshmir CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Approx. 90% of the Indonesian population adheres to the Sunni direction within Islam. This means that the largest Islamic community in the world lives on the Indonesian islands. Nevertheless, Islam is not a state religion, professors of the most diverse religions generally live peacefully side by side. About 10% are Christian (of which two-thirds are Protestant and one-third Roman Catholic), 5% adhere to local religions. Hinduism is predominant in Bali.


The main religion in Indonesia is Islam, which was introduced in the 13th and 14th centuries AD. First in Aceh and later in almost all coastal areas. Mystics spread the religion at the courts of the Hindu monarchs, Arab and Pre-Indian spice merchants among the common people. Islam was spread throughout the archipelago, especially by the Buginese, a people of seafarers and traders originally from South Sulawesi.

Java, where the majority of Muslims live, has two groups. The "Santri" is an Orthodox community that lives according to the Five Pillars of Islam. The other group, the "abangans", profess the so-called Javanese religion "agama java", a type of Hindu-Javanese mysticism, and are located in Central and East Java.

Orthodox Islam finds a lot of support in Sumatra, especially in the northern province of Aceh. In Kalimantan we find a mystically tinted Islam among the Malays along the coasts. On Sulawesi, it is the Buginese, Makassarese and Gorontalese who adhere to Islam.

Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque has six floors and is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and the second largest in the world. The gigantic white dome can be seen from a distance of 15 km and after Ramadan more than 200,000 worshipers gather here. It was one of the prestige projects of the former president Sukarno.

Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, located in Central Jakarta, IndonesiaIstiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, in Jakarta, IndonesiaPhoto: Gunawan Kartapranata CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


Hinduism in Bali (Agama Hindu Dharma or Agama Hindu Bali) is the second major religion in Indonesia. In Bali, this religion is practiced by more than 90% of the population.

This religion cannot be compared with Hinduism in India or with the old Hindu Javanese religion. Yet these two elements, along with Buddhism, form the basis of complex Hinduism in Bali.
The Agama Hindu Dharma, in which the belief in one supreme being is central, is based on five principles, the "panca srada":

1. Belief in "Sanghyang Widhi Wasa", the one and one God.
2. belief in "Atman", the eternal soul.
3. belief in "Kharma Pala", the law of cause and effect.
4. Belief in "Punarbhawa", or incarnation.
5. the belief in "Moksha", the union with the Eternal Spirit.

Traveling across Bali, the many statues and temples give the impression that many gods are worshiped and worshiped. In reality they are different manifestations of the "trimurti", the trinity: Brahma the creator, Wisnu the keeper and Siwa the destroyer. This trinity is united in one god: Sang Hyang Tunggal, the "Most High", who manifests in different ways. Hence, the many gods and goddesses are only certain aspects of the "Most High" or the "Only One."

The center of the faith is the "pura desa", in which Brahmin priests perform the principal ceremonies. In addition to these large temples, there are also many thousands of other temples, including mortuary temples, family temples and house temples on the residential areas.

In Bali there is always a temple party or religious ceremony somewhere. The highlight of the year is the great temple festival, the "odalan," which is celebrated in every village in memory of the foundation of the temple. When all feasts must take place is calculated on the basis of the Balinese calendar, which is based on the "wuku" or lunar year.

The most "spectacular" ceremony to see is the cremation or "ngaben". This event makes a cheerful impression, and that is because the person being cremated has often passed away months or years ago. By the combustion the soul of the deceased is liberated and heaven can be reached.

Ngaben ceremony is the Hindu funeral ritual of BaliNgaben ceremony is the Hindu funeral ritual of BaliPhoto:Yohana Afrita CC 4.0 International no changes made

The size of the towers depends on the closet and the wealth of the deceased. The tower represents the cosmos. The base is shaped like a turtle, wrapped by two snakes. Above it a platform has been made on which the body is placed, and is thus located between heaven and earth. Different rules apply to brahmins. They are cremated as soon as possible after death and are laid out in a bier shaped like a "padmasana" or lotus seat.

The differences with India are striking. In India these are simple ceremonies, but in Bali they are surrounded by a lot of ceremonial.

The Tenggerezen live around the Tengger Mountains in East Java. This isolated community calls their faith "agama buddha," a mixture of ancestor worship and Hindu Buddhist elements.


Pure Buddhism has few adherents in Indonesia. In Banjar, Bali, is the Brahmawihara Arama, a Buddhist monastery and meditation center inhabited by some Balinese Buddhist monks.

A revival of Buddhism experienced a revival in the 1930s. When the Europeans disappeared after independence, Indonesian Buddhism became an almost exclusively Chinese affair.

The Borobudur in Java is a gigantic Buddhist structure that cannot be compared to any other human creation. The construction required 56,600 m3 of stones, making Borobudur the largest "stupa" in the world and the largest historical monument in the southern hemisphere.

Borobudur's architecture also features Persian, Babylonian and Greek influences, and therefore has little in common with other Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia.

Borobudur temple on Central Java, IndonesiaBorobudur temple on Central Java, IndonesiaPhoto: Gunawan Kartapranata CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Its construction came about thanks to the Vajrayana sect of the Tantric school of Buddhism. The Saliendra princes had it built by farmers between 778 and 850. The Saliendras were overthrown in 856 and the structure soon fell into disrepair. Partly as a result of the many volcanic eruptions, the monument has been under a layer of earth for hundreds of years. In 1814 the Borobudur was discovered by an English colonel and in 1855 the building was cleared again. Only in 1973 was the restoration started.


About 8% of the population belongs to Christianity, which was not spread until the 19th century. In 1831 the Dutch Zendelingsgenootschap Protestantism began its missionary work, in 1846 the Catholic Church started. Christianity in Indonesia is concentrated in areas where Islam has never been able to penetrate for some reason.

The colonial government did act in a regulatory way. Ecclesiastical appointments required the approval of the civil authority, among other things, in order to rein in the mutual rivalry of the Christian denominations and thus prevent "double missions". The most striking example is Irian Jaya, the south of which fell to the Catholic mission and the north to the Protestant denominations. This pattern can also be found in other parts of Indonesia.

Catholic church at Sawahlunto, West Sumatra, IndonesiaCatholic church at Sawahlunto, West Sumatra, IndonesiaPhoto: WahyuS CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Flores, Southeast Moluccas, and West Kalimantan are important Catholic areas. Ambon and surroundings, Sumba, Tana Toraja, Minahasa and the Batak countries are strongholds of the Protestant churches. Mission and missions were kept outside strict Islamic regions such as Aceh, Minangkabau, Banten or Jambi.

Chinese Religions

The religion of many Chinese immigrants is a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, and is called the 'Three Religions' or 'Sam Kauw Hwee', a name changed to Tri Dharma in 1963 as part of the Indonesianization campaign. term taken from Sanskrit. Tri Dharma can be considered a Chinese form of syncretism. Buddhism and Confucianism in China were mainly a matter for the social and religious upper class, while Taoism dominated the perception of the common people.
Because the Chinese migrants were mainly of humble peasant background, they brought this folk religion with them to the Indonesian archipelago. In addition to domestic temples, the gods and ancestors are also worshiped in larger Chinese temples or "klenteng". The following is greatest in the coastal regions of West Kalimantan and North Java.

Klenteng Jin De Yuan, Glodok, JakartaKlenteng Jin De Yuan, Glodok, JakartaPhoto: Gunawan Kartapranata CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Traditional Religions

Despite the small number of official adherents, the significance of traditional religions cannot be neglected. Many Indonesians continue to value elements of the old folk beliefs, even after they have joined one of the "great" religions. There are great differences between the original religions, they have all gone through their own historical development.

A Balinese Shaman prepares some offering to the godsA Balinese Shaman prepares some offering to the godsPhoto:Franz-Josef Alayon Monsanto CC 4.0 International no changes made

A common element is animism, the belief that nature and man-made objects can be animated. Especially old trees, mountains, caves and springs are popular dwelling places of the spirits according to popular belief. Sometimes it concerns real nature spirits, but a deity or the spirits of the deceased can also live there.
Belief in an inspired nature goes hand in hand with ancestor worship, another common element in most of the original Indonesian religions. There is a general belief that the spirits of deceased people influence earthly existence. The soul of a deceased must therefore be surrounded with great care. During rituals, shamans ensure contact between the common people and the world of the spirits. These and other rituals are the cement of a traditional society.


State structure

Indonesia formed a federation at the start of its independence, but this form of government was soon converted into a unified state, the "Republik Indonesia".

The 1945 constitution was replaced by a federal constitution in 1949. In 1950 this federal constitution gave way to a provisional unitary constitution, after which in 1959 the constitution of 1945 came into force again and the system of "guided democracy" was adopted. The basis of this constitution is the official state philosophy, instituted by President Sukarno, Pantjasila, which encompasses five tenets of the Indonesian unitary state: belief in one God, a unitary state, humanity, social justice and 'a democracy guided by the wisdom of deliberation (mushawara). and representation.

Indonesia is a republic with a presidential system, with executive power vested in the president and ministers. Ministers are appointed by the president and are accountable to him alone. The president and vice president are elected for five years, starting in 2004 by direct elections, and are eligible for re-election thereafter (for example, President Suharto has ruled for five full terms). He or she has the right of veto over bills ("Keputusan Presiden") and has great powers of attorney, notably because he or she can declare a state of emergency across the country and is also the commander-in-chief of the military.

Legislative power rests with the 500-member parliament (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat or DPR). Of these MPs, 400 are directly elected by the people and 100 are appointed by the president. After 2004, these appointed seats for police and military will be discontinued.

Assembly room parliament of IndonesiaAssembly room parliament of IndonesiaPhoto: The Official CTBTO Photostream CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The highest body is the elected People's Consultative Congress (Malayis Permusyawaratan Rakyat), which has been made up of 700 members since 1999 and is composed of members of parliament and representatives of regional and professional groups; it meets at least every five years, sets political guidelines and elects the president. After 2004, the council will consist only of members of the House of Representatives and the Regional Representatives Council, who will be elected in the 2004 general election. The expectation is that the MPR will hold more frequent meetings and play a more active role in the economic and political policy of the government. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Administrative division

The country is divided into 24 provinces (propinsi) and three so-called special areas (daerahs): Jakarta Raya, Yogyakarta and Aceh (Aceh). These three areas all have a special form of government. The former East Timor province declared its independence in 1999.

The provinces are administered by governors ("gubernur") who are appointed by the president and are accountable to him or her. The governor has some leeway in education, religion and "adat" or customary law.

Each province is in districts ("kabupaten" headed by a "bupati" or regent)) or municipalities ("kotamadya" which are administered by a "walikota" or mayor). There are more than 300 districts and 55 municipalities. The districts and municipalities are again divided into more than 3,000 sub-districts ("kecamatan" headed by a "camat"), each comprising a number of villages ("desa") and "keluharan". A desa is ruled by a "kepala desa", a keluharan by a "lurah".

Provinces IndonesiaProvinces IndonesiaPhoto: Golbez CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

BaliDenpasar3,300,0005,633 km²
BengkuluBengkulu1,600,00019,789 km²
Irian JayaJavapura2,300,000421,981 km²
JambiJambi2,500,00053,436 km²
Jawa BaratBandung45,000,00043,177 km²
Jawa TengahSemarang32,000,00032,549 km²
Jawa TimurSurabaya35,000,00047,923 km²
Kalimantan BaratPontianak4,500,000146,807 km²
Kalimantan SelatanBaniarmasin3,000,00036,535 km²
Kalimantan TengahPalangkarava1,900,000153,564 km²
Kalimantan TimurSamarinda2,500,000210,985 km²
LampungTanjungkarang7,000,00035,385 km²
MalukuAmbon2,000,00077,781 km²
Nusa Tenggara BaratMataram4,200,00020,153 km²
Nusa Tenggara TimurKupang4,000,00047,349 km²
RiauPekanbaru5,100,00094,561 km²
Sulawesi SelatanUjungpandang8,200,00072,781 km²
Sulawesi TengahPalu2,500,00069,726 km²
Sulawesi TenggaraKendari2,000,00027,686 km²
Sulawesi UtaraManado3,000,00019,023 km²
Sumatera BaratPadang4,500,00042,898 km²
Sumatera SelatanPalembang8,000,000109,254 km²
Sumatera UtaraMedan12,000,00071,680 km²2
Special areasCapitalInhabitantsArea
AcehBanda Aceh4,000,00055,390 km²
JakartaJakarta8,500,000664 km²
YogyakartaYogyakarta3,200,0003,186 km²


The Indonesian education system is quite simple in design. Importantly, the Japanese occupier put an end to the coexistence of diverse school types for different ethnic groups. Six-class primary school was introduced instead.

Primary school ("sekolah dasar") is still the basis of the Indonesian education system. Primary education is in principle compulsory, freely accessible and free. Compulsory education was introduced in 1987 for all children between 7 and 12 years old. In 1989 98% of compulsory school children went to primary education. In 1998 primary education was attended by approximately 75% of the children. In urban areas this percentage was almost 90% and in rural areas almost 65%. In 1968 the average was only 41%.

 junior high school students wearing pramuka (Indonesian scout) uniform Junior high school students wearing pramuka (Indonesian scout) uniformPhoto: Adien Gunarta in the public domain

This is followed by schools for three-year lower secondary education ("sekolah lanjutan tahap pertama") and three-year higher secondary education ("sekolah lanjutan tahap atas"). Most children who go to secondary school attend the general primary secondary school ("sekolah menengab pertama"), comparable to the former Dutch MAVO. Students who want to learn even further can go to the secondary school ("sekolah menengab atas"). A drawback in the Indonesian education system is the small number of primary schools for vocational education. There is a bit more variation within secondary education. In 2000, on average, more than half of the children attended secondary education (1968 13%).

Indonesia has a very diverse offer for higher education, which is concentrated in Java. There are many vocational and technical training courses, teacher training courses and universities. There are currently 76 state universities and nearly 1,600 private universities and colleges. However, the quality of many private universities is poor. Good private universities are the Protestant Christian Satya Wacana University in Salatiga and the Catholic Parahyangan University in Bandung. In 1968 only 1.6% of young people were enrolled in some form of higher education. In 2003 this percentage was around 10% or almost 3 million students.

Logo Satya Wacana University IndonesiaLogo Satya Wacana University IndonesiaPhoto: Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana CC4.0 no changes made


Health care in Indonesia has improved considerably in recent decades, but still not at an adequate level. For example, in 1999 there were only 0.6 beds per thousand inhabitants and no more than 0.2 doctors per thousand inhabitants.
The progress can mainly be seen in the decreased infant mortality and higher average life expectancy. Infant mortality fell from 89.5 per thousand live births to 38 in 2002. Average life expectancy increased from 46 years to 69 years in 2003, 66.5 years for men and 71.5 years for women.

Awal Bros hospital in Batam, IndonesiaAwal Bros hospital in Batam, IndonesiaPhoto: Masgatotkaca CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Much attention has been paid to expanding hospital capacity in the countryside. The number of public health centers increased from 1,250 to more than 7,000 from the early 1970s. First aid and mobile health centers are now close to 30,000. Furthermore, great emphasis is placed on prevention and on improving nutrition and drinking water.

Typically Indonesian

Gamelan Music

In the music world, the gamelan is considered one of the most highly developed musical art forms in the world. Gamelan orchestras often provide the musical accompaniment to dance and theater performances.

The name gamelan is derived from "gamel", an Old Javanese word for handle or hammer, because most of the instruments of a gamelan orchestra are percussion instruments. The Indonesian term "karawitan" is the collective name for both Javanese and Balinese gamelan music. A gamelan orchestra can consist of five to 40 instruments, including "rebab" (two-string lute), "suling" (bamboo flute), "kendhang" (wooden drum), "bonang", "gender" and "gambang" (xylophone).

A gamelanplayer playing the bonang, IndonesiaA gamelanplayer playing the bonang, IndonesiaPhoto: Gunawan Kartapranata CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Bronze, brass and iron percussion instruments date back to prehistoric times, when the first gamelan orchestra was created is not clear. The heart of gamelan music is formed by the large bronze gongs, which can be heard from miles away.

Since the 19th century there have also been vocals, especially female ("pesinden"), in gamelan. The lyrics of the hymns are written in an archaic or literary language and therefore difficult to understand even for Indonesians. No sheet music is used, but most of the compositions or "gendhing" are accurately recorded.

Balinese gamelan music is very different from Javanese. The Balinese form has shrill tones and lively rhythms, the Javanese form, on the other hand, has slow, measured sounds.


Batik (meaning "to draw with wax") is a recessing and embellishing technique for textiles that most likely dates back to the Hindu-Javanese period, but did not reach its peak until the 16th century. Each region has its own motifs, its own range of colors and its own style.

The method is as follows: with liquid wax, patterns are applied to a white cloth or "mori", after which the fabric is immersed in cold dye baths. The fabric then takes on the color of the bath in those areas where no wax has been applied. The fabric is dyed through and after processing the pattern is visible from both the front and the back. The oldest colors in use are indigo blue and "soga, a brown color, which was the most popular court color until 1700. Nowadays these colors are no longer vegetable but chemically composed.

In Java, a distinction is still made between "batik tulis" and "batik cap" (pronounce: tjap). With the labor-intensive and therefore expensive batik tulis, one writes, as it were, the wax, with the help of a copper container with a spout, or "canting", on the fabric. A single garment can carry hundreds of different patterns. With batik cap the motifs are applied with a wooden or copper stamp. With batik cap the pattern is repeated over and over and it is the most used method. The advent of the batik cap revived the batik industry at the end of the 19th century. The mass production allowed everyone to afford batik fabrics and the export of batik from Java to the outlying areas started. Batik tulis is done by women, the batik cap technique requires much more strength, and is therefore mainly done by men.

Making batik tulis in Desa Batik Girilayu, Central JavaMaking batik tulis in Desa Batik Girilayu, Central JavaPhoto: Ardyansa Nugraha CC 4.0 International no changes made

Nowadays there are also many machine-printed batik fabrics ("batik cetak") for sale, which are bought en masse by tourists. Known locally as Kota Batik ("Batik City"), Pekalongan in Java is an important textile center for the colorful hand-crafted batik with regional patterns. After Yogyakarta and Solo, most batik is produced here. Pekalongan even has a batik museum.

Solo is a highly regarded center of batik production. The Solonese style batik motifs with their somber classic colors are more traditional and differ significantly from Yogyakarta.

Cirebon has a distinct style with its cloud motifs inspired by Chinese examples in bright blue or red, or the rock gardens with elephants and deer of the Suniaragi pleasure garden. The Sundanese batiks show large fringe motifs of birds with long tail feathers between reeds or bamboo, against a plain background. North coast batik has been heavily influenced by the tastes of Chinese and European ladies.


In a narrower sense, a wayang (meaning "shadow" or "ghost") is a flat or round doll that is used in Java for a stage performance or puppetry. In a broader sense, by wayang is understood all those theater performances in which figures or stories from the wayang repertoire are depicted. This can be done by means of unmasked actors (wayang orang or wayang wong), by means of human actors with masks on (wayang topèng), with flat buffalo dolls (wayang kulit) or with round wooden puppets (wayang golèk). The lyrics are usually in Javanese or Sundanese, sometimes in Indonesian. The songs are sung in Kawi or Old Javanese.

Wayang puppets are beautiful expressions of Javanese art. They are not real images of people, but shadow puppets that show the human figure as well as possible in the flat surface. The largest doll is sometimes a meter long, the smallest never less than 23 centimeters.

Wayang performances are given on the occasion or on the occasion of ceremonial and festive occasions and important social or domestic events, including to ward off evil. The philosophy is that when disaster is averted on stage, harmony in the world outside is guaranteed for a while.

Wajang originally only occurs in Java and Bali, but can also be found where Javanese have settled in colonies, such as in South Sumatra, South Borneo and Suriname. The shadow play with the leather dolls has spread further to Northern Malaysia and Southern Thailand. Balinese dolls are coarser and more natural, closer to the old wayang dolls. Javanese dolls have become more and more refined over the last two centuries.

In Java, the main type of wayang is the "wayang kulit", the shadow play with flat leather-carved puppets. This form draws its material from the "purwa" stage repertoire, which in turn derives its material from the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally from Pre-India. The material is often so extensive that it is divided into dozens of episodes called "lakon". Each lakon is an independent story and one lakon is shown per performance. In a wayang kulit performance, the shadows of the puppets fall on a screen of white canvas, stretched in a wooden window. Above the puppeteer's head, the "dalang", hangs a special lamp (blèncong), often in the shape of the mythical sun bird Garuda. This used to be a copper oil lamp, now usually an electric pear. The dalang is accompanied by a gamelan orchestra. Every melody played by the orchestra has a symbolic meaning. An average dalang certainly has about a hundred dolls, often many more. The dalang is both lyricist, producer, main storyteller, conductor and director.

Wajang kulit: Shadow puppet from Bali, representing Kresna of the Mahabarata epicWajang kulit: Shadow puppet from Bali, representing Kresna Photo: ASITRAC CC 4.0 International no changes made

A wayang performance usually starts early in the evening and then lasts until the next morning. A lakon has three companies: from 9 pm to midnight, from midnight to 3 am and from 3 am to sunrise.

In West Java, the "wayang golèk" is very popular. This form is played with round, dressed stick puppets, which have rotating heads and movable limbs. Compared to the shadow play from Central and East Java, the mystical element in the wayang golèk is virtually absent, while the emphasis is on humor. The repertoire of the wayang golèk theater was strongly influenced by Islam. Wayang golèk is usually performed during the day so that one can see the beautiful colors well.

Rows of Wayang Golek display, the Sundanese wooden puppet from West Java, Indonesia,Rows of Wayang Golek display, the Sundanese wooden puppet from West Java, IndonesiaPhoto: Gunawan Kartapranata CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

"Wayang krucil" is played with flat, painted wooden puppets, and is a kind of poor man's version of the shadow play. The puppets are smaller and the gamelan orchestra is limited to a few players.

In "wayang beber" an entire story is portrayed on a painted scroll. The dalang slowly turns the role painted with a wayang story in front of the audience, telling the story.

"Wajang Kelitek" uses flat wooden dolls and does not involve a screen. The stories originated in Java and take place in the East Javanese period. They are known under the name of Panji cycle and Damar Wulan cycle.

There are also two more forms in which human actors perform a story from the Panji cycle. In the case of "wajang topeng", this is done by masked dancers and the dalang acts as the narrator. At "wayang orang", also called "wayang wong", the dancers perform wayang purwa stories. The actors are not masked but only make-up and recite or sing their own text.
A relatively new form is the "wayang karya", which is much performed in Jakarta, with a large stage for the puppets.



The economy of Indonesia is dominated by the geographically unequal distribution of the population and by the pattern of production-consumption, with major economic conflicts of interest growing between the overpopulated consuming Java and the sparsely populated, foreign-producing so-called outer regions, the outer Javanese islands.

The difficulties associated with this situation have been exacerbated by the political tensions, the nationalisations of 1957 and subsequent years, the large military expenditures, and the quite expensive administrative costs.

From 1988 to mid-1997, Indonesia experienced a strong economic recovery (annual per capita income increased from $ 75 in the 1960s to $ 1,000 in the 1990s), mainly thanks to a policy of liberalization, aimed at, among other things, reduce dependence on oil revenues and build a more differentiated economy.

Indonesian banknotesIndonesian banknotesPhoto: Beeyan CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The government's economic policy promotes the export of various (processing) industries, especially wood products. The favorable results of this are mainly due to the help of large international financing organizations and development aid.

The export-oriented processing industry is currently the engine of the economy, but foreign investment in the country itself also increased. However, the Indonesian economy remains vulnerable due to dependence on foreign countries, rapid population growth (unemployment), large income disparities and the authoritarian, anti-democratic nature of the country.

At an inflation rate of approximately 10%, economic growth of approximately 7% per year will be achieved in the mid-1990s. From mid-1997, a major currency crisis ensued as a result of the financial and economic crisis in Southeast Asia, forcing the government to call in the assistance of the IMF. The rupiah exchange rate fell by more than 70% in 1997, inflation rose sharply (1998 58% !, 1999 20%, 2000 9.35%, 2001 12.55%) and hundreds of thousands of Indonesians lost their jobs (1998 15 , 5%). In the course of 1998 the rupiah exchange rate recovered somewhat, but the unstable political situation meant that there was still no structural economic recovery. That year saw negative economic growth of 13.2% due to all the problems. Only the agricultural and utilities sectors still showed positive growth. The construction sector shrank by more than 40%, making it the absolute frontrunner. From 1999 things went in the right direction again; in 1999 a growth of 0.22%, in 2000 4.8%, in 2001 3.3%, in 2002 3.66% despite the consequences of the terrorist attack on Bali in October.

Gross domestic product development (in trillions of dollars) of various countries, including Indonesia Gross domestic product development (in trillions of dollars) of various countries, including IndonesiaPhoto: Asiancentury CC 4.0 International no changes made

The crisis has pushed an estimated 17 million Indonesians below the poverty line. This increased the total number of people below this limit to more than 55 million, or more than a quarter of the population. Now that the economy is picking up again, it may be expected that some of these 17 million people will quickly return to above the poverty line, but for the majority of these, this process can take a long time.

Some current figures about the economy of Indonesia are that the growth rate of the economy has been around 5% in recent years. Economic growth was 5.1% in 2017. GDP per capita was $ 12,400 in 2017, with a sharp increase per year in recent years. 10.9% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Agriculture, cattle breeding, forestry and fishing

Almost 32% of the labor force is employed in agriculture (2017). Approximately 72% of the estimated 180,000 km2 of cultivated land is used for food crops and the remainder for commercial crops. In 2017, 13.7% of the gross domestic product was accounted for by the agricultural sector. A strong agricultural sector is expected to lead to greater prosperity in the countryside.

The main food crops are rice, maize, cassava and sweet potatoes, groundnuts, soybeans, copra and sugar. The rice culture is the oldest and predominant culture, for the most part on paddy fields, but also (outside Java) on dry, annually changing fields (ladang cultivation: form of agriculture in which a crop is planted in a piece of forest that was first burned to the ground). After the rice harvest, second crops are often grown without irrigation. Since rice cultivation is very important for food supply and it is equally important for public finances to become independent from rice imports, attempts have been made to increase food production, but initially did not lead to the expected results.

The country is now predominantly self-sufficient. Agricultural reforms, use of fertilizers, control of insect pests and diseases have led to quality improvements, as have the introduction of new varieties. This not only increased the yield per plot, but it was also possible to harvest two to three times a year.

Rice is the main crop in Western Indonesia due to its favorable climate. In East Indonesia, corn is the staple food, while sago is the main food crop in the Moluccas and Irian Jaya.

Mountains and rice fields or paddy fields in Ciwidey, West Java, IndonesiaMountains and rice fields or paddy fields in Ciwidey, West Java, IndonesiaPhoto: Cocakolam CC 4.0 International no changes made

The main commercial crops are rubber, palm oil, tobacco, tea, copra, coffee (the second largest world producer after Brazil and Colombia), cocoa, pepper and other spices. The cultivation takes place mainly in Sumatra and Java, either on large cultural enterprises or, as in rubber production, by small farmers. Indonesia is the second largest world producer of rubber after Malaysia.
The krètèk cigarette industry has undergone rapid growth in recent decades, which in turn was beneficial for clove cultivation (cloves or cengkèk). A krètèk cigarette consists of tobacco mixed with coarsely ground cloves. Much of the production is still done by hand. The machine-made cigarettes are intended for the foreign market.

Basket with coffee beans from Pagaralam, South Sumatra, Indonesia Basket with coffee beans from Pagaralam, South Sumatra, IndonesiaPhoto: Susansumi CC 4.0 International no changes made

Horticulture is for the most part practiced on yard crops, that is to say on yards around the houses: vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices are consumed on the spot and only a small part goes to the market.

Special horticultural companies, for cabbage varieties, beans and leeks in the mountain regions and for leafy vegetables in the lower areas, supply exclusively for the market.

The floriculture sector is still moderately developed, but focuses on seedlings, potted plants and western and tropical plants.

The development of livestock farming has lagged behind the rest of the economy in Indonesia, despite a policy of stimulus from the government. Livestock farming is mainly used to keep draft animals such as cattle, buffaloes and horses; for consumption are goats, sheep, chickens and cows. These pigs are mainly intended for export, because the vast majority of the population consists of Muslims.

Almost two thirds of the country is covered by tropical jungle (60% of Sumatra, 77% of Kalimantan and 80% of Irian Jaya), which is almost completely controlled by the state. However, concessions have also been granted to American, Filipino and Japanese carriers. Indonesia thus owns the largest rainforest in the world after Brazil and is the largest timber exporter to Southeast Asia. Sawn wood, plywood and veneer are mainly exported to Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia.

Candlenut (Aleurites moluccana), sawn timber (plank). Narmada, Lombok, Indonesia Candlenut (Aleurites moluccana), sawn timber, Narmada, Lombok, IndonesiaPhoto: Wibowo Djatmiko (Wie146) CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Besides wood, the forests also supply resins and gums, turpentine, rattan and kajapoetih oil. The marrow extracted from the sago palm is the folk food on Irian Jaya. Sometimes drought and irresponsible logging, especially in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Irian Jaya, cause persistent forest fires.

Fishing is very important for the food supply in Indonesia, although due to a lack of fishing boats and knowledge among the fishermen, only a small part of the potential is used. The fishing sector is dominated by very small-scale fishing companies. Fishing takes place with sailing prowls, whether motorized or not, as well as with séros, giant traps with bamboo stakes.

Particularly along the coasts of Sulawesi and Kalimantan, in the Riau Archipelago and in Maluku, some population groups live almost exclusively from fishing. In some regions of Java, fish is released in the wet rice fields and further, especially along the north coast of Java, there are separate fish and shrimp ponds; more than half of the fish caught is supplied by these artificial fish ponds.

Fishing boat in Sumatra, IndonesiaFishing boat in Sumatra, IndonesiaPhoto: James Gagen CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Sea fisheries, including shrimp exports, have advanced significantly over the 1980s through modernization of the fishing fleet and improved fishing techniques.

The main products for the fishing industry are bottom fish, deep sea fish, skipjack, tuna, squid, shrimp, weever, Indian squid and seaweed. The largest buyers are Japan and the United States.

Mining and energy supply

Indonesia is the second largest tin producer in the world after Malaysia, and its resources have hardly been explored or mapped. The main problem is the (in) accessibility of the locations where the minerals and metals are in the ground, often densely forested or mountainous areas.

Petroleum is found in East and South Sumatra, in East Kalimantan and East Java, but also off-shore. The operation is partly in the hands of private companies, partly in the hands of the state-owned company Pertamina.

Indonesia is Southeast Asia's largest petroleum producer and remains the main source of hard currency and tax revenue.
Natural gas is mainly found in the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea and South Sumatra and East Kalimantan.

Other mineral resources mainly include tin (in 2001 62,000 tons on Bangka, Billiton and Singkep in the Riau Archipelago), bauxite (Riau Islands), nickel (South Sulawesi; almost everything is exploited), coal (South and Central). -Sumatra) and iron ore (Irian Jaya). Gold, silver and copper are also mined. Almost all exploration and exploitation activities are carried out by foreign mining companies, sometimes in the form of joint ventures with Indonesian companies.

 PT Jawa Power, a 1,220 MW Coal-Fired Power Plant located in Paiton complex, East Jawa, Indonesia PT Jawa Power, a 1,220 MW Coal-Fired Power Plant located in Paiton complex, East Jawa, IndonesiaPhoto: YTL Power International Berhad CC 4.0 International no changes made

More than half of the total energy supply comes from petroleum or gas-fired power stations. Hydropower, geothermal energy and especially coal are also important energy sources.


In fact, the development of the industrial sector only flourished from the mid-1960s. From time on, the government put less and less money into industrial development, while at the same time creating a liberal investment climate for domestic and foreign private investors.

The industry is mostly concentrated on Java. More than half of this consists of small and medium-sized companies, about half of which are mechanized. Approximately 85% of the larger companies is mechanized; this sector includes shipbuilding, petroleum refining, chemical industry, textile, cement, paper and fertilizer manufacturing. There are also companies manufacturing electronic equipment, cars and airplanes.

Veneta System factory, Jakarta Indonesia, among other things makes toner Veneta System factory, Jakarta Indonesia, among other things makes tonerPhoto: Veneta System CC 4.0 International no changes made

The share of manufacturing industrial production in GDP has increased from 8.5% in 1970 to 41% in 2017.

An increasingly important share in the domestic industry is claimed by manufacturers of shoes, electronics and textiles. This mainly concerns globally operating companies from countries such as Japan and South Korea, which are benefiting from the low wages in Indonesia. As a result, the apparel and textile industry has grown over the past decade to become the second most important sector in terms of foreign exchange earnings.


The trade balance has been positive since 1980 (declined to $ 18 billion in 2017).

From the mid-1970s, Indonesian exports were dominated by exports of oil and natural gas. In the mid-1980s, exports of these products rose to more than three-quarters of Indonesia's total export earnings. Then came a policy to reduce dependence on oil and gas and focus more on the development of the industry. Already in 1987, the share of oil and gas exports declined quite sharply.

Overview of export products Indonesia Overview of export products IndonesiaPhoto: R. Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo, CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The main export products, apart from oil and gas, are traditionally commodities: rubber, coal, tin, tobacco, coffee, tea, palm oil and copra, as well as plywood, clothing and textiles, footwear, wood, fish and shrimp.
Imports mainly consist of transport and food, chemicals and capital goods.

Indonesia trades most with China, Japan, the United States and Singapore. Traditionally, the Netherlands has also played a role, which is also rapidly shrinking.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Jakarta, formerly Batavia, is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. The National Monument is located in the center of Merdeka Square, the central park of the city. Near the national monument, there is the Arjuna Wijaya statue and a fountain inspired by a poem by Mahabharata. Other attractions include Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta Cathedral, and the Liberation Monument.

Arjuna Wijaya chariot statue and fountain in the center of Jakarta Arjuna Wijaya chariot statue and fountain in the center of JakartaPhoto: Gunawan Kartapranata CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Tourist attractions include the Miniature Park of Indonesia, Ragunan Zoo, Old Town Jakarta and the Ancol Dreamland complex at Jakarta Bay. Jakarta's old town contains museums, often former institutional buildings of colonial Batavia. A number of these museums are the Jakarta Historical Museum (the former city hall of Batavia), the Wayang Museum (a former church of Batavia), the Art and Ceramics Museum (the former courthouse of Justice of Batavia) and the Maritime Museum (the former Sunda Kelapa warehouse). Several museums are located in the center of Jakarta around Merdeka square.

Museum Sejarah Jakarta (also known as Fatahillah Museum and Batavia Museum)Museum Sejarah JakartaPhoto: Edi Wibowo CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Yogyakarta is the main city in the Yogyakarta region of Indonesia. Yogyakarta has beautiful tourist sites that attract many tourists. The kraton is located in the heart of the historic old city of Yogyakarta and is the palace of the sultans. The kraton is a small walled city. The complex dates back to the mid-18th century and has its own market, shops, businesses, schools and even a number of mosques. In the center of the kraton is the Golden Pavilion (Bangsal Kencana). The pavilion has a beautiful roof with many details and a number of large teak columns. Other interesting things include the separate entrances for men and women. There are regular gamelan orchestras and shadow puppet shows.

"Pagelaran", the front hall of Kraton of Yogyakarta, Indonesia"Pagelaran", the front hall of Kraton of Yogyakarta, IndonesiaPhoto: Gunawan Kartapranata CC3.0 Unported no changes made

The Borobudur is by far Indonesia's most famous attraction and is close to Yogyakarta. The Borobudur is a Buddhist stupa and temple complex in Central Java and dates back to the 8th century. The Borobudur has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest Buddhist building in the world and everyone will be amazed by the scale of the temple and the remarkable attention to detail of the structure. Also its location in the heart of the Kedu plain, with mighty active volcanoes all around, adds to the sensational feeling that overwhelms most visitors.

Borobudur, IndonesiaBorobudur, IndonesiaPhoto: Firda diba CC 4.0 International no changes made

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Last updated December 2021
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