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Continent: Southern Asia / Capital: Kabul
Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located within Central Asia.It has a population of approximately 31 million people, making it the 42nd most populous country in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and China in the far northeast. Its territory covers 652,000 km2 (252,000 sq mi), making it the 41st largest country in the world.
Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic Era, and the country's strategic location along the Silk Road connected it to the cultures of the Middle East and other parts of Asia. Through the ages the land has been home to various peoples and witnessed numerous military campaigns, notably by Alexander the Great, Muslim Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviet Russians, and in the modern-era by Western powers. The land also served as the source from which the Kushans, Hephthalites, Samanids, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khiljis, Mughals, Hotaks, Durranis, and others have risen to form major empires.
The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan began with the Hotak and Durrani dynasties in the 18th century. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between British India and the Russian Empire. Following the 1919 Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah and King Mohammed Zahir Shah attempted modernization of the country. A series of coups in the 1970s was followed by a Soviet invasion and a series of civil wars that devastated much of the country.
Continent: Europe / Capital: Tirana
Albania, is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo[a] to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.
Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organization. It is one of the founding members of the Energy Community and the Union for the Mediterranean. It is also an official candidate for membership in the European Union.
The modern-day territory of Albania was at various points in history part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia (southern Illyricum), Macedonia (particularly Epirus Nova), and Moesia Superior. The modern Republic became independent after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Europe following the Balkan Wars. Albania declared independence in 1912 (to be recognised in 1913), becoming a Principality, Republic, and Kingdom until being invaded by Italy in 1939, which formed Greater Albania, which in turn became a Nazi German protectorate in 1943. In 1944, a socialist People's Republic was established under the leadership of Enver Hoxha and the Party of Labour. In 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the Republic of Albania was established.
Albania is a parliamentary republic. As of 2011, the capital, Tirana, was home to 421,286 of the country's 3,020,209 people within the city limits, 763,634 in the metropolitan area. Tirana is also the financial capital of the country. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania has a high HDI and provides a universal health care system and free primary and secondary education. Albania is an upper-middle income economy (WB, IMF) with the service sector dominating the country's economy, followed by the industrial sector and agriculture.
Continent: Africa / Capital: Algiers
Algeria, officially People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country in North Africa on the Mediterranean coast. Its capital and most populous city is Algiers. With a total area of 2,381,741 square kilometres (919,595 sq mi), 90% of which is desert, Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world, and the largest in Africa (following the partition of Sudan) and on the Mediterranean. The country is bordered in the northeast by Tunisia, in the east by Libya, in the west by Morocco, in the southwest by Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Mali, in the southeast by Niger, and in the north by the Mediterranean Sea.
The territory of today's Algeria was the home of many prehistoric cultures, including Aterian and Capsian and the Proto-Berber cultures. Its area has known many empires and dynasties, including ancient Numidians, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, Hammadids, Almoravids, Almohads, Ottomans and the French colonial empire. In recent decades, Algeria has experienced increased identity recognition demands, in response to which, Tamazight, the language of their 13,000 year old people, has been constitutionalized as a national language. Algeria is a semi-presidential republic consisting of 48 provinces and 1541 communes. With a population of 37.9 million, it is the 35th most populated country on Earth. Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been the President of Algeria since 1999 and has won four consecutive elections.
Algeria's economy is largely based on hydrocarbons, due to which manufacturing has suffered from Dutch disease. The country supplies large amounts of natural gas to Europe, and energy exports are the backbone of the economy. According to OPEC Algeria has the 17th largest reserves of oil in the world, and the second largest in Africa, while it has the 9th largest reserves of natural gas. Sonatrach, the national oil company, is the largest company in Africa.
Algeria has the second largest military in North Africa with the largest defence budget in Africa. Algeria has had a peaceful nuclear program since the 1990s. Algeria is a member of the African Union, the Arab League, OPEC, and the United Nations, and is a founding member of the Arab Maghreb Union.
Continent: Oceania / Capital: Pago Pago
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Samoa.It consists of five main islands and two coral atolls. The largest and most populous island is Tutuila, with the Manu'a Islands, Rose Atoll, and Swains Island also included in the territory. American Samoa is part of the Samoan Islands chain, located west of the Cook Islands, north of Tonga, and some 300 miles (500 km) south of Tokelau. To the west are the islands of the Wallis and Futuna group.
The 2010 census showed a total population of 55,519 people. The total land area is 199 square kilometers (76.8 sq mi), slightly more than Washington, D.C. American Samoa is the southernmost territory of the U.S. and one of two U.S. territories (with Jarvis Island) south of the Equator. Tuna and tuna products are the main exports, and the main trading partner is the United States.
During the 1918 flu pandemic, the 12th governor of American Samoa John Martin Poyer quarantined the territory to stop the spread of the pandemic entering American Samoa. Because of his actions, no deaths occurred making American Samoa one of the few places in the world with this distinction. American Samoa is noted for having the highest rate of military enlistment of any US state or territory. American Samoans are bilingual and can fluently speak English and Samoan or Gagana Fa'asamoa. This is the same language spoken in independent Samoa.
Continent: Europe / Capital: Andorra
Andorra, officially the Principality of Andorra, also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, is a sovereign landlocked microstate in Southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe, having an area of 468 km2 (181 sq mi) and an estimated population of 85,000 in 2012. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 1,023 metres (3,356 ft) above sea level. The official language is Catalan, although Spanish, Portuguese, and French are also commonly spoken.
Created under a charter in A.D. 988, the present Principality was formed in A.D. 1278. It is known as a principality as it is a monarchy headed by two Co-Princes - the Spanish/Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell and the President of France. Andorra's tourism services an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually. It is not a member of the European Union, but the euro is the de facto currency. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993. The people of Andorra have one of the highest life expectancies in the world and as of December 2014, according to The Lancet, has the highest in the world - 81 years in 2013.
Continent:Africa / Capital:Luanda
Angola, is a country in Southern Africa. It is the seventh largest country in Africa, and is bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean and Luanda is its capital city. The exclave province of Cabinda has borders with the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Portuguese were present in some - mostly coastal - points of the territory of what is now Angola from the 16th century, interacting in diverse ways with the peoples who lived there. In the 19th century, settlers slowly and hesitantly began to establish themselves in the interior. Angola as a Portuguese colony encompassing the present territory was not established until the early 20th century, after the Mbunda resistance and abduction of their King, Mwene Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova. Independence was achieved in 1975, after a protracted liberation war. After independence, Angola descended into an intense civil war from 1975 to 2002. Despite the civil war, areas such as Baixa de Cassanje continue a lineage of kings which have included the former King Kambamba Kulaxingo and current King Dianhenga Aspirante Mjinji Kulaxingo.
Angola has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, and its economy has on average grown at a double-digit pace since the 1990s, especially following the end of the civil war. In spite of this, standards of living remain low for the majority of the population, and life expectancy and infant mortality rates in Angola are among the worst in the world. Angola is considered to be economically disparate, with the majority of the nation's wealth concentrated in a disproportionately small sector of the population. Angola is a member state of the United Nations, OPEC, African Union, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Latin Union and the Southern African Development Community.
Continent: Oceania / Capital: The Valley
Anguilla is a British overseas territory in the Caribbean. It is one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, lying east of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and directly north of Saint Martin. The territory consists of the main island of Anguilla itself, approximately 16 miles (26 km) long by 3 miles (5 km) wide at its widest point, together with a number of much smaller islands and cays with no permanent population. The island's capital is The Valley. The total land area of the territory is 35 square miles (90 km2), with a population of approximately 13,500 (2006 estimate).
Anguilla has become a popular tax haven, having no capital gains, estate, profit or other forms of direct taxation on either individuals or corporations. In April 2011, faced with a mounting deficit, it introduced a 3% "Interim Stabilisation Levy", Anguilla's first form of income tax.
Continent: Central America and the Antilles / Capital: Luanda
Antigua and Barbuda is a twin-island nation lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands (including Great Bird, Green, Guinea, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda). The permanent population numbers about 81,800 (at the 2011 Census) and the capital and largest port and city is St. John's, on Antigua.
Separated by a few nautical miles, Antigua and Barbuda are in the middle of the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 17 degree North of the equator. The country is nicknamed "Land of 365 Beaches" due to the many beaches surrounding the islands. Its governance, language, and culture have all been strongly influenced by the British Empire, of which the country was formerly a part.
Continent: South America / Capital: Buenos Aires
Argentina is a federal republic located in southeastern South America. Sharing the Southern Cone with its smaller neighbour Chile, it is bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north; Brazil to the northeast; Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east; Chile to the west and the Drake Passage to the south. With a mainland area of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 sq mi),[B] Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second largest in Latin America, and the largest Spanish-speaking one. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
A historical and current middle power and a prominent Latin American and Southern Cone regional power, Argentina is one of the G-15 and G-20 major economies and Latin America's third-largest. It is also a founding member of the United Nations, WBG, WTO, Mercosur, UNASUR, CELAC and OEI. Because of its stability, market size and increasing share of the high-tech sector, Argentina is classed by investors as a middle emerging economy with a "very high" rating on the Human Development Index.
The earliest recorded human presence in the area now known as Argentina is dated from the Paleolithic period. The Spanish colonization began in 1512. Argentina rose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata, a Spanish overseas colony founded in 1776. The declaration and fight for independence (1810-1818) was followed by an extended civil war that lasted until 1861, which ended with the country's reorganization as a federation of provinces with Buenos Aires as its capital city. From then on - while massive European immigration waves radically reshaped its cultural and demographic outlook - Argentina enjoyed an historically almost - unparalleled increase in prosperity: by the early 20th century it already ranked as the seventh wealthiest developed nation in the world. After 1930, however, and despite remaining among the fifteen richest countries until mid-century, it descended into political instability and suffered periodic economic crisis that sank it back into underdevelopment.
Continent: Asia / Capital: Yerevan
Armenia, officially the Republic of Armenia, is a mountainous country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located in the north of Western Asia, it is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan to the south. Armenia is a unitary, multi-party, democratic nation-state with an ancient cultural heritage. The Satrapy of Armenia was established in the 6th century BC, after the fall of Urartu. In the first century BC the Kingdom of Armenia reached its height under Tigranes the Great. Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion, in between late 3rd to early years of the 4th century (the official date is 301 AD), becoming the first Christian nation." An Armenian principality and later a kingdom, known as Cilician Armenia, existed on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea between the 11th and 14th centuries.
Between the 16th and early 19th century, the traditional Armenian homeland composed of Eastern Armenia and Western Armenia came under rule of the rivaling Ottoman and Persian Empires, often being passed between the former and the latter during the course of centuries, with all its native peoples inside it. By the mid 19th century, Eastern Armenia had been conquered by Russia over Persia, while most of the western parts of the traditional Armenian homeland still remained under Ottoman rule. During World War I, the Armenians living in their ancestral lands in the Ottoman Empire were systematically exterminated in the Armenian Genocide. After almost 600 years of statelessness, Armenia was able to become independent in 1918; however, the First Republic of Armenia, surrounded by hostile countries, was Sovietized in 1920. Between 1922 and 1991, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union. The modern Republic of Armenia became independent in 1991. The Republic of Armenia recognizes the Armenian Apostolic Church, the world's oldest national church, as the country's primary religious establishment. Armenians have their own unique alphabet, which was invented by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD. Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, the Council of Europe and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Armenia supports the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which was proclaimed in 1991.
Continent: North America / Capital: Oranjestad
Aruba is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea, located about 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) west of the Lesser Antilles and 29 kilometres (18 mi) north of the coast of Venezuela. It measures 32 kilometres (20 mi) long from its northwestern to its southeastern end and 10 kilometres (6 mi) across at its widest point. Together with Bonaire and Curacao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC islands. Collectively, Aruba and the other Dutch islands in the Caribbean are often called the Netherlands Antilles or the Dutch Caribbean.
Aruba is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curacao and Sint Maarten. The citizens of these countries all share a single nationality: Dutch. Aruba has no administrative subdivisions, but, for census purposes, is divided into eight regions. Its capital is Oranjestad. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. It has a land area of 179 km2 (69.1 sq mi) and is densely populated, with a total of 102,484 inhabitants at the 2010 Census. It lies outside Hurricane Alley.
Continent: Australia / Capital: Canberra
Australia officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is an Oceanian country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area. Neighbouring countries include Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. For at least 40,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century, Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians, who spoke languages grouped into roughly 250 language groups.
After the European discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and initially settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades; the continent was explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies were established. On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated, forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Since Federation, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy comprising six states and several territories. The population of 23.6 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated in the eastern states and on the coast.
Australia is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the world's 12th-largest economy. In 2012 Australia had the world's fifth-highest per capita income. Australia's military expenditure is the world's 13th-largest. With the second-highest human development index globally, Australia ranks highly in many international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights. Australia is a member of the United Nations, G20, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Continent: Europe / Capital: Vienna
Austria, lit. Eastern Realm), officially the Republic of Austria, is a federal republic and a landlocked country of roughly 8.5 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The territory of Austria covers 83,879 square kilometres (32,386 sq mi) and has an alpine climate. Austria's terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 metres (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speak local Bavarian dialects of German as their native language, and Austrian German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other local official languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.
The origins of modern-day Austria date back to the time of the Habsburg dynasty when the vast majority of the country was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. From the time of the Reformation, many Northern German princes, resenting the authority of the Emperor, used Protestantism as a flag of rebellion. The Thirty Years War, the influence of the Kingdom of Sweden and Kingdom of France, the rise of the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Napoleonic invasions all weakened the power of the Emperor in the North of Germany, but in the South, and in non-German areas of the Empire, the Emperor and Catholicism maintained control. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Austria was able to retain its position as one of the great powers of Europe and, in response to the coronation of Napoleon as the Emperor of the French, the Austrian Empire was officially proclaimed in 1804. Following Napoleon's defeat, Prussia emerged as Austria's chief competitor for rule of a larger Germany. Austria's defeat by Prussia at the Battle of Koniggratz, during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 cleared the way for Prussia to assert control over the rest of Germany. In 1867, the empire was reformed into Austria-Hungary. After the defeat of France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, Austria was left out of the formation of a new German Empire, although in the following decades its politics, and its foreign policy, increasingly converged with those of the Prussian-led Empire. During the 1914 July Crisis that followed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the German Empire guided Austria in issuing the ultimatum to Serbia that led to the declaration of World War I.
After the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918 at the end of World War I, Austria adopted and used the name the Republic of German-Austria in an attempt for union with Germany, but was forbidden due to the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919). The First Austrian Republic was established in 1919. In the 1938 Anschluss, Austria was occupied and annexed by Nazi Germany. This lasted until the end of World War II in 1945, after which Germany was occupied by the Allies and Austria's former democratic constitution was restored. In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state, ending the occupation. In the same year, the Austrian Parliament created the Declaration of Neutrality which declared that the Second Austrian Republic would become permanently neutral. Today, Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy comprising nine federal states. The capital and largest city, with a population exceeding 1.7 million, is Vienna. Austria is one of the richest countries in the world, with a nominal per capita GDP of $46,330 (2012 est.). The country has developed a high standard of living and in 2011 was ranked 19th in the world for its Human Development Index. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955, joined the European Union in 1995, and is a founder of the OECD. Austria also signed the Schengen Agreement in 1995, and adopted the European currency, the euro, in 1999.
Continent: Asia / Capital: Baku
Azerbaijan, officially the Republic of Azerbaijan, is a contiguous transcontinental presidential republic in the Caucasus region, situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. The exclave of Nakhchivan is bounded by Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, while having a short border with Turkey in the northwest.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic proclaimed its independence in 1918 and has the distinction as the first Muslim-majority democratic and secular republic. It was also the first Muslim-majority country to have operas, theaters and modern universities. The country was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1920 as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence in October 1991, before the official dissolution of the USSR. Earlier, in September 1991, the disputed Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh region re-affirmed its willingness to create a separate state as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Nagorno Karabakh Republic has not been diplomatically recognized by any other state. As such, the region, effectively independent since the beginning of the Nagorno Karabakh War in 1991, is largely considered de jure part of Azerbaijan until a final solution to its status is found through negotiations facilitated by the OSCE.
Azerbaijan is a unitary constitutional republic. The country is a member state of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. It is one of the six independent Turkic-speaking states, being an active member of the Turkic Council and the TURKSOY community. Azerbaijan has diplomatic relations with 158 countries and holds membership in 38 international organizations. It is one of the founding members of GUAM, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. A member of the United Nations since 1992, Azerbaijan was elected to membership in the newly established Human Rights Council by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 May 2006. Azerbaijan is also a member state of the Non-Aligned Movement, holds observer status in World Trade Organization and is a correspondent at the International Telecommunication Union.
The Constitution of Azerbaijan does not declare an official religion, and all major political forces in the country are secularist, but the majority of people and some opposition movements adhere to Shia Islam. Azerbaijan has a high level of human development which ranks on par with most Eastern European countries. It has a high rate of economic development and literacy, as well as a low rate of unemployment. However, corruption in Azerbaijan is widespread, especially in the public service. The National Assembly eliminated the presidential term limits in the controversial 2009 referendum. The ruling party, New Azerbaijan Party, has been accused of authoritarianism and human rights abuses.
Continent: Central America and the Antilles / Capital: Nassau
The Bahamas, officially the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is an island country consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean; north of Cuba and Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti); northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands; southeast of the U.S. state of Florida and east of the Florida Keys. Its capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. The designation of "Bahamas" can refer to either the country or the larger island chain that it shares with the Turks and Caicos Islands. As stated in the mandate/manifesto of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Bahamas territory encompasses 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of ocean space.
Originally inhabited by the Lucayan, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taino people, the Bahamas were the site of Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492. Although the Spanish never colonized the Bahamas, they shipped the native Lucayans to slavery in Hispaniola. The islands were mostly deserted from 1513 until 1648, when English colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera.
The Bahamas became a British Crown colony in 1718, when the British clamped down on piracy. After the American War of Independence, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists in the Bahamas; they brought their slaves with them and established plantations on land grants. Blacks comprised the majority of the population from this period. The Bahamas became a haven for freed persons of African descent: the Royal Navy resettled Africans here liberated from illegal slave ships; American slaves and Black Seminoles escaped here from Florida; and the government freed American slaves carried on United States domestic ships that had reached the Bahamas due to weather. Slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834. Today the descendants of slaves and free Africans make up nearly 90 percent of the population; issues related to the slavery years are part of society.
The Bahamas became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1973, retaining Queen Elizabeth's II as its monarch. Although it is really an independent nation with its own monarch, a treaty was signed by Elizabeth II and U.S. President Gerald R. Ford on May 10 so as to establish tariff-free imports from Britain and to separate the "mainland" Bahamas from the British Turks and Caicos Islands. In terms of gross domestic product per capita, the Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Americas (following the United States and Canada). Its economy is based on tourism and finance.
Continent: Asia / Capital: Manama
Bahrain, officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, is a small island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is an archipelago with Bahrain Island, the largest land mass, at 55 km (34 mi) long by 18 km (11 mi) wide. Saudi Arabia lies to the west and is connected to Bahrain by the King Fahd Causeway while Iran lies 200 km (124 mi) to the north across the Persian Gulf. The peninsula of Qatar is to the southeast across the Gulf of Bahrain. The population in 2010 stood at 1,234,571, including 666,172 non-nationals.
Bahrain is the site of the ancient land of the Dilmun civilisation. Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam in 628 AD. Following a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was occupied by the Portuguese in 1521, who in turn were expelled in 1602 by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty under the Persian Empire. In 1783, the Bani Utbah clan captured Bahrain from Nasr Al-Madhkur and has since been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family, with Ahmed al Fateh as Bahrain's first hakim. In the late 1800s, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom. In 1971, Bahrain declared independence. Formerly a state, Bahrain was declared a Kingdom in 2002. Since early 2011, the country has experienced sustained protests and unrest inspired by the regional Arab Spring, particularly by the majority Shia population.
Bahrain has the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf. Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has invested in the banking and tourism sectors. The country's capital, Manama, is home to many large financial structures. Bahrain has a high Human Development Index (ranked 48th in the world) and was recognised by the World Bank as a high income economy.
Continent: Asia / Capital: Dhaka
Bangladesh, officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia; and is bordered by India to its west, north and east; Burma to its southeast and separated from Nepal and Bhutan by the Chicken's Neck corridor. To its south, it faces the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh is the world's eighth-most populous country, with over 160 million people, and among the most densely populated countries. It forms part of the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal, along with the neighbouring Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura.
The present-day borders of Bangladesh took shape during the Partition of Bengal and British India in 1947, when the region used to be known as East Pakistan, as a part of the newly formed state of Pakistan. It was separated from West Pakistan by 1,400 km of Indian territory. Due to political exclusion, ethnic and linguistic discrimination and economic neglect by the politically dominant western wing, nationalism, popular agitation and civil disobedience led to the Bangladesh Liberation War and independence in 1971. After independence, the new state endured poverty, famine, political turmoil and military coups. The restoration of democracy in 1991 has been followed by relative calm and economic progress. In 2014, the Bangladeshi general election was boycotted by major opposition parties, resulting in a parliament and government dominated by the Awami League and its smaller coalition partners.
Bangladesh is a unitary parliamentary republic with an elected parliament called the Jatiyo Sangshad. The native Bengalis form the country's largest ethnic group, along with indigenous peoples in northern and southeastern districts. Geographically, the country is dominated by the fertile Bengal delta, the world's largest delta. This also gives Bangladesh a unique name tag "The land of rivers".
Bangladesh is a Next Eleven emerging economy. It has achieved significant strides in human and social development since independence, including in progress in gender equity, universal primary education, food production, health and population control. However, Bangladesh continues to face numerous political, economic, social and environmental challenges, including political instability, corruption, poverty, overpopulation and climate change.
The country is a founding member of SAARC, the Developing 8 Countries and BIMSTEC. It contributes one of the largest peacekeeping forces to the United Nations. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Continent: Central America and the Antilles / Capital: Bridgetown
Barbadas is a municipality in the Province o Ourense in the Galicia region of north-west Spain. It is located towards the north-west of the province.
Continent: Europe / Capital: Minsk
Belarus, officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Hrodna (Grodno), Homiel (Gomel), Mahilyow (Mogilev) and Vitsebsk (Vitebsk). Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested, and its strongest economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing.
Until the 20th century, the lands of modern-day Belarus belonged to several countries, including the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Belarus declared independence as the Belarusian People's Republic, succeeded by the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia, which became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union and was renamed as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR). Belarus lost almost half of its territory to Poland after the Polish-Soviet war. Much of the borders of Belarus took their modern shape in 1939 when some lands of the Second Polish Republic were reintegrated into it after the Soviet invasion of Poland and were finalized after World War II. The nation and its territory were devastated in World War II, during which Belarus lost about a third of its population and more than half of its economic resources. The republic was redeveloped in the post-war years. In 1945, Belarus became a founding member of the United Nations, along with the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR.
The parliament of the republic declared the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990, and during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 25 August 1991. Alexander Lukashenko has been the country's president since 1994. Lukashenko continued a number of Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of large sections of the economy. According to many countries and organizations, elections under Alexander Lukashenko have been widely criticized as being unfair, and that political opposition has been violently suppressed. In 2000, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty for greater cooperation, with some hints of forming a Union State. Belarus' Democracy Index rating continuously ranks the lowest in Europe, the country is labelled as "Not Free" by Freedom House, "Repressed" in the Index of Economic Freedom, and is rated as by far the worst country for press freedom in Europe in the 2013-14 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, where Belarus is ranked 157th out of an overall total of 180 nations.
Over 70% of Belarus's population of 9.49 million resides in urban areas. More than 80% of the population is ethnic Belarusian, with sizable minorities of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians. Since a referendum in 1995, the country has had two official languages: Belarusian and Russian. The Constitution of Belarus does not declare any official religion, although the primary religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The second most popular, Roman Catholicism, has a much smaller following, although both Orthodox and Catholic versions of Christmas and Easter are celebrated as national holidays.
Continent: Europe / Capital: Brussels
Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal monarchy in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters as well as those of several other major international organisations such as NATO. Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres (11,787 sq mi) and has a population of about 11 million people.
Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups: the Dutch-speaking, mostly Flemish community, which constitutes about 59% of the population, and the French-speaking, mostly Walloon population and Brussels inhabitants, which comprises 41% of all Belgians. Additionally, there is a small group of German-speakers who are officially recognized.
Belgium's two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia. The Brussels-Capital Region, officially bilingual, is a mostly French-speaking enclave within the Flemish Region. A German-speaking Community exists in eastern Wallonia. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its political history and complex system of government.
Historically, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg were known as the Low Countries; it once covered a somewhat larger area than the current Benelux group of states. The region was called Belgica in Latin, after the Roman province of Gallia Belgica, which covered more or less the same area. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture. From the 16th century until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, when Belgium seceded from the Netherlands, the area of Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, causing it to be dubbed the "Battlefield of Europe," a reputation strengthened by both World Wars.
Upon its independence, Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa. The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens fueled by differences in language and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993. Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups remain; the formation of a coalition government took 18 months following the June 2010 federal election.
Continent: Central America and the Antilles / Capital: Belmopan
Belize is a nation-state on the eastern coast of Central America. It is the only country in Central America whose official language is English, though Belizean Creole (Kriol) and Spanish are also commonly spoken. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. Its mainland is about 290 km (180 mi) long and 110 km (68 mi) wide. With 22,800 square kilometres (8,800 sq mi) of land and as of 2014 a population of 340,844, Belize has the lowest population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 1.97% per year (2013) is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. Belize's abundance of terrestrial and marine species and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place in the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and languages that reflect its rich history. Originally part of the British Empire, it shares a common colonial history with other Anglophone Caribbean countries. From 1862 to 1973 the area went by the name of British Honduras. It became an independent Commonwealth realm in 1981, retaining Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Belize is considered a Central American and Caribbean nation with strong ties to both the Latin American and Caribbean region. It is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Central American Integration System (SICA), the only country to hold full membership in all three regional organisations. Belize is known for its September Celebrations, and is the birthplace of chewing gum and punta music.
Continent: Africa / Capital: Porto Novo, Cotonou
Benin, officially the Republic of Benin and formerly Dahomey, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, by Nigeria to the east and by Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. A majority of the population live on its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea in the northernmost tropical portion of the Atlantic Ocean. The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo, but the seat of government is in Cotonou, the country's largest city and economic capital. Benin covers an area of approximately 115,000 square kilometers (42,000 sq mi), with a population of approximately 9.98 million. Benin is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with substantial employment and income arising from subsistence farming.
The official language of Benin is French. However, indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are commonly spoken. The largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Islam, Vodun and Protestantism. Benin is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, La Francophonie, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the African Petroleum Producers Association and the Niger Basin Authority.
From the 17th to the 19th century, the main political entities in the area were the Kingdom of Dahomey along with the city-state of Porto-Novo and a large area with many different tribes to the north. This region was referred to as the Slave Coast from as early as the 17th century due to the large number of slaves shipped to the New World during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. After slavery was abolished, France took over the country and renamed it French Dahomey. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France, and had a tumultuous period with many different democratic governments, many military coups and military governments. A Marxist-Leninist state called the People's Republic of Benin existed between 1975 and 1990. In 1991, it was replaced by the current multi-party Republic of Benin.
Continent: North America / Capital: Hamilton
Bermuda, also referred to in legal documents as the Bermudas or Somers Isles, is a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean, located off the east coast of North America. Its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, United States, about 1,030 kilometres (640 mi) to the west-northwest. It is about 1,239 kilometres (770 mi) south of Cape Sable Island, Canada, and approximately 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) north of the Caribbean. Its capital city is Hamilton.
The first known European explorer to reach Bermuda was Spanish sea captain Juan de Bermudez in 1503, after whom the islands are named. He claimed the apparently uninhabited islands for the Spanish Empire. Although he paid two visits to the archipelago, Bermudez never landed on the islands, because he did not want to risk crossing over the dangerous reef surrounding them. Subsequent Spanish or other European parties are believed to have released pigs there, which had become feral and abundant on the island by the time European settlement began. In 1609, the English Virginia Company, which had established Virginia and Jamestown on the North American continent two years earlier, established a settlement. It was founded in the aftermath of a hurricane, when the crew of the sinking Sea Venture steered the ship onto the reef so they could get ashore.
The island was administered as an extension of Virginia by the Company until 1614, when its successor, the Somers Isles Company, took over and managed it until 1684. At that time, the company's charter was revoked, and the English Crown took over administration. The islands became a British colony following the 1707 unification of the parliaments of Scotland and England, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain. After 1949, when Newfoundland became part of Canada, Bermuda was automatically ranked as the oldest remaining British Overseas Territory. Since the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, it is the most populous Territory. Its first capital, St. George's, was established in 1612 and is the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the New World.
Bermuda's economy is based on offshore insurance and reinsurance, and tourism, the two largest economic sectors. Bermuda had one of the world's highest GDP per capita for most of the 20th century and several years beyond. Recently, its economic status has been affected by the global recession. It has a subtropical climate, Bermuda is the northernmost point of the Bermuda Triangle, a region of sea in which, according to legend, a number of aircraft and surface vessels have disappeared under supposedly unexplained or mysterious circumstances. The island is in the hurricane belt and prone to severe weather.
Continent: Asia / Capital: Thimphu
Bhutan officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked country in South Asia located at the eastern end of the Himalayas. It is bordered to the north by China and to the south, east and west by India. To the west, it is separated from Nepal by the Indian state of Sikkim, while further south it is separated from Bangladesh by the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. Bhutan's capital and largest city is Thimphu.
Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefs until the early 17th century, when the lama and military leader Ngawang Namgyal, the 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, who was fleeing religious persecution in Tibet, unified the area and cultivated a distinct Bhutanese identity. Later, in the early 20th century, Bhutan came into contact with the British Empire and retained strong bilateral relations with India upon its independence. In 2006, based on a global survey, Business Week rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the eighth-happiest in the world.
Bhutan's landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, where some peaks exceed 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Its total area was reported as approximately 46,500 km2 (18,000 sq mi) in 1997 and 38,394 square kilometres (14,824 sq mi) in 2002. Bhutan's state religion is Vajrayana Buddhism and the population, now (as of 2012/2013) estimated to be nearly three-quarters of a million, is predominantly Buddhist. Hinduism is the second-largest religion. In 2008, Bhutan made the transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy and held its first general election. As well as being a member of the United Nations, Bhutan is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and hosted SAARC's sixteenth summit in April 2010.
Continent: South America / Capital: La Paz, Sucre
Bolivia, officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia (Spanish: Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia is a landlocked country located in western-central South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, Chile to the southwest, and Peru to the west. Prior to Spanish colonization, the Andean region of Bolivia was a part of the Inca Empire, while the northern and eastern lowlands were inhabited by independent tribes. Spanish conquistadors arriving from Cuzco and Asuncion took control of the region in the 16th century. During most of the Spanish colonial period, Bolivia was known as Upper Peru and administered by the Royal Court of Charcas. After the first call for independence in 1809, 16 years of war followed before the establishment of the Republic, named for Simon Bolivar, on 6 August 1825. Bolivia has since endured periods of political and economic instability, including the loss of various peripheral territories to its neighbors, such as Acre, parts of the Gran Chaco and its coast.
Modern Bolivia is a democratic republic that is divided into nine departments. Its geography varies from the peaks of the Andes in the West, to the Eastern Lowlands, situated within the Amazon Basin. It is a developing country, with a medium ranking in the Human Development Index and a poverty level of 53 percent. Its main economic activities include agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, and manufacturing goods such as textiles, clothing, refined metals, and refined petroleum. Bolivia is very wealthy in minerals, especially tin.
The Bolivian population, estimated at 10 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Asians and Africans. The main language spoken is Spanish, although the Guarani, Aymara and Quechua languages are also common, and all four, as well as 34 other indigenous languages, are official. Bolivia's diversity has contributed greatly to its rich art, cuisine, literature, and music.
Continent: Europe / Capital: Sarajevo
Bosnia and Herzegovina, sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina, abbreviated BiH, and in short often known informally as Bosnia, is a country in Southeastern Europe located on the Balkan Peninsula. Sarajevo is the capital and largest city. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for 20 kilometres (12 miles) of coastline on the Adriatic Sea surrounding the city of Neum. In the central and eastern interior of the country the geography is mountainous, in the northwest it is moderately hilly, and the northeast is predominantly flatland. The inland is a geographically larger region and has a moderate continental climate, bookended by hot summers and cold and snowy winters. The southern tip of the country has a Mediterranean climate and plain topography.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a region that traces permanent human settlement back to the Neolithic age, during and after which it was populated by several Illyrian and Celtic civilizations. Culturally, politically, and socially, the country has one of the richest histories in the region, having been first settled by the Slavic peoples that populate the area today from the 6th through to the 9th centuries AD. They then established the first independent banate in the region, known as the Banate of Bosnia, in the early 12th century upon the arrival and convergence of peoples that would eventually come to call themselves Dobri Bosnjani ("Good Bosnians"). This evolved into the Kingdom of Bosnia in the 14th century, after which it was annexed into the Ottoman Empire, under whose rule it would remain from the mid-15th to the late 19th centuries. The Ottomans brought Islam to the region, and altered much of the cultural and social outlook of the country. This was followed by annexation into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, which lasted up until World War I. In the interwar period, Bosnia was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and after World War II, the country was granted full republic status in the newly formed Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the country proclaimed independence in 1992, which was followed by the Bosnian War, lasting until late 1995.
Today, the country maintains high literacy, life expectancy and education levels and is one of the most frequently visited countries in the region, projected to have the third highest tourism growth rate in the world between 1995 and 2020. Bosnia and Herzegovina is regionally and internationally renowned for its natural beauty and cultural heritage inherited from six historical civilizations, its cuisine, winter sports, its eclectic and unique music, architecture and its festivals, some of which are the largest and most prominent of their kind in Southeastern Europe. The country is home to three main ethnic groups or, officially, constituent peoples, a term unique for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosniaks are the largest group of the three, with Serbs second and Croats third. Regardless of ethnicity, a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina is often identified in English as a Bosnian. The terms Herzegovinian and Bosnian are maintained as a regional rather than ethnic distinction, and the region of Herzegovina has no precisely defined borders of its own. Moreover, the country was simply called "Bosnia" until the Austro-Hungarian occupation at the end of the 19th century.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has a bicameral legislature and a three-member Presidency composed of a member of each major ethnic group. However, the central government's power is highly limited, as the country is largely decentralized and comprises two autonomous entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, with a third region, the Brcko District, governed under local government. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is itself complex and consists of 10 federal units - cantons. The country is a potential candidate for membership to the European Union and has been a candidate for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership since April 2010, when it received a Membership Action Plan at a summit in Tallinn. Additionally, the country has been a member of the Council of Europe since April 2002 and a founding member of the Mediterranean Union upon its establishment in July 2008.
Continent: Africa / Capital: Gaborone
Botswana, is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens refer to themselves as Batswana (singular: Motswana). Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966. Since then, it has maintained a strong tradition as a stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections. Geographically, Botswana is flat, with up to 70 percent of its territory being the Kalahari Desert. It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast. Its border with Zambia to the north near Kazungula is poorly defined but at most is a few hundred metres long.
A mid-sized country of just over two million people, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world. Around 10 percent of the population lives in the capital and largest city, Gaborone. Once one of the poorest countries in the world-with a GDP per capita of about US$70 per year in the late 1960s-Botswana has since transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, now boasting a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about $16,400 per year as of 2013. Its high gross national income (by some estimates the fourth-largest in Africa) gives the country a modest standard of living and the highest Human Development Index of continental Sub-Saharan Africa. Botswana is a member of the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Nations. Despite its political stability and relative socioeconomic prosperity, the country is among the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with around a quarter of the population estimated to be infected.
Continent: South America / Capital: Brasilis
Brazil Listeni, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, About this sound listen (help'info)), is the largest country in both South America and the Latin American region. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population. It is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world, and the only one in the Americas. Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of 7,491 km (4,655 mi). It borders all other South American countries except Ecuador and Chile and occupies 47.3 percent of the continent of South America. Its Amazon River basin includes a vast tropical forest, home to diverse wildlife, a variety of ecological systems, and extensive natural resources spanning numerous protected habitats. This unique environmental heritage makes Brazil one of 17 megadiverse countries, and is the subject of significant global interest and debate regarding deforestation and environmental protection.
Brazil was inhabited by numerous tribal nations prior to the landing of traveler Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500, who claimed the area for Portugal. Brazil remained a Portuguese colony until 1808, when the capital of the empire was transferred from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro after French forces invaded Portugal. In 1815, it was elevated to the rank of kingdom upon the formation of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. Its independence was achieved in 1822 with the creation of the Empire of Brazil, a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system. The country became a presidential republic in 1889, when a military coup d'etat proclaimed the Republic, although the bicameral legislature, now called Congress, dates back to the ratification of the first constitution in 1824. An authoritarian military junta had led the nation from 1964 until 1985. Brazil's current Constitution, formulated in 1988, defines it as a federal republic. The Federation is composed of the union of the Federal District, the 26 states, and the 5,570 municipalities.
The country's economy is the world's seventh largest by both nominal GDP and purchasing power parity, as of 2012. A member of the BRIC group, Brazil until 2010 had one of the world's fastest growing major economies, with its economic reforms giving the country new international recognition and influence. Brazil's national development bank (BNDES) plays an important role for the country's economic growth. Brazil is a founding member of the United Nations, the G20, CPLP, Latin Union, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the Organization of American States, Mercosul and the Union of South American Nations. Brazil is a regional power in Latin America and a middle power in international affairs, with some analysts identifying it as an emerging global power. Brazil has been the world's largest producer of coffee for the last 150 years.
Continent: North America / Capital: Road Town
The Virgin Islands, commonly referred to as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), is a British overseas territory located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. The islands make up part of the Virgin Islands archipelago; the remaining islands constitute the US Virgin Islands and the Spanish Virgin Islands. The official name of the Territory is still simply the "Virgin Islands", but the prefix "British" is often used to distinguish it from the neighbouring American territory which changed its name from the "Danish West Indies" to "Virgin Islands of the United States" in 1917. British Virgin Islands government publications continue to begin with the name "The Territory of the Virgin Islands", and the Territory's passports simply refer to the "Virgin Islands", and all laws begin with the words "Virgin Islands". Moreover, the Territory's Constitutional Commission has expressed the view that "every effort should be made", to encourage the use of the name "Virgin Islands".
The British Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, along with over fifty other smaller islands and cays. About 15 of the islands are inhabited. The capital, Road Town, is situated on Tortola, the largest island, which is approximately 20 km (12 mi) long and 5 km (3 mi) wide. The islands have a population of about 28,000, of whom approximately 23,500 live on Tortola. British Virgin Islanders are classed as British Overseas Territories citizens and since 2002 have had an entitlement to take up full UK citizenship. Although the territory is not part of the European Union and not directly subject to EU law, its citizens are deemed to be citizens of the EU as well.
Continent: Asia / Capital: Bandar Seri Begawan
Brunei officially the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace, is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Apart from its coastline with the South China Sea, it is completely surrounded by the state of Sarawak, Malaysia; and it is separated into two parts by the Sarawak district of Limbang. It is the only sovereign state completely on the island of Borneo; the remainder of the island's territory is divided between the nations of Malaysia and Indonesia. Brunei's population was 408,786 in July 2012.
At the peak of Bruneian Empire, Sultan Bolkiah (reigned 1485-1528) is alleged to have had control over most regions of Borneo, including modern-day Sarawak and Sabah, as well as the Sulu archipelago off the northeast tip of Borneo, Seludong (modern-day Manila), and the islands off the northwest tip of Borneo. The maritime state was visited by Spain's Magellan Expedition in 1521 and fought against Spain in 1578's Castille War.
During the 19th century the Bruneian Empire began to decline. The Sultanate ceded Sarawak (Kuching) to James Brooke and installed him as the White Rajah, and it ceded Sabah to the British North Borneo Chartered Company. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate and was assigned a British resident as colonial manager in 1906. After the Japanese occupation during World War II, in 1959 a new constitution was written. In 1962, a small armed rebellion against the monarchy was ended with the help of the British.
Brunei gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984. Economic growth during the 1990s and 2000s, averaging 56% from 1999 to 2008, transformed Brunei into an industrialised country. It has developed wealth from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields. Brunei has the second-highest Human Development Index among the South East Asia nations, after Singapore, and is classified as a "developed country". According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Brunei is ranked fifth in the world by gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity. The IMF estimated, in 2011, that Brunei was one of two countries (the other being Libya) with a public debt at 0% of the national GDP. Forbes also ranks Brunei as the fifth-richest nation out of 182, based on its petroleum and natural gas fields.
Continent:Republic of Bulgaria/Capital: Sofia
Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's 16th-largest country.
Organised prehistoric cultures began developing on Bulgarian lands during the Neolithic period. Its ancient history saw the presence of the Thracians and later the Greeks and Romans. The emergence of a unified Bulgarian state dates back to the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire in 681 AD, which dominated most of the Balkans and functioned as a cultural hub for Slavs during the Middle Ages. With the downfall of the Second Bulgarian Empire in 1396, its territories came under Ottoman rule for nearly five centuries. The Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) led to the formation of the Third Bulgarian State. The following years saw several conflicts with its neighbours, which prompted Bulgaria to align with Germany in both world wars. In 1946 it became a single-party socialist state as part of the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. In December 1989 the ruling Communist Party allowed multi-party elections, which subsequently led to Bulgaria's transition into a democracy and a market-based economy.
Bulgaria's population of 7.4 million people is predominantly urbanised and mainly concentrated in the administrative centres of its 28 provinces. Most commercial and cultural activities are centred on the capital and largest city, Sofia. The strongest sectors of the economy are heavy industry, power engineering, and agriculture, all of which rely on local natural resources.
The country's current political structure dates to the adoption of a democratic constitution in 1991. Bulgaria is a unitary parliamentary republic with a high degree of political, administrative, and economic centralisation. It is a member of the European Union, NATO, and the Council of Europe; a founding state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); and has taken a seat at the UN Security Council three times.
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa around 274,200 square kilometres (105,900 sq mi) in size. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north; Niger to the east; Benin to the southeast; Togo and Ghana to the south; and Ivory Coast to the southwest. Its capital is Ouagadougou. As of 2014, its population was estimated at just over 17.3 million.
Formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta, the country was renamed "Burkina Faso" on 4 August 1984 by then-President Thomas Sankara. Residents of Burkina Faso are known as Burkinabe. French is an official language of government and business.
Before the conquest of what is now Burkina Faso by the French and other colonial powers during the late 19th century the country was ruled by various ethnic groups including the Mossi kingdoms. After gaining independence from France in 1960, the country underwent many governmental changes. Today it is a semi-presidential republic. Blaise Compaore was the most recent president and ruled the country from 1987 until he was ousted from power by the popular youth upheaval of 31 October 2014.
Burundi, officially the Republic of Burundi, is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of Southeast Africa, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. It is also sometimes considered part of Central Africa. Burundi's capital is Bujumbura. Although the country is landlocked, much of the southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.
The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least five hundred years. For more than 200 years, Burundi had an indigenous kingdom. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Germany colonized the region. After the First World War and its defeat, it ceded the territory to Belgium. The latter ruled Burundi and Rwanda as a European colony known as Ruanda-Urundi. Their intervention exacerbated social differences between the Tutsi and Hutu, which contributed to political unrest in the region. There was civil war in Burundi as it fought for independence in the middle of the twentieth century. Presently, Burundi is governed as a presidential representative democratic republic.
Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world. It has one of the lowest per capita GDPs of any nation in the world. The country has suffered from warfare, corruption and poor access to education. Burundi is densely populated and has had substantial emigration as young people seek opportunities elsewhere. According to a 2012 DHL Global Connectedness Index, Burundi is the least globalized of 140 surveyed countries.
According to the Global Hunger Index of 2013, Burundi has an indicator ratio of 38.8, earning the nation the distinction of being the hungriest country in the world in terms of percentage.
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia(Khmer: and once known as the Khmer Empire, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Its total landmass is 181,035 square kilometres (69,898 sq mi), bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.
With a population of over 15 million, Cambodia is the 69th most populous country in the world. The official religion is TheravadaBuddhism, practiced by approximately 95 percent of the population. The country's minority groups include Vietnamese, Chinese,Chams, and 30 hill tribes. The capital and largest city is Phnom Penh, the political, economic, and cultural center of Cambodia. The kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with Norodom Sihamoni, a monarch chosen by the Royal Throne Council, as head of state. The head of government is Hun Sen, who is currently the longest serving non-royal leader in South East Asia and has ruled Cambodia for over 25 years.
Cambodia's ancient name is "Kambuja". In 802 AD, Jayavarman II declared himself king and marked the beginning of the Khmer Empire which flourished for over 600 years, allowing successive kings to dominate much of Southeast Asia and accumulate immense power and wealth. The Indianized kingdom built monumental temples including Angkor Wat, now aWorld Heritage Site, and facilitated the spread of first Hinduism, then Buddhism to much of Southeast Asia. After the fall of Angkorto Ayutthaya in the 15th century, Cambodia was then ruled as a vassal between its neighbors.
Cambodia became a protectorate of France in 1863, and gained independence in 1953. The Vietnam War extended into Cambodia, during which the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh in 1975 and later carried out the Cambodian Genocide from 1975 until 1979, when they were ousted by Vietnam and then fought against the Vietnamese backed People's Republic of Kampuchea in the Cambodian-Vietnamese War (1979-1991). Following the 1991 Paris Peace Accords Cambodia was governed briefly by aUnited Nations mission (1992-1993). The UN withdrew after holding elections in which around 90 percent of the registered voters cast ballots. The 1997 coup placed power solely in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People's Party, who remain in power as of 2015.
Cambodia is a "vaguely communist free-market state with a relatively authoritarian coalition ruling over a superficial democracyThe country faces numerous challenges and sociopolitical issues, including widespread poverty, pervasive corruption, lack of political freedoms,low human development, and a high rate of hunger.
A low income economy, Cambodia nonetheless has one of the best economic records in Asia, with growth averaging 6 percent over the last decade. Agriculture remains the dominant economic sector, with strong growth in textiles, construction, garments, and tourism leading to increased foreign investment and international trade.
Continent: Africa/Capital: Yaounde
Cameroon officially the Republic of Cameroon, is a country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon's coastline lies on the Bight of Bonny, part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. The country is often referred to as "Africa in miniature" for its geological and cultural diversity. Natural features include beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas. The highest point is Mount Cameroon in the southwest, and the largest cities are Douala, Yaounde, and Garoua. Cameroon is home to over 200 different linguistic groups. The country is well known for its native styles of music, particularly makossa andbikutsi, and for its successful national football team. French and English are the official languages. After independence, the newly united nation joined the Commonwealth of Nations, although the vast majority of its territories had previously been a German colony and, after World War I, a French mandate.
Early inhabitants of the territory included the Sao civilisation around Lake Chad and the Baka hunter-gatherers in the southeastern rainforest. Portuguese explorers reached the coast in the 15th century and named the area Rio dos Camaroes(Shrimp River), which became Cameroon in English. Fulani soldiers founded the Adamawa Emirate in the north in the 19th century, and various ethnic groups of the west and northwest established powerful chiefdoms and fondoms. Cameroon became a German colony in 1884 known as Kamerun.
After World War I, the territory was divided between France and Britain as League of Nations mandates. The Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) political party advocated independence, but was outlawed by France in the 1950s. It waged war on French and UPC militant forces until 1971. In 1960, the French-administered part of Cameroon became independent as the Republic of Cameroun under President Ahmadou Ahidjo. The southern part of British Cameroons merged with it in 1961 to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The country was renamed the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972 and the Republic of Cameroon in 1984.
Compared with other African countries, Cameroon enjoys relatively high political and social stability. This has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, railways, and large petroleum and timber industries. Nevertheless, large numbers of Cameroonians live in poverty as subsistence farmers. Power lies firmly in the hands of the authoritarian president since 1982,Paul Biya, and his Cameroon People's Democratic Movement party. The English-speaking territories of Cameroon have grown increasingly alienated from the government, and politicians from those regions have called for greater decentralization and even secession (for example: the Southern Cameroons National Council) of the former British-governed territories.
Canada is a country in North America consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean. Covering 9.98 million square kilometres in total, Canada is the world's second-largest country by total area and the fourth-largest country by land area. Itscommon border with the United States forms the world's longest land border.
The land that is now Canada has been inhabited for millennia by various Aboriginal peoples. Beginning in the late 15th century,British and French colonies were established on the region's Atlantic coast. As a consequence of various conflicts, the United Kingdom gained and lost North American territories until left, in the late 18th century, with what mostly comprises Canada today. Pursuant to the British North America Act, on July 1, 1867, three colonies joined to form the autonomous federal Dominion of Canada. This began an accretion of provinces and territories to the new self-governing Dominion. In 1931, Britain granted Canada near total independence with the Statute of Westminster 1931 and full sovereignty was attained when the Canada Act 1982severed the vestiges of legal dependence on the British parliament.
Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II being the current head of state. The country is officially bilingual at the federal level. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries, with a population of approximately 35 million as of 2015. Its advanced economy is one of the largest in the world, relying chiefly upon its abundant natural resources and well-developed international trade networks. Canada's long and complex relationship with the United States has had a significant impact on its economy and culture.
Canada is a developed country and one of the wealthiest in the world, with the tenth highest nominal per capita income globally, and the eighth highest ranking in the Human Development Index. It ranks among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, and education. Canada is a member of theCommonwealth of Nations, and is furthermore part of several major international and intergovernmental institutions or groupings, including NATO, the G8, the Group of Ten, the G20, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Cape Verde, officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an island country spanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. Located 570 kilometres (350 mi) off the coast of Western Africa, the islands cover a combined area of slightly over 4,000 square kilometres (1,500 sq mi).
Portuguese explorers discovered and colonized the uninhabited islands in the 15th century, the first European settlement in the tropics. Ideally located for the Atlantic slave trade, the islands grew prosperous and often attracted privateers and pirates, among them Sir Francis Drake in the 1580s. The islands were also visited by Charles Darwin during FitzRoy’s Beagle voyage in 1832. The islands were settled as the colony grew in importance on the main shipping lanes from Europe to India and Australia, and population increased steadily.
At the time of independence from Portugal in 1975, Cape Verdeans emigrated across the world, such that the population in the 21st century of over half a million people on the islands is equaled by the diaspora in Europe, the Americas, and on the African continent. The Cape Verdean economy is mostly service-oriented with a growing focus on tourism and foreign investment.
The country is known for the Cape Verdean type hurricanes that form off the coast of the archipelago islands. While many move harmlessly out to sea, some move across the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, becoming damaging storms for Caribbean nations, Central America, Mexico, Bermuda, the United States, and occasionally even Canada.
Historically, the name "Cape Verde" has been used in English for the archipelago and, since independence in 1975, for the country. In 2013, the Cape Verdean government determined that the Portuguese designation "Cabo Verde" would henceforth be used for official purposes, such as at the United Nations, even in English contexts.
Continent: N.America/Capital: Georgetown
The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory in the western Caribbean Sea. The territory comprises the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, located south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica. The Cayman Islands are considered to be part of the geographic Western Caribbean Zone as well as the Greater Antilles. The territory is a major world offshore financial centre.
Continent: Africa/Capital: Bangui
The Central African Republic or Centrafrique is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo to the south and Cameroon to the west. The CAR covers a land area of about 620,000 square kilometres (240,000 sq mi) and had an estimated population of around 4.7 million as of 2014. Most of the CAR consists of Sudano-Guinean savannas, but the country also includes a Sahelo-Sudanian zone in the north and anequatorial forest zone in the south. Two thirds of the country is within the Ubangi River basin (which flows into the Congo), while the remaining third lies in the basin of the Chari, which flows into Lake Chad. What is today the Central African Republic has been inhabited for millennia; however, the country's current borders were established by France, which ruled the country as a colony starting in the late 19th century. After gaining independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic was ruled by a series of autocratic leaders; by the 1990s, calls for democracy led to the first multi-party democratic elections in 1993. Ange-Felix Patasse became president, but was later removed by General Francois Bozize in the 2003 coup. The Central African Republic Bush War began in 2004 and, despite a peace treaty in 2007 and another in 2011, fighting broke out between government, Muslim, and Christian factions in December 2012, leading to ethnic andreligious cleansing and massive population displacement in 2013 and 2014. Despite its significant mineral deposits and other resources, such as uranium reserves, crude oil, gold, diamonds, lumber, andhydropower,as well as significant quantities of arable land, the Central African Republic is among the ten poorest countries in the world. As of 2013, according to the Human Development Index (HDI), the country had a low level of human development, ranking at 185th out of 187 countries.
Chad, officially the Republic of Chad, is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest and Niger to the west. It is the fifth largest country in Africa in terms of area. Chad is divided into multiple regions: a desert zone in the north, an arid Sahelian belt in the centre and a more fertile Sudanesesavanna zone in the south. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the largest wetland in Chad and the second-largest in Africa. N'Djamena, the capital, is the largest city. Chad is home to over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. Arabic and French are the official languages. Islam and Christianity are the most widely practiced religions. Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium BC, a series of states and empires rose and fell in Chad’s Sahelian strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region. France conquered the territory by 1920 and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. In 1960, Chad obtained independence under the leadership of Francois Tombalbaye. Resentment towards his policies in the Muslim north culminated in the eruption of a long-lasting civil war in 1965. In 1979, the rebels conquered the capital and put an end to the south's hegemony. However, the rebel commanders fought amongst themselves until Hissene Habredefeated his rivals. He was overthrown in 1990 by his general Idriss Deby. Since 2003, the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation, with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in and around camps in eastern Chad. While many political parties are active, power lies firmly in the hands of President Deby and his political party, the Patriotic Salvation Movement. Chad remains plagued by political violence and recurrent attempted coups detat. Chad is one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world; most inhabitants live in poverty as subsistence herders and farmers. Since 2003, crude oil has become the country’s primary source of export earnings, superseding the traditional cotton industry.
Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a South American country occupying a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernandez, Salas y Gomez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty. Chile’s northern desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper. The relatively small central area dominates in terms of population and agricultural resources, and is the cultural and political center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th century when it incorporated its northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands, and features a string ofvolcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands. Spain conquered and colonised Chile in the mid-16th century, replacing Inca rule in northern and central Chile, but failing to conquerthe independent Mapuche that inhabited south-central Chile. After declaring its independence from Spain in 1818, Chile emerged in the 1830s as a relatively stable authoritarian republic. In the 19th century, Chile saw significant economic and territorial growth,ending Mapuche resistance in the 1880s and gaining its current northern territory in the War of the Pacific (1879-83) after defeating Peru and Bolivia. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the country experienced severe left-right political polarization and turmoil. This development culminated with the 1973 Chilean coup detat that overthrew Salvador Allende's left-wing government and instituted a 16-year-long right-wing military dictatorship that left more than 3,000 people dead or missing. The regime headed by Augusto Pinochet ended in 1990 after it lost a referendum in 1988 and was succeeded by a centre-left coalition which ruled through four presidencies until 2010. Chile is today one of South America's most stable and prosperous nations. It leads Latin American nations in rankings of human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, state of peace, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption. It also ranks high regionally in sustainability of the state, and democratic development.Chile is a founding member of the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a sovereign state located in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1.35 billion. The PRC is a single-party state governed by the Chinese Communist Party, with its seat of government in the capital city of Beijing.It exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing,Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing), and two mostly self-governing special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau). The PRC also claims the territories governed by the Republic of China (ROC), a separate political entity commonly known as Taiwan today, as a part of its territory, which includes the island of Taiwan as Taiwan Province, Kinmen and Matsu as a part of Fujian Province and islands the ROC controls in the South China Sea as a part of Hainan Province. These claims are controversial due to the complex political status of Taiwan. Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometers, China is the world's second-largest country by land area, and either thethird or fourth-largest by total area, depending on the method of measurement.China's landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in the arid north to subtropical forests in the wetter south. The Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges separate China from South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, run from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China's coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 kilometres (9,000 mi) long, and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East andSouth China Seas. The history of China goes back to the ancient civilization – one of the world's earliest - that flourished in the fertile basin of theYellow River in the North China Plain. For millennia, China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies, known asdynasties, beginning with the semi-mythological Xia of the Yellow River basin (c. 2000 BCE). Since 221 BCE, when the Qin Dynasty first conquered several states to form a Chinese empire, the country has expanded, fractured and been reformed numerous times. The Republic of China (ROC) overthrew the last dynasty in 1911, and ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949. After the surrender of the Empire of Japan in World War II, the Communist Party defeated the nationalist Kuomintang in mainland China and established the People's Republic of China in Beijing on 1 October 1949, while the Kuomintang relocated the ROC government to its present capital of Taipei. China had the largest and most complex economy in the world for most of the past two thousand years, during which it has seen cycles of prosperity and decline. Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has become one of the world'sfastest-growing major economies. As of 2013, it is the world's second-largest economy by both nominal total GDP and purchasing power parity (PPP), and is also the world's largest exporter and importer of goods.China is a recognized nuclear weapons stateand has the world's largest standing army, with the second-largest defence budget.The PRC has been a United Nationsmember since 1971, when it replaced the ROC as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BCIM and the G-20. China is a great power and a major regional power within Asia, and has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of commentators.
Continent: Oceania/Capital: The Settlement
The Territory of Christmas Island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It has a population of 2,072 residents who live in a number of "settlement areas" on the northern tip of the island: Flying Fish Cove (also known as Kampong), Silver City,Poon Saan, and Drumsite. The majority of the population are Chinese Australian. It is called "Christmas Island" because it was discovered on Christmas Day (25 December 1643). The island's geographic isolation and history of minimal human disturbance has led to a high level of endemism among its flora and fauna, which is of interest to scientists and naturalists. 63% of its 135 square kilometres (52 sq mi) is an Australian national park. There exist large areas of primary monsoonal forest. Phosphate, deposited originally as guano, has been mined on the island for many years.
Continent:S.America / Capital: Bogota
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia, is a country situated in the northwest of South America, bordered to the northwest by Panama; to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; and it shares maritime limits with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras,Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Haiti. It is a unitary, constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The territory of what is now Colombia was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples including the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tairona. The Spanish arrived in 1499 and initiated a period of conquest and colonization ultimately creating the Viceroyalty of New Granada, with its capital at Bogota. Independence from Spain was won in 1819, but by 1830 "Gran Colombia" had collapsed with the secession of Venezuela and Ecuador. What is now Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada. The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858), and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia was finally declared in 1886. Panama seceded in 1903. Since the 1960s, the country has suffered from an asymmetric low-intensity armed conflict, which escalated in the 1990s, but since 2000 has decreased considerably. Colombia is ethnically diverse, its people descending from the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, Africans originally brought to the country as slaves, and 20th-century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East, all contributing to a diverse cultural heritage.This has also been influenced by Colombia's varied geography, and the imposing landscape of the country has resulted in the development of very strong regional identities. The majority of the urban centres are located in the highlands of the Andes mountains, but Colombian territory also encompasses Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Ecologically, Colombia is one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries, and is considered the most biodiverse per square kilometer. Colombia is a middle power with the third largest economy in Latin America, is part of the CIVETS group of six leading emerging markets and is an accessing member to the OECD. Its principal industries include oil, mining, chemicals, health related products, food processing, agricultural products, textile and fabrics, garments, forest products, machinery, electronics, military products, metal products, home and office material, construction equipment and materials, banking, financial services, software, IT services and the automotive industry.
Continent:Moroni / Capital:Asia
The Comoros, officially the Union of the Comoros, is a sovereign archipelagoisland nation in the Indian Ocean located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel off the eastern coast of Africabetween northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. Other countries near the Comoros are Tanzania to the northwest and the Seychelles to the northeast. Its capital is Moroni, on Grande Comore. At 1,862 km2 (719 sq mi), excluding the contested island of Mayotte, the Comoros is the third-smallest African nation by area. The population, excluding Mayotte, is estimated at 798,000. As a nation formed at a crossroads of many civilizations, the archipelago is noted for its diverse culture and history. The Union of the Comoros has three official languages - Comorian, Arabic and French – though French is the sole official language on Mayotte. Officially, in addition to many smaller islands, the country consists of the four major islands in the volcanic Comoros archipelago: northwesternmost Grande Comore (Ngazidja); Moheli (Mwali); Anjouan (Nzwani); and southeasternmost Mayotte (Maore). Mayotte, however, has never been administered by an independent Comoros government and continues to be administered by France (currently as an overseas department) as it was the only island in the archipelago that voted against independence in 1974. France has since vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions that would affirm Comorian sovereignty over the island.In addition, a referendum on the question of Mayotte becoming an overseas department of France in 2011 was held on 29 March 2009 and passed overwhelmingly. The Comoros is the only state to be a member of the African Union, Francophonie, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League (of which it is the southernmost state, being the only member of the Arab League which is entirely within the Southern Hemisphere) and the Indian Ocean Commission. Since independence in 1975, the country has experienced numerous coups detat and as of 2008 about half the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
Continent:Oceania / Capital:Avarua
The Cook Islands is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand. It comprises 15 islands whose total land area is 240 square kilometres (92.7 sq mi). The Cook Islands' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), however, covers 1,800,000 square kilometres (690,000 sq mi) of ocean. The Cook Islands' defence and foreign affairs are the responsibility of New Zealand, which is exercised in consultation with the Cook Islands. In recent times, the Cook Islands have adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy. Although Cook Islanders are citizens of New Zealand, they have the status of Cook Islands nationals, which is not given to other New Zealand citizens. The Cook Islands' main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga (14,153 in 2006), where there is an international airport. There is a larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand, particularly the North Island. In the 2006 census, 58,008 self-identified as being of ethnic Cook Islands Maori descent. With about 100,000 visitors travelling to the islands in the 2010–11 financial year,tourism is the country's main industry, and the leading element of the economy, ahead of offshore banking, pearls, and marine and fruit exports.
Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north,Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 4.5 million, of whom nearly a quarter live in the metropolitan area of the capital and largest city, San Jose. Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous people before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the short-lived First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces of Central America, from which it formally declared sovereignty in 1847. Since then, Costa Rica has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. Following a brief but bloody civil war, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming the first of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army. Costa Rica has consistently performed favorably in the Human Development Index (HDI), placing 62nd in the world as of 2012, among the highest of any Latin American nation.It has also been cited by the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region. Its rapidly developing economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to include sectors such as finance, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism. Costa Rica is known for its progressive environmental policies, being the only country to meet all five criteria established to measure environmental sustainability.It is ranked fifth in the world, and first among the Americas, in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index. It was twice ranked the best performing country in the New Economics Foundation's (NEF) Happy Planet Index, which measures environmental sustainability, and identified by the NEF as the greenest country in the world in 2009.In 2007, the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021, while in 2012, Costa Rica became the first country in the Americas to ban recreational hunting.
Continent: Africa/ Capital:Yamoussoukro
Ivory Coast , officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country in West Africa. Ivory Coast's de jure capital is Yamoussoukro and the biggest city is the port city of Abidjan. Prior to its colonization by Europeans, Ivory Coast was home to several states, including Gyaaman, the Kong Empire, and Baoule. There were two Anyi kingdoms, Indenie and Sanwi, which attempted to retain their separate identity through the French colonial period and after independence.Ivory Coast became a protectorate of France in 1843-44 and was later formed into a French colony in 1893 amid the European scramble for Africa. Ivory Coast achieved independence in 1960, led by Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who ruled the country until 1993. It maintained close political and economic association with its West African neighbours, while at the same time maintaining close ties to the West, especially France. Since the end of Houphouet-Boigny's rule in 1993, Ivory Coast has experienced one coup detat, in 1999, and two religiously-grounded civil wars: the first taking place between 2002 and 2007, and the second during 2010-2011. Ivory Coast is a republic with a strong executive power invested in its president. Through the production of coffee and cocoa, the country was an economic powerhouse in West Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. Ivory Coast went through an economic crisis in the 1980s, contributing to a period of political and social turmoil. The 21st-century Ivorian economy is largely market-based and still relies heavily on agriculture, with smallholder cash-crop production being dominant. The official language is French, with indigenous local languages also widely used, including Baoule, Dioula, Dan, Anyin andCebaara Senufo. The main religions are Islam, Christianity (primarily Roman Catholic) and various indigenous religions.
Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia is a sovereign state at the crossroads of Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and the Mediterranean. Its capital cityis Zagreb, which forms one of the country's primary subdivisions, along with the twenty counties. Croatia covers 56,594 square kilometres (21,851 square miles) and has diverse, mostly continental and Mediterranean climates. Croatia's Adriatic Sea coast contains more than a thousand islands. The country's population is 4.28 million, most of whom are Croats, with the most common religious denomination being Roman Catholicism. The Croats arrived in the area of present-day Croatia during the early part of the 7th century AD. They organised the state into two duchies by the 9th century. Tomislav became the first king by 925, elevating Croatia to the status of a kingdom. The Kingdom of Croatia retained its sovereignty for nearly two centuries, reaching its peak during the rule of Kings Peter Kresimir IV and Dmitar Zvonimir. Croatia entered a personal union with Hungary in 1102. In 1527, faced with Ottoman conquest, the Croatian Parliament elected Ferdinand I of the House of Habsburg to the Croatian throne. In 1918, after World War I, Croatia was included in the unrecognised State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs which seceded from Austria-Hungary and merged into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. A fascist Croatian puppet state existed during World War II. After the war, Croatia became a founding member and a federal constituent of Second Yugoslavia, a constitutionally socialist state. In June 1991, Croatia declared independence, which came into effect on 8 October of the same year. The Croatian War of Independence was fought successfully during the four years following the declaration. A unitary state, Croatia is a republic governed under a parliamentary system. The International Monetary Fund classified Croatia as an emerging and developing economy, and the World Bank identified it as a high-income economy. Croatia is a member of the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe, NATO, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a founding member of the Union for the Mediterranean. As an active participant in the UN peacekeeping forces, Croatia has contributed troops to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and took a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-2009 term. The service sector dominates Croatia's economy, followed by the industrial sector and agriculture. Tourism is a significant source of revenue during the summer, with Croatia ranked the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world. The state controls a part of the economy, with substantial government expenditure. The European Union is Croatia's most important trading partner. Since 2000, the Croatian government has invested in infrastructure, especially transport routes and facilities along the Pan-European corridors. Internal sources produce a significant portion of energy in Croatia; the rest is imported. Croatia provides a universal health care system and free primary and secondary education, while supporting culture through numerous public institutions and through corporate investments in media and publishing.
Cuba,is anisland country in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba comprises the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud and severalarchipelagos. Havana is the capital of Cuba and its largest city. The second-largest city is Santiago de Cuba. To the north of Cuba lies the United States (150 km (93 mi) away), the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands are to the northeast,Mexico is to the west (210 km (130 mi) away), the Cayman Islands and Jamaica are to the south and Haiti and the Dominican Republic are to the southeast. The island of Cuba was inhabited by numerous Mesoamerican Indian tribes prior to the landing of explorer Christopher Columbusin 1492, who claimed it for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a colony of Spain until the Spanish-American War of 1898, after which it gained nominal independence as a de facto U.S. protectorate in 1902. The fragile republic endured increasingly radical politics and social strife, and despite efforts to strengthen its democratic system, Cuba came under the dictatorship of former president Fulgencio Batista in 1952. Growing unrest and instability led to Batista's ousting in January 1959 by the July 26 movement, which afterwards established a government under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Since 1965 the country has been governed as a single-party state by the Communist Party. Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and with over 11 million inhabitants, is the second-most populous after Hispaniola, albeit with a much lower population density for the region. It is a multiethnic country whose people, culture and customs derive from diverse origins, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, a close relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and proximity to the United States. Cuba today is the only remaining communist state to receive a "very high" human development ranking from the United Nations, and ranks well in measures of health and education.
Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Cyprus is the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean, and a member state of the European Union. It is located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, northwest of Israel, north of Egypt and east of Greece. The earliest known human activity on the island dates to around the 10th millennium BC. Archaeological remains from this period include the well-preserved Neolithic village of Khirokitia, and Cyprus is home to some of the oldest water wells in the world. Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in two waves in the 2nd millennium BC. At a strategic location in the Middle East, it was subsequently occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians and Persians, from whom the island was seized in 333 BC by Alexander the Great. Subsequent rule by Ptolemaic Egypt, the Classical and Eastern Roman Empire, Arab caliphates for a short period, the French Lusignan dynasty and the Venetians, was followed by over three centuries of Ottoman rule between 1571 and 1878 (de jure until 1914) Cyprus was placed under British administration on 4 June 1878 (formally annexed by Britain on 5 November 1914, in response to the Ottoman government's decision to join World War I on the side of the Central Powers) until it was granted independence in 1960, becoming a member of the Commonwealth in 1961. In 1963, the 11-year intercommunal violence between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots started, which almost sparked a war in 1964 between Turkey and Greece. This was avoided through the last-minute intermediation of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Ten years later, on 15 July 1974, the Cypriot coup d'état was staged by Greek Cypriot nationalists and elements of the Greek military junta with the aim of achieving Enosis (union of Cyprus with Greece). Turkey, as one of the three "Guarantor States" in Cyprus (together with the United Kingdom and Greece) according to the Treaty of Guarantee (1960), used the Enosis attempt as a pretext to invade the northern portion of the island five days later, on 20 July 1974. Turkish forces remained in Cyprus after the cease-fire, resulting in the effective partitioning of the island, an objective of Turkey since 1955. The intercommunal violence, attempted coup by Greek forces and subsequent Turkish invasion led to the displacement of over 150,000 Greek Cypriots and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots and the establishment in 1983 of a separate Turkish Cypriot political entity in the north. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of a continuing dispute. The Republic of Cyprus has de jure sovereignty over the island of Cyprus and its surrounding waters, according to international law, except for the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, administered as Sovereign Base Areas. However, the Republic of Cyprus is de facto partitioned into two main parts; the area under the effective control of the Republic, comprising about 59% of the island's area, and the Turkish-controlled area in the north, calling itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and recognised only by Turkey, covering about 36% of the island's area. The international community considers the northern part of the island as territory of the Republic of Cyprus illegally occupied by Turkish forces. Cyprus is a major tourist destination in the Mediterranean.With an advanced, high-income economy and a very high Human Development Index, the Republic of Cyprus was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement until it joined the European Union on 1 May 2004.On 1 January 2008, the Republic of Cyprus joined the Eurozone.
Continent: Europe/Capital: Prague
The Czech Republic, is a landlocked country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the northwest and west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the east and Poland to the northeast. Prague, the capital, is the largest city, with 1.3 million residents. The Czech Republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia and Moravia, and Czech Silesia. The Czech state was formed in the late 9th century as the Duchy of Bohemia under the Great Moravian Empire. After the fall of the Empire in 907, the centre of power transferred from Moravia to Bohemia under the Premyslids. In 1004, the duchy was formally recognized as part of the Holy Roman Empire,becoming the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1212, and reaching its greatest territorial extent in the 14th century. The King of Bohemia did not rule only Bohemia itself, but also other lands, which formed together the so-called Crown of Bohemia, and he had the right to elect the Holy Roman Emperor. In the Hussite wars of the 15th century driven by the Bohemian Reformation, the kingdom faced economic embargoes and defeated five crusades proclaimed by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and organized mainly by the emperor and princes of the Holy Roman Empire. Following the Battle of Mohacs in 1526, the whole Crown of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Bohemian Revolt (1618-20) against the Catholic Habsburgs led to the Thirty Years War, after which the monarchy consolidated its rule, re-imposed Catholicism, and adopted a policy of gradual Germanization. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Bohemian Kingdom became part of the Austrian Empire. In the 19th century, the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, which was formed in 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany in World War II, becoming liberated in 1945 by American and Soviet forces. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia won the 1946 elections. Following the 1948 coup d'état, Czechoslovakia became a single-party communist state under Soviet influence. In 1968, increasing dissatisfaction with the regime culminated in a reform movement known as the Prague Spring, which ended in a Soviet-led invasion. Czechoslovakia remained occupied until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed and a multiparty parliamentary republic was formed. On 1. January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved, with its constituent states becoming the independent states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czech Republic is a developed country with an advanced,high income economy and high living standards.The UNDP ranks the country 15th in inequality-adjusted human development. The Czech Republic also ranks as the 11th-most peaceful country, while achieving strong performance in democratic governance. It is a member of the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Continent: N.America/Capital: Santo Domingo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, DRC, Congo, Congo-Kinshasa, DROC, or RDC (known as Zaire 1965-97), is a country located in Central Africa. It borders the Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan to the north, Uganda, Rwanda,Burundi and Tanzania to the East, Zambia and Angola to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 75 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most populous officially Francophone country, the fourth most populous nation in Africa and the nineteenth most populous country in the world. The Congolese Civil Wars, beginning in 1996, brought about the end of Mobutu Sese Seko’s 31 year reign, devastated the country, and ultimately involved nine African nations, multiple groups of UN peacekeepers and twenty armed groups.The wars resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people since 1998 with more than 90% of those deaths the result of malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by displacement and unsanitary and over-crowded living conditions. Nearly half of the victims were children under five.As of 2013, according to the Human Development Index (HDI), DR Congo has a low level of human development, ranking 186 out of 187 countries. DR Congo is extremely rich in natural resources, but political instability, a lack of infrastructure and have expanded development, extraction and exploitation efforts. Besides the capital, Kinshasa, the other major cities, Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi, are both mining communities. DR Congo's largest export is raw minerals, with China accepting over 50% of DRC's exports in 2012.
Denmark is a country in Northern Europe. The southernmost of the Nordic countries, it is located southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. The Kingdom of Denmark is asovereign state that comprises Denmark and two autonomous constituent countries in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark proper has an area of 43,094 square kilometres (16,639 sq mi), and a population of 5,659,715 (January 2015). The country consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and the Danish archipelago of 443 named islands,of which around 70 are inhabited. The islands are characterised by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and atemperate climate. A Scandinavian nation, Denmark shares strong cultural and historic ties with its overseas neighbours Sweden and Norway. The national language, Danish, is very closely related and mutually intelligible with Swedish and Norwegian. The unified kingdom of Denmark emerged in the 10th century as a proficient seafaring nation in the struggle for control of the Baltic Sea. Danish rule over the personal Kalmar Union, established in 1397 (over Norway and Sweden), ended with Swedish secession in 1523. However, Denmark still kept a union over Norway which lasted until its dissolution in 1814. Denmark inherited an expansive colonial empire from this union, of which the Faroe Islands and Greenland are remnants. Beginning in the 17th century, there were several cessions of territory; these culminated in the 1830s with a surge of nationalist movements, which were defeated in the 1864 Second Schleswig War. Denmark remained neutral during World War I. In April 1940, a German invasion saw brief military skirmishes while the Danish resistance movement was active from 1943 until the German surrender in May 1945. An industrialized exporter of agricultural produce in the second half of the 19th century, Denmark introduced social and labour-market reforms in the early 20th century, making the basis for the present welfare state model with a highly developed mixed economy. The Constitution of Denmark was signed on 5 June 1849, ending the absolute monarchy which had begun in 1660. It establishes a constitutional monarchy-the current monarch is Queen Margrethe II-organised as a parliamentary democracy. The government and national parliament are seated in Copenhagen, the nation's capital, largest city and main commercial centre. Denmark exercises hegemonic influence in the Danish Realm, devolving powers to handle internal affairs. Denmark became a member of the European Union in 1973, maintaining certain opt-outs; it retains its own currency, the krone. It is among the founding members of NATO, the Nordic Council, the OECD, OSCE, and the United Nations; it is also part of the Schengen Area. Danes enjoy a high standard of living and the country ranks highly in numerous comparisons of national performance, including education, health care, protection of civil liberties, democratic governance, prosperity and human development.Denmark is frequently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world in cross-national studies of happiness.The country ranks as having the world's highest social mobility,a high level of income equality has one of the world's highest per capita incomes, and has one of the world's highest personal income tax rates.A large majority of Danes are members of the National Church, though the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
Djibouti, officially theRepublic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east. Djibouti occupies a total area of just 23,200 km2 (8,958 sq mi). In antiquity, the territory was part of the Land of Punt. Nearby Zeila (now in Somalia) was the seat of the medieval Adaland Ifat Sultanates. In the late 19th century, the colony of French Somaliland was established following treaties signed by the ruling Somali and Afar sultans with the French and its railroad to Dire Dawa (and later Addis Ababa) allowed it to quickly supersede Zeila as the port for southern Ethiopia and the Ogaden. It was subsequently renamed to theFrench Territory of the Afars and the Issas in 1967. A decade later, the Djiboutian people voted for independence. This officially marked the establishment of the Republic of Djibouti, named after its capital city. Djibouti joined the United Nations the same year, on September 20, 1977. In the early 1990s, tensions over government representation led to armed conflict, which ended in a power sharing agreement in 2000 between the ruling party and the opposition. Djibouti is a multi-ethnic nation with a population of over 810,000 inhabitants. The Somali and Afar make up the two largest ethnic groups. Both speak Afroasiatic languages, which serve as recognized national languages. Arabic and French constitute the country's two official languages. About 94% of residents adhere to Islam, a religion that has been predominant in the region for more than 1,000 years. Djibouti is strategically located near the world's busiest shipping lanes, controlling access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. It serves as a key refueling and transshipment center, and is the principal maritime port for imports to and exports from neighboring Ethiopia. A burgeoning commercial hub, the nation is the site of various foreign military bases, including Camp Lemonnier. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development regional body also has its headquarters in Djibouti City.
Continent: N.America/Capital: Roseau
Dominica, officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, south-southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique. Its size is 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) and the highest point in the country is Morne Diablotins, which has an elevation of 1,447 metres (4,747 ft). The Commonwealth of Dominica had a population of 72,301 at the 2014 Census. The capital is Roseau which is located on the leeward side of the island. Dominica was first discovered by the Spanish, then colonized by the French and British before finally obtaining independence in 1978. Dominica has been nicknamed the "Nature Isle of the Caribbean for its unspoiled natural beauty. It is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles, still being formed by geothermal-volcanic activity, as evidenced by the world's second-largest hot spring,Boiling Lake. The island features lush mountainous rainforests, home of many rare plant, animal, and bird species. There are xericareas in some of the western coastal regions, but heavy rainfall occurs inland. The island has 365 rivers. The Sisserou parrot (also known as the imperial amazon), is found only on Dominica and is the island's national bird. It is featured on the national flag. Dominica's economy is heavily dependent on tourism and agriculture. Christopher Columbus named the island after the day of the week on which he spotted it, a Sunday (dies Dominica in Latin), 3 November 1493. In the hundred years after Columbus's landing, Dominica remained isolated. At the time it was inhabited by the Island Caribs, or Kalinago people, and over time more settled there after being driven from surrounding islands, as European powers entered the region. The people of Spain left the island due to isolation and the fierce Island Carib warriors that inhabited the island at the moment. France had a colony for several years, importing African slaves to work on its plantations. In this period, the Antillean Creole language developed. France formally ceded possession of Dominica to Great Britain in 1763. Great Britain established a small colony on the island in 1805. Britain abolished slavery throughout the British Empire in 1834. By 1838, Dominica became the first British Caribbean colony to have a legislature controlled by an ethnic African majority. In 1896, the United Kingdom took governmental control of Dominica, turning it into a Crown colony. Half a century later, from 1958 to 1962, Dominica became a province of the short-lived West Indies Federation. On 3 November 1978, Dominica became an independent nation.
Continent: N.America/Capital: Santo Domingo
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western three-eighths of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti,making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, that are shared by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,445 square kilometres (18,705 sq mi) and nearly 10 million people, one million of which live in the capital city, Santo Domingo. Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492, which the Taino people had inhabited since the 7th century. It became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas; namely Santo Domingo, the oldest continuously inhabited city and the first seat of the Spanish colonial rule in the New World. After three centuries of Spanish rule, with French and Haitian interludes, the country became independent in 1821. The ruler, Jose Nunez de Caceres, intended that the Dominican Republic be part of the nation of Gran Colombia, but he was quickly removed by the Haitian government and Dominican slave revolts. Victorious in theDominican War of Independence against Haitian rule in 1844, the Dominican Republic over the next 72 years, experienced mostlyinternal strife and encountered a brief return to colonial status under Spanish rule proposed by general Pedro Santana, becoming the only nation in the hemisphere to do so after gaining its independence.The United States occupation lasted eight years between 1916–1924, and a subsequent calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vasquez Lajara, were followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961. The civil war of 1965, the country's last, was ended by a U.S.-led intervention, and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquin Balaguer, 1966–1978. Since then, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy,and has been led by Leonel Fernandez for most of the time after 1996. Danilo Medina, the Dominican Republic's current president, succeeded Fernandez in 2012, winning 51% of the electoral vote over his opponent ex-president Hipolito Mejia. The Dominican Republic has the ninth largest economy in Latin America and the second largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region.Though long known for agriculture and mining, the economy is now dominated by services.The country's economic progress is exemplified by its advanced telecommunication system and transportation infrastructure.Nevertheless, unemployment,government corruption, and inconsistent electric service remain major Dominican problems. The country also has "marked income inequality".International migration affects the Dominican Republic greatly, as it receives and sends large flows of migrants. Haitian immigration and the integration of Dominicans of Haitian descent are major issues. A large Dominican diaspora exists, mostly in the United States.They contribute to national development as they send billions of dollars to their families. The Dominican Republic is the most visited destination in the Caribbean. The year-round golf courses are among the top attractions on the island.As the Caribbean's most geographically diverse nation, the Dominican Republic is home to the region's tallest mountain peak, Pico Duarte, as well as the Caribbean's largest lake and lowest elevation, Lake Enriquillo.The island has an average temperature of 26 °C (78.8 °F) and great climatic and biological diversity.The country is also the site of the first cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress built in all of the Americas, located in Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone, an area declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.Music and sport are of great importance in the Dominican culture, with Merengue andBachata as the national dance and music, and baseball as the favorite sport.
Continent: S.America/Capital: Quito
Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador, which literally translates as "Republic of the Equator") is a representative democratic republic in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador also includes theGalápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland. What is now Ecuador was home to a variety of indigenous groups that were gradually incorporated into the Inca Empire during the fifteenth century. The territory was colonized by Spain during the sixteenth century, achieving independence in 1820 as part of Gran Colombia, from which it emerged as its own sovereign state in 1830. The legacy of both empires is reflected in Ecuador's ethnically diverse population, with most of its 15.2 million people comprised of mestizos followed by large minorities of European, Amerindian, and African descendants. Spanish is the official language and is spoken by a majority of the population, though thirteen indigenous languages are also recognized, including Quichua and Shuar. The capital city is Quito, while the largest city is Guayaquil. In reflection of the country's rich cultural heritage, the historical center of Quito was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Cuenca, the third-largest city, was also declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 as an outstanding example of a planned, inland Spanish-style colonial city in the Americas. Ecuador is also known for its rich ecology, hosting many endemic plants and animals, such as those of the Galapagos Islands. It is one of seventeen megadiverse countries in the world,with the most species diversity per unit area.The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights. Ecuador is a democratic presidential republic. A medium-income country, its developing economy is highly dependent on commodities, namely petroleum and agricultural products.
Continent: Africa/Capital: Cairo
Egypt is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia, via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. It is the world's only contiguousEurafrasian nation and most of Egypt's territory of 1,010,000 square kilometres (390,000 sq mi) lies within the Nile Valley. It is aMediterranean country and is bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba to the east, the Red Sea to the east and south, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west.
With over 88 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populous country in North Africa and the Arab World, the third-largest in Africa, and the fifteenth-most populous in the world. The great majority of its people live near the banks of the Nile River, an area of about 40,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable land is found. The large regions of the Saharadesert, which constitute most of Egypt's territory, are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, with most spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta.
Egypt has one of the longest histories of any modern country, arising in the tenth millennium BCE as one of the world's firstnation states.Considered a cradle of civilization, Ancient Egypt experienced some of the earliest developments of writing, agriculture, urbanisation, organised religion and central government in history. Iconic monuments such as the Giza Necropolisand its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings, reflect this legacy and remain a significant focus of archaeological study and popular interest worldwide. Egypt's rich cultural heritage is an integral part of its national identity, having endured and at times assimilated various foreign influences, including Greek, Persian, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and European.
Modern Egypt is considered to be a regional and middle power, with significant cultural, political, and military influence in North Africa, the Middle East and the Muslim world.Its economy is one of the largest and most diversified in the Middle East, with sectors such as tourism, agriculture, industry and services at almost equal production levels. In 2011, longtime President Hosni Mubarak stepped down amid mass protests. Later elections saw the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ousted by the army a year later amid mass protests.
Continent:N.America/Capital: San Salvador
El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador, with other important cities including Santa Ana and San Miguel. El Salvador borders the Pacific Ocean on the south, and the countries of Guatemala to the west and Honduras to the north and east. Its easternmost region lies on the coast of the Gulf of Fonseca, opposite Nicaragua. As of 2013, El Salvador had a population of approximately 6.29 million making it the most densely populated country in the region composed predominantly by Mestizos of European and Indigenous American descent. Present-day El Salvador was inhabited by numerous sophisticated Mesoamerican nations, predominantly the Cuzcatlecs but also theLenca and Maya prior to the European exploration and subsequent colonization of the Americas. By 1525 the Spanish Empire had conquered the territory, incorporating it into the colony of New Spain up until 1821, when it achieved independence as part of theFederal Republic of Central America. Upon the republic's dissolution in 1841, El Salvador became sovereign until forming a short-lived union with Honduras and Nicaragua called the Greater Republic of Central America, which lasted from 1895 to 1898. From the late 19th to mid 20th century, El Salvador endured chronic political and economic instability characterized by coups, revolts, and a succession of authoritarian rulers. Persistent socioeconomic inequality and civil unrest culminated in the devastatingSalvadoran Civil War (1979-1992), which was fought between the military-led government and a coalition of left-wing guerrilla groups. The conflict ended with a negotiated settlement that established a multiparty constitutional republic, which remains in place to this day. El Salvador's economy was historically dominated by agriculture, beginning with the indigo plant (anil in Spanish), the most important crop during the colonial period,and followed thereafter by coffee, which by the early 20th century accounted for 90 percent of export earnings.El Salvador has since reduced its dependence on coffee and embarked on diversifying the economy by opening up trade and financial links and expanding the manufacturing sector. The colon, the official currency of El Salvador since 1892, was replaced by the U.S. dollar in 2001. As of 2010, El Salvador ranks 12th among Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development Index and fourth in Central America (behind Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize) due in part to ongoing rapid industrialisation, however the country continues to struggle with high rates of poverty, inequality, and crime.
Equatorial Guinea, officially theRepublic of Equatorial Guinea (Spanish: República de Guinea Ecuatorial, French: Republique de Guine equatoriale,Portuguese: Republica da Guine Equatorial),is a country located in Central Africa, with an area of 28,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi). Formerly the colony of Spanish Guinea, its post-independence name evokes its location near both the equator and the Gulf of Guinea. Equatorial Guinea is the only African state in which Spanish is an official language. As of 2012, the country has a population of 1.6 million.
Equatorial Guinea consists of two parts, an insular and a mainland region. The insular region consists of the islands of Bioko(formerly Fernando Po) in the Gulf of Guinea and Annobon, a small volcanic island south of the equator. Bioko Island is the northernmost part of Equatorial Guinea and is the site of the country's capital, Malabo. The island nation of São Tome and Principe is located between Bioko and Annobon. The mainland region, Rio Muni, is bordered by Cameroon on the north and Gabon on the south and east. It is the location of Bata, Equatorial Guinea's largest city, and Oyala, the country's planned future capital. Rio Muni also includes several small offshore islands, such as Corisco, Elobey Grande, and Elobey Chico.
Since the mid-1990s, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Sahara's largest oil producers. With a population of almost two million, it is the richest country per capita in Africa, and its gross domestic product (GDP) per capita ranks 69th in the world; However, the wealth is distributed very unevenly and few people have benefited from the oil riches. The country ranks 144th on the UN's 2014 Human Development Index. The UN says that less than half of the population has access to clean drinking water and that 20% of children die before reaching five.
The authoritarian regime ruling Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human rights records in the world, consistently ranking among the "worst of the worst" in Freedom House's annual survey of political and civil rights.Reporters Without Borders ranks President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo among its "predators" of press freedom. Human traffickingis a significant problem, with the US Trafficking in Persons Report, 2012, stating that "Equatorial Guinea is a source and destination for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking." The report rates Equatorial Guinea as a "Tier 3" country, the lowest (worst) ranking: "Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.The country is a member of the African Union, Francophonie and CPLP.
Eritrea, officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in theHorn of Africa. With its capital at Asmara, it is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline along the Red Sea, across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The nation has a total area of approximately 117,600 km2 (45,406 sq mi), and includes the Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands. Its name Eritrea is based on the Greek name for the Red Sea, which was first adopted for Italian Eritrea in 1890. Eritrea is a multi-ethnic country, with nine recognized ethnic groups. It has a population of around six million inhabitants. Most residents speak Afroasiatic languages, either of the Semitic or Cushitic branches. Among these communities, the Tigrinya make up about 55% of the population, with the Tigre people constituting around 30% of inhabitants. In addition, there are a number of Nilo-Saharan-speaking Nilotic ethnic minorities. Most people in the territory adhere to Christianity or Islam. The Kingdom of Aksum, covering much of modern-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, rose somewhere around the first or second centuries and adopted Christianity around the time Islam had spread through Egypt and the Levant.In medieval times much of Eritrea fell under the Medri Bahri Kingdom, with a smaller region being part of the Hamasien Republic. The creation of modern day Eritrea is a result of the incorporation of independent Kingdoms and various vassal states of the Ethiopian empire and the Ottoman Empire, eventually resulting in the formation of Italian Eritrea. In 1947 Eritrea became part of a federation with Ethiopia, the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Subsequent annexation into Ethiopia led to the Eritrean War of Independence, ending with Eritrean independence following a referendum in April 1993. Hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia persisted, leading to the Eritrean-Ethiopian War of 1998-2000 and further skirmishes with both Djibouti and Ethiopia. Eritrea is a member of the African Union, the United Nations and IGAD, and is an observer in the Arab League.
Continent: Europe/Capital: Tallinn
Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km). Across the Baltic Sea lies Sweden in the west and Finland in the north. The territory of Estonia covers 45,227 km2 (17,462 sq mi), and is influenced by a humid continental climate. Estonia is a democratic parliamentary republic divided into fifteen counties, with its capital and largest city being Tallinn. With a population of 1.3 million, it is one of the least-populous member states of the European Union, Eurozone, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Schengen Area. The Estonians are a Finnic people, and the official language, Estonian, is a Finno-Ugric language closely related to Finnish and the Sami languages, and distantly to Hungarian. A developed country with an advanced, high-income economy, Estonia is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It ranks very high in the Human Development Index, and performs favourably in measurements ofeconomic freedom, civil liberties, education, and press freedom (third in the world in 2012).Estonia is often described as one of the most wired countries in Europe.
Ethiopia, officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea to the north and northeast, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With around 88 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world, as well as the second-most populated nation on the African continent. It occupies a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi), and its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa. Some of the oldest evidence for modern humans is found in Ethiopia,which is widely considered the region from which Homo sapiens first set out for the Middle East and points beyond. Tracing its roots to the 2nd millennium BC, Ethiopia was amonarchy for most of its history. During the first centuries of the Common Era the Kingdom of Aksum maintained a unified civilization in the region. Ethiopia derived prestige for its uniquely successful military resistance during the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, and subsequently many African nations adopted the colors of Ethiopia's flag following their independence. Ethiopia was the only African country to defeat a European colonial power and retain its sovereignty as an independent country. It was the first independent African member of the 20th-century League of Nations and the UN. In 1974, at the end of Haile Selassie's reign, power fell to a communist military junta known as the Derg, backed by the Soviet Union, until it was defeated by the EPRDF, which has ruled since about the time of the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Ethiopia is a multilingual society with around 80 ethnic groups, with the two largest being the Oromo and the Amhara. It is the origin of the coffee bean. Ethiopia is a land of natural contrasts; with its vast fertile West, jungles, and numerous rivers, the world's hottest settlement of Dallol in its north, Africa's largest continuous mountain ranges and the largest cave in Africa at Sof Omar.Ethiopia has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa.Ethiopia's ancient Geez script, also known as Ethiopic, is one of the oldest alphabets still in use in the world.It shares many similarities with the Armenian alphabet.The Ethiopian calendar, which is seven years and about three months behind the Gregorian calendar, co-exists alongside the Oromo calendar. A majority of the population is Christian and a third is Muslim; the country is the site of the Hijrah to Abyssinia and the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash. A substantial population of Ethiopian Jews, known as Beta Israel, resided in Ethiopia until the 1980s but most of them have since gradually emigrated to Israel. Ethiopia is one of the founding members of the UN, the Group of 24 (G-24), the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77 and theOrganisation of African Unity, with Addis Ababa serving as the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the UNECA, African Aviation Training HQ, the African Standby Force and much of global NGOs focused on Africa. Despite being the main source of the Nile, the longest river on earth, Ethiopia underwent a series of famines in the 1980s, exacerbated by civil wars and adverse geopolitics. The country has begun to recover recently, and it now has the largest economy by GDP in East Africa and Central Africa.According to Global Fire Power, Ethiopia also has the 46th most powerful military in the world.
Continent: S.America/Capital: Stanley
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean on thePatagonian Shelf. The principal islands are about 300 miles (500 km) east of South America's southern Patagonian coast, at a latitude of about 52°S. The archipelago, with an area of 4,700 square miles (12,200 km2), comprises East Falkland, West Falklandand 776 smaller islands. As a British overseas territory, the Falklands have internal self-governance, and the United Kingdom takes responsibility for their defence and foreign affairs. The islands capital is Stanley on East Falkland. Controversy exists over the Falklands discovery and subsequent colonisation by Europeans. At various times, the islands have had French, British, Spanish, and Argentine settlements. Britain reasserted its rule in 1833, although Argentina maintains its claim to the islands. In April 1982, Argentine forces temporarily occupied the islands. British administration was restored two months later at the end of the Falklands War. The population (2,932 inhabitants in 2012) primarily consists of native Falkland Islanders, the majority of British descent. Other ethnicities include French, Gibraltarian and Scandinavian. Immigration from the United Kingdom, the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, and Chile has reversed a population decline. The predominant (and official) language is English. Under the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983, Falkland Islanders are British citizens. The islands lie on the boundary of the subantarctic oceanic and tundra climate zones, and both major islands have mountain ranges reaching 2,300 feet (700 m). They are home to large bird populations, although many no longer breed on the main islands because of competition from introduced species. Major economic activities include fishing, tourism and sheep farming, with an emphasis on high-quality wool exports. Oil exploration, licensed by the Falkland Islands Government, remains controversial as a result of maritime disputes with Argentina.
Continent: Europe/Capital: Torshavn
The Faroe Islands is anarchipelago and autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark,situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Norway and Iceland, at about 320 kilometres (200 mi) north-north-west of mainland Scotland. The total area is approximately 1,400 km2 (540 sq mi) with a 2010 population of almost 50,000 people.
The Faroe Islands have been a self-governing country within the Danish Realm since 1948. Over the years, the Faroese have taken control of most domestic matters. Areas that remain the responsibility of Denmark include military defence, police, justice,currency and foreign affairs. The Faroe Islands also have representatives in the Nordic Council as members of the Danish delegation.
The islands were associated with and taxed by Norway, then the Union of Kalmar, and then Denmark–Norway until 1814, when Norway was united with Sweden. Scandinavia was in political turmoil following the Sixth Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars, when the Treaty of Kiel granted Denmark control over the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland in 1814. The Danish trade monopoly ended in 1856.
Fiji, officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island country in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,100 nautical miles(2,000 km; 1,300 mi) northeast of New Zealand's North Island. Its closest neighbours are Vanuatu to the west, New Caledonia to the southwest, New Zealand's Kermadec Islands to the southeast, Tonga to the east, the Samoas and France's Wallis and Futuna to the northeast, and Tuvalu to the north.
Fiji is an archipelago of more than 332 islands, of which 110 are permanently inhabited, and more than 500 islets, amounting to a total land area of about 18,300 square kilometres (7,100 sq mi). The farthest island is Onu-i-Lau. The two major islands, Viti Levuand Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 860,000. The capital and largest city, Suva, is on Viti Levu. About three-quarters of Fijians live on Viti Levu's coasts, either in Suva or in smaller urban centres like Nadi (tourism) or Lautoka (sugar cane industry). Viti Levu's interior is sparsely inhabited due to its terrain.
Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific due to an abundance of forest, mineral, and fish resources. Today, the main sources of foreign exchange are its tourist industry and sugar exports.The country's currency is the Fijian dollar. Fiji's local government, in the form of city and town councils, is supervised by the Ministry of Local Government and Urban Development. The majority of Fiji's islands were formed through volcanic activity starting around 150 million years ago. Today, some geothermalactivity still occurs on the islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni.Fiji has been inhabited since the second millennium BC, and was settled first by Austronesians and later by Melanesians, with some Polynesian influences. Europeans visited Fiji from the 17th century, and, after a brief period as an independent kingdom, the British established the Colony of Fiji in 1874. Fiji was a Crown colony until 1970, when it gained independence as a Commonwealth realm. A republic was declared in 1987, following a series of coups detat.
In a coup in 2006, Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power. When the High Court ruled in 2009 that the military leadership was unlawful, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, whom the military had retained as the nominal Head of State, formally abrogated theConstitution and reappointed Bainimarama. Later in 2009, Iloilo was replaced as President by Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.After years of delays, a democratic election was held on 17 September 2014. Bainimarama's FijiFirst party won with 59.2% of the vote, and the election was deemed credible by international observers.
Finland, officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe bordered by Sweden to the west, Norway (one of two non-European Union members the country borders) to the north and Russia (the other non-EU member) to the east; Estonia lies to the south across the Gulf of Finland.
In 2013, Finland's population was around 5.5 million, with the majority living in its southern regions. In terms of area, it is the eighth largest country in Europe and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Finland is a parliamentary republic with a central government based in the capital Helsinki, local governments in 336 municipalities and an autonomous region, the Aland Islands. Over 1.4 million people live in the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area, which produces a third of the country's GDP. Other large cities include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Lahti, and Kuopio.
From the late 12th century until 1809, Finland was part of Sweden, a legacy reflected in the prevalence of the Swedish language and its official status. It was then incorporated into the Russian Empire as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, until the Russian Revolution of 1917 prompted the Finnish Declaration of Independence. This was followed by the Finnish Civil War in which the pro-Bolshevik Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic was defeated by the pro-conservative "Whites" with support from the German Empire. After a brief attempt to establish a kingdom, the country became a republic. In World War II, Finnish forces fought in three separate conflicts: the Winter War (1939-1940) and Continuation War (1941-1944) against the Soviet Union and the Lapland War (1944-1945) against Nazi Germany. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and established an official policy of neutrality. It joined theOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1969, the European Union in 1995, and the Eurozone at its inception in 1999.
` Finland was a relative latecomer to industrialisation, remaining a largely agrarian country until the 1950s. Thereafter, it rapidly developed an advanced economy while building an extensive Nordic-style welfare state, resulting in widespread prosperity and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.Finland is a top performer in numerous metrics of national performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life, and human development. The country has a long legacy of social progressivism, in 1906 becoming the first nation in the world to give full suffrage to all adult citizens.In 2010, Newsweek chose Finland as the best country in the world.
France, officially the French Republic sovereign state comprising territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories.Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean; France covers 640,679 square kilometres (247,368 sq mi) and has a population of 66.6 million. It is a semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the nation's largest city and the main cultural and commercial center. The Constitution of France establishes the country as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people.
During the Iron Age, what is now France was inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people. The Gauls were conquered by the Roman Empire in 51 BC, which held Gaul until 486. The Gallo-Romans faced raids and migration from the Germanic Franks, who dominated the region for hundreds of years, eventually creating the medieval Kingdom of France. France has been a major power in Europe since the Late Middle Ages, with its victory in the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453) strengthening French state-buildingand paving the way for a future centralized absolute monarchy. During the Renaissance, France experienced a vast cultural development and established the first steps of a worldwide colonial empire. The 16th century was dominated by Religious Civil Warsbetween Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots).
Louis XIV made France the dominant cultural, political and military power in Europe, but by the late 18th century, the monarchy was overthrown in the French Revolution. One legacy of the revolution was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the world's earliest documents on human rights, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day. France was governed as one of history's earliest Republics until the Empire was declared by Napoleon, who dominated European affairs and had a long-lasting impact on Western culture. Following his defeat, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments: an absolute monarchy was restored, replaced in 1830 by a constitutional monarchy, then briefly by a Second Republic, and then by a Second Empire, until a more lasting French Third Republic was established in 1870.
France's colonial empire reached the height of global prominence during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it possessed the second-largest colonial empire in the world. In World War I, France was one of the main winners as part of the Triple Ententepowers fighting against Germany and the Central Powers. France was also one of the Allied Powers in World War II, but it wasoccupied by Nazi Germany in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, came into being in 1958 and continues to operate today. In the era of decolonization, most of the French colonial empire became independent after the Second World War.
Throughout its long history, France has produced many influential artists, thinkers, and scientists, and remains a prominent global center of culture. It hosts the world's fourth-largest number of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and receives around 83 million foreign tourists annually - the most of any country in the world. France remains a great power with significant cultural, economic,military, and political influence in Europe and around the world. It is a developed country with the world's fifth-largest economy bynominal GDP and eighth-largest by purchasing power parity. In terms of total household wealth, France is the wealthiest nation in Europe and fourth in the world. It also possesses the world's second largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ), covering 11,035,000 square kilometres (4,261,000 sq mi).
French citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and the country performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, civil liberties, and human development. France is a founding member of the United Nations, where it serves as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is a member of numerous international institutions, including theGroup of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), theWorld Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie. France is a founding and leading member state of the EU.
French Polynesia is anoverseas collectivity of the French Republic; sometimes unofficially referred to as an overseas country; pays d'outre-mer (POM). It is composed of 118 geographically dispersed islands and atolls stretching over an expanse of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) in the South Pacific Ocean. Its total land area is 4,167 square kilometres (1,609 sq mi).
French Polynesia is divided into 5 groups of islands: The Society Islands archipelago composed of the Windward Islands and theLeeward Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Gambier Islands, the Marquesas Islands and the Austral Islands. Among its 118 islands and atolls, 67 are inhabited. Tahiti, which is located within the Society Islands, is the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the collectivity, Papeete. Although not an integral part of its territory, Clipperton Island was administered from French Polynesia until 2007.
Following the Great Polynesian Migration, European explorers visited the islands of French Polynesia on several occasions. In 1842, the French took over the islands and established a French protectorate they called Etablissements des français en Océanie (EFO)(French Establishments/Settlements in Oceania). In 1946, the EFOs became an overseas territory under the constitution of theFrench Fourth Republic, and Polynesians were granted the right to vote through citizenship. In 1957, the EFOs were renamed French Polynesia. Since 28 March 2003, French Polynesia has been an overseas collectivity of the French Republic under the constitutional revision of article 74, and later gained, with law 2004-192 of 27 February 2004, an administrative autonomy; two symbolic manifestations of which are the title of the President of French Polynesia and its additional designation as an overseas country.
Gabon, officially the Gabonese Republic, is a sovereign stateon the west coast of Central Africa. Located on the equator, Gabon is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west. It has an area of nearly 270,000 square kilometres (100,000 sq mi) and its population is estimated at 1.5 million people. Its capital and largest city is Libreville.
Since its independence from France in 1960, Gabon has had three presidents. In the early 1990s, Gabon introduced a multi-party system and a new democratic constitution that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and reformed many governmental institutions. Gabon was also a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2010–2011 term.
Low population density, abundant petroleum, and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the 4th highest HDI and the third highest GDP per capita (PPP) (after Equatorial Guinea and Botswana) in the region.
Continent: Africa / Capital: Banjul
The Gambia officially the Republic of the Gambia and often called simply Gambia) is an enclaved country in West Africa mostly surrounded by Senegal with a short strip of its coastline bordered by the Atlantic Ocean at its western end. It is the smallest country on mainland Africa. The Gambia is situated on either side of the Gambia River, the nation's namesake, which flows through the centre of the Gambia and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its area is 10,689 square kilometres (4,127 sq mi) with a population of 1,882,450 at the 15 April 2013 Census (provisional). Banjul is the Gambian capital, and the largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama.
The Gambia shares historical roots with many other West African nations in the slave trade, which was the key factor in the placing and keeping of a colony on the Gambia River, first by the Portuguese, during which era it was A Gambia, and later by the British. In 1965, the Gambia gained independence from the United Kingdom. Since gaining independence, the Gambia has had two leaders - Sir Dawda Jawara, who ruled from 1970 until 1994, when the current leader Yahya Jammeh seized power in a coup as a young army officer. The Gambia's economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism. About a third of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
Continent: Europe/Capital: Tbilisi
Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital and largest city is Tbilisi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometres (26,911 sq mi), and its population is almost 5 million. Georgia is a unitary, semi-presidentialrepublic, with the government elected through a representative democracy.
During the classical era, several independent kingdoms became established in what is now Georgia. The kingdoms of Colchis andIberia adopted Christianity in the early 4th century. A unified Kingdom of Georgia reached the peak of its political and economic strength during the reign of King David IV and Queen Tamar in the 11th-12th centuries. Thereafter the area was dominated by various large empires, including the Safavids, Afsharids, and Qajar Persians. In the late 18th century, the kingdom of Kartli-Kakhetiforged an alliance with the Russian Empire, and the area was annexed by Russia in 1801. After a brief period of independencefollowing the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia was occupied by Soviet Russia in 1921, becoming part of the Soviet Union as theGeorgian Soviet Socialist Republic. After independence in 1991, post-communist Georgia suffered from civil unrest and economic crisis for most of the 1990s. This lasted until the Rose Revolution of 2003, after which the new government introduced democratic and economic reforms.
Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe and the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. It contains two de facto independent regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which gained limited international recognition after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. Georgia and a major part of the international community consider the regions to be part of Georgia's sovereign territory under Russian military occupation.
Continent:Europe / Capital: Berlin
Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany is a federal parliamentary republic in western-central Europe. It consists of 16 constituent states, which retain limited sovereignty, and covers an area of 357,021 square kilometres (137,847 sq mi) with a largely temperate seasonal climate. Its capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany is a major economic and political power and traditionally a leader in many cultural, theoretical and technical fields.
With 80.7 million inhabitants, Germany is the most populous member state in the European Union. After the United States, it is also the second most popular migration destination in the world.Germany has the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the fifth-largest by PPP. As a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, it is both the world's third-largest exporter and third-largest importer of goods. It is a developed country with a very high standard of living, featuring comprehensive social security that includes the world's oldest universal health care system. Known for its rich cultural and politicalhistory, Germany has been the home of many influential philosophers, artists, musicians, cineasts, entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors. Germany was a founding member of the European Communities in 1957, which became the European Union in 1993. It is part of the Schengen Area, and has been a member of the Eurozone since 1999. Germany is a member of the United Nations,NATO, the G8, the G20, the OECD and the Council of Europe.
Various Germanic tribes have occupied what is now northern Germany and southern Scandinavia since classical antiquity. A region named Germania was documented by the Romans before AD 100. During the Migration Period that coincided with thedecline of the Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes expanded southward and established kingdoms throughout much of Europe. Beginning in the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century, northern German regions became the centre of the Protestant Reformation. The rise of Pan-Germanism inside the German Confederation, which had been occupied by France during the Napoleonic Wars, resulted in the unification of most of the German states in 1871 into the Prussian-dominated German Empire. As a result of the military defeat in World War I, and the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the Empire was replaced by the parliamentary Weimar Republic. The establishment of the Third Reich, or Nazi Regime, in 1933 eventually led to World War II and the Holocaust. In 1945, the remnants of the Nazi regime surrenderedto the Allied Powers. Over the next few years, Germany lost more of its territory and was divided by the victors into Allied occupation zones, and evolved into two states, East Germany and West Germany. On 3 October 1990, the country was reunified, regaining full sovereignty about six months later.
Continent: Africa/Capital: Accra
Ghana, officially called the Republic of Ghana, is a sovereign multinational state and unitary presidentialconstitutional democracy, located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning land mass of 238,535 km2, Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and theGulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. The word Ghana means "Warrior King" in Mande.
Ghana has a population of approximately 27 million, from a variety of ethnic and religious groups. Its varied geography includes savannas, forests, springs, cave systems, mountains, estuaries, and nature reserves. Ghana's 560 kilometres (350 miles) coast is dotted by culturally significant castles, forts, and harbours Prior to colonisation by the British empire in the early-20th century, Ghana was the site of numerous kingdoms and empires, the most powerful being the Kingdom of Ashanti. In 1957, it became the first African nation to declare independence from European colonisation. This made the country a symbol of black achievement and an inspiration for African independence movements. It also had a major influence on Pan-Africanism and the Black Pride movements in the United States of America.
Ghana is one of Africa's most developed countries, performing favorably in indexes of governance, stability, peacefulness, and human development by regional standards. Its economy is the sixth-largest on the Africa continent by purchasing power parity and nominal GDP and is one of the fastest growing in the world. In terms of purchasing power parity per capita income, Ghana has the highest per capita income in the subregion of western Africa, and the tenth-highest per capita income on continental Africa. Ghana is one of only five countries in Africa with a free press.
Ghana is a major producer of petroleum and natural gas, with the continent's fifth largest oil reserves and sixth largest natural gas reserves. It is one of the world's largest gold and diamond producers, and is projected to be the largest producer ofcocoa in the world as of 2015. Ghana's growing economic prosperity and democratic political system has made it aregional power in West Africa and on continental Africa. It is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, and a member of both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Group of 24 (G24).
Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of theMediterranean. It has an area of 6.0 km2 (2.3 sq mi) and shares its northern border with the Province of Cádiz in Andalusia,Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region. At its foot is a densely populated city area, home to almost 30,000Gibraltarians and other nationalities.
An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar from Spain in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession on behalf of the Habsburgpretender to the Spanish throne. The territory was subsequently ceded to Britain "in perpetuity" under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It was an important base for the Royal Navy; today its economy is based largely on tourism, online gambling, financial services, and shipping.
The sovereignty of Gibraltar is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations as Spain asserts a claim to the territory. Gibraltarians overwhelmingly rejected proposals for Spanish sovereignty in a 1967 referendum and again in 2002. Under theGibraltar constitution of 2006, Gibraltar governs its own affairs, though some powers, such as defence and foreign relations, remain the responsibility of the UK Government.
Continent: Europe/Capital: Athens
Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic and known since ancient times as Hellas, is a country located mainly in the southernBalkans. According to the 2011 census, Greece's population is around 11 million. Athens is the nation's capital and largest city.
Greece is strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. Its mainland territory, situated on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, shares land borders with Albania to the northwest, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the northeast. The country consists of nine geographic regions: Macedonia, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Thessaly,Epirus, the Aegean Islands (including the Dodecanese and Cyclades), Thrace, Crete, and the Ionian Islands. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin and the 11th longest coastline in the world at 13,676 km (8,498 mi) in length, featuring a vast number ofislands (approximately 1,400, of which 227 are inhabited). Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, of which Mount Olympus is the highest peak at 2,917 m (9,570 ft).
Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of Ancient Greece, which developed out of the Aegean Civilizations of the Bronze Age. Considered the cradle of all Western civilization, Greece is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles and Western dramaincluding both tragedy and comedy. The cultural and technological achievements of Greece greatly influenced the world, with many aspects of Greek civilization being imparted to the East following Alexander the Great's conquests and the period of Hellenistic rule in much of western Asia, and to the West through Greece's incorporation into the Roman Empire and the transmission of classical learning by Greek Orthodox churchmen from the late Byzantine Empire. The rich legacy of Classical Greece is partly reflected by the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Greece, ranking it 6th in Europe and 13th in the world. The modern Greek state, which comprises most of the historical core of Ancient Greek civilization, was established in 1830 following the war of independencefrom the Ottoman Empire, with Greek Macedonia and most of the territory of Northern Greece added following the Balkan Wars.
Greece is a democratic and developed country with an advanced high-income economy, a high quality of life and a very highstandard of living. A founding member of the United Nations, Greece was the 10th member to join the European Communities(precursor to the European Union) and has been part of the Eurozone since 2001. The nation is also a member of numerous other international institutions including the Council of Europe, NATO, OECD, OSCE and the WTO. Greece, which is one of the world'slargest shipping powers, has the largest economy in the Balkan Peninsula where Greece is an important regional investor; its economy is also the ninth largest in the Eurozone and the 43rd in the world.
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe (specifically Norway andDenmark, the colonial powers, as well as the nearby island of Iceland) for more than a millennium. In 2008, the people of Greenland passed a referendum supporting greater autonomy; 75% of votes cast were in favour. Greenland is, in area, theworld's largest island, over three-quarters of which is covered by the only contemporary ice sheet outside of Antarctica. With a population of about 56,370 (2013), it is the least densely populated country in the world.
Greenland has been inhabited off and on for at least the last 4,500 years by Arctic peoples whose forebears migrated there from what is now Canada. Norsemen settled the uninhabited southern part of Greenland, beginning in the 10th century, and Inuit peoples arrived in the 13th century. The Norse colonies disappeared in the late 15th century. In the early 18th century, Scandinavia and Greenland came back into contact with each other, and Denmark established sovereignty over the island.
Having been claimed by Denmark-Norway for centuries, Greenland (Danish: Grønland) became a Danish colony in 1814, and a part of the Danish Realm in 1953 under the Constitution of Denmark. In 1973, Greenland joined the European Economic Community with Denmark. However, in a referendum in 1982, a majority of the population voted for Greenland to withdraw from the EEC, which was effected in 1985. In 1979, Denmark had granted home rule to Greenland, and in 2008, Greenlanders voted in favour of the Self-Government Act, which transferred more power from the Danish royal governmentto the local Greenlandic government. Under the new structure, in effect since 21 June 2009, Greenland can gradually assume responsibility for policing, judicial system, company law, accounting, and auditing; mineral resource activities; aviation; law of legal capacity, family law and succession law; aliens and border controls; the working environment; and financial regulation and supervision, while the Danish government retains control of foreign affairs and defence. It also retains control of monetary policy, providing an initial annual subsidy of DKK 3.4 billion, planned to diminish gradually over time as Greenland's economy is strengthened by increased income from the extraction of natural resources.
Grenada is an island country consisting of Grenada itself and six smaller islands at the southern end of theGrenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea. Grenada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela, and southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Grenada is also known as the "Island of Spice" because of the production of nutmeg and mace crops of which it is one of the world's largest exporters. Its size is 344 square kilometres (133 sq mi), with an estimated population of 110,000. Its capital is St. George's. The national bird of Grenada is the critically endangered Grenada dove.
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of seventeen Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United Nations. The island's capital is Hagatna(formerly rendered Agana). Guam is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands.
The Chamorros, Guam's indigenous people, first populated the island approximately 4,000 years ago. The island has a long history of European colonialism, beginning with its discovery for Europe by Ferdinand Magellan during a Spanish expedition on March 6, 1521. The first colony was established in 1668 by Spain with the arrival of settlers including Padre San Vitores, a Catholicmissionary. For more than two centuries Guam was an important stopover for the Spanish Manila Galleons that crossed the Pacific annually. The island was controlled by Spain until 1898, when it was surrendered to the United States during the Spanish–American War and later formally ceded as part of the Treaty of Paris.
Guam is the largest island in Micronesia and was the only U.S.-held island in the region before World War II. Guam was captured by the Japanese on December 8, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was occupied for two and a half years. During the occupation, the people of Guam were subjected to acts that included forced labor, torture, beheadings, and rape, and were forced to adopt the Japanese culture Guam was subject to fierce fighting when U.S. troops recaptured the island on July 21, 1944, a date commemorated every year as Liberation Day.
Today, Guam's economy is supported by its principal industry, tourism, which is composed primarily of visitors from Japan. Guam's second largest source of income is the United States Armed Forces.
Continent:N.America/Capital: Guatemala City
Guatemala,officially the Republic of Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, Honduras to the east and El Salvador to the southeast. It spans an area of 108,890 km2(42,043 sqmi) and has an estimated population of 15,806,675, making it the most populous state in Central America. Arepresentative democracy, its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.
The region known today as Guatemala was for centuries part of the Mayan civilization that extended across Mesoamerica. Most of the country was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, becoming part of the colony of New Spain (present-day Mexico). Guatemala attained its independence in 1821 as part of the Federal Republic of Central America, which dissolved in 1841.
From the mid to late 19th century, Guatemala endured the chronic instability and civil strife that was endemic to the region. Early in the 20th century, it was ruled by a series of dictators, who had the support of the United Fruit Company and the United States government. In 1944, one such authoritarian leader, Jorge Ubico, was overthrown by a pro-democratic military coup, initiating the ten-year Guatemalan Revolution that led to sweeping social and economic reforms. The revolution was ended by a U.S.-engineered military coup in 1954.
From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala underwent a bloody civil war fought between the U.S.-backed government and leftist rebels, which included Mayan population massacres perpetrated by the former in the Ixil Triangle in an effort to get them out of the oil rich region of northern Quiche. Since the end of the war, Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth and successful democratic elections. It continues to struggle with high rates of poverty, crime, drug trade and instability. In the most recent election, held in 2011, Otto Perez Molina of the Patriotic Party won the presidency.
Guatemala's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems, and large number of endemic species, contributes to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot. The country is also known for its rich culture, characterized by a fusion of Spanish and Indigenous influences.
Guinea, officially the Republic of Guinea, is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea, it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbourGuinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea. Guinea has a population of 10.5 million and an area of 245,860 square kilometres (94,927 sq mi).
Guinea is a republic. The president is directly elected by the people and is head of state and head of government. The unicameralGuinean National Assembly is the legislative body of the country, and its members are directly elected by the people. The judicial branch is led by the Guinea Supreme Court, the highest and final court of appeal in the country.
Guinea is a predominantly Islamic country, with Muslims representing 85 percent of the population. Guinea's people belong to twenty-four ethnic groups. French, the official language of Guinea, is the main language of communication in schools, in government administration, in the media, and among the country's security forces, but more than twenty-four indigenous languages are also spoken.
Guinea's economy is largely dependent on agriculture and mineral production. It is the world's second largest producer ofbauxite, and has rich deposits of diamonds and gold.
Human rights in Guinea remain controversial. In 2011 the United States government claimed that torture by security forces, and abuse of women and children (e.g. female genital mutilation) were ongoing abuses of human rights.
The country is named after the Guinea region. Guinea is a traditional name for the region of Africa that lies along the Gulf of Guinea. It stretches north through the forested tropical regions and ends at the Sahel. The English term Guinea comes directly from the Portuguese word Guine, which emerged in the mid-15th century to refer to the lands inhabited by the Guineus, a generic term for the black African peoples below the Senegal River, as opposed to the 'tawny' Zenaga Berbers, above it, whom they calledAzenegues or Moors.
The country is currently at the core of the 2014 Ebola outbreak giving it a bleak prospect for the upcoming years in terms of humanitarian situation and GDP growth.
Guinea-Bissau, officially the Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa. It covers 36,125 km² (nearly 14,000 sq mi) with an estimated population of 1,704,000.
Guinea-Bissau was once part of the kingdom of Gabu, as well as part of the Mali Empire. Parts of this kingdom persisted until the 18th century, while a few others were under some rule by the Portuguese Empire since the 16th century. In the 19th century, it was colonized as Portuguese Guinea. Upon independence, declared in 1973 and recognised in 1974, the name of its capital,Bissau, was added to the country's name to prevent confusion with Guinea (formerly French Guinea). Guinea-Bissau has a history of political instability since independence, and no elected president has successfully served a full five-year term.
On the evening of 12 April 2012, members of the country's military staged a coup d'etat and arrested the interim president and a leading presidential candidate. Former vice chief of staff, General Mamadu Ture Kuruma, assumed control of the country in the transitional period and started negotiations with opposition partie.
Only 14% of the population speaks Portuguese, established as the official language in the colonial period. Almost half the population (44%) speaks Crioulo, a Portuguese-based creole language, and the remainder speak a variety of native African languages. The main religions are African traditional religions and Islam; there is a Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) minority. The country's per-capita gross domestic product is one of the lowest in the world.
Guinea-Bissau is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Latin Union, Community of Portuguese Language Countries, La Francophonie and the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone.
Guyana officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, is a sovereign state on the Caribbean coast of South America. Although Guyana is part of the Anglophone Caribbean, it is one of the few Caribbean countries that are part of South America. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Guyana is a member, has its secretariat's headquarters in Guyana's capital, Georgetown.
Guyana was originally colonised by the Netherlands. Later, it became a British colony, known as British Guiana, and remained so for over 200 years until it achieved independence on 26 May 1966 from the United Kingdom. On 23 February 1970, Guyana officially became a republic. In 2008, the country joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member.
Guyana is a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations and has the distinction of being the only South American nation in which English is the official language. The majority of the population, however, speak Guyanese Creole; an English-based creole languagewith slight Dutch, Arawakan and Caribbean influences.
Historically, the region known as "Guiana" or "Guyana" comprised the large shield landmass north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River known as the "Land of many waters". Historical Guyana consists of three Dutch colonies: Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice. Modern Guyana is bordered by Suriname to the east, by Brazil to the south and southwest, by Venezuela to the west, and by the Atlantic Ocean to the north. At 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi), Guyana is the third-smallest independent state on the mainland of South America after Uruguay and Suriname.
Haiti, officially the Republic of Haiti, is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. In addition, Haiti also occupies small satellite islands known for tourists, including; (Cow Island), which includes Port Morgan and Abaka Bay resorts. In French, the country's nickname is La Perle des Antilles (The Pearl of the Antilles), because of its natural beauty. It is the most mountainous nation in the Caribbean and the country's highest point is Pic la Selle, at 2,680 metres (8,793 ft). By area, Haiti is the third largest Caribbean nation (after Cubaand the Dominican Republic), with 27,750 square kilometres (10,714 sq mi) (roughly the size of the U.S. state of Hawaii or the country of Belgium). By population, Haiti is the second most populous Caribbean nation, with an estimated 10.7 million people, just under a million of whom live in the capital city, Port-au-Prince.
Haiti's regional, historical, and ethno-linguistic position is unique for several reasons. Originally inhabited by the indigenous Taíno people, the island was first discovered by Christopher Columbus during his first voyage across the Atlantic in 1492. When Columbus first landed in Haiti (western Hispaniola), he had thought he had found India or Asia His flagship, the Santa Maria, sank after running aground on 25 December in the north coast of present-day Haiti. Deciding to establish a settlement in the area, a contingent of men were left at an outpost christened La Navidad, because the wreck occurred on Christmas, north of what is now Limonade.
Gaining its independence in 1804, Haiti was the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second republicsuccessful in a war of independence against a European colonial power in the Americas, the only nation in the western hemisphereto have defeated three European superpowers (Britain, France, and Spain), and the only nation in the world established as a result of a successful slave revolt. The rebellion, begun in 1791, was led by a former slave and the first black general of the French Army, Toussaint Louverture, whose military genius and political acumen transformed an entire society of slaves into the independent country. Upon his death in a prison in France, he was succeeded by his lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who declared Haiti's sovereignty and later became the first emperor of Haiti, Jacques Its successful revolution by slaves and free people of color lasted nearly a decade; and apart from Alexandre Petion, the first President of the Republic, all the first leaders of government were former slaves. The largest fortress in the Americas, the Citadelle Laferriere, was built by former slave Henri Christophe and first king of Haiti, Henri I, in order to withstand a possible foreign attack.
With 10.4 million people, Haiti is the most populous full member-state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The country is also a member of the Latin Union. In 2012, Haiti announced its intention to seek associate membership status in the African Union. It has the lowest Human Development Index in the Americas. Political violence has occurred regularly throughout its history, leading to government instability. Most recently, in February 2004, a coup d'etat originating in the north of the country forced the resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A provisional government took control with security provided by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Michel Martelly, the current president, was elected in the 2011 general election.
Honduras officially the Republic of Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was at times referred to as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize. The country is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.
Honduras was home to several important Mesoamerican cultures, most notably the Maya, prior to being conquered by Spainin the sixteenth century. The Spanish introduced Roman Catholicism and the now predominant Spanish language, along with numerous customs that have blended with the indigenous culture. The country became independent in 1821 and has since been a republic, although it has consistently endured much social strife and political instability, remaining one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Honduras spans an area of about 112,492 km² and has a population exceeding 8 million. Its northern portions are part of theWestern Caribbean Zone, as reflected in the area's demographics and culture. Honduras is known for its rich natural resources, including various minerals, coffee, tropical fruit, and sugar cane, as well as for its growing textiles industry, which serves the international market.
Hong Kong , officially known as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is a city on the southern coast of China at the Pearl River Estuary and the South China Sea. Hong Kong is well known for its expansive skyline, deep natural harbour and extreme population density (some seven million inhabitants over a land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi)). The current population of Hong Kong comprises 93.6% ethnic Chinese. A major part of Hong Kong's Cantonese-speaking majority originated from the neighbouring Canton province (now Guangdong), from where skilled labour fled after the communist government took over China in 1949 and subsequently purged its population during the 1960s
After China's defeat in the First Opium War (1839-42) against the British Empire, Hong Kong became a British colony with the perpetual cession of Hong Kong Island, followed by Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898. After it was occupied by Japan during the Second World War (1941-45), the British resumed control until 30 June 1997. As a result of the negotiations between China and Britain, Hong Kong was transferred to the People's Republic of China under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The city became China's first Special Administrative Region on 1 July 1997 under the principle of "one country, two systems".
Towards the late 1970s, Hong Kong became established as a major entrepôt between the world and China. The city has developed into a major global trade hub and financial centre, and is regarded as a world city and one of the eight Alpha+ cities. It ranked fifth on the 2014 Global Cities Index after New York City, London, Tokyo and Paris. The city has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, and the most severe income inequality among the advanced economies It has a high Human Development Index and is ranked highly in the Global Competitiveness Report. Hong Kong is the third most important financial centre after New York and London. The service economy, characterised by low taxation and free trade, has been regarded as one of the world's most laissez-faire economic policies, and the currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is the 13th most traded currency in the world.
Limited flat land created a necessity for dense infrastructure, and the city became a centre of modern architecture, earning Hong Kong the title of the world's most vertical city. Hong Kong has a highly developed public transportation network and 90 percent of the population, the highest rate in the world, relies on mass transit by road or rail. Air pollution remains a serious problem. Loose emissions standards have resulted in a high level of atmospheric particulates.
Hungary , formally, until 2012, the Republic of Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The country's capital and largest city is Budapest. Hungary is a member of the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the Visegrád Group, and the Schengen Area. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken non-Indo-European language in Europe.
Following centuries of successive habitation by Celts, Romans, Huns, Slavs, Gepids, and Avars, the foundation of Hungary was laid in the late 9th century by the Hungarian grand prince Árpád in the Honfoglalás ("homeland-conquest"). His great-grandson Stephen I ascended to the throne in 1000 CE, converting the country to a Christian kingdom. By the 12th century, Hungary became a middle power within the Western world, reaching a golden age by the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526 and about 150 years of partial Ottoman occupation (1541-1699), Hungary came under Habsburg rule, and later formed a significant part of the Austro–Hungarian Empire (1867–1918).
Hungary's current borders were first established by the Treaty of Trianon (1920) after World War I, when the country lost 71% of its territory, 58% of its population, and 32% of ethnic Hungarians. Following the interwar period, Hungary joined the Axis Powers in World War II, suffering significant damage and casualties. Hungary came under the influence of the Soviet Union, which contributed to the establishment of a four-decade long communist dictatorship (1947–1989). The country gained widespread international attention regarding the Revolution of 1956 and the seminal opening of its previously-restricted border with Austria in 1989, which accelerated the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.
On 23 October 1989, Hungary again became a democratic parliamentary republic, and is today an upper-middle income country with a very high Human Development Index. Hungary is a popular tourist destination attracting 10.675 million tourists a year (2013) It is home to the largest thermal water cave system and the second largest thermal lake in the world, the largest lake in Central Europe (Lake Balaton), and the largest natural grasslands in Europe.
Iceland is a Nordic island country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 325,671 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík; the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.
According to Landnamabok, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 CE when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelicorigin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and arepublic in 1944.
Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services.
Affected by the ongoing worldwide financial crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed in October 2008, leading to a severe depression, substantial political unrest, the Icesave dispute, and the institution of capital controls. The economy has since made a significant recovery, in large part due to a surge in tourism.
Except for the capital controls, Iceland generally has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECDcountries. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks highly in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index
Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and medieval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, its lightly armed coast guardbeing in charge of defence.
Continent: Asia / Capital: New Delhi
India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the south-west, and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Burma and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.
Home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history. Four religions-Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism-originated here, whereas Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived in the 1st millennium CE and also helped shape the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by and brought under the administration of the British East India Company from the early 18th century and administered directly by the United Kingdom after Indian Rebellion of 1857, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.
The Indian economy is the world's tenth-largest by nominal GDP and third-largest by purchasing power parity. Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India became one of the fastest-growing major economies; it is considered a newly industrialised country. However, it continues to face the challenges of poverty, corruption, malnutrition, inadequate public healthcare, and terrorism. A nuclear weapons state and a regional power, it has the third-largest standing army in the world and ranks ninth in military expenditure among nations. India is a federal constitutional republic governed under a parliamentary system consisting of 29 states and 7 union territories. India is a pluralistic, multilingual, and a multi-ethnic society. It is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.
Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is anarchipelago comprising thousands of islands. It encompasses 34 provinces. Two provinces were Special Administrative Regions (one for being governed by pre-colonial monarchy and another one for using the Sharia Law), with an estimated population of over 252 million people, making it the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia's republican form of government comprises an elected legislature and president. The nation's capital city is Jakarta. The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Malaysia. Other neighboring countries include Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, Palau, and the Indian territory of theAndaman and Nicobar Islands. Indonesia is a founding member of ASEAN and a member of the G-20 major economies. TheIndonesian economy is the world's 17th largest by nominal GDP.
The Indonesian archipelago has been an important trade region since at least the 7th century, when Srivijaya and then laterMajapahit traded with China and India. Local rulers gradually absorbed foreign cultural, religious and political models from the earlycenturies CE, and Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished. Indonesian history has been influenced by foreign powers drawn to its natural resources. Muslim traders brought the now-dominant Islam, while European powers brought Christianity and fought one another to monopolize trade in the Spice Islands of Maluku during the Age of Discovery. Following three and a half centuries ofDutch colonialism, Indonesia secured its independence after World War II. Indonesia's history has since been turbulent, with challenges posed by natural disasters, mass slaughter, corruption, separatism, a democratization process, and periods of rapid economic change.
Indonesia consists of hundreds of distinct native ethnic and linguistic groups. The largest - and politically dominant - ethnic group are the Javanese. A shared identity has developed, defined by a national language, ethnic diversity, religious pluralism within a majority Muslim population, and a history of colonialism and rebellion against it. Indonesia's national motto, "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika"("Unity in Diversity" literally, "many, yet one"), articulates the diversity that shapes the country. Despite its large population and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support the world's second highest level of biodiversity. The country has abundant natural resources, yet poverty remains widespread.
Iran, formerly known as Persia officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia.It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia, the de facto independentNagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Azerbaijan; with Kazakhstan and Russia across the Caspian Sea; to the northeast byTurkmenistan; to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan; to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and to the west byTurkey and Iraq. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second-largest nation in the Middle East and the 18th-largest in the world; with 78.4 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 17th most populous nation.It is the only country that has both a Caspian Sea and Indian Ocean coastline. Iran has been of geostrategic importance because of its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia and the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran is home to one of the world's oldest civilizations,beginning with the formation of the Proto-Elamite and Elamite kingdom in 3200–2800 BC. The Iranian Medes unified the country into the first of many empires in 625 BC, after which it became the dominant cultural and political power in the region.Iran reached the pinnacle of its power during the Achaemenid Empire (First Persian Empire) founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC, which at its greatest extent comprised major portions of the ancient world, stretching from parts of the Balkans (Bulgaria-Pannonia) and Thrace-Macedonia in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east, making it the largest empire the world had yet seen.The empire collapsed in 330 BC following the conquests of Alexander the Great. The area eventually regained influence under the Parthian Empire and rose to prominence once more after the establishment of the Sasanian dynasty (Neo-Persian empire) in 224 AD, under which Iran again became one of the leading powers in the world along with theByzantine Empire for the next four centuries.
Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism were largely replaced after Rashidun Muslims invaded Persia in 633 AD, and conquered it by 651 AD.Iran thereafter played a vital role in the subsequent Islamic Golden Age, producing numerous influential scientists, scholars, artists, and thinkers. The emergence in 1501 of the Safavid dynasty, which promoted the Twelver school of thought as the official religion, marked one of the most important turning points in Iranian and Muslim history. It also culminated into tensions, which in 1514 led to the Battle of Chaldiran. Starting in 1736 under Nader Shah, Iran would once again reach high prominence, reaching its greatest territorial extent since the Sassanid Empire, and briefly possessing what was arguably the most powerful empire in the world.The Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906 established the nation's first parliament, which operated within a constitutional monarchy. Following a coup d'état instigated by the UK and the US in 1953, Iran gradually became autocratic. Growing dissent against foreign influence and political repression culminated in the Iranian Revolution, which led to the establishment of an Islamic republic on 1 April 1979.
Tehran is the capital and largest city, serving as the cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a major regionaland middle power, exerting considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy through its large reserves of fossil fuels, which include the largest natural gas supply in the world and the 4th-largest proven oil reserves. It hosts Asia's 4th-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Iran is a founding member of the UN, NAM, OIC and OPEC. Its unique political system, based on the 1979 constitution, combines elements of a parliamentary democracy with a religious theocracy run by the country's clergy, wherein the Supreme Leader wields significant influence. A multicultural nation comprising numerous ethnic and linguistic groups, most inhabitants are Shi'ites, theIranian rial is its currency, and Persian is the official language.
Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia. The country bordersTurkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest, and Syria to the west. The capital, Baghdad, is in the center of the country and its largest city. The largest ethnic groups in Iraq are Arabs andKurds. Other ethnic groups include Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 36 million citizens are Shia or Sunni Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present.
Iraq has a narrow section of coastline measuring 58 km (36 mi) on the northern Persian Gulf and its territory encompasses theMesopotamian Alluvial Plain, the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, and the eastern part of the Syrian Desert.Two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, run south through the center of Iraq and flow into the Shatt al-Arab near the Persian Gulf. These rivers provide Iraq with significant amounts of fertile land.
The region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is often referred to as Mesopotamia and thought to be the birthplace of writing and the world's oldest civilizations. The area has been home to continuous successive civilizations since the 6th millennium BC. At different periods in its history, Iraq was the center of the indigenous Akkadian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires. It was also part of the Median, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sassanid, Roman, Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Mongol, Safavid,Afsharid, and Ottoman empires, and under British control as a League of Nations mandate.
Iraq's modern borders were mostly demarcated in 1920 by the League of Nations when the Ottoman Empire was divided by theTreaty of Sevres. Iraq was placed under the authority of the United Kingdom as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. A monarchy was established in 1921 and the Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Republic of Iraq was created. Iraq was controlled by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party from 1968 until 2003. After an invasion by the United States and its allies, Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party was removed from power and multi-partyparliamentary elections were held. The American presence in Iraq ended in 2011 but the Iraqi insurgency continued and intensified as fighters from the Syrian Civil War spilled into the country.
Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic to the west of Great Britain, from which it is separated by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St Georges Channel, and after which it is the largest island of the British Isles. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth.
Politically, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland, which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, which covers the remaining area and is located in the north-east of the island. The population of Ireland is about 6.4 million. Just under 4.6 million live in the Republic of Ireland and just over 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.
The island's geography comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. The island has lush vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable oceanic climate, which avoids extremes in temperature. Thick woodlands covered the island until the Middle Ages. As of 2013, the amount of land that is wooded in Ireland is about 11% of the total, compared with a European average of 35%.There are 26 extant mammal species native to Ireland.
Prehistoric Ireland saw the arrival of humans after 8000 BC. Gaelic Ireland had emerged by the 1st century and lasted until the early 17th century. The island was Christianised from the 5th century onward. Following the Norman invasion in the 12th century, Englandclaimed sovereignty over Ireland. However, English rule did not extend over the whole island until the 16th-17th century Tudor conquest. This led to colonisation of Ireland by settlers from Britain. In the 1690s, a system of Protestant English rule was designed to materially disadvantage the Catholic majority and Protestant dissenters, and was extended during the 18th century. With the Acts of Union in 1801, Ireland became a part of the United Kingdom. A war of independence in the early 20th century was followed by thepartition of the island, creating the Irish Free State, which became increasingly sovereign over the following decades, and Northern Ireland which remained a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland saw much civil unrest from the late 1960s until the 1990s. This subsided following a political agreement in 1998. In 1973, both parts of Ireland joined the European Economic Community.
Irish culture has had a significant influence on other cultures, especially in the fields of literature and, to a lesser degree, science and education. Alongside mainstream Western culture, a strong indigenous culture exists, as expressed for example through Gaelic games, Irish music, and the Irish language. The culture of the island has also many features shared with Great Britain, including the English language, and sports such as association football, rugby, horse racing, and golf.
Israel , officially the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia, situated at the southeastern shore of theMediterranean Sea. It shares land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories comprising the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the east and southwest, respectively, and Egypt and the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the south. It contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel's financial center isTel Aviv, while Jerusalem is both its designated capital and the most populous individual city under the country's governmental administration. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is internationally disputed.
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of the Partition Planfor Mandatory Palestine. Borders for a new Jewish state were specified by the UN but ultimately not recognized by either Israel or neighboring countries. The end of the British Mandate for Palestine was set for midnight on 14 May 1948. That day, David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the Zionist Organization and president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared "the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel," which would start to function from the termination of the mandate. Neighboring Arab armies invaded the former Palestinian mandate on the next day and fought the Israeli forces.Israel has since fought several wars with neighboring Arab states, in the course of which it has occupied the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula (1956-57, 1967-82), part of South Lebanon (1982-2000), Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. It extended its laws to the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, but not the West Bank. Efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflicthave not resulted in peace. However, peace treaties between Israel and both Egypt and Jordan have successfully been signed. Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem is the world's longest military occupation in modern times.
The population of Israel, as defined by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, was estimated in 2014 to be 8,146,300 people. It is the world's only Jewish-majority state; 6,212,000 citizens, or 74.9% of Israelis, are designated as Jewish. The country's second largest group of citizens are denoted as Arabs, with 1,718,400 people (including the Druze and most East Jerusalem Arabs).The great majority of Israeli Arabs are Muslims; the rest are Christians and Druze. Other minorities include Maronites, Samaritans, Dom people, Black Hebrew Israelites, other Sub-Saharan Africans, Armenians, Circassians, Roma, Vietnamese boat people, and others. Israel also hosts a significant population of non-citizen foreign workers and asylum seekers from Africa and Asia.
In its Basic Laws, Israel defines itself as a Jewish and Democratic State. Israel is a representative democracy with a parliamentary system, proportional representation and universal suffrage. The Prime Minister serves as head of government and the Knesset serves as Israel's legislative body. Israel is a developed country and an OECD member, with the 43rd-largesteconomy in the world by nominal gross domestic product as of 2012. The country has the highest standard of living in the Middle East and the fifth highest in Asia, and has the one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
Italy, officially the Italian Republic is a unitaryparliamentary republic in Europe. Italy covers an area of 301,338 km2 (116,347 sq mi) and has a largely temperate climate; due to its shape, it is often referred to in Italy as lo Stivale (the Boot). With 61 million inhabitants, it is the 5th most populous country in Europe. Italy is a very highly developed country and has the third largest economy in the Eurozone and the eighth-largest in the world.
Since ancient times, Etruscan, Magna Graecia and other cultures have flourished in the territory of present-day Italy, being eventually absorbed by Rome, that has for centuries remained the leading political and religious centre of Western civilisation, capital of the Roman Empire and Christianity. During the Dark Ages, the Italian Peninsula faced calamitous invasions bybarbarian tribes, but beginning around the 11th century, numerous Italian city-states rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce and banking (indeed, modern capitalism has its roots in Medieval Italy).Especially during The Renaissance, Italian culture thrived, producing scholars, artists, and polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo andMachiavelli. Italian explorers such as Polo, Columbus, Vespucci, and Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery. Nevertheless, Italy would remain fragmented into many warring states for the rest of the Middle Ages, subsequently falling prey to larger European powers such as France, Spain, and later Austria. Italy would thus enter a long period of decline that lasted until the mid 19th century.
After various unsuccessful attempts, the second and the third wars of Italian Independence resulted in the unification of most of present-day Italy between 1859-66.From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the new Kingdom of Italy rapidly industrialised and acquired a colonial empire becoming a Great Power.However, Southern and rural Italy remained largely excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite victory in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, which favoured the establishment of a Fascist dictatorship in 1922. The subsequent participation in World War II at the side the Axis ended in military defeat, economic destruction and civil war. In the years that followed, Italy abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, and enjoyed a prolonged economic boom, thus becoming one of the most developed nations and the 5th largest economy in the world by 1990.
Italy plays a prominent role in global military, cultural and diplomatic affairs and thus is considered a major regional power. Italy is one of the founding and leading member of the European Union. Italy is a member of numerous international institutions, including the UN, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the DAC, the WTO, the G4, G6, G7, G8, G10, G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Latin Union, the Council of Europe, the Central European Initiative, the ASEM and theUniting for Consensus.
Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea, comprising the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles. The island, 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola, the island containing the nation-states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Jamaica is the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean.
Once a Spanish possession known as Santiago, in 1655 it came under the rule of England (later Great Britain), and was called Jamaica. It achieved full independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962. With 2.8 million people, it is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada. Kingston is the country's largest city and its capital, with a population of 937,700. Jamaica has a large diaspora around the world, due to emigration from the country.
Jamaica is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, currently Patrick Allen. The head of government and Prime Minister of Jamaica isPortia Simpson-Miller. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.
Japan Nippon or Nihon; formally Nippon-koku is anisland nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Koreaand Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The Kanji that make up Japan's name mean "sun origin", and Japan is often called "Land of the Rising Sun".
Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Japan's population of 126 million is the world's tenth largest. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the world's largest metropolitan area, with over 30 million residents.
Archaeological research indicates that people lived in Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other regions, mainly Imperial China, followed by periods of isolation, later from Western European influence, has characterized Japan's history. From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military shoguns in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, which was only ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. Nearly two decades of internal conflict and insurrection followed before the Meiji Emperor was restored as head of state in 1868 and theEmpire of Japan was proclaimed, with the Emperor as a divine symbol of the nation. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victories in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism. The Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 expanded into part of World War II in 1941, which came to an end in 1945 following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since adopting its revised constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected legislature called the National Diet.
Japan is a member of the UN, the G7, the G8, the G20. A major economic and political power,Japan is a developed countryand has the world's third-largest economy by nominal GDP and the world's fourth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It is also the world's fifth-largest exporter and fifth-largest importer. Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war, it maintains a modern military with the world's eighth largest military budget, used for self-defense and peacekeeping roles. Japan ranks high in metrics of prosperity such as the Human Development Index, with the Japanese population enjoying thehighest life expectancy of any country in the world and the infant mortality rate being the third lowest globally.
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is an Arab kingdom in the Middle East, on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north, and Israel and Palestine to the west.
After the post-World War I division of West Asia by Britain and France, the Emirate of Transjordan was officially recognized by the Council of the League of Nations in 1922. In 1946, Jordan became an independent sovereign state officially known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. After capturing the West Bank during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Abdullah I took the title King of Jordan. The name of the state was changed to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on 1 December 1948.
Although Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, the king holds wide executive and legislative powers. Jordan is classified as a country of "high human development by the 2014 Human Development Report. Jordan has an "upper middle income" economy. Jordan enjoys "advanced status" with the European Union since December 2010,and it is a member of the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area. It is also a founding member of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation(OIC).
Kazakhstan, pronounced, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a contiguous transcontinental country in Central Asia, with its smaller part west of the Ural River in Europe. Kazakhstan is the world's largest landlocked country by land area and the ninth largest country in the world; its territory of 2,724,900 square kilometres (1,052,100 sq mi) is larger than Western Europe. It has borders with (clockwise from the north) Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea. The terrain of Kazakhstan includes flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow-capped mountains, and deserts. With an estimated 17 million people as of 2013 Kazakhstan is the 61st most populous country in the world, though its population density is among the lowest, at less than 6 people per square kilometre (15 people per sq. mi.). The capital is Astana, where it was moved from Almaty in 1997.
The territory of Kazakhstan has historically been inhabited by nomadic tribes. This changed in the 13th century, when Genghis Khanoccupied the country. Following internal struggles among the conquerors, power eventually reverted to the nomads. By the 16th century, the Kazakhs emerged as a distinct group, divided into three jüz (ancestor branches occupying specific territories). TheRussians began advancing into the Kazakh steppe in the 18th century, and by the mid-19th century all of Kazakhstan was part of theRussian Empire. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, and subsequent civil war, the territory of Kazakhstan was reorganized several times before becoming the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936, an integral part of the Soviet Union.
Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991; the current President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been leader of the country since then. Kazakhstan pursues a balanced foreign policyand works to develop its economy, especially its dominant hydrocarbon industry.
Kazakhstan is populated by 131 ethnicities, including Kazakh (who make up 63 percent of the population), Russian, Uzbek,Ukrainian, German, Tatar, and Uyghur. Islam is the religion of about 70% of the population, with Christianity practiced by 26%Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion. The Kazakh language is the state language, while Russian has equal official status for all levels of administrative and institutional purposes.
Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in Africa. Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya lies on the equator with the Indian Ocean to the south-east, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west,Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the north-east. Kenya covers 581,309 km2 (224,445 sq mi), and had a population of approximately 44 million people in July 2012.
Kenya has a warm, humid climate along its Indian Ocean coastline, with wildlife-rich savannah grasslands inland towards the capital. Nairobi has a cool climate which becomes colder closer to Mount Kenya, which has only one permanently snow-capped peak left. Further inland, there is a warm and humid climate around Lake Victoria, and temperate forested and hilly areas in the western region. The northeastern regions along the border with Somalia and Ethiopia are arid and semi-arid areas with near-desert landscapes. Lake Victoria, the world's second largest fresh-water lake and the largest tropical lake, is situated to the southwest and is shared with Uganda and Tanzania. Kenya, along with Uganda and Tanzania is famous for its safaris and diverse wildlife reserves and national parks such as the East and West Tsavo National Park, the Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park, and Aberdares National Park. There are several world heritage sites, such as Lamu; there are also many world renowned beaches, such as Kilifi, where international yachting competitions are held each year.
The African Great Lakes region, which Kenya is a part of, has been inhabited by humans since the Lower Paleolithic period. By the first millennium AD, the Bantu expansion had reached the area from West-Central Africa. The borders of the modern state consequently comprise the crossroads of the Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asiatic areas of the continent, representing most major ethnolinguistic groups found in Africa. Bantu and Nilotic populations together constitute around 97% of the nation's residents.European and Arab presence in coastal Mombasa dates to the Early Modern period; European exploration of the interior began in the 19th century. The British Empire established the East Africa Protectorate in 1895, which starting in 1920 gave way to the Kenya Colony. Kenya obtained independence in December 1963. Following a referendum in August 2010 and adoption of a new constitution, Kenya is now divided into 47 semi-autonomous counties, governed by elected governors.
The capital, Nairobi, is a regional commercial hub. The economy of Kenya is the largest by GDP in Southeast and Central Africa. Agriculture is a major employer; the country traditionally exports tea and coffee and has more recently begun to export fresh flowers to Europe. The service industry is also a major economic driver. Kenya is a member of the East African Community. Compared to other African countries, Kenya enjoys relatively high political and social stability.
Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean. The nation comprises 33 atolls and reef islands and one raised coral island, Banaba. They have a total land area of 800 square kilometres (310 sq mi). and are dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres, (1,351,000 square miles). Their spread straddles the equator and the International Date Line, although the Date Line is indented to bring the Line Islands in the same day as the Kiribati Islands. The permanent population is just over 100,000 (2011), half of whom live on Tarawa Atoll.
Kiribati became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979. The capital and now most populated area, South Tarawa, consists of a number of islets, connected by a series of causeways. These comprise about half the area of Tarawa Atoll. Kiribati is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the IMF and the World Bank, and became a full member of the United Nationsin 1999.
Continent:Asia/Capital: Kuwait City
Kuwait, officially the State of Kuwait, is an Arab country in Western Asia. Situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, it shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. As of 2014, Kuwait has a population of 4.1 million people; 1.2 million are Kuwaitis and 2.8 million are expatriates.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Kuwait was a prosperous trade hub.Starting in the early 20th century, its regional economic importance declined, and by 1934 Kuwait had lost its prominence in long-distance trade.Kuwait's economy was devastated by several trade blockades.During World War I, the British Empire imposed a blockade against Kuwait because its ruler supported the Ottoman Empire.Following the Kuwait-Najd War of 1919-1920, Saudi Arabia maintained a trade blockade against the country from 1923 until 1937. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. The Iraqi occupation came to an end after military intervention by United States-led forces.
Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliamentary system. The country ranks highly in regional comparisons of national performance, including protection of civil liberties, press freedom and judicial independence.Kuwait is frequently ranked as having the freest press in the Arab world.In recent years, the hostile relationship between the parliament and government has hindered the country's development.
Kyrgyzstan, formerly known as Kirghizia, is a country located in Central Asia. Landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital andlargest city is Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan's history spans over 2,000 years, encompassing a variety of cultures and empires. Although geographically isolated by its highly mountainous terrain - which has helped preserve its ancient culture - Kyrgyzstan has historically been at the crossroads of several great civilizations, namely as part of the Silk Road and other commercial and cultural routes. Though long inhabited by a succession of independent tribes and clans, Kyrgyzstan has periodically come under foreign domination due to its strategic location, attaining sovereignty as a nation-state only after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Since independence, Kyrgyzstan has officially been a unitary parliamentary republic, although it continues to endure ethnic conflicts,revolts,economic troubles, transitional governments, and political party conflicts.Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, theShanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Turkic Council, the TURKSOY community and theUnited Nations.
Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country's 5.7 million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians. The official language, Kyrgyz, is closely related to the other Turkic languages, although Russian remains widely spoken, a legacy of a century-long policy of Russification. The majority of the population (64 percent) are nondenominational Muslims. In addition to its Turkic origins, Kyrgz culture bears elements of Persian, Mongolian, and Russian influence.
Laos, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR), is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailandto the west. Since 1975, it has been ruled by a Marxist and communist government. Its population was estimated to be around 6.8 million in July 2014.
Significant corruption exists in the Lao government, military, and communist party in the LPDR, and the legacy of a command economy, as well as excess spending on military and defense budgets during the Cold War and its aftermath, have continued to impoverish Laos. According to the anti-corruption non-governmental organization Transparency International, Laos remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This has deterred foreign investment and created major problems with the rule of law, including the nation's ability to enforce contract and business regulation.Consequently, a third of the population of Laos currently lives below the international poverty line (living on less than US$1.25 per day). Laos has a low-income economy, with one of the lowest annual incomes in the world. In 2013, Laos ranked in 138th place (tied with Cambodia) on the Human Development Index(HDI), indicating that Laos has lower medium to low development. According to the Global Hunger Index (2013), Laos ranks as the 25th hungriest nation in the world out of the list of the 56 nations with the worst hunger situation(s). Laos has had a poor human rights record most particularly dealing with the nation's acts of genocide being committed towards its Hmong population.
Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three kingdoms - Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak - uniting to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a long civil war ended the monarchy, when the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975.
Laos is a single-party socialist republic. It espouses Marxism and is governed by a single party communist politburo dominated by military generals. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnam People's Army continue to have significant influence in Laos. The capital city is Vientiane. Other large cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse. The official language is Lao. Laos is a multi-ethnic country with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up approximately 60% of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong, and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for 40% of the population, live in the foothills and mountains.
Laos' strategy for development is based on generating electricity from its rivers and selling the power to its neighbours, namely Thailand, China, and Vietnam.Its economy is accelerating rapidly with the demands for its metals.It is a member of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia Summit andLa Francophonie. Laos applied for membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1997; on 2 February 2013, it was granted full membership.
Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, one of the three Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Belarusand by a maritime border to the west with Sweden. Latvia has 2,070,371 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2(24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.
Latvia is a democratic parliamentary republic established in 1918. The capital city is Riga, the European Capital of Culture 2014. Latvian is the official language. Latvia is a unitary state, divided into 118 administrative divisions of which 109 are municipalities and 9 are cities.
Latvians and Livs are the indigenous people of Latvia. Latvian is an Indo-European language; it and Lithuanian are the only two surviving Baltic languages. Despite foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian nation maintained its identity throughout the generations via the language and musical traditions. Latvia and Estonia share a long common history. As a consequence of the Soviet occupation both countries are home to a large number of ethnic Russians (26.9% in Latvia and 25.5% in Estonia), some of whom are non-citizens. Latvia is historically predominantly ProtestantLutheran, except for the Latgale region in the southeast, which has historically been predominantly Roman Catholic.
The Republic of Latvia was founded on 18 November 1918. However, its de facto independence was interrupted at the outset of World War II. In 1940, the country was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1941, and re-occupied by the Soviets in 1944 to form the Latvian SSR for the next fifty years. The peacefulSinging Revolution, starting in 1987, called for Baltic emancipation of Soviet rule. It ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence on 21 August 1991.
Latvia is a member of NATO, European Union, United Nations, Council of Europe, CBSS, IMF, NB8, NIB, OSCE, and WTO. It is currently in the accession process for joining the OECD. For 2013, Latvia is listed 48th on the Human Development Index and as a high income country until 1 July 2014 It used the Latvian lats as its currency until this was replaced by the euro on 1 January 2014.
Lebanon, officially the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israelto the south. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity.
The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than seven thousand years, predating recorded history.Lebanon was the home of the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that flourished for over a thousand years (c. 1550-539 BC). In 64 BC, the region came under the rule of the Roman Empire, and eventually became one of the Empire's leading centers ofChristianity. In the Mount Lebanon range a monastic tradition known as the Maronite Church was established. As the ArabMuslims conquered the region, the Maronites held onto their religion and identity. However, a new religious group, the Druze, established themselves in Mount Lebanon as well, a religious divide that would last for centuries. During the Crusades, the Maronites re-established contact with the Roman Catholic Church and asserted their communion with Rome. The ties they established with the Latins have influenced the region into the modern era.
The region eventually came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918. Following the collapse of the Empire after World War I, the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon were mandated to France. The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon Governorate, which was mostly populated by Maronites and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, establishing a unique political system - "confessionalism" - that is, a power-sharingmechanism based on religious communities. Bechara El Khoury (independent Lebanon's first president), Riad El-Solh(Lebanon's first prime minister) and Emir Majid Arslan (Lebanon's first minister of defence) are considered the founders of the modern Republic of Lebanon and are national heroes for having led the country's independence. French troops withdrew from Lebanon in 1946.
Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), the country experienced a period of relative calm and renowned prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, commerce, and banking.Because of its financial power and diversity in its heyday, Lebanon was compared to Switzerland, and its capital Beirut attracted so many tourists that it was known as "the Paris of the Middle East. At the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.
Lesotho, officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is an enclaved landlocked country completely surrounded bySouth Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) in size and has a population slightly over two million. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sesotho. About 40% of the population lives below the international poverty line of US $1.25 a day.
Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometres (43,000 sq mi) and is home to about 4 million people. English is the official language; 15 indigenous languages are also spoken within Liberia. Its coastline is composed mostly of mangroves, while its more sparsely populated inland consists of forests opening onto a plateau of drier grasslands. The climate is hot and equatorial, with significant rainfall during the May–October rainy season and harsh harmattan winds the remainder of the year. Liberia possesses about forty percent of the remaining Upper Guinean rainforest.
Beginning in 1820, the area was settled by African Americans, most of whom were free blacks. The settlers established a new home with the help of the American Colonization Society, a private organization whose leaders encouraged African Americans to resettle in Africa.
In 1847, the settlers disbanded from the support of American Colonization Society and formalized their settlement as the Republic of Liberia, establishing a government modeled on that of the United States and naming its capital city Monrovia after James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States and a prominent supporter of the American Colonization Society. The colonists and their descendants, known as Americo-Liberians, led the political, social, cultural and economic sectors of the country and ruled the nation for over 130 years as a dominant minority.
Liberia began to modernize in the 1940s following investment by the United States during World War II and economic liberalization under President William Tubman. Liberia was a founding member of League of Nations, United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity. In 1980 a military coup overthrew the True-Whig Party leadership, marking the beginning of political instability. After 5 years of military rule by the People Redemption Council and 5 years of civilian rule by the National Democratic Party of Liberia the Republic fell into civil war - two successive civil wars. These resulted in the deaths of between 250,000 and 520,000 people and devastated Liberia's economy. A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005. Today, about 85% of the population live below the international poverty line. Liberia's economic and political stability has recently been threatened by a deadly Ebola virus epidemic which originated in Guinea in December 2013 and entered Liberia in March 2014.
Libya, officially the State of Libya,is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, andAlgeria and Tunisia to the west. The three traditional parts of the country are Tripolitania, Fezzan and Cyrenaica. With an area of almost 1.8 million square kilometres (700,000 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa, and is the 17th largest country in the world. Libya has the 10th-largest proven oil reserves of any country in the world.
The largest city and capital, Tripoli, is located in western Libya and contains over one million of Libya's six million people. The other large city is Benghazi, which is located in eastern Libya.
Libya has been inhabited by Berbers since the late Bronze Age. The Phoenicians established trading posts in western Libya, and Ancient Greek colonists established city-states in eastern Libya. Libya was variously ruled by Persians, Egyptians and Greek-Egyptians before becoming a part of the Roman Empire. Libya was an early center of Christianity. During the 7th Century, invasions brought Islam and Arab colonization. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish Empire and the Knights of St John occupied Tripoli, until Ottoman rule began in 1551. Libya was involved in the Barbary Wars of the 18th and 19th centuries. Ottoman rule continued until the twentieth-century Italian occupation of Libya and large-scale Italian immigration. Italian rule ended during the Second World War, during which Libya was an important area of warfare. The Italian population then went into decline. Libya became an independent kingdom in 1951. In 1969, a military coup overthrew King Idris I, beginning a period of improved living standards and brutal suppression of dissent. Within a year, the 20,000 remaining Italians and 37,000 Jews had been expelled. The most prominent coup conspirator, Muammar Gaddafi, was ultimately able to fully concentrate power in his own hands during the Libyan Cultural Revolution.
Muammar Gaddafi remained in power until the Libyan Revolution of 2011 overthrew his regime.Protests in Benghazi on 15 February 2011 led to clashes with security forces and ultimately escalated into an armed conflict. TheUnited Nations Security Council authorized the use of force in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. The subsequent intervention by NATO and some Arab states ensured the fall of Gaddafi. Since then, Libya has experienced instability and political violence which has severely affected both commerce and oil production.
Libya is governed by two rival governments since August 2014,one in Tripoli and one in Tobruk. The Council of Deputieselected in the June 2014 elections was declared unconstitutional by the Libyan Supreme Court in November 2014, but it rejected the ruling and has continued to claim legitimacy.However, its control of the country is severely limited by the current civil war against an Islamist rival government, which has controlled Tripoli since August 2014. The rival government presents itself as a legal continuation of the General National Congress, which was elected in July 2012 and was set to dissolve following the June 2014 elections, but reconvened after Islamists rejected the results. This new General National Congress meets in Tripoli, while the Council of Deputies meets in Tobruk.
Liechtenstein, officially the Principality of Liechtenstein; German: Fürstentum Liechtenstein, German pronunciation:,is a doubly landlocked German-speaking microstate in Central Europe. It is a constitutional monarchy headed by the Prince of Liechtenstein.
iechtenstein is bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and Austria to the east and north. It has an area of just over 160 square kilometres (62 square miles) and an estimated population of 35,000. Divided into 11 municipalities, its capital is Vaduz and largest town Schaan.
Economically, Liechtenstein has the highest gross domestic product per person in the world when adjusted by purchasing power parity. It is also the 2nd richest (by measure of GDP per capita) country in the world, after Qatar, and has one of the lowest unemployment rates at 1.5%.
An alpine country, Liechtenstein is mainly mountainous, making it a winter sports destination. Many cultivated fields and small farms are found both in the south (Oberland, upper land) and north (Unterland, lower land). The country has a strong financial sector centered in Vaduz, and has been identified as a tax haven. It is a member of the European Free Trade Association and part of the European Economic Area and the Schengen Area, but not of the European Union.
Lithuania; Lithuanian: Lietuva, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in Northern Europe, one of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 3 million as of 2013, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Lithuanians are a Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, and Latvian are the only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.
For centuries, the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea was inhabited by various Baltic tribes. In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas, the King of Lithuania, and the first unified Lithuanian state, the Kingdom of Lithuania, was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe; present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were the territories of the Grand Duchy. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighboring countries systematically dismantled it from 1772–95, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania's territory.
As World War I neared its end, Lithuania's Act of Independence was signed on 16 February 1918, declaring the establishment of a sovereign State of Lithuania. Starting in 1940, Lithuania was occupied first by the Soviet Union and then by Nazi Germany. As World War II neared its end in 1944 and the Germans retreated, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. On 11 March 1990, a year before formal break-up of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare itself independent, resulting in the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania.
Lithuania is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, a full member of the Schengen Agreement and NATO. It is also a member of the Nordic Investment Bank, and part of Nordic-Baltic cooperation of Northern European countries. The United Nations Human Development Index lists Lithuania as a "very high human development" country. Lithuania has been among the fastest growing economies in the European Union and is ranked 24th in the world in the Ease of Doing Business Index. On 1 January 2015, Lithuania adopted the euro as the official currency and became the 19th member of the Eurozone.
Luxembourg, officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a landlocked country in Western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. It comprises two principal regions: the Oesling in the north as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland ("good country") in the south. Luxembourg had a population of 524,853 in October 2012 and has an area of 2,586 square kilometres (998 sq mi), making it one of the smallest sovereign nations in Europe.
As a representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, it is headed by a grand duke, Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and is the world's only remaining grand duchy. Luxembourg is a developed country, with an advanced economy and the world's second highest GDP (PPP) per capita, according to the World Bank. Its central location has historically made it of great strategic importance to numerous powers, dating back to its founding as a Roman fortress, its hosting of a vital Frankish castle during the Early Middle Ages, and its role as a bastion for the Spanish Road between 16th and 17th centuries.
Luxembourg is a member of the European Union, NATO, OECD, the United Nations, and Benelux, reflecting its political consensus in favour of economic, political, and military integration. The city of Luxembourg, which is the capital and largest city, is the seat of several institutions and agencies of the EU. On 18 October 2012, Luxembourg was elected to a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council for the first time in its history. The country served on the Security Council from 1 January 2013 until 31 December 2014. Reflecting its geographic position, Luxembourg's culture is a fusion of Romanic and Germanic Europe, integrating customs of each. Accordingly, Luxembourg is a trilingual country: Luxembourgish, French and German are official languages. Although a secular state, Luxembourg is predominantly Roman Catholic.
Macau, also spelled Macao, is one of the two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China, the other being Hong Kong. Macau lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong Kong, which is about 64 kilometers to the east, and it is also bordered by Guangdong Province to the north and the South China Sea to the east and south. With an estimated population of around 624,000 living in an area of 31.3 km2 (12.1 sq mi), it is the most densely populated region in the world.
A former Portuguese colony, Macau was administered by Portugal from the mid-16th century until late 1999, when it was the last remaining European colony in Asia. Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 1550s. In 1557, Macau was rented to Portugal by the Ming Dynasty as a trading port. The Portuguese administered the city under Chinese authority and sovereignty until 1887, when Macau became a colony of the Portuguese Empire. Sovereignty over Macau was transferred back to China on 20 December 1999. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Macau stipulate that Macau operate with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2049, fifty years after the transfer.
Under the policy of "one country, two systems", the PRC's Central People's Government is responsible for the territory's defense and foreign affairs, while Macau maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, and immigration policy. Macau participates in many international organizations and events that do not require members to possess national sovereignty.
Macau is one of the world's richest cities, and as of 2013 its GDP per capita by purchasing power parity is higher than that of any country in the world, according to the World Bank. It became the world's largest gambling centre in 2006, with the economy heavily dependent on gambling and tourism, as well as manufacturing. Cantonese people from Hong Kong and Guangdong, in addition to the recent mainland tourism from Mandarin-speaking regions, have boosted the economy of Macau significantly. According to The World Factbook, Macau has the second highest life expectancy in the world. Moreover, it is one of only a few regions in Asia with a "very high Human Development Index", ranking 25th as of 2011.
Macedonia, transliterated: Makedonija), officially the Republic of Macedonia, transliterated: Republika Makedonija, is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991. It became a member of the United Nations in 1993, but, as a result of an ongoing dispute with Greece over use of the name Macedonia, it was admitted under the provisional description of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" transliterated: Poranešna Jugoslovenska Republika Makedonija), abbreviated as FYROM.
A landlocked country, the Republic of Macedonia is bordered by Kosovo[a] to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west. It constitutes approximately the northwestern third of the larger geographical region of Macedonia, which also comprises the neighbouring parts of northern Greece and a smaller portion in southwestern Bulgaria. The country's capital is Skopje, with 506,926 inhabitants according to the 2002 census. Other cities include Bitola, Kumanovo, Prilep, Tetovo, Ohrid, Veles, Štip, Kocani, Gostivar, Kavadarci, and Strumica. It has over 50 lakes, plus sixteen mountains higher than 2,000 m (6,562 ft). Macedonia is a member of the UN and of the Council of Europe. Since December 2005 it has also been a candidate for joining the European Union and has applied for NATO membership.
Continent: Africa/Capital: Antananarivo
The Malagasy are the ethnic group that forms nearly the entire population of Madagascar. They are divided into two subgroups: the "Highlander" Merina, Sihanaka and Betsileo of the central plateau around Antananarivo, Alaotra (Ambatondrazaka) and Fianarantsoa, and the "coastal dwellers" elsewhere in the country. This division has its roots in historical patterns of settlement. The original Austronesian settlers from Borneo arrived between the third and tenth centuries and established a network of principalities in the Central Highlands region conducive to growing the rice they had carried with them on their outrigger canoes. Sometime later, a large number of settlers arrived from East Africa and established kingdoms along the relatively unpopulated coastlines.
The difference in ethnic origins remains somewhat evident between the highland and coastal regions. In addition to the ethnic distinction between highland and coastal Malagasy, one may speak of a political distinction as well. Merina monarchs in the late 18th and early 19th century united the Merina principalities and brought the neighboring Betsileo people under their administration first. They later extended Merina control over the majority of the coastal areas as well. The military resistance and eventual defeat of most of the coastal communities assured their subordinate position vis-à-vis the Merina-Betsileo alliance. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the French colonial administration capitalized on and further exacerbated these political inequities by appropriating existing Merina governmental infrastructure to run their colony. This legacy of political inequity dogged the people of Madagascar after gaining independence in 1960; candidates' ethnic and regional identities have often served to help or hinder their success in democratic elections.
Within these two broad ethnic and political groupings, the Malagasy were historically subdivided into specifically named ethnic groups, who were primarily distinguished from one another on the basis of cultural practices. These were namely agricultural, hunting, or fishing practices; construction style of dwellings; music; hair and clothing styles; and local customs or taboos, the latter known in the Malagasy language as fady. The number of such ethnic groups in Madagascar has been debated. The practices that distinguished many of these groups are less prevalent in the 21st century than they were in the past. But, many Malagasy are proud to proclaim their association with one or several of these groups as part of their own cultural identity
Malaw, officially the Republic of Malawi, is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Malawi is over 118,000 km2 (45,560 sq mi) with an estimated population of 16,777,547 (July 2013 est.). Its capital is Lilongwe, which is also Malawi's largest city; the second largest is Blantyre and the third is Mzuzu. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area. The country is also nicknamed "The Warm Heart of Africa".
The area of Africa now known as Malawi was settled by migrating Bantu groups around the 10th century. Centuries later in 1891 the area was colonized by the British. In 1953 Malawi, then known as Nyasaland, became part of the semi-independent Central African Federation (CAF). The Federation was dissolved in 1963, and in 1964, Nyasaland gained full independence and was renamed Malawi. Upon gaining independence it became a single-party state under the presidency of Hastings Banda, who remained president until 1994, when he lost an election. Peter Mutharika is the current president. Malawi has a democratic, multi-party government. Malawi has a small military force that includes an army, a navy and an air wing. Malawi's foreign policy is pro-Western and includes positive diplomatic relations with most countries and participation in several international organisations.
Malawi is among the world's least-developed countries. The economy is heavily based in agriculture, with a largely rural population. The Malawian government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs, although this need (and the aid offered) has decreased since 2000. The Malawian government faces challenges in building and expanding the economy, improving education, health care, environmental protection, and becoming financially independent. Malawi has several programs developed since 2005 that focus on these issues, and the country's outlook appears to be improving, with improvements in economic growth, education and healthcare seen in 2007 and 2008.
Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is a drain on the labour force and government expenditures. There is a diverse population of native peoples, Asians and Europeans, with several languages spoken and an array of religious beliefs. Although there was periodic regional conflict fuelled in part by ethnic divisions in the past, by 2008 it had diminished considerably and the concept of a Malawian nationality had re-emerged. Malawian cultural practices and Malawian cuisine are rich in local, southern African, and overseas influences, as well as this, they have many peculiar forms of cuisine found no where else. These include eating ants, honey soaked beetles and a type of native fish which is dried, baked in spices and then soaked in goat milk and various leaves for up to two days creating a type of tea flavored jerky, though this is only prevalent in rural areas within small communities.
Continent: Asia/Capital:Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy located in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometres (127,350 sq mi) separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo). Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. By 2015, with a population of over 30 million, Malaysia became 43rd most populous country in the world. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai, is in Malaysia, located in the tropics. It is one of 17 megadiverse countries on earth, with large numbers of endemic species.
Malaysia has its origins in the Malay kingdoms present in the area which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British Empire. The first British territories were known as the Straits Settlements, whose establishment was followed by the Malay kingdoms becoming British protectorates. The territories on Peninsular Malaysia were first unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. Malaya united with North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore on 16 September 1963, with si being added to give the new country the name Malaysia. Less than two years later in 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation.
The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. The constitution declares Islam the state religion while protecting freedom of religion. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is the king, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the prime minister.
Since its independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with its GDP growing at an average of 6.5% per annum for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fuelled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. Today, Malaysia has a newly industrialised market economy, ranked third largest in Southeast Asia and 29th largest in the world. It is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the East Asia Summit and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean-Arabian Sea area, consisting of a double chain of twenty-six atolls, oriented north-south, that lie between Minicoy Island (the southernmost part of Lakshadweep, India) and the Chagos Archipelago. The chains stand in the Laccadive Sea, and the capital, Malé, is about 600 kilometres (370 mi) south-west of India and 750 kilometres (470 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka.
From the mid-sixteenth century, the Maldives was dominated by colonial powers: Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain. The islands gained independence from the British Empire in 1965, and in 1968 became a republic ruled by a president and an authoritarian government.
The Maldives archipelago is located atop the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean. Maldives also form a terrestrial ecoregion together with the Chagos and the Lakshadweep. The Maldives atolls encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi), making the country one of the world's most geographically dispersed. Its population of 328,536 (2012) inhabits 192 of its 1,192 islands. In 2006, Maldives' capital and largest city Malé, located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll, had a population of 103,693. Malé is one of the Maldives' administrative divisions and, traditionally, it was the "King's Island" where the ancient Maldives royal dynasties were enthroned.
The Maldives is the smallest Asian country in both population and land area. With an average ground level elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, it is the planet's lowest country. It is also the country with the lowest natural highest point in the world, at 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in). Future inundation of the Maldives due to rising sea levels is of great concern to its people, motivating the government to have pledged to become a carbon-neutral country by 2019.
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is the eighth largest country in Africa, with an area of just over 1,240,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi). The population of Mali is 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako.
Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara, while the country's southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers. The country's economic structure centers on agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali's prominent natural resources include gold, being the third largest producer of gold in the African continent, and salt. About half the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. A majority of the population (55%) are non-denominational Muslims.
Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (for which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. During its golden age, there was a flourishing of mathematics, astronomy, literature, and art. At its peak in 1300, the Mali Empire covered an area about twice the size of modern-day France and stretched to the west coast of Africa. In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa, France seized control of Mali, making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) joined with Senegal in 1959, achieving independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation. Shortly thereafter, following Senegal's withdrawal from the federation, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali. After a long period of one-party rule, a 1991 coup led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state. Significant portions of its legislation is derived from sharia law.
In January 2012, an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali, which Tuareg rebels took control of by April and declared the secession of a new state, Azawad. The conflict was complicated by a military coup that took place in March and later fighting between Tuareg and Islamist rebels. In response to Islamist territorial gains, the French military launched Opération Serval in January 2013. A month later, Malian and French forces recaptured most of the north. Presidential elections were held on 28 July 2013, with a second round run-off held on 11 August, and legislative elections were held on 24 November and 15 December 2013.
Malta, officially the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country comprising an archipelago of a few islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Sicily, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2 (122 sq mi), with a population of around 450,000, making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which at 0.8 km2, is the smallest national capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.
Malta's location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the eurozone.
Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta is sometimes traditionally claimed to be an Apostolic see because, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on Malta. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta.
Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven Megalithic Temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Continent:Oceania / Capital:Majuro
The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands is an island country located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, slightly west of the International Date Line. Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia, with the population of 68,480 people spread out over 24 low-lying coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets. The islands share maritime boundaries with the Federated States of Micronesia to the west, Wake Island to the north, Kiribati to the south-east, and Nauru to the south. The most populous atoll is Majuro, which also acts as the capital.
Micronesian colonists gradually settled the Marshall Islands during the 2nd millennium BC, with inter-island navigation made possible using traditional stick charts. Islands in the archipelago were first explored by Europeans in the 1520s, with Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar sighting an atoll in August 1526. Other expeditions by Spanish and English ships followed, with the islands' current name stemming from British explorer John Marshall (1788).
The European powers recognized the islands as part of the Spanish East Indies in 1874. However, Spain sold the islands to the German Empire in 1884, and they became part of German New Guinea in 1885. In World War I the Empire of Japan occupied the Marshall Islands, which in 1919 the League of Nations combined with other former German territories to form the South Pacific Mandate. In World War II, the United States conquered the islands in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign. Along with other Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands were then consolidated into the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands governed by the US. Self-government was achieved in 1979, and full sovereignty in 1986, under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Politically, the Marshall Islands is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defense, subsidies, and access to social services. With few natural resources, the islands' wealth is based on a service economy, as well as some fishing and agriculture; aid from the United States represents a large percentage of the islands' gross domestic product. The country uses the United States dollar as its currency.
The majority of the citizens of the Marshall Islands are of Marshallese descent, though there are small numbers of immigrants from the Philippines and other Pacific islands. The two official languages are Marshallese, which is a member of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, and English. Almost the entire population of the islands practises some religion, with three-quarters of the country either following the United Church of Christ – Congregational in the Marshall Islands (UCCCMI) or the Assemblies of God.
Martinique is an island in the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of 1,128 square kilometres (436 sq mi) and a population of 386,486 inhabitants (as of Jan. 2013). Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. One of the Windward Islands, it is directly north of Saint Lucia, northwest of Barbados, and south of Dominica.
As with the other overseas departments, Martinique is one of the twenty-seven regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the French Republic. As part of France, Martinique is part of the European Union, and its currency is the euro. The official language is French, although many of its inhabitants also speak Antillean Creole (Créole Martiniquais).
Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa. It is the eleventh largest country in Africa, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, by Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest.
The country derives its name from the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which existed from the 3rd century BC to the 7th century AD, in the far north of modern-day Morocco. Approximately 90% of Mauritania's land is within the Sahara Desert and consequently the population is concentrated in the south, where precipitation is slightly higher than the rest of the country. The capital and largest city of Mauritania is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast, which is home to around one-third of the country's 3.5 million people. The government of Mauritania was overthrown on 6 August 2008, in a military coup d'état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. On 16 April 2009, General Aziz resigned from the military to run for president in the 19 July elections, which he won.
About 20% of Mauritanians live on less than US$1.25 per day. Slavery in Mauritania has been called a major human rights issue, with over 150,000 people – roughly 4% of the country's population, proportionally the highest for any country – being enslaved against their will, especially enemies of the government. Higher estimates suggest 10% to 20% of the population (340,000 to 680,000 people) is enslaved. Additional human rights concerns in Mauritania include female genital mutilation and child labour.
Continent:Africa/Capital: Port Louis
Mauritius, officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent. The country includes the island of Mauritius, Rodrigues (560 kilometres (350 mi) east), the islands of Agalega, and the archipelago of Saint Brandon. The islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, and Réunion 170 km (110 mi) southwest, form part of the Mascarene Islands. The area of the country is 2,040 km2. The capital and largest city is Port Louis.
Mauritius claims sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago (United Kingdom) and Tromelin Island (France). The United Kingdom excised the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritian territory prior to Mauritian independence in 1965. The UK gradually depopulated the archipelago's indigenous population and leased its biggest island, Diego Garcia, to the United States. The US soon thereafter established a military base on Diego Garcia.
The island of Mauritius was visited during the medieval period by the Arabs and then by the Portuguese, who named it Dina Arobi and Cirne, respectively. The island was uninhabited until the Dutch Republic established a colony in 1638, with the Dutch naming the island after Prince Maurice van Nassau. The Dutch colony was abandoned in 1710, and, five years later, the island became a French colony and was named Isle de France. Due to its strategic position, Mauritius was known as the "star and key" of the Indian Ocean.
Mauritius became an important base on the trade routes from Europe to the East before the opening of the Suez Canal and was involved in the power struggle between the French and the British. The French won the Battle of Grand Port, their only naval victory over the British during these wars, but they could not prevent the British from landing at Cap Malheureux three months later, and formally surrendered on the fifth day of the invasion, 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property, the use of the French language, and the law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island's name reverted to Mauritius. The country became an independent state on 12 March 1968, following the adoption of a new constitution and became a republic in 1992 within the Commonwealth.
The people of Mauritius are multiethnic and multicultural. Most Mauritians are multilingual; Mauritian Creole, English, French, and Asian languages are used. The island's government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and Mauritius is highly ranked for democracy and for economic and political freedom. Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna, with many species endemic to the island. The island is widely known as the only known home of the dodo, which, along with several other avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively shortly after the island's settlement.
Continent:N.America/Capital: Mexico City
Mexico, officially the United Mexican States,is a federal republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost two million square kilometres (over 760,000 sq mi), Mexico is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent nation in the world. With an estimated population of over 113 million, it is the eleventh most populous and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world and the second most populous country in Latin America. Mexico is a federation comprising thirty-one states and a Federal District, its capital and largest city.
In pre-Columbian Mexico many cultures matured into advanced civilizations such as the Olmec, the Toltec, the Teotihuacan, the Zapotec, the Maya and the Aztec before first contact with Europeans. In 1521, the Spanish Empire conquered and colonized the territory from its base in Mexico-Tenochtitlan, which was administered as the Viceroyalty of New Spain. This territory would eventually become Mexico following recognition of the colony's independence in 1821. The post-independence period was characterized by economic instability, the Mexican-American War that led to the territorial cession to the United States, the Pastry War, the Franco-Mexican War, a civil war, two empires and a domestic dictatorship. The latter led to the Mexican Revolution in 1910, which culminated with the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution and the emergence of the country's current political system. In March 1938, through the Mexican oil expropriation private U.S. and Anglo-Dutch oil companies were nationalized to create the state-owned Pemex oil company.
Mexico has one of the world's largest economies, it is the tenth largest oil producer in the world, the largest silver producer in the world and is considered both a regional power and middle power. In addition, Mexico was the first Latin American member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD (since 1994), and considered an upper-middle income country by the World Bank. Mexico is considered a newly industrialized country and an emerging power. It has the fifteenth largest nominal GDP and the tenth largest GDP by purchasing power parity. The economy is strongly linked to those of its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, especially the United States. Mexico ranks sixth in the world and first in the Americas by number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites with 32, and in 2010 was the tenth most visited country in the world with 22.5 million international arrivals per year. According to Goldman Sachs, by 2050 Mexico is expected to become the world's fifth largest economy. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimated in January 2013 that by 2050 Mexico could be the world's seventh largest economy.Mexico has membership in prominent institutions such as the UN, the WTO, the G20 and the Uniting for Consensus.
Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a shared cultural history with two other island regions, Polynesia to the east and Melanesia to the south.
The region has a tropical marine climate, and is part of the Oceania ecozone. There are four main archipelagos along with numerous outlying islands.
Micronesia is divided politically among 6 sovereign countries - one of which being the Federated States of Micronesia, which is usually also called simply "Micronesia" for short, though it is important not to confuse the country with the overall region which englobes it as well as islands belonging to five other sovereign countries. Aside from the country Micronesia, the Micronesia region encompasses 4 other sovereign, independent nations: Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Palau, as well as three U.S. territories: Guam, Northern Marianas, and Wake Island.
Micronesia began to be settled several millennia ago, although there are competing theories about the origin and arrival of the first settlers.The earliest known contact with Europeans occurred in 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan reached the Marianas. The coinage of the term "Micronesia" is usually attributed to Jules Dumont d'Urville's usage in 1832, however Domeny de Rienzi had used the term a year previously.
Moldova officially the Republic of Moldova (Romanian: Republica Moldova pronounced, also known as Moldavia,is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe located between Romania to its west and Ukraine to its north, east and south. Its capital city is Chiinau.
Moldova declared itself an independent state with the same boundaries as the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991 as part of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. A new constitution was adopted on 29 July 1994. A strip of Moldova's internationally recognised territory on the east bank of the river Dniester has been under the de facto control of the breakaway government of Transnistria since 1990.
As a result of a decrease in industrial and agricultural output since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the relative size of the service sector in Moldova's economy has grown to dominate its GDP and currently stands at over 60%. Moldova remains, however, the poorest country in Europe.
Moldova is a parliamentary republic with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. It is, among other organizations, a member state of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). The country aspires to join the European Union and, to this end, has implemented an initial three-year action plan within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
Monaco, is a sovereign city-state and microstate, located on the French Riviera in Western Europe. It is bordered by France on three sides; one side borders the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco has an area of 2.02 km2 (0.78 sq mi) and a population of 36,371; Monaco is the second smallest and the most densely populated country in the world. Monaco has a land border of 4.4 km (2.7 mi), a coastline of 4.1 km (2.5 mi), and a width that varies between 1,700 and 349 m (5,577 and 1,145 ft). The highest point in the country is a narrow pathway named Chemin des Révoires on the slopes of Mont Agel, in the Les Révoires Ward, which is 161 metres (528 feet) above sea level. Monaco's most populous Quartier is Monte Carlo and the most populous Ward is Larvotto/Bas Moulins. Through land reclamation, Monaco's land mass has expanded by twenty percent.
Monaco is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state. Although Prince Albert II is a constitutional monarch, he wields immense political power. The House of Grimaldi have ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since 1297. The official language is French, but Monégasque, Italian, and English are widely spoken and understood. The state's sovereignty was officially recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861, with Monaco becoming a full United Nations voting member in 1993. Despite Monaco's independence and separate foreign policy, its defense is the responsibility of France. However, Monaco does maintain two small military units.
Economic development was spurred in the late 19th century with the opening of its first casino, Monte Carlo, and a railway connection to Paris.Since then, the principality's mild climate, splendid scenery, and gambling facilities have contributed to Monaco's status as a premier tourist destination and recreation center for the rich and famous. However, in more recent years Monaco has become a major banking center and has successfully sought to diversify its economy into the services and small, high-value-added, non-polluting industries. The state has no income tax, low business taxes, and is well known for being a tax haven.
Monaco is not formally a part of the European Union (EU), but it participates in certain EU policies, including customs and border controls. Through its relationship with France, Monaco uses the euro as its sole currency. Monaco joined the Council of Europe in 2004.
Mongolia, It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Ulaanbaatar, the capital and also the largest city, is home to about 45% of the population. Mongolia's political system is a parliamentary republic.
The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Turkic Khaganate, and others. In 1206, Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, and his grandson Kublai Khan conquered China to establish the Yuan Dynasty. After the collapse of the Yuan, the Mongols retreated to Mongolia and resumed their earlier pattern of factional conflict except the era of Dayan Khan and Tumen Zasagt Khan. In the 16th centuries, Tibetan Buddhism began to spread in Mongolia and it has been accelerated by the unwavering support of Qing governments after Mongolia had been incorporated by the Qing dynasty. In the 1900s, almost half of the adult male population were Buddhist monks.
By the mid-18th century, all of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Manchus' Qing Dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing Dynasty the Mongols established Temporary Government of Khalkha in 30 November 1911, before the abdication of the last Qing emperor and the establishment of the Republic of China. On 29 December 1911 Mongolia declared independence from the Qing Dynasty and this National Liberation Revolution ended 220 years of Manchu rule (153 years after the collapse of the Zunghar Khanate).
Shortly thereafter, the country came under Soviet influence, resulting in the proclamation of the Mongolian People's Republic as a Soviet satellite state in 1924. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own peaceful democratic revolution in early 1990; it led to a multi-party system, a new constitution of 1992, and transition to a market economy.
At 1,564,116 square kilometres (603,909 sq mi), Mongolia is the 19th largest and one of the most sparsely populated independent countries in the world, with a population of around 3 million people. It is also the world's second-largest landlocked country. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by steppe, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south.
Approximately 30% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The majority of its population are Buddhists and non-religious population is the second largest group. Islam is the dominant religion among ethnic Kazakhs. The majority of the state's citizens are of Mongol ethnicity, although Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization in 1997 and seeks to expand its participation in regional economic and trade regimes.
Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory located in the Caribbean. The island is located in the Leeward Islands, part of the chain of islands known as the Lesser Antilles, in the West Indies. Montserrat measures approximately 16 km (10 mi) long and 11 km (7 mi) wide, with approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) of coastline. Montserrat is nicknamed The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean both for its resemblance to coastal Ireland and for the Irish ancestry of some of its inhabitants.
On 18 July 1995, the previously dormant Soufrière Hills volcano, in the southern part of the island, became active. Eruptions destroyed Montserrat's Georgian era capital city of Plymouth and two-thirds of the island's population was forced to flee. The volcanic activity continues, mostly affecting the vicinity of Plymouth, including its docking facilities, and the eastern side of the island around the former W. H. Bramble Airport, the remnants of which were buried by flows from volcanic activity on 11 February 2010.
An exclusion zone that extends from the south coast of the island north to parts of the Belham Valley was imposed because of the size of the existing volcanic dome and the resulting potential for pyroclastic activity. Visitors are generally not permitted entry into the exclusion zone, but an impressive view of the destruction of Plymouth can be seen from the top of Garibaldi Hill in Isles Bay. Relatively quiet since early 2010, the volcano continues to be closely monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.
A new town and port is being developed at Little Bay, which is on the northwest coast of the island. While this construction proceeds, the centre of government and businesses rests at Brades.
Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco,is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. Geographically, Morocco is characterized by a rugged mountainous interior and large portions of desert. It is one of only three countries (with Spain and France) to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. The Arabic name al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyah and Al-Maghrib are commonly used as alternate names.
Morocco has a population of over 33 million and an area of 446,550 km2 (172,410 sq mi). Its political capital is Rabat, although the largest city is Casablanca; other major cities include Marrakesh, Tangier, Tetouan, Salé, Fes, Agadir, Meknes, Oujda, Kenitra, and Nador. A historically prominent regional power, Morocco has a history of independence not shared by its neighbours. Its distinct culture is a blend of Arab, indigenous Berber, Sub-Saharan African, and European influences.
Morocco claims the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara as its Southern Provinces. Morocco annexed the territory in 1975, leading to a guerrilla war with indigenous forces until a cease-fire in 1991. Peace processes have thus far failed to break the political deadlock.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. The King of Morocco holds vast executive and legislative powers, especially over the military, foreign policy and religious affairs. Executive power is exercised by the government, while legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the Assembly of Representatives and the Assembly of Councillors. The king can issue decrees called dahirs which have the force of law. He can also dissolve the parliament after consulting the Prime Minister and the president of the Constitutional court.
Morocco's predominant religion is Islam, while the official languages are Berber and Arabic. Moroccan Arabic, referred to as Darija, and French are also widely spoken.
Mozambique, is a country in Southeast Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest. It is separated from Madagascar by the Mozambique Channel to the east. The capital and largest city is Maputo (previously called Lourenço Marques before independence).
Between the 1st and 5th centuries AD, Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from farther north and west. Swahili, and later also Arab, commercial ports existed along the coasts until the arrival of Europeans. The area was explored by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and colonized by Portugal from 1505. After over four centuries of Portuguese rule, Mozambique gained independence in 1975, becoming the People's Republic of Mozambique shortly thereafter. After only two years of independence, the country descended into an intense and protracted civil war lasting from 1977 to 1992. In 1994, Mozambique held its first multiparty elections and has remained a relatively stable presidential republic since.
Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources. The country's economy is based largely on agriculture, but industry, mainly food and beverages, chemical manufacturing, aluminium and petroleum production, is growing. The country's tourism sector is also growing. South Africa is Mozambique's main trading partner and source of foreign direct investment. Portugal, Brazil, Spain and Belgium are also among the country's most important economic partners. Since 2001, Mozambique's annual average GDP growth has been among the world's highest. However, the country ranks among the lowest in GDP per capita, human development, measures of inequality, and average life expectancy.
The only official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, which is spoken mostly as a second language by about half of the population. Common native languages include Swahili, Makhuwa and Sena. The country's population of around 24 million is composed overwhelmingly of Bantu people. The largest religion in Mozambique is Christianity, with significant minorities following Islam and African traditional religions. Mozambique is a member of the African Union, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Latin Union, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Southern African Development Community, and an observer at La Francophonie.
Burma, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, commonly shortened to Myanmar is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. One-third of Burma's total perimeter of 1,930 km (1,200 miles) forms an uninterrupted coastline along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Burma has a population of 51 million people. Burma is 676,578 square kilometres (261,227 sq mi) in size. Burma's capital city is Naypyidaw and its largest city is Yangon.
Early civilisations in Burma included the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu in Upper Burma and the Mon in Lower Burma. In the 9th century, the Burmans of the Kingdom of Nanzhao entered the upper Irrawaddy valley and, following the establishment of the Pagan Empire in the 1050s, the Burmese language, culture and Theravada Buddhism slowly became dominant in the country. The Pagan Empire fell due to the Mongol invasions and several warring states emerged. In the 16th century, reunified by the Taungoo Dynasty, the country was for a brief period the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia. The early 19th century Konbaung Dynasty ruled over an area that included modern Burma and briefly controlled Manipur and Assam as well. The British conquered Burma after three Anglo-Burmese Wars in the 19th century and the country became a British colony. Burma became an independent nation in 1948, initially as a democratic nation and then, following a coup in 1962, a military dictatorship which formally ended in 2011.
For most of its independent years, the country has been engrossed in rampant ethnic strife and a myriad of Burma's ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world's longest-running ongoing civil wars. During this time, the United Nations and several other organisations have reported consistent and systematic human rights violations in the country. In 2011, the military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed. Although the military retains enormous influence, it has taken steps toward relinquishing control of the government. This, along with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, has improved the country's human rights record and foreign relations, and has led to the easing of trade and other economic sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States. There is, however, continuing criticism of the government's treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority and its poor response to the religious clashes.
Burma is a country rich in jade and gems, oil, natural gas and other mineral resources. In 2013, its GDP (nominal) stood at US$56.759 billion and its GDP (PPP) at US$221.479 billion. The income gap in Myanmar is among the widest in the world, as a large proportion of the economy is controlled by supporters of the former military government. As of 2013, according to the Human Development Index (HDI), Burma had a low level of human development, ranking 150 out of 187 countries.
Namibia officially the Republic of Namibia, and formerly South West Africa, is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 200 metres of the Zambezi River (essentially a small bulge in Botswana to achieve a Botswana/Zambia micro-border) separates them at their closest points. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. Its capital and largest city is Windhoek. Namibia is a member state of the United Nations (UN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), and the Commonwealth of Nations.
The dry lands of Namibia were inhabited since early times by San, Damara, and Namaqua, and since about the 14th century AD by immigrating Bantu who came with the Bantu expansion. Most of the territory became a German Imperial protectorate in 1884 and remained a German colony until the end of World War I. In 1920, the League of Nations mandated the country to South Africa, which imposed its laws and, from 1948, its apartheid policy. The port of Walvis Bay and the offshore Penguin Islands had been annexed by the Cape Colony under the British crown by 1878 and had become an integral part of the new Union of South Africa at its creation in 1910.
Uprisings and demands by African leaders led the UN to assume direct responsibility over the territory. It recognised the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people in 1973. Namibia, however, remained under South African administration during this time as South-West Africa. Following internal violence, South Africa installed an interim administration in Namibia in 1985. Namibia obtained full independence from South Africa in 1990, with the exception of Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands, which remained under South African control until 1994.
Namibia has a population of 2.1 million people and a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, herding, tourism and the mining industry – including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, and base metals – form the basis of Namibia's economy. Given the presence of the arid Namib Desert, it is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. Namibia enjoys high political, economic and social stability.
Nauru,officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the Central Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, 300 kilometres (186 mi) to the east. With 9,378 residents in a 21-square-kilometre (8.1 sq mi) area, Nauru is the smallest state in the South Pacific and second smallest state by population in the world, behind only the Vatican City.
Settled by Micronesian and Polynesian people, Nauru was annexed and claimed as a colony by the German Empire in the late 19th century. After World War I, Nauru became a League of Nations mandate administered by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese troops, who were bypassed by the Allied advance across the Pacific. After the war ended, the country entered into trusteeship again. Nauru gained its independence in 1968.
Nauru is a phosphate rock island with rich deposits near the surface, which allow easy strip mining operations. It has some phosphate resources which, as of 2011, are not economically viable for extraction. Nauru boasted the highest per-capita income enjoyed by any sovereign state in the world during the late 1960s and early 1970s. When the phosphate reserves were exhausted, and the island's environment had been seriously harmed by mining, the trust that had been established to manage the island's wealth diminished in value. To earn income, Nauru briefly became a tax haven and illegal money laundering centre. From 2001 to 2008, and again from 2012, it accepted aid from the Australian Government in exchange for hosting the Nauru detention centre.
The president of Nauru is Baron Waqa, who heads a 19-member unicameral parliament. The country is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Asian Development Bank and the Pacific Islands Forum. Nauru also participates in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. Recently Nauru became a member country of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country located in South Asia. With an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi) and a population of approximately 27 million, Nepal is the world's 93rd largest country by land mass and the 41st most populous country. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. Nepal is separated from Bangladesh by the narrow Indian Siliguri Corridor. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and largest metropolis.
The mountainous north of Nepal has eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in the Nepali language. More than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft (6,096 m) above sea level are located in Nepal. The southern Terai region is fertile and humid.
Hinduism is practiced by about 81.3% of Nepalis, the highest percentage of any country. Buddhism is linked historically with Nepal and is practiced by 9% of its people, followed by Islam at 4.4%, Kiratism 3.1%, Christianity 1.4%, and animism 0.4%. A large portion of the population, especially in the hill region, may identify themselves as both Hindu and Buddhist, which can be attributed to the syncretic nature of both faiths in Nepal.
A monarchy throughout most of its history, Nepal was ruled by the Shah dynasty of kings from 1768 — when Prithvi Narayan Shah unified its many small kingdoms — until 2008. A decade-long Civil War involving the Communist Party of Nepal, followed by weeks of mass protests by all major political parties, led to the 12-point agreement of 22 November 2005. The ensuing elections for the 1st Nepalese Constituent Assembly on 28 May 2008 overwhelmingly favored the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a federal multiparty representative democratic republic. Despite continuing political challenges, this framework remains in place, with the 2nd Nepalese Constituent Assembly elected in 2013 in an effort to create a new constitution.
Nepal is a developing country with a low income economy, ranking 145th of 187 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) in 2014. It continues to struggle with high levels of hunger and poverty. Despite these challenges, the country has been making steady progress, with the government making a commitment to graduate the nation from least developed country status by 2022.
The Netherlands is the main constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a small, densely populated country, lying mainly in Western Europe, but also including three islands in the Caribbean. The European part of the Netherlands borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders with Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany. The largest and most important cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Amsterdam is the country's capital, while The Hague holds the Dutch seat of government and parliament. The port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe – as large as the next three largest combined.
The Netherlands' name literally means "Low Country", inspired by its low and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding one metre above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and from lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country's current land mass.
With a population density of 406 people per km² – 497 if water is excluded – the Netherlands is a very densely populated country for its size. Only Bangladesh, South Korea and Taiwan have both a larger population and a higher population density. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is the world's second largest exporter of food and agriculture products, after the United States. This is due to the fertility of the soil and the mild climate.
The Netherlands was one of the first countries in the world to have an elected parliament, and since 1848 it has been governed as a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, organised as a unitary state. The Netherlands has a long history of social tolerance and is generally regarded as a liberal country, having legalised abortion, prostitution and euthanasia, while maintaining a progressive drugs policy. In 2001 it became the world's first country to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, Eurozone, G-10, NATO, OECD, WTO and a part of the trilateral Benelux economic union. The country is host to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and five international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The first four are situated in The Hague, as is the EU's criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial co-operation agency Eurojust. This has led to the city being dubbed "the world's legal capital". The Netherlands is also a part of the Schengen Area.
The Netherlands has a market-based mixed economy, ranking 17th of 177 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom. It had the thirteenth-highest per capita income in the world in 2013 according to the International Monetary Fund. In 2013, the United Nations World Happiness Report ranked the Netherlands as the fourth happiest country in the world, reflecting its high quality of life.
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The Netherlands Antilles, also referred to informally as the Dutch Antilles, was an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Although the country has now been dissolved, all of its constituent islands remain part of the kingdom under a different legal status and the term is still used to refer to these Dutch Caribbean islands.
The Netherlands Antilles consisted of two distinct island groups. First, the "windward" or "ABC Islands" — Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao — are located in the southern Caribbean Sea, just off the Venezuelan coast. Second, the "leeward" or "SSS islands" — Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius — are part of the Lesser Antilles; they are approximately 800–900 kilometers (500–560 miles) northeast of the ABC Islands. The Dutch colonized the various islands in the 17th century and united them as the Netherlands Antilles in 1954.
The Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on 10 October 2010. Curaçao and Sint Maarten became distinct constituent countries alongside Aruba which had become a distinct constituent country in 1986; whereas Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba became special municipalities within the Netherlands proper.
New Zealand is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses – that of the North Island, or Te Ika-a-Maui, and the South Island, or Te Waipounamu - and numerous smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometres (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long isolation, New Zealand developed a distinctive biodiversity of animal, fungal and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.
Polynesians settled New Zealand in 1250-1300 CE and developed a distinctive Maori culture. Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, was the first European to sight New Zealand in 1642 CE. In 1840, representatives of the British Crown and Maori Chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, making New Zealand a British colony. Today, the majority of New Zealand's population of 4.5 million is of European descent; the indigenous Maori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Reflecting this, New Zealand's culture is mainly derived from Maori and early British settlers, with recent broadening arising from increased immigration. The official languages are English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language, with English predominant. The country's economy was historically dominated by the export of wool, but exports of dairy products, meat, and wine, along with tourism, are more significant today.
Nationally, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, who is currently John Key. Queen Elizabeth II is the country's head of state and is represented by a Governor-General. In addition, New Zealand is organised into 11 regional councils and 67 territorial authorities for local government purposes. The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing states in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica. New Zealand is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pacific Islands Forum and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua, is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordering Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The country's physical geography divides it into three major zones: Pacific lowlands; wet, cooler central highlands; and the Caribbean lowlands. On the Pacific side of the country are the two largest fresh water lakes in Central America—Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. Surrounding these lakes and extending to their northwest along the rift valley of the Gulf of Fonseca are fertile lowland plains, with soil highly enriched by ash from nearby volcanoes of the central highlands. Nicaragua's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contribute to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot.
The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century. Nicaragua achieved its independence from Spain in 1821. Since its independence, Nicaragua has undergone periods of political unrest, dictatorship, and fiscal crisis—the most notable causes that led to the Nicaraguan Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Nicaragua is a representative democratic republic, and has experienced economic growth and political stability in recent years. Since 2007, Daniel Ortega has been the president.
The population of Nicaragua, approximately 6 million, is multiethnic. Its capital, Managua, is the third-largest city in Central America. Segments of the population include indigenous native tribes from the Mosquito Coast, Europeans, Africans, Asians, and people of Middle Eastern origin. The main language is Spanish, although native tribes on the eastern coast speak their native languages, such as Miskito, Sumo, and Rama, as well as English creole. The mixture of cultural traditions has generated substantial diversity in art and literature, particularly the latter given the various literary contributions of Nicaraguan poets and writers, including Rubén Darío, Pablo Antonio Cuadra and Ernesto Cardenal. The biological diversity, warm tropical climate, and active volcanoes make Nicaragua an increasingly popular tourist destination.
Niger, officially the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. Niger covers a land area of almost 1,270,000 km2, making it the largest nation in West Africa, with over 80 percent of its land area covered by the Sahara desert. The country's predominantly Islamic population of 17,138,707 is mostly clustered in the far south and west of the nation. The capital city is Niamey, located in the far-southwest corner of Niger.
Niger is a developing country, and is consistently one of the lowest-ranked in the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI); it was ranked last at 187th for 2013. Much of the non-desert portions of the country are threatened by periodic drought and desertification. The economy is concentrated around subsistence and some export agriculture clustered in the more fertile south, and the export of raw materials, especially uranium ore. Niger faces serious challenges to development due to its landlocked position, desert terrain, poor education and poverty of its people, lack of infrastructure, poor health care, and environmental degradation.
Nigerien society reflects a diversity drawn from the long independent histories of its several ethnic groups and regions and their relatively short period living in a single state. Historically, what is now Niger has been on the fringes of several large states. Since independence, Nigeriens have lived under five constitutions and three periods of military rule. Following a military coup in 2010, Niger has become a democratic, multi-party state. A majority live in rural areas, and have little access to advanced education.
Nigeria Listeni, officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Nigeria is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in the north. Its coast in the south lies on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean.
Present-day Nigeria has been the site of numerous kingdoms and tribal states spanning over a millennium. The modern state has its origins in British colonization during the late 19th to early 20th centuries, with the merging of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate. During the colonial period, the British set up administrative and legal structures whilst retaining traditional chiefdoms. Nigeria achieved independence in 1960, but plunged into a two-year civil war several years later. It has since alternated between democratically-elected civilian governments and military dictatorships, with its 2011 presidential elections being viewed as the first to be conducted reasonably freely and fairly.
Nigeria is often referred to as the "Giant of Africa", owing to its large population and economy. With approximately 174 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. Nigeria has one of the largest populations of youth in the world. The country is inhabited by over 500 ethnic groups, of which the three largest are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Regarding religion, Nigeria is divided roughly in half between Christians, who live mostly in the southern and central parts of the country, and Muslims, concentrated mostly in the northern and southwestern regions. A minority of the population practice religions indigenous to Nigeria, such as those native to Igbo and Yoruba peoples.
In 2014, Nigeria's economy (GDP) became the largest in Africa, worth more than $500 billion, and overtook South Africa to become the world's 21st largest economy. Furthermore, the debt-to-GDP ratio is only 11 percent (8 percent below the 2012 ratio). By 2050, Nigeria is expected to become one of the world's top 20 economies. The country's oil reserves have played a major role in its growing wealth and influence. Nigeria is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank and has been identified as a regional power in Africa. It is also a member of the MINT group of countries, which are widely seen as the globe's next "BRIC-like" economies. It is also listed among the "Next Eleven" economies set to become among the biggest in the world. Nigeria is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the African Union, OPEC, and the United Nations among other international organizations.
Since 2002, the North East of the country has seen sectarian violence by Boko Haram, an Islamist movement that seeks to abolish the secular system of government and establish Sharia law in the country. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2014 claimed that Boko Haram attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 people crippled. At the same time, neighboring countries, Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger joined Nigeria in a united effort to combat Boko Haram in the aftermath of a world media highlighted kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls and the spread of Boko Haram attacks to these countries.
Niue is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi) northeast of New Zealand within the triangle formed by Tonga to the west, Samoa to the north, and the Cook Islands to the east. Its land area is 260 square kilometres (100 sq mi) and its population, predominantly Polynesian, is around 1,400. They commonly refer to the island as "The Rock", a reference to the traditional name "Rock of Polynesia".
Niue, whose capital city is Alofi, is a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand, and most of its diplomatic relations are conducted by New Zealand on its behalf. Niueans are New Zealand citizens, and Queen Elizabeth II is head of state in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand. 90–95% of Niuean people live in New Zealand,along with about 70% of the speakers of the Niuean language.
Niue is not a member of the United Nations, but its status as a freely-associated state has been accepted by UN organisations as equivalent to independence for international law purposes. As such, Niue is a full member of some UN specialized agencies (such as UNESCO,the WTO and WHO, and is invited, alongside other non-UN member state Cook Islands, to attend United Nations conferences open to "all states".
In 2003, Niue became the world's first "Wi-Fi nation", in which free wireless Internet access is provided throughout the country by the Internet Users Society-Niue.
Norfolk Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, 1,412 kilometres (877 mi) directly east of mainland Australia's Evans Head, and about 900 kilometres (560 mi) from Lord Howe Island. The island is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, and enjoys a large degree of self-governance. Together with two neighbouring islands, it forms one of Australia's external territories. It has 2,300 inhabitants living on a total area of about 35 km2 (14 sq mi). Its capital is Kingston.
Originally settled by East Polynesians, Norfolk Island was colonised by Great Britain as part of its settlement of Australia in 1788. The island served as a convict penal settlement until May 1855, except for an 11-year hiatus between 1814 and 1825, when it was abandoned. In 1856 permanent civilian residence on the island began when it was settled from Pitcairn. In 1901, the island became a part of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The evergreen Norfolk Island pine is a symbol of the island and thus pictured on its flag. Native to the island, the pine is a key export industry for Norfolk Island, being a popular ornamental tree on mainland Australia, where two related species grow, and also worldwide.
North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is a country in East Asia, in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. The capital and largest city is Pyongyang. North Korea shares a land border with China to the north and north-west, along the Amnok (Yalu) and Tumen rivers. A small section of the Tumen River also forms North Korea's border with Russia to the northeast.The Korean Demilitarized Zone marks the boundary between North Korea and South Korea. The legitimacy of this border is not accepted by either side, as both states claim to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula.
The Empire of Japan annexed Korea in 1910. After the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was divided into two zones by the United States and Soviet Union, with the north occupied by the Soviets and the south by the Americans. Negotiations on reunification failed, and in 1948 two separate governments were formed: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north, and the Republic of Korea in the south. The conflicting claims of sovereignty led to the Korean War in 1950. The Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953 committed both to a ceasefire, but the two countries remain officially at war because a formal peace treaty was never signed. Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991.
The DPRK holds elections and describes itself as a self-reliant socialist state, but it is widely considered a dictatorship and has been described as totalitarian and Stalinist, with an elaborate cult of personality around Kim Il-sung and his family. Human rights violations in North Korea are in a category of their own, with no parallel in the contemporary world as assessed by international human rights organizations. The Workers' Party of Korea, led by a member of the ruling family, holds power in the state and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland of which all political officers are required to be a member.
Over time North Korea has gradually distanced itself from the world Communist movement. Juche, an ideology of national self-reliance, was introduced into the constitution as a "creative application of Marxism–Leninism" in 1972. In 2009, the constitution was amended again, quietly removing the brief references to communism.
The means of production are owned by the state through state-run enterprises and collectivized farms, and most services such as healthcare, education, housing and food production are state funded or subsidized.In the 1990s, North Korea suffered from a famine and continues to struggle with food production.
North Korea follows Songun, or "military-first" policy. It is the world's most militarized society, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel. Its active duty army of 1.21 million is the 4th largest in the world, after China, the U.S., and India. It also possesses nuclear weapons.
Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a sovereign and unitary monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula plus Jan Mayen and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the Kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land. Until 1814, the Kingdom included the Faroe Islands (since 1035), Greenland (1261), and Iceland (1262).
Norway has a total area of 385,252 square kilometres (148,747 sq mi) and a population of 5,109,059 people (2014).The country shares a long eastern border with Sweden (1,619 km or 1,006 mi long). Norway is bordered by Finland and Russia to the north-east, and the Skagerrak Strait to the south, with Denmark on the other side. Norway has an extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea.
King Harald V of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg is the current monarch of Norway. Erna Solberg became Prime Minister in 2013, replacing Jens Stoltenberg. A constitutional monarchy since 1814, state power is divided between the Parliament, the King and his Council, and the Supreme Court. Between 1661 and 1814, Norway was an absolute monarchy, and before 1661, the King shared power with the Norwegian nobility. Traditionally established in 872 and originating in one of the petty kingdoms, Norway is one of the oldest still existing kingdoms in Europe and world-wide. The Kingdom has existed continuously for over 1,100 years, and the list of Norwegian monarchs includes over sixty kings and earls.
Norway has both administrative and political subdivisions on two levels, known as counties (fylke) and municipalities (kommune). The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act. Norway maintains close ties with the European Union and its member countries (despite rejecting full EU membership in two referenda), as well as with the United States. Norway is a founding member of the United Nations, NATO, the Council of Europe, the Antarctic Treaty and the Nordic Council; a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO and the OECD; and is also a part of the Schengen Area.
Norway is considered to be one of the most developed democracies and states of justice in the world. From 1814, c. 45 percent of men (25 years and older) had the right to vote, whereas England had c. 20 percent (1832), Sweden c. 5 percent (1866), and Belgium c. 1.15 percent (1840). From 2010 to 2012, Norway was classified as the world's most democratic country by the Democracy Index. On the other hand, Norway has a rough history in regards to discrimination of ethnic and religious minorities, including the Sámi people, Jews, and Roma.
The country maintains a combination of market economy and a Nordic welfare model with universal health care and a comprehensive social security system. Norway has extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, fresh water, and hydropower. The petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country's gross domestic product. The country has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world on the World Bank and IMF lists, as well as ninth-highest on a more comprehensive CIA list. On a per-capita basis, it is the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas outside the Middle East. From 2001 to 2006, and then again from 2009 to 2014, Norway had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world. Norway has also topped the Legatum Prosperity Index for the last five years. The OECD ranks Norway fourth in the 2013 equalised Better Life Index and third in intergenerational earnings elasticity.
Around 994 A.D., two centuries of Viking raids to southern and western areas of Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity. Norway then expanded its overseas territory to parts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. Norwegian power peaked in 1265. Competition from the Hanseatic League, and the spread of the Black Death, weakened the country. In 1397, Norway became part of the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden. The Union lasted until Sweden left in 1523. The remaining union with Denmark lasted nearly three centuries. In 1814, Norwegians adopted a constitution before being forced into a personal union with Sweden. In 1905, Norway ended the union, subsequently confirmed in a referendum, ending over 500 years of monarchs residing outside the country. In the same year, the country confirmed the election of its own king. Despite its declaration of neutrality in World War II, Norway was occupied for 5 years by forces of Nazi Germany. In 1949 it abandoned neutrality, becoming a founding member of NATO. Discovery of oil in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway's economic fortunes.
Oman, officially the Sultanate of Oman is an Arab country in the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Holding a strategically important position at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the nation is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest, and shares marine borders with Iran and Pakistan. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the southeast and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast. The Madha and Musandam exclaves are surrounded by the UAE on their land borders, with the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman forming Musandam's coastal boundaries.
From the late 17th century, the Omani Sultanate was a powerful empire, vying with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. At its peak in the 19th century, Omani influence or control extended across the Strait of Hormuz to Iran and modern-day Pakistan, and as far south as Zanzibar (today part of Tanzania). As its power declined in the 20th century, the sultanate came under the influence of the United Kingdom. Historically, Muscat was the principal trading port of the Persian Gulf region. Muscat was also among the most important trading ports of the Indian Ocean. Oman's official religion is Ibadi Islam.
Oman is an absolute monarchy.The Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said is the self-appointed leader of the country since 1970.Sultan Qaboos is the longest-serving ruler in the Middle East.Oman's human rights record has been the subject of criticism.
Unlike its resource-rich neighbors, Oman has modest oil reserves, ranking at 25th globally.Nevertheless, in 2010 the UNDP ranked Oman as the most improved nation in the world in terms of development during the preceding 40 years. Additionally, Oman is categorized as a high-income economy and ranks as the 59th most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Peace Index.
Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a sovereign country in South Asia. With a population exceeding 180 million people, it is the sixth most populous country and with an area covering 796,095 km2 (307,374 sq mi), it is the 36th largest country in the world in terms of area. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650 mi) coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest and China in the far northeast. It is separated from Tajikistan by Afghanistan's narrow Wakhan Corridor in the north, and also shares a marine border with Oman.
The territory that now constitutes Pakistan was previously home to several ancient cultures, including the Mehrgarh of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilisation, and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including Hindus, Indo-Greeks, Muslims, Turco-Mongols, Afghans and Sikhs. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Indian Mauryan Empire, the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Alexander of Macedonia, the Arab Umayyad Caliphate, the Mongol Empire, the Mughal Empire, the Durrani Empire, the Sikh Empire and the British Empire. As a result of the Pakistan Movement led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the subcontinent's struggle for independence, Pakistan was created in 1947 as an independent nation for Muslims from the regions in the east and west of Subcontinent where there was a Muslim majority. Initially a dominion, Pakistan adopted a new constitution in 1956, becoming an Islamic republic. A civil war in 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the new country of Bangladesh.
Pakistan is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of four provinces and four federal territories. It is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country, with a similar variation in its geography and wildlife. A regional and middle power, Pakistan has the seventh largest standing armed forces in the world and is also a nuclear power as well as a declared nuclear-weapons state, being the only nation in the Muslim world, and the second in South Asia, to have that status. It has a semi-industrialised economy with a well-integrated agriculture sector, its economy is the 26th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power and 45th largest in terms of nominal GDP and is also characterized among the emerging and growth-leading economies of the world.
The post-independence history of Pakistan has been characterised by periods of military rule, political instability and conflicts with neighbouring India. The country continues to face challenging problems, including overpopulation, terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, and corruption. Despite these factors it ranked 16th on the 2012 Happy Planet Index. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Next Eleven Economies, ECO, UfC, D8, Cairns Group, Kyoto Protocol, ICCPR, RCD, UNCHR, Group of Eleven, CPFTA, Group of 24, the G20 developing nations, ECOSOC, founding member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, SAARC and CERN.
Palau, officially the Republic of Palau,is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is geographically part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country's population of around 21,000 is spread across 250 islands forming the western chain of the Caroline Islands. The most populous island is Koror. The capital Ngerulmud is located in Melekeok State on the nearby island of Babeldaob. The islands share maritime boundaries with Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The country was originally settled around 3,000 years ago by migrants from the Philippines and sustained a Negrito population until around 900 years ago. The islands were first visited by Europeans in the 18th century, and were made part of the Spanish East Indies in 1885. Following Spain's defeat in the Spanish–American War in 1898, the islands were sold to Imperial Germany in 1899 under the terms of the German–Spanish Treaty, where they were administered as part of German New Guinea. The Imperial Japanese Navy conquered Palau during World War I, and the islands were later made a part of the Japanese-ruled South Pacific Mandate by the League of Nations. During World War II, skirmishes, including the major Battle of Peleliu, were fought between American and Japanese troops as part of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign. Along with other Pacific Islands, Palau was made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. Having voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, the islands gained full sovereignty in 1994 under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Politically, Palau is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, which provides defense, funding, and access to social services. Legislative power is concentrated in the bicameral Palau National Congress. Palau's economy is based mainly on tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing, with a significant portion of gross national product (GNP) derived from foreign aid. The country uses the United States dollar as its currency. The islands' culture mixes Japanese, Micronesian and Melanesian elements. The majority of citizens are of mixed Micronesian, Melanesian, and Austronesian descent, with significant groups descended from Japanese and Filipino settlers. The country's two official languages are Palauan (member of the wider Sunda–Sulawesi language group) and English, with Japanese, Sonsorolese, and Tobian recognised as regional languages.
Continent:N.America/Capital: Panama City
Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is the southernmost country of Central America and the whole of North America.
Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metro area is home to nearly half of the country's 3.6 million people.
Panama was inhabited by several indigenous tribes prior to settlement by the Spanish in the 16th century. It broke away from Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada remained joined, eventually becoming the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the Panama Canal to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the total transfer of the Canal from the United States to Panama by the end of the 20th century, which culminated on 31 December 1999.
Revenue from canal tolls continues to represent a significant portion of Panama's GDP, although commerce, banking, and tourism are major and growing sectors. Panama has the second largest economy in Central America and is also the fastest growing economy and largest per capita consumer in Central America. In 2013, Panama ranked 5th among Latin American countries in terms of the Human Development Index, and 59th in the world. Since 2010, Panama remains the second most competitive economy in Latin America, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index. Covering around 40 percent of its land area, Panama's jungles are home to an abundance of tropical plants, animals and birds – some of them to be found nowhere else in the world.
Continent:Oceania/Capital: Port Moresby
Papua New Guinea, officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is an Oceanian country that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and its offshore islands in Melanesia, a region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean north of Australia. Its capital, located along its southeastern coast, is Port Moresby. The western half of New Guinea forms the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.
Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. 848 languages are listed for the country, of which 12 have no known living speakers. Most of the population of over 7 million people live in customary communities, which are as diverse as the languages. It is also one of the most rural, as only 18 per cent of its people live in urban centres. The country is one of the world's least explored, culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species of plants and animals are thought to exist in the interior.
Strong growth in Papua New Guinea's mining and resource sector has led to the country's becoming the sixth fastest-growing economy in the world as of 2011.Many people in the country live in extreme poverty when measured in terms of money, with about one-third of the population living on less than US$1.25 per day.
At the local level, the majority of the population still live in strong customary societies and - while social life is overlaid with traditional religious cosmologies and modern practices, including conventional primary education - customary subsistence-based agriculture remains fundamental. These societies and clans are explicitly acknowledged within the nation's constitutional framework. The Papua New Guinea Constitution expresses the wish for "traditional villages and communities to remain as viable units of Papua New Guinean society" and for active steps to be taken in their continuing importance to local and national community life.
At the national level, after being ruled by three external powers since 1884, Papua New Guinea established its sovereignty in 1975 following 70 years of Australian administration. It became a separate Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations in its own right.
Paraguay, officially the Republic of Paraguay, is a landlocked country in central South America, bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América ("Heart of America").
The indigenous Guaraní had been living in Paraguay for at least a millennium before the Spanish conquered the territory in the 16th century. Spanish settlers and Jesuit missions introduced Christianity and Spanish culture to the region. Paraguay was on the periphery of Spain's colonial empire, with few urban centers and a sparse population. Following independence from Spain in 1811, Paraguay was ruled by a series of dictators who implemented isolationist and protectionist policies.
This development was truncated by the disastrous Paraguayan War (1864-1870), in which the country lost 60 to 70 percent of its population through war and disease, and about 140,000 square kilometers (54,054 sq mi) of territory to Argentina and Brazil. Through the 20th century, Paraguay continued to endure a succession of authoritarian governments, culminating in the regime of Alfredo Stroessner, who led South America's longest-lived military dictatorship from 1954 to 1989. He was toppled in an internal military coup, and free multi-party elections were organized and held for the first time in 1993. A year later, Paraguay joined Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay to found Mercosur, a regional economic collaborative.
As of 2009, Paraguay's population was estimated to be at around 6.5 million, most of whom are concentrated in the southeast region of the country. The capital and largest city is Asunción, of which the metropolitan area is home to nearly a third of Paraguay's population. In contrast to most Latin American nations, Paraguay's indigenous language and culture, Guaraní, remains highly influential. In each census, residents predominantly identify as mestizo, reflecting years of intermarriage among the different ethnic groups. Guaraní is recognized as an official language alongside Spanish, and both languages are widely spoken in the country, with around 92 percent of the general population speaking Spanish and 8 percent speaking Guaraní.
Peru, officially the Republic of Peru, is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is an extremely biodiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.
Peruvian territory was home to ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilization in Caral, one of the oldest in the world, to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty with its capital in Lima, which included most of its South American colonies. Ideas of political autonomy later spread throughout Spanish America and Peru gained its Independence, which was formally proclaimed in 1821. After the battle of Ayacucho, three years after proclamation, Peru ensured its independence. After achieving independence, the country remained in recession and kept a low military profile until an economic rise based on the extraction of raw and maritime materials struck the country, which ended shortly before the war of the Pacific. Subsequently, the country has undergone changes in of government from oligarchic to democratic systems. Peru has gone through periods of political unrest and internal conflict as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.
Peru is a representative democratic republic divided into 25 regions. It is a developing country with a high Human Development Index score and a poverty level around 25.8 percent.Its main economic activities include mining, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing.
The Peruvian population, estimated at 30.4 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other native languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.
The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, is a sovereign island country in Southeast Asia situated in the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of 7,107 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Its capital city is Manila while its most populous city is Quezon City; both are part of Metro Manila.
To the north of the Philippines across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan; Vietnam sits west across the South China Sea; southwest is the island of Borneo across the Sulu Sea, and to the south the Celebes Sea separates it from other islands of Indonesia; while to the east it is bounded by the Philippine Sea and the island-nation of Palau. Its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator makes the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons, but also endows it with abundant natural resources and some of the world's greatest biodiversity. At approximately 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 sq mi), the Philippines is the 64th-largest country in the world.
With a population of about 100 million people, the Philippines is the seventh-most populated country in Asia and the 12th most populated country in the world. An additional 12 million Filipinos live overseas, comprising one of the world's largest diasporas. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the islands. In prehistoric times, Negritos were some of the archipelago's earliest inhabitants. They were followed by successive waves of Austronesian peoples. Exchanges with Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Islamic states occurred. Then, various nations were established under the rule of Datus, Rajahs, Sultans or Lakans.
The coming of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 marked the beginning of Spanish colonization. In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain. With the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi from Mexico City, in 1565; the first Spanish settlement in the archipelago was established. The Philippines became part of the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years. This resulted in the predominant religion in the country being Roman Catholicism. During this time, Manila became the western hub of the trans-Pacific Manila–Acapulco galleon trade connecting Asia with the Americas.
As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, there followed in quick succession the Philippine Revolution, which spawned the short-lived First Philippine Republic, and the Philippine–American War. Aside from the period of Japanese occupation, the United States retained sovereignty over the islands until 1945. After World War II, the Philippines was recognized as an independent nation. Since then, the Philippines has often an often tumultuous experience with democracy, which includes the overthrow of a dictatorship by a nonviolent revolution.
The nation's large population size and economic potential have led it to be classified as a middle power. It is a founding member of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and East Asia Summit. The Philippines is considered to be an emerging market and a newly industrialized country, which has been transitioning from being one based on agriculture to one based more on services and manufacturing
The Pitcairn Islands, officially named the Pitcairn Group of Islands, are a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean that form the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific. The four islands – Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno – are spread over several hundred miles of ocean and have a total land area of about 47 square kilometres (18 sq mi). Only Pitcairn, the second largest island measuring about 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) from east to west, is inhabited.
The islands are inhabited by the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians (or Polynesians) who accompanied them, an event retold in numerous books and films. This history is still apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. With only about 56 inhabitants, originating from four main families, Pitcairn is the least populous national jurisdiction in the world. The United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes the Pitcairn Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Poland, officially the Republic of Poland is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine and Belarus to the east; and the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) and Lithuania to the north. The total area of Poland is 312,679 square kilometres (120,726 sq mi), making it the 71st largest country in the world and the 9th largest in Europe. With a population of over 38.5 million people, Poland is the 34th most populous country in the world, the sixth most populous member of the European Union, and the most populous post-communist member of the European Union. Poland is a unitary state divided into 16 administrative subdivisions.
Many historians trace the establishment of a Polish state to 966, when Mieszko I, ruler of a territory roughly coextensive with that of present-day Poland, converted to Christianity. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025, and in 1569 it cemented a longstanding political association with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by signing the Union of Lublin, forming the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth gradually ceased to exist in the years 1772–1795, when the Polish territory was partitioned among Prussia, the Russian Empire, and Austria. Poland regained its independence (as the Second Polish Republic) at the end of World War I, in 1918.
Two decades later, in September 1939, World War II started with the invasions of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (as part of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact). More than six million Polish citizens died in the war. In 1944, a Soviet-backed Polish provisional government was formed, which, after a period of conflict, falsified a referendum and an election, gave rise to a satellite state of the Soviet Union, Polish Republic (Rzeczpospolita Polska), renamed to the People's Republic of Poland (Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa) in 1952. During the Revolutions of 1989, Poland's Marxist–Leninist government was overthrown and Poland adopted a new constitution establishing itself as a democracy under the name Rzeczpospolita Polska, often referred to as the "Third Polish Republic" (III Rzeczpospolita).
Despite the vast destruction the country experienced during World War II, Poland managed to preserve much of its cultural wealth. There are 14 heritage sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage and 54 Historical Monuments and many objects of cultural heritage. Since the end of the communist period, Poland has achieved a "very high" ranking in terms of human development, as well as gradually improving economic freedom.
Continent: Europe/Capital: Lisbon
Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country in southwest Europe. It is located on the Iberian Peninsula, and it is the westernmost country of mainland Europe, being bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east. Aside from continental Portugal, the Portuguese Republic holds sovereignty over the Atlantic archipelagos of Azores and Madeira, which are autonomous regions of Portugal. The country is named after its second largest city, Porto, whose name derives from a combination of Latin "Portus", and the Celtic place-name "Cale".
The land within the borders of the current Portuguese Republic has been continually fought over and settled since prehistoric times. The Celts and the Romans were followed by the Visigothic and the Suebi Germanic peoples, who were themselves later invaded by the Moors. These Muslim peoples were eventually expelled during the Christian Reconquista of the peninsula. By 1139, Portugal established itself as a kingdom independent from León. In the 15th and 16th centuries, as the result of pioneering the Age of Discovery, Portugal expanded western influence and established the first global empire, becoming one of the world's major economic, political and military powers, and ultimately dividing the world with Spain.
The Portuguese Empire was the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires, spanning almost 600 years, from the capture of Ceuta in 1415 to the handover of Macau to the People's Republic of China in 1999 (de facto) or the granting of sovereignty to East Timor in 2002 (de jure) after occupation by Indonesia since 1975. The empire spread throughout a vast number of territories that are now part of 53 different sovereign states, leaving a profound cultural and architectural influence across the globe with a legacy of over 250 million Portuguese speakers today (making it the sixth most spoken first language) and a number of Portuguese-based creoles. Portugal's international status was greatly reduced during the 19th century, especially following the Independence of Brazil. After the 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy, the democratic but unstable Portuguese First Republic was established, itself being superseded by the "Estado Novo" right-wing authoritarian regime. Democracy was restored after the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution in 1974. Shortly after, independence was granted to Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, East Timor, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau.
Portugal is a developed country with an advanced economy, high living standards and high-quality infrastructures, ranking 2nd in the quality of the road network and 11th overall,according to the Global Competitiveness Report. It is one of the world's most globalized, peaceful and responsive nations. It is a member of the United Nations, European Union, Eurozone, OECD, NATO, WTO, OSCE, Schengen Area, Council of Europe, Community of Portuguese Language Countries and many other international institutions. Portugal was among the first countries to abolish capital punishment, in 1867. On 31 May 2010, Portugal became the sixth country in Europe and the eighth country in the world to legally recognize same-sex marriage on the national level. Portugal also received international attention for being the first country in the world to fully decriminalize the usage of all drugs in 2001.
Continent:N.America/Capital: San Juan
Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, literally the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico), is a United States territory located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic, and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico is an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main island of Puerto Rico is, by land area, the smallest of the Greater Antilles. With around 3.5 million people, it ranks third in population among that group of four islands, which include Cuba, Hispaniola and Jamaica. The capital and largest city is San Juan. Due to its location, Puerto Rico has a tropical climate with warm weather year-round and does not observe daylight saving time. Its official languages are Spanish, which is prevalent, and English.
Originally populated for centuries by aboriginal people known as Taíno, the island was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain during his second voyage to the Americas on November 19, 1493. Like Cuba, Puerto Rico remained a Spanish colony until 1898. Despite the Laws of Burgos of 1512 and other decrees for the protection of Indians, some Taíno people were forced into slavery in the early years of colonization. The population suffered extremely high fatalities from epidemics of European infectious diseases.
During the four centuries of Spanish rule, the island's culture and physical landscape were transformed. European knowledge, customs and traditions were introduced, namely Roman Catholicism, the Spanish language, and advances such as agriculture, construction in stone, and the printing press. Numerous public buildings, forts, churches and public infrastructure built during Spanish rule are still standing to this day, forming an indelible part of the island's cultural heritage.
Regular convoys of the West Indies Fleet linked the island to Spain, sailing from Cádiz to the Spanish West Indies every year. From the start of Puerto Rico's colonization by Spain in 1508, its inhabitants were Spanish citizens, and it remained Spanish territory despite invasion attempts by the French, Dutch, and the British. On November 25, 1897, Spain granted limited self-government to the island by royal decree in the Autonomic Charter, including a bicameral legislature. But in 1898, Spain ceded its control of the island to United States following the Spanish–American War, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
Today, people born in Puerto Rico are natural-born U.S. citizens.The territory operates under a local constitution, and Puerto Ricans elect their own governor. However, Puerto Rico lacks voting members in Congress and is subject to the plenary jurisdiction of the United States under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. As of 2015, Puerto Rico remains a U.S. territory, although a 2012 referendum showed a majority (54% of the electorate) in favor of a change in status, with full statehood the preferred option.
Qatar,officially the State of Qatar, is a sovereign Arab country located in Southwest Asia, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its territory surrounded by the Persian Gulf. A strait in the Persian Gulf separates Qatar from the nearby island kingdom of Bahrain. In 2013, Qatar's total population was 1.8 million: 278,000 Qatari citizens and 1.5 million expatriates.
Following Ottoman rule, Qatar became a British protectorate in the early 20th century until gaining independence in 1971. Qatar has been ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid-19th century. Qatar is an absolute monarchy and its head of state is Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.After Saudi Arabia, Qatar is the most conservative society in the GCC as most Qataris adhere to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar's Constitution.
Qatar is the world's richest country per capita and has the highest human development in the Arab World; furthermore, it is recognized as a high income economy by the World Bank.Qatar has the world's third largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves in excess of 25 billion barrels (4.0×109 m3). Qatar has become an influential player in the Arab world. Qatar supported several rebel groups during the Arab Spring both financially and by asserting global influence through its expanding media group, Al Jazeera Media Network. Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, becoming the first Arab country to host the event.
Although tiny, Qatar wields significant clout, with a rising international profile that has led some analysts to identify it as a middle power.
The Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo Republic or Congo-Brazzaville, is a country located in Central Africa. It is bordered by Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Angolan exclave of Cabinda.
The region was dominated by Bantu-speaking tribes, who built trade links leading into the Congo River basin. Congo-Brazzaville was formerly part of the French colony of Equatorial Africa. Upon independence in 1960, the former colony of French Congo became the Republic of the Congo. The People's Republic of the Congo was a Marxist–Leninist single-party state from 1970 to 1991. Multi-party elections have been held since 1992, although a democratically elected government was ousted in the 1997 Republic of the Congo Civil War.
Romania, occasionally spelled Rumania,and formerly also spelled Roumania is a unitary semi-presidential republic located in Southeastern-Central Europe, north of the Balkan Peninsula and on the western shore of the Black Sea. It borders Hungary, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Bulgaria. It covers 238,391 square kilometres (92,043 sq mi) and has a temperate-continental climate. With its 20.1 million inhabitants, it is the seventh most populous member of the European Union. Its capital and largest city, Bucharest, is the sixth largest city in the European Union.
Modern Romania emerged within the territories of the ancient Roman province of Dacia, and was formed in 1859 through a personal union of the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. The new state, officially named Romania since 1866, gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. At the end of World War I, Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia united with the sovereign Kingdom of Romania. At the end of World War II, territories which today roughly correspond to the Republic of Moldova were occupied by the Soviet Union, and a few years later Romania became a socialist republic and member of the Warsaw Pact. After the 1989 Revolution, Romania began a transition back towards democracy and a capitalist market economy.
Following rapid economic growth in the 2000s, Romania has an economy predominantly based on services, and is a producer and net exporter of machines and electric energy, featuring companies like Automobile Dacia and OMV Petrom. Living standards have improved, and currently, Romania is an upper-middle income country with a high Human Development Index. It has been a member of NATO since 2004, and part of the European Union since 2007. Around 90% of the population identify themselves as Eastern Orthodox Christians, and are native speakers of Romanian, a Romance language. With a rich cultural history, Romania has been the home of influential artists, musicians, and inventors, and features a variety of tourist attractions such as "Dracula's Castle".
Continent: / Capital:
Russia, also officially known as the Russian Federation, is a country in northern Eurasia.It is a federal semi-presidential republic. At 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi), Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area. Russia is also the world's ninth most populous nation with nearly 144 million people as of 2015.
Extending across the entirety of northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans nine time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (both with Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait.
The nation's history began with that of the East Slavs, who emerged as a recognizable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. Founded and ruled by a Varangian warrior elite and their descendants, the medieval state of Rus arose in the 9th century. In 988 it adopted Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Rus' ultimately disintegrated into a number of smaller states; most of the Rus' lands were overrun by the Mongol invasion and became tributaries of the nomadic Golden Horde. The Grand Duchy of Moscow gradually reunified the surrounding Russian principalities, achieved independence from the Golden Horde, and came to dominate the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire, which was the third largest empire in history, stretching from Poland in Europe to Alaska in North America.
Following the Russian Revolution, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic became the largest and leading constituent of the Soviet Union, the world's first constitutionally socialist state and a recognized superpower, which played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II. The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite, and the first man in space. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian SFSR reconstituted itself as the Russian Federation and is recognized as the continuing legal personality (the sole successor state) of the Union state.
The Russian economy ranks as the ninth largest by nominal GDP and sixth largest by purchasing power parity in 2014.Russia's extensive mineral and energy resources, the largest reserves in the world, have made it one of the largest producers of oil and natural gas globally.The country is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Russia is a great power and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as being the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Rwanda, officially the Republic of Rwanda, is a sovereign state in central and east Africa. Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rwanda is in the African Great Lakes region and is highly elevated; its geography dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate of the country is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year.
The population is young and predominantly rural, with a density among the highest in Africa. Rwandans are composed of three ethnic groups: the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. The Twa are a forest-dwelling pygmy people descended from Rwanda's earliest inhabitants. Scholars disagree on the origins of and differences between the Hutu and Tutsi; some believe differences are derived from former social castes, while others view them as being ethnicities or tribes. Christianity is the largest religion in the country; the principal language is Kinyarwanda, spoken by most Rwandans, with French and English serving as official languages. Rwanda has a presidential system of government. The president is Paul Kagame of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), who took office in 2000. Rwanda today has low corruption compared with neighbouring countries, although human rights organisations report suppression of opposition groups, intimidation and restrictions on freedom of speech. The country has been governed by a strict administrative hierarchy since precolonial times; there are five provinces delineated by borders drawn in 2006. Rwanda has the world's highest proportion of females in government positions in proportion to the population.
Hunter gatherers settled the territory in the stone and iron ages, followed later by Bantu peoples. The population coalesced first into clans and then into kingdoms. The Kingdom of Rwanda dominated from the mid-eighteenth century, with the Tutsi kings conquering others militarily, centralising power, and later enacting anti-Hutu policies. Germany colonised Rwanda in 1884 as part of German East Africa, followed by Belgium, which invaded in 1916 during World War I. Both European nations ruled through the kings and perpetuated a pro-Tutsi policy. The Hutu population revolted in 1959. They massacred numerous Tutsi and ultimately established an independent, Hutu-dominated state in 1962. The Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front launched a civil war in 1990. Social tensions erupted in the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000 to 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The RPF ended the genocide with a military victory.
Rwanda's economy suffered heavily during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, but has since strengthened. The economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country's leading foreign exchange earner. Rwanda is one of only two countries in which mountain gorillas can be visited safely, and visitors are prepared to pay high prices for gorilla tracking permits. Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan culture, particularly drums and the highly choreographed intore dance. Traditional arts and crafts are produced throughout the country, including imigongo, a unique cow dung art.
The Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis located in the Leeward Islands, is a federal two-island country in the West Indies. It is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, in both area and population. The country is a Commonwealth realm, with Elizabeth II as its head of state.
The capital city and headquarters of government for the federated state is Basseterre on the larger island of Saint Kitts. The smaller island of Nevis lies about 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Saint Kitts, across a shallow channel called "The Narrows."
Historically, the British dependency of Anguilla was also a part of this union, which was then known collectively as Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla. Saint Kitts and Nevis are considered to be geographically part of the Leeward Islands. To the north-northwest lie the islands of Sint Eustatius, Saba (the Netherlands), Saint Barthélemy, Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten and Anguilla. To the east and northeast are Antigua and Barbuda, and to the southeast is the small uninhabited island of Redonda, and the island of Montserrat, which currently has an active volcano (see Soufrière Hills).
Saint Kitts and Nevis were among the first islands in the Caribbean to be settled by Europeans. Saint Kitts was home to the first British and French colonies in the Caribbean, and thus has also been titled "The Mother Colony of the West Indies."
Saint Lucia is a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean.Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 617 km2 (238.23 sq mi) and has a population of 174,000 (2010). Its capital is Castries.
One of the Windward Islands, Saint Lucia was named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse by the French, the island's first European settlers. They signed a treaty with the native Carib Indians in 1660. England took control of the island from 1663 to 1667; in ensuing years, it was at war with France 14 times; and rule of the island changed frequently (it was seven times each ruled by the French and British). In 1814, the British took definitive control of the island. Because it switched so often between British and French control, Saint Lucia was also known as the "Helen of the West Indies".
Representative government came about in 1840 (with universal suffrage from 1953). From 1958 to 1962, the island was a member of the Federation of the West Indies. On 22 February 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state of the Commonwealth of Nations associated with the United Kingdom Saint Lucia is a mixed jurisdiction meaning that it has a legal system based in part on both the Civil Law and English common law. The Civil Code of St. Lucia of 1867 was based on the Quebec Civil Code of 1866, as supplemented by English common law-style legislation. It is also a member of la Francophonie.
The island nation celebrates its independence every year with a public holiday. The financial sector has weathered the global financial crisis, but the recession has hurt tourism.
Saint-Pierre is the third-largest commune in the French overseas department of Reunion. It is located on the southwest side of the island of Reunion.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island country in the Lesser Antilles Island arc, in the southern portion of the Windward Islands, which lie at the southern end of the eastern border of the Caribbean Sea where the latter meets the Atlantic Ocean. The country is also known as St. Vincent.
Its 389 km2 (150 sq mi) territory consists of the main island of Saint Vincent and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines, which are a chain of smaller islands stretching south from Saint Vincent Island to Grenada. The main island of Saint Vincent measures 26 km (16 mi) long, 15 km (9.3 mi) in width and 344 km2 (133 sq mi) in area. From the most northern to the most southern points, the Grenadine islands belonging to Saint Vincent span 60.4 km (37.5 mi) with a combined area of 45 km2 (17 sq mi). Most of the nation lies within the Hurricane Belt.
To the north of Saint Vincent lies Saint Lucia, to the east Barbados. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a densely populated country (over 300 inhabitants/km2) with approximately 120,000 inhabitants.
Its capital is Kingstown, also its main port. The country has a French and British colonial history and is now part of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, CARICOM, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Continent: Oceania/Capital: Apia
Samoa, officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa, is an Oceanian country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and Savai'i, one of the biggest islands in Polynesia. The capital city, Apia, and Faleolo International Airport are situated on the island of Upolu.
Samoa was admitted to the United Nations on 15 December 1976.The entire island group, which includes American Samoa, was called "Navigator Islands" by European explorers before the 20th century because of the Samoans' seafaring skills.
The language spoken is Samoan language or Gagana Fa'asamoa. This is the same language spoken in American Samoa.
Continent: Europe/Capital:San Marino
San Marino, officially the Republic of San Marino, is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy, situated on the Italian Peninsula on the north-eastern side of the Apennine Mountains. Its size is just over 61 km2 (24 sq mi) with an estimated population of about 32,000 with its capital being the City of San Marino and its largest city being Dogana. San Marino has the smallest population of all the members of the Council of Europe.
San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world,as the continuation of the monastic community founded on 3 September 301, by stonecutter Marinus of Arba. Legend has it that Marinus left Rab, then the Roman colony of Arba, in 257 when the future emperor, Diocletian, issued a decree calling for the reconstruction of the city walls of Rimini, which had been destroyed by Liburnian pirates.
San Marino is governed by the Leges Statutae Republicae Sancti Marini, a series of six books written in Latin in the late 16th century, that dictate the country’s political system, among other matters. The country is considered to have the earliest written governing documents (constitution) still in effect.
The country's economy mainly relies on finance, industry, services and tourism. It is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP (per capita), with a figure comparable to the most developed European regions. San Marino is considered to have a highly stable economy, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, no national debt and a budget surplus. It is the only country with more vehicles than people.
Continent: Africa/Capital:Sao Tome
Sao Tome (population 56,166 in 2005) is the capital city of Sao Tome and Principe and is by far that nation's largest town. Its name is Portuguese for "Saint Thomas".
Saudi Arabia, officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,is the largest Arab state in Western Asia by land area (approximately 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi)), constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest geographically in the Arab world after Algeria. It is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast, and Yemen in the south. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast and much of its terrain consists of inhospitable desert.
The area of modern-day Saudi Arabia formerly consisted of four distinct regions: Hejaz, Najd and parts of Eastern Arabia (Al-Hasa) and Southern Arabia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud. He united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud. The country has since been an absolute monarchy governed along Islamic lines, namely under the influence of Wahhabism. Saudi Arabia is sometimes called "the Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Al-Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca), and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (in Medina), the two holiest places in Islam. The Kingdom has a total population of 28.7 million, of which 20 million are Saudi nationals and 8 million foreigners.
Saudi Arabia is the world's dominant oil producer and exporter, and controls the world's second largest hydrocarbon reserves, Backed by its fossil fuels, the kingdom is categorized as a high income economy with a high Human Development Index (HDI), and is the only Arab country to be part of the G-20 major economies. However, Saudi Arabia has the least diversified economy in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). It is ruled by an authoritarian regime and is ranked as "Not Free" by Freedom House.Saudi Arabia has the fourth highest military expenditure in the world, and is considered a regional and middle power.In addition to the GCC, it is an active member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and OPEC.
Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal,is a country in West Africa. It is the westernmost country in the mainland of the Old World or Eurafrasia and owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north. Senegal covers a land area of almost 197,000 square kilometres (76,000 sq mi), and has an estimated population of about 13 million. The climate is tropical with two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.
Senegal's capital is Dakar. During the 17th and 18th centuries, numerous trading posts belonging to various European colonial empires were established along the coast. Senegal became a colony of France in the 19th century. It was granted independence from France in 1960.
Major industries are fish processing, phosphate mining, fertilizer production, petroleum refining, construction materials, ship construction and repair. Peanuts, sugarcane, cotton, green beans, industrial tomato, cherry tomato, melon, and mango are important cash crops.
Most Senegalese are Sunni Muslims with Sufi influences. French is the official language. Since April 2012 Senegal's president has been Macky Sall.
Serbia and Montenegro was a country in Southeast Europe, created from the two remaining republics of Yugoslavia after its breakup in 1991. The republics of Serbia and Montenegro together established a federation in 1992 as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia In 2003, it was reconstituted as a state union officially known as the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, transitioning to two independent nations by 2006.
The FRY aspired to be a sole legal successor to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but those claims were opposed by other former republics. The United Nations also denied its request to automatically continue the membership of the former state. Eventually, after the overthrow of Slobodan Miloševic from power as president of the federation in 2000, the country rescinded those aspirations and accepted the opinion of Badinter Arbitration Committee about shared succession. It re-applied for UN membership on 27 October and was admitted on 1 November 2000. From 1992 to 2000, some countries, including the United States, referred to the FRY as "Serbia and Montenegro".
The FRY was initially dominated by Slobodan Miloševic as President of Serbia (1989-1997) and then President of Yugoslavia (1997-2000).Miloševic installed and forced the removal of several federal presidents (such as Dobrica Cosic) and prime ministers (Milan Panic). However, the Montenegrin government, initially enthusiastic supporters of Miloševic, started gradually distancing themselves from his policies. That culminated in regime change in 1996, when his former ally Milo Ðukanovic reversed his policies, became leader of Montenegro's ruling party and subsequently dismissed former Montenegrin leader Momir Bulatovic, who remained loyal to the Miloševic government. As Bulatovic was given central positions in Belgrade from that time (as federal Prime Minister), Ðukanovic continued to govern Montenegro and further isolated it from Serbia, so that from 1996 to 2006, Montenegro and Serbia were only nominally one country—governance at every feasible level was conducted locally (Belgrade for Serbia and Podgorica for Montenegro).
A loose union, Serbia and Montenegro were united only in certain realms, such as defense. The two constituent republics functioned separately throughout the period of the Federal Republic, and continued to operate under separate economic policies, as well as using separate currencies (the euro was the only legal tender in Montenegro). On 21 May 2006, the Montenegrin independence referendum was held, and 55.5% of voters voted in favor of independence. The state union effectively came to an end after Montenegro's formal declaration of independence on 3 June 2006, and Serbia's formal declaration of independence on 5 June. After the dissolution, Serbia became the legal successor of the union, while Montenegro re-applied for membership in international organizations.
Seychelles, officially the Republic of Seychelles, is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The 115-island country, whose capital is Victoria, lies 1,500 kilometres (932 mi) east of mainland Southeast Africa. Other nearby island countries and territories include Zanzibar to the west and Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar, Réunion and Mauritius to the south.
Seychelles, with a population of 90,024, has the smallest population of any African state.Seychelles is a member of the African Union.
Sierra Leone officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea in the north-east, Liberia in the south-east, and the Atlantic ocean in the south-west. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests. Sierra Leone has a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) and an estimated population of 6 million (2011 United Nations estimate). Freetown is the capital, largest city, and its economic and political centre. Bo is the second largest city and second major economic center in the country. The country is divided into four geographical regions: the Northern Province, Eastern Province, Southern Province and the Western Area, which are further divided into fourteen districts.
About sixteen ethnic groups inhabit Sierra Leone, each with their own language and custom. The two largest and most influential are the Temne and the Mende people. The Temne are predominantly found in the north of the country, while the Mende are predominant in the south-east. Although English is the official language spoken at schools and government administration, the Krio language is the most widely spoken language in the country and unites all the different ethnic groups in the country, especially in their trade and social interaction with each other.
Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country,though with an influential Christian minority. Sierra Leone is regarded as one of the most religiously tolerant nations in the world. Muslims and Christians collaborate and interact with each other peacefully. Religious violence is very rare in the country.
Sierra Leone has relied on mining, especially diamonds, for its economic base. It is also among the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, a major producer of gold, and has one of the world's largest deposits of rutile. Sierra Leone is home to the third-largest natural harbour in the world. Despite exploitation of this natural wealth, 70% of its people live in poverty.
Sierra Leone became independent in 1961. Government corruption and mismanagement of the country's natural resources contributed to the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991 to 2002), which over more than a decade devastated the country. It left more than 50,000 people dead, much of the country's infrastructure destroyed, and over two million people displaced as refugees in neighbouring countries.
More recently, the 2014 Ebola outbreak threatens to lead the country into a humanitarian crisis situation and a negative spiral of weaker economic growth. The country has an extremely low life expectancy.
Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is a modern city-state and island country in Southeast Asia. It lies off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and is 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the equator. The country's territory consists of the diamond-shaped main island, commonly referred to as Singapore Island in English and Pulau Ujong in Malay, and more than 60 significantly smaller islets. Singapore is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to the north, and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to the south. The country is highly urbanised, and little of the original vegetation remains. The country's territory has consistently expanded through land reclamation.
The islands were settled in the second century AD and subsequently belonged to a series of local empires. Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company with permission from the Johor Sultanate. The British obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824, and Singapore became one of the British Straits Settlements in 1826. Occupied by the Japanese during World War II, Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963 and united with other former British territories to form Malaysia, from which it was expelled two years later through a unanimous act of parliament. Singapore has since developed rapidly, earning recognition as one of the Four Asian Tigers.
Singapore is one of the world's major commercial hubs, with the fourth-biggest financial centre and one of the five busiest ports. Its globalised and diversified economy depends heavily on trade, especially manufacturing, which accounted for around 30 percent of Singapore's GDP in 2013.In terms of purchasing power parity, Singapore has the third-highest per capita income in the world but the highest income inequality in the developed world. It places highly in international rankings with regard to education, healthcare, and economic competitiveness. Nearly 5.5 million people live in Singapore (June 2014),of which about 2 million are foreign-born. While Singapore is diverse, ethnic Asians predominate: 75 percent of the population is Chinese, with significant minorities of Malays, Indians, and Eurasians. There are four official languages—English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil—and the country promotes multiculturalism through a range of official policies.
Singapore is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic, with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. The People's Action Party has won every election since self-government began in 1959. The dominance of the PAP, coupled with a low level of press freedom and suppressed civil liberties and political rights, has led to Singapore being classified as a flawed democracy. One of the five founding members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore is also the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat, and a member of the East Asia Summit, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Commonwealth of Nations. Singapore's rapid development has given it significant influence in global affairs, leading some analysts to identify it as a middle power.
Continent: Europe/Capital: Bratislava
Slovakia, long form Slovenska republika is a sovereign state in Central Europe.It has a population of over five million and an area of about 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi). Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south. The largest city is the capital, Bratislava, and the second largest is Košice. Slovakia is a member state of the European Union, Eurozone, Schengen Area, NATO, the United Nations, the OECD and the WTO, among others. The official language is Slovak, a member of the Slavic language family.
The Slavs—ancestors of the Slovaks—arrived in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th and 6th centuries during the migration period. In the 7th century, Slavs inhabiting this territory played a significant role in the creation of Samo's Empire, historically the first Slavic state which had its center in Western Slovakia. During the 9th century, Slavic ancestors of the Slovaks established another political entity, the Principality of Nitra, which later together with the Principality of Moravia, formed Great Moravia. After the 10th century the territory of today's Slovakia was gradually integrated into the Kingdom of Hungary,which itself became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Habsburg Empire. After WWI and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the nation of Slovaks and Czechs established their mutual state - Czechoslovakia. A separate Slovak state existed during World War II and was a client state of Nazi Germany (from 1939 to 1944). In 1945 Czechoslovakia was reestablished. The present-day Slovakia became an independent state on 1 January 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
Slovakia is a high-income advanced economy with one of the fastest growth rates in the European Union and the OECD.The country joined the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone on 1 January 2009.
Slovenia officially the Republic of Slovenia (Republika Slovenija, Slovene abbreviation is a nation state on the Adriatic Sea, bordering Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Croatia to the south and southeast, and Hungary to the northeast. It covers 20,273 square kilometers (7,827 sq mi) and has a population of 2.05 million. It is a parliamentary republic and a member of the European Union and NATO. Its capital and largest city is Ljubljana.
The territory, located in southern Central Europe at the crossroads of main European cultural and trade routes,is mainly mountainous with mainly continental climate, with the exception of the Slovene Littoral that has the sub-Mediterranean climate and the north-western area that has the Alpine climate. Additionally, the Dinaric Alps and the Pannonian Plain meet on the territory of Slovenia. The country, marked by a significant biological diversity, is one of the most water-rich in Europe, with a dense river network, a rich aquifer system, and significant karstic underground watercourses.Over half of the territory is covered by forest. The human settlement of Slovenia is dispersed and uneven.
The Slavic, Germanic, Romance, and Hungarian languages meet here.Although the population is not homogenous, the majority is Slovene.Slovene is the only official language throughout the country, whereas Italian and Hungarian are regional minority languages. Slovenia is a largely secularized country, but its culture and identity have been significantly influenced by Catholicism as well as Lutheranism. The economy of Slovenia is small, open, and export-oriented and has been strongly influenced by international conditions. It has been severely hurt by the Eurozone crisis, started in the late 2000s. The main economic field is services, followed by industry and construction.
Historically, the current territory of Slovenia was part of many different state formations, including the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, followed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In October 1918, the Slovenes exercised self-determination for the first time by co-founding the internationally unrecognized State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, which merged that December with the Kingdom of Serbia into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929). During World War II, Slovenia was occupied and annexed by Germany, Italy, Croatia, and Hungary. Afterward, it was a founding member of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, later renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In June 1991, after the introduction of multi-party representative democracy, Slovenia split from Yugoslavia and became an independent country. In 2004, it entered NATO and the European Union; in 2007 became the first former Communist country to join the Eurozone; and in 2010 joined the OECD, a global association of high-income developed countries.
Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of a large number of islands in Oceania lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu and covering a land area of 28,400 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi). The country's capital, Honiara, is located on the island of Guadalcanal. Solomon Islands should not be confused with the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands that includes Solomon Islands and Bougainville Island (part of Papua New Guinea), but excludes the nation's outlying islands, such as the Santa Cruz group.
The islands have been inhabited for thousands of years. In 1568, the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to visit them, naming them the Islas Salomón.By 1893, the United Kingdom had established a protectorate over the territory. During the Second World War, the Solomon Islands campaign (1942-1945) saw fierce fighting between the United States and the Empire of Japan, such as in the Battle of Guadalcanal.
The official name of the then British territory was changed from "the British Solomon Islands Protectorate" to "Solomon Islands" in 1975. Self-government was achieved in 1976. Independence was obtained two years later. Today, Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen of Solomon Islands, currently Queen Elizabeth II, as its head of state. Gordon Darcy Lilo is the eleventh and current Prime Minister of Solomon Islands.
Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Kenya to the southwest. Somalia has the longest coastline on the continent's mainland,and its terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains and highlands. Climatically, hot conditions prevail year-round, with periodic monsoon winds and irregular rainfall.
Somalia has a population of around 10 million. Around 85% of residents are ethnic Somalis,who have historically inhabited the northern part of the country. Ethnic minorities make up the remainder and are largely concentrated in the southern regions. The official languages of Somalia are Somali and Arabic, both of which belong to the Afro-Asiatic family, Most people in the country are Muslim, with the majority being Sunni.
In antiquity, Somalia was an important commercial centre,and is among the most probable locations of the fabled ancient Land of Punt.During the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali empires dominated the regional trade, including the Ajuran Empire, the Adal Sultanate, the Warsangali Sultanate, and the Geledi Sultanate. In the late 19th century, through a succession of treaties with these kingdoms, the British and Italians gained control of parts of the coast and established the colonies of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. In the interior, Muhammad Abdullah Hassan's Dervish State successfully repelled the British Empire four times and forced it to retreat to the coastal region. The Dervishes were finally defeated in 1920 by British airpower. Italy acquired full control of the northeastern and southern parts of the area after successfully waging the so-called Campaign of the Sultanates against the ruling Majeerteen Sultanate and Sultanate of Hobyo.Italian occupation lasted until 1941, yielding to British military administration. Northern Somalia would remain a protectorate, while southern Somalia became a United Nations Trusteeship in 1949. In 1960, the two regions united to form the independent Somali Republic under a civilian government. Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in 1969 and established the Somali Democratic Republic. In 1991, Barre's government collapsed as the Somali Civil War broke out.
In the absence of a central government, Somalia's residents reverted to local forms of conflict resolution. A few autonomous regions, including the Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug administrations, emerged in the north in the ensuing process of decentralization. The early 2000s saw the creation of fledgling interim federal administrations. The Transitional National Government (TNG) was established in 2000, followed by the formation of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004, which reestablished national institutions such as the military.In 2006, the TFG, assisted by Ethiopian troops, assumed control of most of the nation's southern conflict zones from the newly formed Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU subsequently splintered into more radical groups such as Al-Shabaab, which battled the TFG and its AMISOM allies for control of the region, with the insurgents losing most of the territory that they had seized by mid-2012. In 2011–2012, a political process providing benchmarks for the establishment of permanent democratic institutions was launched. Within this administrative framework a new provisional constitution was passed in August 2012 which reformed Somalia as a federation.Following the end of the TFG's interim mandate the same month, the Federal Government of Somalia, the first permanent central government in the country since the start of the civil war, was formed. The nation has concurrently experienced a period of intense reconstruction, particularly in the capital, Mogadishu. Through the years, Somalia has maintained an informal economy, based mainly on livestock, remittances, and telecommunications.
South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is a country located in Southern Africa. It has 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north lie the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; and within it lies Lesotho, an enclave surrounded by South African territory. South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world by land area, and with close to 53 million people, is the world's 25th-most populous nation.
South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution's recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest number of any country in the world. Two of these languages are of European origin: Afrikaans developed from Dutch and serves as the first language of most white and coloured South Africans, based on history. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is fourth-ranked as a spoken first language.
About 80 percent of South Africans are of black sub-Saharan African ancestry,divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (white), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (coloured) ancestry. Since 1994, all ethnic and linguistic groups have had political representation in the country's constitutional democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the "Rainbow Nation," a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later adopted by then-President Nelson Mandela as a metaphor to describe the country's newly developing multicultural diversity in the wake of segregationist apartheid ideology.
The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a coup d'etat, and regular elections have been held for almost a century. But the vast majority of black South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994. During the 20th century, the black majority sought to recover its rights from the dominant white minority, with this struggle playing a large role in the country's recent history and politics. The National Party imposed apartheid in 1948, institutionalizing previous racial segregation. After a long and sometimes violent struggle by the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid activists, discriminatory laws began to be repealed or abolished from 1990 onwards.
South Africa is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank, and is considered to be a newly industrialised country.Its economy is the second-largest in Africa, and the 34th-largest in the world In terms of purchasing power parity, South Africa has the seventh-highest per capita income in Africa. But poverty and inequality remain widespread, with about a quarter of the population unemployed and living on less than US$1.25 a day. Nevertheless, South Africa has been identified as a middle power in international affairs, and maintains significant regional influence.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) is a British overseas territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote and inhospitable collection of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands known as the South Sandwich Islands. South Georgia is 167.4 kilometres (104 mi) long and 1.4 to 37 km (0.9 to 23.0 miles) wide and is by far the largest island in the territory. The South Sandwich Islands lie about 520 kilometres (320 mi) southeast of South Georgia. The total land area of the territory is 3,903 square kilometres (1,507 sq mi).
There is no native population on the islands; the present inhabitants are the British Government Officer, Deputy Postmaster, scientists, and support staff from the British Antarctic Survey who maintain scientific bases at Bird Island and at the capital, King Edward Point, as well as museum staff at nearby Grytviken.
The United Kingdom claimed sovereignty over South Georgia in 1775 and the South Sandwich Islands in 1908. The territory of "South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands" was formed in 1985; previously it had been governed as part of the Falkland Islands Dependencies. Argentina claimed South Georgia in 1927 and claimed the South Sandwich Islands in 1938.
Argentina maintained a naval station, Corbeta Uruguay, on Thule Island in the South Sandwich Islands from 1976 until 1982 when it was closed by the Royal Navy. The Argentine claim over South Georgia contributed to the 1982 Falklands War, during which Argentine forces briefly occupied the island. Argentina continues to claim sovereignty over South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, and commonly referred to as Korea, is a sovereign state in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from the Kingdom of Goryeo, also spelled as Koryo. It shares land borders with North Korea to the north, and oversea borders with Japan to the east and China to the west. Roughly half of the country's 50 million people reside in the metropolitan area surrounding its capital, the Seoul Capital Area, which is the second largest in the world with over 25 million residents.
Korea was inhabited as early as the Lower Paleolithic period and its civilization began with the founding of Gojoseon. After the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea in 668, Korea enjoyed over a millennium of relative tranquility under dynasties lasting for centuries in which its trade, culture, literature, science and technology flourished. In 1910 it was annexed by the Japanese Empire, after whose surrender in 1945, Korea was divided into Soviet and U.S. zones of occupation, with the latter becoming the Republic of Korea in August 1948. Although the United Nations passed a resolution declaring the Republic to be the only lawful government of Korea, a communist regime was soon set up in the North that invaded the South in 1950, leading to the Korean War that ended de facto in 1953, with peace and prosperity settling-in thereafter.
Between 1962 and 1994, South Korea's tiger economy grew at an average of 10% annually, fueled by annual export growth of 20%, in a period called the Miracle on the Han River that rapidly and successfully transformed it into a high-income advanced economy and the world's 11th largest economy by 1995. Today, South Korea is the world's seventh largest importer and eighth largest exporter, ranking as the eighth largest country in international trade, a regional power with the world's 10th largest defence budget and member of the G-20 and OECD's Development Assistance Committee.Since the first free election in 1987, South Koreans have enjoyed high civil liberties and one of the world's most developed democracies, ranked second in Asia on the Democracy Index. Its pop culture has considerable influence in Asia and expanding globally in a process called the Korean Wave.
South Korea is East Asia's highest ranked developed country in the Human Development Index. Its citizens enjoy a very high standard of living, having Asia's highest median per-capita income and average wage with the world's 8th highest household income. Globally, it ranks highly in education, quality of healthcare, ease of doing business and job security. It leads OECD countries in student skills with the highest percentage of youths holding a tertiary education degree. Ranked as the most innovative country by Bloomberg, it is the world's most research and development intensive country, driven by high-tech chaebols such as Samsung, Hyundai-Kia and LG. A world leading information society, South Korea has the world's fastest Internet connection speed, ranking first in e-Government, 4G LTE penetration and second in the ICT Development Index and smartphone usage.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or shortened to the Soviet Union, was a Marxist–Leninist state on the Eurasian continent that existed between 1922 and 1991. It was governed as a single-party state by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital. A union of multiple subnational Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized.
The Soviet Union had its roots in the Russian Revolution of 1917, which overthrew the Russian Empire. The Bolsheviks, the majority faction of the Social Democratic Labour Party, led by Vladimir Lenin, then led a second revolution which overthrew the provisional government and established the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (renamed Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1936), beginning a civil war between pro-revolution Reds and counter-revolution Whites. The Red Army entered several territories of the former Russian Empire, and helped local Communists take power through soviets that nominally acted on behalf of workers and peasants. In 1922, the Communists were victorious, forming the Soviet Union with the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian, and Byelorussian republics. Following Lenin's death in 1924, a troika collective leadership and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s. Stalin suppressed political opposition to him, committed the state ideology to Marxism–Leninism (which he created) and initiated a centrally planned economy. As a result, the country underwent a period of rapid industrialisation and collectivisation which laid the basis for its later war effort and dominance after World War II. However, Stalin established political paranoia, and introduced arbitrary arrests on a massive scale after which the authorities transferred many people (military leaders, Communist Party members, ordinary citizens alike) to correctional labour camps or sentenced them to execution.
In the beginning of World War II, after the United Kingdom and France rejected an alliance with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, the USSR signed a non-aggression pact with Germany; the treaty delayed confrontation between the two countries, but was disregarded in 1941 when the Nazis invaded, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of combat in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the cost of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad. Soviet forces eventually drove through Eastern Europe and captured Berlin in 1945, inflicting the vast majority of German losses. Soviet occupied territory conquered from Axis forces in Central and Eastern Europe became satellite states of the Eastern Bloc. Ideological and political differences with Western Bloc counterparts directed by the United States led to the forming of economic and military pacts, culminating in the prolonged Cold War.
Following Stalin's death in 1953, a period of moderate social and economic liberalization (known as "de-Stalinization") occurred under the administration of Nikita Khrushchev. The Soviet Union then went on to initiate significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including launching the first ever satellite and world's first human spaceflight, which led it into the Space Race. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis marked a period of extreme tension between the two superpowers, considered the closest to a mutual nuclear confrontation. In the 1970s, a relaxation of relations followed, but tensions resumed when the Soviet Union began providing military assistance in Afghanistan at the request of its new socialist government in 1979. The campaign drained economic resources and dragged on without achieving meaningful political results.
In the late 1980s the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to reform the Union and move it in the direction of Nordic-style social democracy, introducing the policies of glasnost and perestroika in an attempt to end the period of economic stagnation and democratize the government. However, this led to the rise of strong nationalist and separatist movements. Central authorities initiated a referendum, boycotted by the Baltic republics, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova, which resulted in the majority of participating citizens voting in favour of preserving the Union as a renewed federation. In August 1991, a coup d'état was attempted by hardliners against Gorbachev, with the intention of reversing his policies. The coup failed, with Russian President Boris Yeltsin playing a high-profile role in facing down the coup, resulting in the banning of the Communist Party. On 25 December 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the remaining twelve constituent republics emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Union as independent post-Soviet states. The Russian Federation (formerly the Russian SFSR) assumed the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and is recognised as its continued legal personality.
Continent: Europe/Capital: Madrid
Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a sovereign state located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. Along with France and Morocco, it is one of only three countries to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. Spain's 1,214 km (754 mi) border with Portugal is the longest uninterrupted border within the European Union.
Spanish territory also includes two archipelagos; the Balearic Islands, in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast; two major exclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, in continental North Africa; and the islands and peñones (rocks) of Alborán, Alhucemas, Chafarinas and Vélez de la Gomera. With an area of 505,992 km2 (195,365 sq mi), Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union, and the fourth largest country in Europe. By population, Spain is the sixth largest in Europe and the fifth in the European Union.
Modern humans first arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around 35,000 years ago. It came under Roman rule around 200 BCE, after which the region was named Hispania. In the Middle Ages, the area was conquered by Germanic tribes and later by the Moors. Spain emerged as a unified country in the 15th century, following the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs and the completion of the centuries-long reconquest, or Reconquista, of the peninsula from the Moors in 1492. In the early modern period, Spain became one of history's first global colonial empires, leaving a vast cultural and linguistic legacy that includes over 500 million Spanish speakers, making Spanish the world's second most spoken first language.
Spain is a democracy organised in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy. It is a developed country with the world's fourteenth largest economy by nominal GDP and sixteenth largest by purchasing power parity. It is a member of the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and many other international organisations.
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country near the south-east of India in South Asia.
Sri Lanka, known until 1972 as Ceylon, has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest. Sri Lanka has a documented history that spans over 3,000 years, but there are theories to suggest that Sri Lanka had pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years.Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II.
Sri Lanka is a diverse country, home to many religions, ethnicities and languages. It is the land of the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Moors, Indian Tamils, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Vedda. Sri Lanka has a rich Buddhist heritage, and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pali Canon, dates back to the Fourth Buddhist Council in 29 BC. The country's recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war which decisively ended when Sri Lankan military defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009.
Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state governed by a presidential system. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital, and largest city, of Colombo. It is also an important producer of tea, coffee, gemstones, coconuts, rubber, and the native cinnamon, the island contains tropical forests and diverse landscapes with a high amount of biodiversity.
The country has had a long history of international engagement, as a founding member of SAARC and a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G77, and the Non-Aligned Movement. It is the only country in South Asia that is currently rated "high" on the Human Development Index.
Continent: Africa/Capital: Khartoum
Sudan, officially theRepublic of the Sudan, is an Arab republic in the Nile Valley of North Africa, bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west andLibya to the northwest. It is the third largest country in Africa. The Nile River divides the country into eastern and western halves. Its predominant religion is Islam Sudan was home to numerous ancient civilizations, such as the Kingdom of Kush, Kerma, Nobatia, Alodia, Makuria, Meroë and others, most of which flourished along the Nile River. During the predynastic period Nubia and Nagadan Upper Egypt were identical, simultaneously evolved systems of pharaonic kingship by 3300 BC. By virtue of its proximity to Egypt, the Sudan participated in the wider history of the Near East inasmuch as it wasChristianized by the 6th century, and Islamized in the 7th. As a result of Christianization, the Old Nubian language stands as the oldest recorded Nilo-Saharan language (earliest records dating to the 9th century). Sudan was the largest country in Africa and the Arab world until 2011, when South Sudan separated into an independent country, following an independence referendum. Sudan is now the third largest country in Africa (after Algeriaand the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and also the third largest country in the Arab world (after Algeria and Saudi Arabia).
Sudan is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as an observer in the World Trade Organization. Its capital is Khartoum, the political, cultural and commercial centre of the nation. It is a federal presidential representative democratic republic. The politics of Sudan is regulated by a parliamentary organization called the National Assembly. The Sudanese legal system is based on Islamic law.
Sudan suffers from several challenges. For much of Sudan's history, the nation has suffered from rampant ethnic strife and has been plagued byinternal conflicts including two civil wars and the War in the Darfur region. Sudan suffers from poor human rights most particularly dealing with the issues of ethnic cleansing and slavery in the nation
Suriname, officially known as the Republic of Suriname, is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south.
Suriname was colonized by the English and the Dutch in the 17th century. In 1667 it was captured by the Dutch, who governed Suriname as Dutch Guiana until 1954. At that time it was designated as one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, next to the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles (dissolved in 2010). On 25 November 1975, the country of Suriname left the Kingdom of the Netherlands to become independent. A member of CARICOM, it is considered to be a culturally Caribbean country and has extensive trade and cultural exchange with the Caribbean nations.
At just under 165,000 km2 (64,000 sq mi), Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America. (French Guiana, while less extensive and populous, is an overseas department of France.) Suriname has a population of approximately 566,000, most of whom live on the country's north coast, where the capital Paramaribo is located. Suriname is a mostly Dutch-speaking country; Sranang, an English-based creole language, is a widely used lingua franca. It is the only independent entity in the Americas where Dutch is spoken by a majority of the population.
Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland is a sovereign state in Southern Africa. It is neighbored by Mozambique to its east and by South Africa to its north, west and south. The country and its people take their names from Mswati II, the 19th-century king under whose rule Swazi territory was expanded and unified.
At no more than 200 kilometres (120 mi) north to south and 130 kilometres (81 mi) east to west, Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa. Despite its size, however, its climate and topography is diverse, ranging from a cool and mountainous highveld to a hot and dry lowveld. The population is primarily ethnic Swazis whose language is siSwati. They established their kingdom in the mid-18th century under the leadership of Ngwane III; the present boundaries were drawn up in 1881. After the Anglo-Boer War, Swaziland was a British protectorate from 1903 until 1967. It regained its independence on 6 September 1968.
The country is an absolute monarchy, currently ruled by Ngwenyama ("King") Mswati III. He is head of state and appoints the country's prime minister and a number of representatives of both chambers (Senate and House of Assembly) in the country's parliament. Elections are held every five years to determine the House of Assembly majority. The current constitution was adopted in 2005.
Swaziland is a developing country with a small economy. Its GDP per capita of $6,367 means it is classified as a country with a lower-middle income. As a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), its main local trading partner is South Africa, to whose currency, the South African rand, Swaziland's own currency, the lilangeni, is pegged. Swaziland's major overseas trading partners are the United States and the European Union. The majority of the country's employment is provided by its agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Swaziland is a member of the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the Commonwealth of Nations.
The Swazi population faces major health issues: HIV/AIDS and, to a lesser extent, tuberculosis are serious challenges. As of 2013, Swaziland has an estimated life expectancy of 50 years. The population of Swaziland is fairly young with a median age of 20.5 years and people aged 14 years or younger constituting 37.4% of the country's total population. The present population growth rate is 1.195%.
Swaziland is well known for its culture. Umhlanga, held in August/September and incwala, the kingship dance held in December/January, are the nation's most important events.
Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. Sweden borders Norway and Finland, and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Øresund. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the third-largest country in the European Union by area, with a total population of about 9.7 million. Sweden has a low population density of 21 inhabitants per square kilometre (54/sq mi), with the population mostly concentrated in the southern half of the country. About 85% of the population lives in urban areas. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, while the north is heavily forested.
Germanic peoples have inhabited Sweden since prehistoric times, emerging into history as the Goths/Geats and Swedes/Svear and contributing to the sea peoples known as the Vikings. Sweden emerged as an independent and unified country during the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, the country expanded its territories to form the Swedish Empire. The empire grew to be one of the great powers of Europe in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Most of the conquered territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were lost during the 18th and 19th centuries. The eastern half of Sweden, present-day Finland, was lost to Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814, when Sweden by military means forced Norway into a personal union. Since then, Sweden has been at peace, remaining a largely neutral nation. The union with Norway was peacefully dissolved in 1905. Sweden played a role in humanitarian efforts during World Wars I and II, taking in refugees from German-occupied Europe. With the ending of the Cold War, Sweden joined the European Union, but declined NATO membership.
Today, Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy, with the Monarch as the head of state. The capital city is Stockholm, which is also the most populous city in the country. Legislative power is vested in the 349 member unicameral Riksdag. Executive power is exercised by the Government, chaired by the Prime Minister. Sweden is a unitary state, currently divided into 21 counties and 290 municipalities.
Sweden maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. It has the world's eighth-highest per capita income and ranks highly in numerous comparisons of national performance, including quality of life, health, education, protection of civil liberties, economic competitiveness, equality, prosperity and human development. Sweden has been a member of the European Union since 1 January 1995, but declined Eurozone membership following a referendum. It is also a member of the United Nations, the Nordic Council, Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD
Switzerland officially the Swiss Confederation, is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities, the so-called Bundesstadt ("federal city"). The country is situated in Western and Central Europe, where it is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8 million people is concentrated mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found; among them are the two global and economic centres of Zürich and Geneva.
The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291, which is celebrated annually as Swiss National Day. The country has a long history of armed neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Nevertheless it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organizations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association and is part of the Schengen Area – although it is notably not a member of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area (and thus does not use the Euro currency).
Straddling the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Therefore the Swiss, although predominantly German-speaking, do not form a nation in the sense of a common ethnicity or language; rather, Switzerland's strong sense of identity and community is founded on a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism.
Switzerland ranks high in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, economic competitiveness, and human development. It has the highest nominal wealth per adult (financial and non-financial assets) in the world according to Credit Suisse and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product on the IMF list. Swiss citizens have the second-highest life expectancy in the world. Zürich and Geneva each have been ranked among the top cities with the highest quality of life in the world (the former coming second globally according to Mercer).
Syria officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. Its capital Damascus is among the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world.A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, it is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including the Arab, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds,Circassians, Mhallami, Mandeans and Turks. Religious groups include Sunni, Christians, Alawite, Druze religion, Mandeanism andYezidi. Sunni Arabs make up the largest population group in Syria.
In English, the name "Syria" was formerly synonymous with the Levant(known in Arabic as al-Sham) while the modern state encompasses the sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblancivilization of the 3rd millennium BC. In the Islamic era, Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of theMamluk Sultanate in Egypt.
The modern Syrian state was established after World War I as aFrench mandate, and represented the largest Arab state to emerge from the formerly Ottoman-ruled Arab Levant. It gained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was tumultuous, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949–1971. Between 1958-61, Syria entered a brief union with Egypt, which was terminated by a military coup. The Arab Republic of Syria came into being in 1963, transforming from the Republic of Syria in the Ba'athist coup d'état. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered to be non-democratic. Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000 and was preceded by his fatherHafez al-Assad, who was in office from 1970 to 2000.
Syria is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement; it is currently suspended from the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and self-suspended from the Union for the Mediterranean. Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in anuprising against Assad and the Ba'athist government as part of theArab Spring, a crackdown which contributed to the Syrian Civil Warand Syria becoming among the least peaceful countries in the world. The Syrian Interim Government was formed by the opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Coalition, in March 2012. Representatives of this government were subsequently invited to take up Syria's seat at the Arab League.
Taiwan officially the Republic of China, is a sovereign state in East Asia. The Republic of China, originally based in mainland China, now governs the island of Taiwan, which makes up over 99% of its territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, and other minor islands. Neighboring states include the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east and northeast, and the Philippines to the south.Taipei is the seat of the central government. New Taipei City, encompassing the metropolitan area surrounding Taipei proper, is the most populous city.
The island of Taiwan (formerly known as "Formosa") was mainly inhabited byTaiwanese aborigines until the Dutch and Spanish settlement during the Age of Discovery in the 17th century, when Han Chinese began immigrating to the island. In 1662, the pro-Ming loyalist Koxinga expelled the Dutch and established the first Han Chinese polity on the island, the Kingdom of Tungning. The Qing Dynasty of China later defeated the kingdom and annexed Taiwan. By the time Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895, the majority of Taiwan's inhabitants were Han Chinese either by ancestry or byassimilation. The Republic of China (ROC) was established in China in 1912. After Japan's surrender in 1945, the ROC assumed its control of Taiwan. Following the Chinese civil war, the Communist Party of China took full control of mainland China and founded the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. The ROC relocated its government to Taiwan, and its jurisdiction became limited to Taiwan and its surrounding islands. Despite this, the ROC continued to represent China at the United Nations until 1971, when the PRC assumed China's seat via Resolution 2758 and the ROC lost its UN membership. International recognition of the ROC has gradually eroded as most countries switched recognition to the PRC. 21 UN member states and the Holy See currently maintain official diplomatic relations with the ROC. It has unofficial ties with most other states via its representative offices.
Ongoing issues of Cross-Strait relations as well as political status of Taiwanare major factors of contention in Taiwanese politics and a cause of social and political division among political parties and their respective supporters within the country. Constitutionally, there is dispute over whether the ROC still lays claim to the sovereignty over all of "China," in a definition that includes mainland China and Outer Mongolia basing on its pre-1949 territories, but the ROC has not made retaking mainland China a political goal since 1992. However, the government's stance on defining its political position of relation with China largely depends on which political coalition is in charge. Meanwhile, the PRC also asserts itself to be the sole legal representation of China and claims Taiwan as its 23rd province to be under its sovereignty, denying the status and existence of ROC as a sovereign state. The PRC has threatened the use of military force as a response to any formal declaration of Taiwanese independence, or if it deems peaceful reunification no longer possible.
During the latter half of the 20th century, Taiwan experienced rapid economic growth and industrialization and is now an advanced industrial economy. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Taiwan evolved into a multi-party democracy with universal suffrage. Taiwan is one of the Four Asian Tigersand a member of the WTO and APEC. The 21st-largest economy in the world, its high-tech industry plays a key role in the global economy. Taiwan isranked highly in terms of freedom of the press, health care, public education, economic freedom, and human development.
Tajikistan officially the Republic of Tajikistan, is a mountainous landlockedsovereign country in Central Asia. With an estimated 8 million people in 2013, it is the 98th most populous country and with an area covering 143,100 km2(55,300 sq mi), it is the 96th largest country in the world in terms of area. It is bordered by Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east.
The territory that now constitutes Tajikistan was previously home to several ancient cultures, including the city of Sarazm of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including the Oxus civilization, Andronovo culture, Buddhism,Nestorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Manichaeism. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Achaemenid Empire,Hephthalite Empire, Samanid Empire, Mongol Empire, Timurid dynasty, and theRussian Empire. As a result of the breakup of the Soviet Union Tajikistan became an independent nation in 1991. A civil war was fought almost immediately after independence, lasting from 1992 to 1997. Since the end of the war, newly established political stability and foreign aid have allowed the country's economy to grow.
Tajikistan is a presidential republic consisting of four provinces. Most of Tajikistan's 8 million people belong to the Tajik ethnic group, who speak Tajik, a dialect of Modern Persian, although many people also speak Russian. Mountains cover more than 90% of the country. It has a transition economythat is dependent on aluminum and cotton production, its economy is the 126th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power and 136th largest in terms of nominal GDP.
Tanzania officially the United Republic of Tanzania, is a country in East Africawithin the African Great Lakes region. It is bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north; Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south; and the Indian Ocean to the east. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, is in northeastern Tanzania.
Tanzania's population of 44.9 million is highly diverse, composed of numerous ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. Tanzania is a presidential constitutional republic, and since 1996, its official capital has been Dodoma, where the President's Office, the National Assembly, and some government ministries are located Dar es Salaam, the former capital, retains most government offices and is the country's largest city, principal port, and leading commercial center.
European colonialism began in mainland Tanzania during the late 19th century when Germany formed German East Africa, which gave way to British rule following World War I. The mainland was governed as Tanganyika, with the Zanzibar Archipelago remaining a separate colonial jurisdiction. Following their respective independence in 1961 and 1963, the two entities merged in April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
Thailand officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country at the centre of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos andCambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Burma. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, andIndonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest.
Thailand is a monarchy headed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, and governed by a military junta that took power in May 2014. The king is theninth of the House of Chakri, and has reigned since 1946 as the world'slongest-serving current head of state and the country's longest-reigningmonarch.The King of Thailand's titles include Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Adherent of Buddhism, and Upholder of religions.Although a constitutional system was established in 1932, the monarchy and military have continued to intervene periodically in politics.
With a total area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), Thailand is the world's 51st-largest country. It is the 20th-most-populous country in the world, with around 66 million people. The capital and largest city is Bangkok, which is Thailand's political, commercial, industrial, and cultural hub. About 75–95% of the population is ethnically Tai, which includes four major regional groups: central Thai, northeastern Thai northern Thai (Khon Mueang); and southern Thai. Thai Chinese, those of significant Chinese heritage, are 14% of the population, while Thais with partial Chinese ancestry comprise up to 40% of the population. Thai Malays represent 3% of the population, with the remainder consisting ofMons, Khmers and various "hill tribes". The country's official language isThai and the primary religion is Buddhism, which is practised by around 95% of the population.
Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1996, becoming a newly industrialised country and a major exporter. Manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism are leading sectors of the economy Among the ten ASEAN countries, Thailand ranks second in quality of life] and the country's HDI had been rated as "high". Its large population and growing economic influence have made it a middle power in the region and around the world
Tibet emerged in the 7th century as a unified empire, but it soon divided into a variety of territories. The bulk of western and central Tibet (Ü-Tsang) was often at least nominally unified under a series of Tibetan governments in Lhasa, Shigatse, or nearby locations; these governments were at various times under Mongol and Chinese overlordship. The eastern regions ofKham and Amdo often maintained a more decentralized indigenous political structure, being divided among a number of small principalities and tribal groups, while also often falling more directly under Chinese rule; most of this area was eventually incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai. The current borders of Tibet were generally established in the 18th century.
Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, Qing soldiers were disarmed and escorted out of Tibet Area (Ü-Tsang). The region subsequently declared its independence in 1913, without recognition by the following Chinese Republican government Later Lhasa took control of the western part of Xikang Province, China. The region maintained its autonomy until 1951 when, following the Invasion of Tibet, Tibet became unified into the People's Republic of China, and the previous Tibetan government was abolished in 1959 after a failed uprising Today, the People's Republic of China governs western and central Tibet as the Tibet Autonomous Region; while the eastern areas are now mostly ethnic autonomous prefectures withinSichuan, Qinghai and other neighbouring provinces. There are tensions regarding Tibet's political status and dissident groups which are active in exile. It is also said that Tibetan activists in Tibet have been arrested or tortured.
East Timor officially theDemocratic Republic of Timor-Leste, is a country in Maritime Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor. The country's size is about 15,410 km2(5,400 sq mi)
East Timor was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century, and was known asPortuguese Timor until Portugal's decolonisation of the country. In late 1975, East Timor declared its independence but later that year was invaded andoccupied by Indonesia and was declared Indonesia's 27th province the following year. In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory, and East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on May 20, 2002. After independence, East Timor became a member of the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. In 2011, East Timor announced its intention to gain membership status in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by submitting a letter of application to become its eleventh member. It is one of only two predominantly Christian nations inSoutheast Asia, the other being the Philippines.
East Timor has a lower-middle-income econ About 37.4% of the country's population lives below the international poverty line – which means living on less than U.S. $1.25 per day and about 50% of the population is illiterate It continues to suffer the after-effects of a decades-longstruggle for independence against Indonesian occupation, which severely damaged the country's infrastructure and killed at least 100,000 people. The country is placed 128th on the Human Development Index (HDI)
Continent: Africa/Capital: Lome
Togo is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Beninto the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, where its capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometres (22,000 sq mi) with a population of approximately 6.7 million.
Togo is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with aclimate that provides good growing seasons. Togo is one of the smallest countries in all of Africa. The official language is French, with many other languages spoken in Togo, particularly those of the Gbe family. The largestreligious group in Togo are those with indigenous beliefs, and there are significant Christian and Muslim minorities. Togo is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, La Francophonie and Economic Community of West African States.
From the 11th to the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions. From the 16th century to the 18th century, the coastal region was a major trading centre for Europeans in search of slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name "The Slave Coast". In 1884, Germany declaredTogoland a protectorate. After World War I, rule over Togo was transferred to France. Togo gained its independence from France in 1960.
In 1967, Gnassingbé Eyadéma led a successful military coup, after which he became president. At the time of his death in 2005, Eyadéma was the longest-serving leader in modern African history, after having been president for 38 years. In 2005, his son Faure Gnassingbé was elected president.
Tonga officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago comprising 176 islands with a total surface area of about 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean, of which 52 islands are inhabited by its 103,000 people.Seventy percent of Tongans reside on the main island of Tongatapu.
Tonga stretches over about 800 kilometres (500 mi) in a north-south line – about a third of the distance from New Zealand to Hawaii. It is surrounded byFiji and Wallis and Futuna (France) to the northwest, Samoa to the northeast,Niue to the east, Kermadec (part of New Zealand) to the southwest, and New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu to the farther west.
Tonga became known as the Friendly Islands because of the congenial reception accorded to Captain James Cook on his first visit in 1773. He arrived at the time of the ?inasi festival, the yearly donation of the First Fruits to the (the islands' paramount chief) and so received an invitation to the festivities. According to the writer William Mariner, the chiefs wanted to kill Cook during the gathering but could not agree on a plan.
Tonga has never lost its sovereignty to a foreign power In 2010, Tonga took a decisive step towards becoming a fully functioning constitutional monarchy, after legislative reforms paved the way for its first partial representative elections.
Continent:N.America/Capital:Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is a twin island country off the northern edge of South America, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south ofGrenada in the Lesser Antilles.
Usually considered part of the Caribbean, it shares maritime boundaries with other nations including Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest,Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west. The country covers an area of 5,128 square kilometres (1,980 sq mi) and consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, with numerous smaller landforms. The two main islands are divided into nine regions, and one ward. Sangre Grande is the largest of the country's nine regions, comprising about 18% of the total area and 10% of the total population of the country. The nation lies outside of the hurricane belt.
The island of Trinidad was a Spanish colony from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498 to the capitulation of the Spanish Governor, Don José Maria Chacón, on the arrival of a British fleet of 18 warships on 18 February 1797During the same period, the island of Tobago changed hands among Spanish,British, French, Dutch and Courlander colonizers. Trinidad and Tobago (remaining separate until 1889) were ceded to Britain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens.The country Trinidad and Tobago obtained independence in 1962, becoming a republic in 1976.
Trinidad and Tobago is the third richest country per capita in the Americasafter United States and Canada, and furthermore, it is recognized as a high income economy by the World Bank. Unlike most of the English-speaking Caribbean, the country's economy is primarily industrial, with an emphasis on petroleum and petrochemicals. The country's wealth is mainly attributable to its large reserves and exploitation of oil and natural gas.
Trinidad and Tobago is known for its Carnival and is the birthplace of steelpan,limbo, and the music styles of calypso, soca and chutney
Tunis;Arabic officially the Tunisian Republic (though often referred to in English as the Republic of is the northernmost country in Africa and, at almost 165,000 square kilometres (64,000 sq mi) in area, the smallest country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It is bordered byAlgeria to the west, Libya to the southeast and the Mediterranean Seato the north and east.
As of 2013, its population is estimated at just under 10.8 million. Its name is derived from its capital city, Tunis, located on the country's northeast coast.
Geographically, Tunisia contains the eastern end of the Atlas Mountains and the northern reaches of the Sahara desert. Much of the rest of the country's land is fertile soil. Its 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) of coastline includes the African conjunction of the western and eastern parts of the Mediterranean Basin and, by means of the Sicilian Straitand Sardinian Channel, features the African mainland's second and third nearest points to Europe after Gibraltar.
Tunisia has a high human development index. It has an association agreement with the European Union and is a member of La Francophonie, the Arab Maghreb Union, the Arab League and theAfrican Union. Close relations with Europe – in particular with France and with Italy – have been forged through economic cooperation,privatisation and industrial modernization.
In 2011, a revolution resulted in the overthrow of the autocraticPresident Zine El Abidine Ben Ali followed by the country's first free elections. Since then, Tunisia has been consolidating democracy. The country held its first Parliamentary elections since the 2011 Arab Springon October 26, 2014. and its Presidentials on November 23, 2014
Turkey has been inhabited since the paleolithic age, including variousancient Anatolian civilizations, Aeolian and Ionian Greeks, Thracians, andPersians. After Alexander the Great's conquest, the area wasHellenized, which continued with the Roman rule and the transition into the Byzantine Empire. The Seljuk Turks began migrating into the area in the 11th century, starting the process of Turkification, which was greatly accelerated by the Seljuk victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071The Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm ruled Anatolia until the Mongol invasion in 1243, upon which it disintegrated into several small Turkish beyliks.
Starting from the late 13th century, the Ottomans united Anatolia and created an empire encompassing much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, becoming a major power in Eurasia and Africa during the early modern period. The empire reached the peak of its power between the 15th and 17th centuries, especially during the 1520–66 reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. After the second Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 and the end of the Great Turkish War in 1699, the Ottoman Empire entered a long period of decline. The Tanzimatreforms of the 19th century, which aimed to modernize the Ottoman state, proved to be inadequate in most fields, and failed to stop thedissolution of the empire. The Ottoman Empire entered World War I(1914–18) on the side of the Central Powers and was ultimately defeated. During the war, major atrocities were committed by the Ottoman government against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontic Greeks Following WWI, the huge conglomeration of territories and peoples that formerly comprised the Ottoman Empire was divided intoseveral new states.The Turkish War of Independence (1919–22), initiated by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his colleagues in Anatolia, resulted in the establishment of the modern Republic of Turkey in 1923, with Atatürk as its first president.
Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic with adiverse cultural heritage The country's official language is Turkish, a Turkic language spoken natively by approximately 85 percent of the population.] 70–80 percent of the population are ethnic Turks; the remainder consists of legally recognized (Armenians, Greeks and Jews) and unrecognized (Kurds, Circassians, Albanians, Bosniaks, Georgians, etc.) minorities.The vast majority of the population isMuslim. Turkey is a member of the UN, NATO, OECD, OSCE, OIC and the G-20. After becoming one of the first members of the Council of Europe in 1949, Turkey became an associate member of the EEC in 1963, joined the EU Customs Union in 1995 and started full membership negotiations with the European Union in 2005. Turkey's growing economy and diplomatic initiatives have led to its recognition as aregional power.
Turkmenistan formerly known as Turkmenia, is one of the Turkic states inCentral Asia. Turkmenistan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest,Uzbekistan to the north and east, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, and the Caspian Sea to the west.
Present-day Turkmenistan covers territory that has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries. In medieval times Merv (today known as Mary) was one of the great cities of the Islamic world, and an important stop on the Silk Road, a caravan route used for trade with China until the mid-15th century. Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, Turkmenistan later figured prominently in the anti-Bolshevik movement in Central Asia. In 1924, Turkmenistan became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (Turkmen SSR); it became independent upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Turkmenistan's GDP growth rate of 11% in 2012 comes on the back of several years of sustained high growth, albeit from a very basic undiversified economy powered by export of a single commodity It possesses the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas resources Although it is wealthy in natural resources in certain areas, most of the country is covered by theKarakum (Black Sand) Desert. Since 1993, citizens have received government-provided electricity, water and natural gas free of charge on a guarantee scheduled to last until 2030.
Turkmenistan was ruled by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov (called "Türkmenbasy", "Leader of the Turkmens") until his sudden death on 21 December 2006. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was elected the new president on 11 February 2007. According to Human Rights Watch, "Turkmenistan remains one of the world’s most repressive countries. The country is virtually closed to independent scrutiny, media and religious freedoms are subject to draconian restrictions, and human rights defenders and other activists face the constant threat of government reprisal." President Berdymukhamedov promotes a personality cult in which he, his relatives, and associates enjoy unlimited power and total control over all aspects of public life.
A natural gas field in the country known as Door to Hell draws frequent media attention and more recently, also touristic interest.
The Turks and Caicos Islands, are a British Overseas Territory consisting of the largerCaicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago, part of the larger Antilles island grouping. They are known primarily for tourism and as an offshore financial centre. The resident population is about 31,500, of whom 23,769 live on Providenciales in the Caicos Islands. The total population on the islands including foreigners is 49,000.
The Turks and Caicos Islands lie southeast of Mayaguana in the Bahamasisland chain and north of the island of Hispaniola. Cockburn Town, the capital since 1766, is situated on Grand Turk Island about 1,042 kilometres (647 mi) east-southeast of Miami, United States. The islands have a total land area of 430 square kilometres (170 sq mi)
The first recorded European sighting of the islands now known as the Turks and Caicos occurred in 1512. In the subsequent centuries, the islands were claimed by several European powers with the British Empire eventually gaining control. For many years the islands were governed indirectly through Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. When the Bahamas gained independence in 1973, the islands received their own governor and have remained a separate autonomous British Overseas Territory since. In August 2009, the United Kingdom suspended the Turks and Caicos Islands' self-government after allegations of ministerial corruption Home rule was restored in the islands after the November 2012 elections.
Tuvalu formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. It comprises three reef islands and six true atolls spread out between the latitude of 5° to 10° south and longitude of176° to 180°, west of the International Date Line. Its nearest neighbours areKiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. Tuvalu has a population of 10,837. The total land area of the islands of Tuvalu is 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi).
The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesians. The pattern of settlement that is believed to have occurred is that the Polynesians spread out fromSamoa and Tonga into the Tuvaluan atolls, with Tuvalu providing a stepping stone to migration into the Polynesian Outlier communities in Melanesia andMicronesia.
In 1568 Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to sail through the archipelago, sighting the island of Nui during his expedition in search of Terra Australis. In 1819 the island of Funafuti was named Ellice's Island; the name Ellice was applied to all nine islands after the work of English hydrographer Alexander George Findlay (1812–1876). The islands came under Britain's sphere of influence in the late 19th century, when each of the Ellice Islands was declared a British protectorate by Captain Gibson R.N., ofHMS Curacoa, between 9 and 16 October 1892. The Ellice Islands were administered as British protectorate by a Resident Commissioner from 1892 to 1916 as part of the British Western Pacific Territories (BWPT), and later as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony from 1916 to 1974.
A referendum was held in December 1974 to determine whether the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands should each have their own administration. As a consequence of the referendum, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony ceased to exist on 1 January 1976 and the separate British colonies of Kiribati and Tuvalu came into existence. Tuvalu became fully independent within theCommonwealth on 1 October 1978. On 17 September 2000 Tuvalu became the 189th member of the United Nations.
The United Arab Emirates sometimes simply called the Emirates or the UAE, is a country located in the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, as well as sharing sea borders with Qatar andIran. In 2013, the UAE's total population was 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million areEmirati citizens and 7.8 million are expatriates.
Established in December 1971, the country is a federation of seven emirates. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman,Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Each emirate is governed by an absolute monarch who jointly form the Federal Supreme Council. One of the monarchs is selected as the President of the United Arab Emirates. Islam is the official religion of the UAE, and Arabic is the official language, although English is widely used.
The UAE's oil reserves are the fourth-largest in the world, while its natural gas reserves are the world's seventeenth-largest. The late Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and the first President of the UAE, oversaw the development of the Emirates and steered oil revenues into healthcare, education and infrastructure. The UAE's economy is the most diversified in the Gulf Cooperation Council, with its most populous city, Dubai in particular developing into a global hub for tourism, retail, and finance. Nevertheless, the country remains extremely reliant on petroleum and natural gas; more than 85% of the economy was based on the oil exports in 2009, while oil exports accounted for 77% of the state budget in 2011. The UAE has been criticized for its human rights record, including the role of Sharia law in its legal systemThe UAE's rising international profile has led some analysts to identify it as a regional and middle power.
Uganda, officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Uganda is the world's second most populous landlocked country after Ethiopia. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania, situating the country in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally equatorial climate.
Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country including the capital Kampala. The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago, when Bantu-speaking populations migrated to the southern parts of the country.
Beginning in the late 1800s, the area was ruled as a colony by the British, who established administrative law across the territory. Uganda gained independence from Britain on 9 October 1962. The period since then has been marked by intermittent conflicts, most recently a lengthy civil war against the Lord's Resistance Army, which has caused tens of thousands of casualties and displaced more than a million people.
The official languages are Swahili and English. Luganda, a central language, is widely spoken across the country, and multiple other languages are also spoken including Runyoro, Runyankole Rukiga, Langi and many others. The current President of Uganda is Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who came to power in a coup in 1986.
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe It has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe. Ukraine borders Russia to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Seaand Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively.
The territory of modern Ukraine has been inhabited by humans since 32,000 BC. During the Middle Ages, the area was a key center of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus' forming the basis of Ukrainian identity. Following its fragmentation in the 13th century, the territory was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers, including Lithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungary, and Russia. A Cossack republic emerged and prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, but Ukraine's territories remained divided until they were consolidated into a Soviet republic in the 20th century. It becameindependent in 1991.
Ukraine has long been a global breadbasket because of its extensive, fertile farmlands, and it remains one of the world's largest grain exporters.The country's diversified economy includes a well-developed manufacturing sector, particularly in aerospace and industrial equipment, and a nascent tourism sector.
Ukraine is a unitary republic under a semi-presidential system with separate powers: legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine continues to maintain the second-largest military in Europe, after that of Russia, when reserves and paramilitary personnel are taken into account The country is home to 45.4 million people (including Crimea) 77.8% of whom are Ukrainians by ethnicity, and with a sizable minority of Russians (17%), as well asRomanians/Moldovans, Belarusians, Crimean Tatars, and Hungarians.Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine; its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religion in the country is Eastern Orthodoxy, which has strongly influenced Ukrainian architecture, literature and music.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland commonly known as the United Kingdom(UK) or Britain, is a sovereign state in Europe. Lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland, the country includes the island of Great Britain-a term also applied loosely to refer to the whole country-the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another state (the Republic of Ireland) Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to its west and north, the North Sea to its east and theEnglish Channel to its south. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The UK has an area of 93,800 square miles (243,000 km2), making it the 80th-largest sovereign state in the world and the 11th-largest in Europe.
The United Kingdom is the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 64.1 million inhabitants. It is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance Its capital city is London, an important global cityand financial centre with an urban population of 10,310,000, the fourth-largest in Europe and second-largest in the European Union. The current monarch—since 6 February 1952—is Queen Elizabeth II. The UK consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland The latter three have devolved administrations,] each with varying powers based in their capitals, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, respectively. Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man are not part of the United Kingdom, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation.
The relationships among the countries of the United Kingdom have changed over time. Wales was annexed by the Kingdom of England under the Acts of Union of 1536 and 1543. A treaty between England and Scotland resulted in 1707 in a unified Kingdom of Great Britain, which merged in 1801 with theKingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922, five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the country, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK has fourteen Overseas Territories. These are the remnants of theBritish Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture, and legal systems of many of its former colonies.
The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and tenth-largest by purchasing power parity. The country is considered to have a high-income economy and is categorised as very high in the Human Development Index, currently ranking 14th in the world. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost powerduring the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great powerwith considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific, and political influenceinternationally It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks fifth or sixth in the world The UK has been apermanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, theG8, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO)
The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a federal republic consisting of 50 statesand a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is located in the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.80 million square miles (9.85 million km2) and with over 320 million people, the United States is the world's fourth-largest country by total area and third-largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse andmulticultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The geography and climate of the United States are also extremely diverse, and the country is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now the U.S. mainland around 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the East Coast. Disputes between Great Britain and the colonies led to theAmerican Revolution. On July 4, 1776, as the colonies were fighting Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously issued the Declaration of Independence. The war ended in 1783 with the recognition of independence of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The country's constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 and ratified by the states in 1788. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed to guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.
Driven by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century This involved displacing American Indian tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states, until by 1848 the nation spanned the continent During the second half of the 19th century, the American Civil War ended legal slavery in the country. By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean, and the economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a globalsuperpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole superpower.
The United States is a developed country and has the world's largest national economy, benefiting from an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity. While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, the country continues to be one of the world's largest manufacturers Accounting for 37% of global military spending and 19% of world GDP (PPP),it is the world's foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations
Uruguay, is a country in the southeastern region of South America. It is bordered by Argentina to its west and Brazil to its north and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to the south and southeast. Uruguay is home to 3.3 million people of whom 1.8 million live in the metropolitan areaof its capital and largest city, Montevideo. With an area of approximately 176,000 square kilometres (68,000 sq mi), Uruguay is geographically the second-smallest nation in South America after Suriname.
Uruguay remained largely uninhabited until the establishment of Colonia del Sacramento, one of the oldest European settlements in the country, by thePortuguese in 1680. Montevideo was founded as a military stronghold by theSpanish in the early 18th century, signifying the competing claims over the region. Uruguay won its independence between 1811 and 1828, following a four-way struggle between Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil. It remained subject to foreign influence and intervention throughout the 19th century, with the military playing a recurring role in domestic politics until the late 20th century. Modern Uruguay is a democratic constitutional republic, with a president who serves as both head of state and head of government.
Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living,e-Government, and equally first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class, prosperity and security. On a per capita basis, Uruguay contributes more troops toUnited Nations peacekeeping missions than any other country. It ranks second in the region on economic freedom, income equality, per capita income and inflows of FDI. Uruguay is the third best country on the continent in terms of HDI, GDP growth, innovation and infrastructure. It's regarded as a high income country (top group) by the UN, the only one in Latin America alongsideChile. Uruguay is also the 3rd best ranked in the world in e-Participation.]Uruguay is an important global exporter of combed wool, rice, soybeans, frozen beef, malt and milk.
The Economist named Uruguay "country of the year" in 2013 acknowledging the innovative policy of legalizing production, sale and consumption of cannabis. Same-sex marriage and abortion are also legal, leading Uruguay to be regarded as one of the most liberal nations in the world, and one of themost socially developed, outstanding regionally and performing well globally on personal rights, tolerance and inclusion issues.
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The Virgin Islands of the United States are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of theUnited States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.
The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, along with the much smaller but historically distinct Water Island, and many other surrounding minor islands. The total land area of the territory is 133.73 square miles (346.4 km2).The territory's capital isCharlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas.
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 106,405, comprising mostly persons of Afro-Caribbean descent. Tourism is the primary economic activity, although there is a significant rum manufacturing sector. Farming is done on a smaller scale on the island of St. Croix, although it has seen a slow resurgence in recent years.
Formerly the Danish West Indies, they were sold to the United States byDenmark in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of 1916. They are classified by the UN as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, and are currently an organized, unincorporated United States territory. The U.S. Virgin Islands are organized under the 1954 Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands and have since held five constitutional conventions. The last and only proposed Constitution, adopted by the Fifth Constitutional Convention in 2009, was rejected by theU.S. Congress in 2010, which urged the convention to reconvene to address the concerns Congress and the Obama Administration had with the proposed document. The convention reconvened in October 2012 to address these concerns, but was unable to produce a revised Constitution before its October 31 deadline
Uzbekistan officially the Republic of Uzbekistan, is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia. It is a unitary, constitutional, presidential republic, comprising 12 provinces, 1 autonomous republic, and 1 capital city. Uzbekistan is bordered by five countries: Kazakhstan and the Aral Sea to the north; Tajikistan to the southeast; Kyrgyzstan to the northeast; Afghanistan to the south; and Turkmenistan to the southwest.
Once part of the Turkic Khaganate and later Timurid Empires, the region that today includes the Republic of Uzbekistan was conquered in the early 16th century Eastern Turkic-speaking nomads. The area was gradually incorporated into the Russian Empire during the 19th century, and in 1924 what is now Uzbekistan became a bordered constituent republic of the Soviet Union, known as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbek SSR). Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, it declared independence as the Republic of Uzbekistan on 31 August 1991 (officially celebrated the following day).
Uzbekistan is officially a democratic,] secular, unitary, constitutional republicwith a diverse cultural heritage. The country's official language is Uzbek, a Turkic language spoken natively by approximately 85% of the population;Russian remains in widespread use. Uzbeks constitute 81% of the population, followed by Russians (5.4%), Tajiks (4.0%), Kazakhs (3.0%), and others (6.5%). A majority of Uzbeks are non-denominational Muslims Uzbekistan is a member of the CIS, OSCE, UN, and the SCO.
Uzbekistan's economy relies mainly on commodity production, including cotton,gold, uranium, and natural gas. Despite the declared objective of transition to amarket economy, its government continues to maintain economic controls which deter foreign investment and imports in favour of domestic 'import substitution
Vanuatu officially the Republic of VanuatuVanuatu, Bislama: Ripablik blong Vanuatu), is an Oceanianisland nation located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is some 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 500 kilometres (310 mi) northeast of New Caledonia, west of Fiji, and southeast of the Solomon Islands, near New Guinea.
Vanuatu was first inhabited by Melanesian people. The first Europeans to visit the islands were a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese navigator Fernandes de Queiros, who arrived in Espiritu Santo in 1605; he claimed the archipelago for Spain and named it Espiritu Santo (Spanish for Holy Spirit). In the 1880s, France and the United Kingdom claimed parts of the country, and in 1906 they agreed on a framework for jointly managing the archipelago as the New Hebrides through a British-French Condominium. An independence movement arose in the 1970s, and the Republic of Vanuatu was founded in 1980
Vatican is a walled enclave within the city of Rome. With an area of approximately 44hectares (110 acres), and a population of 842 it is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area andpopulation.
It is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state ruled by the Bishop ofRome-the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergy of various national origins. Since the return of the Popes from Avignon in 1377, they have generally resided at the Apostolic Palace within what is now Vatican City, although at times residing instead in the Quirinal Palace in Rome or elsewhere.
Vatican City is distinct from the Holy See (Latin: Sancta Sedes),] which dates back to early Christianity and is the main episcopal see of 1.2 billion Latin andEastern Catholic adherents around the globe. The independent city-state, on the other hand, came into existence in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and Italy, which spoke of it as a new creation, not as a vestige of the much larger Papal States (756–1870), which had previously encompassed much of central Italy. According to the terms of the treaty, the Holy See has "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" over the city-state.
Within Vatican City are cultural sites such as St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. They feature some of the world's most famous paintings and sculptures. The unique economy of Vatican City is supported financially by the sale of postage stamps and tourist mementos, fees for admission to museums, and the sale of publications.
Venezuela, officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Spanish: Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela is a country on the northern coast of South America. Venezuela's territory covers around 916,445 km2 (353,841 sq mi) with an estimated population around 29,100,000. Venezuela is considered a state with extremely high biodiversity, with habitats ranging from the Andes Mountains in the west to the Amazon Basin rainforest in the south, via extensive llanos plains and Caribbean coast in the center and the Orinoco River Delta in the east.
The territory currently known as Venezuela was colonized by Spain in 1522 amid resistance from indigenous peoples. In 1811, it became one of the first Spanish-American colonies to declare independence, which was not securely established until 1821, when Venezuela was a department of the federal republic of Gran Colombia. It gained full independence as a separate country in 1830. During the 19th century, Venezuela suffered political turmoil and autocracy, remaining dominated by regional caudillos (military strongmen) until the mid-20th century. Since 1958, the country has had a series of democratic governments. Economic shocks in the 1980s and 1990s led to several political crises, including the deadly Caracazo riots of 1989, two attempted coups in 1992, and the impeachment of President Carlos Andres Perez for embezzlement of public funds in 1993. A collapse in confidence in the existing parties saw the 1998 election of former coup-involved career officer Hugo Chávez and the launch of the Bolivarian Revolution, beginning with a 1999 Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution of Venezuela.
Venezuela is a federal presidential republic consisting of 23 states, the Capital District (covering Caracas), and federal dependencies (covering Venezuela's offshore islands). Venezuela also claims all Guyanese territory west of the Essequibo River, a 159,500-square-kilometre (61,583 sq mi) tract dubbed Guayana Esequiba.
Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in Latin America;the vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north, especially in the capital, Caracas, which is also the largest city in Venezuela. Since the discovery of oil in the early 20th century, Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves and has been one of the world's leading exporters of oil. Previously an underdeveloped exporter of agricultural commodities such as coffee and cocoa, oil quickly came to dominate exports and government revenues. The 1980s oil glut led to an external debt crisis and a long-running economic crisis, in which inflation peaked at 100% in 1996 and poverty rates rose to 66% in 1995 fell to the same level as 1963, down a third from its 1978 peak.
The recovery of oil prices after 2001 boosted the Venezuelan economy and facilitated social spending which significantly reduced economic inequality and poverty, although the fallout of the 2008 global financial crisis caused a renewed economic downturn. In February 2013, Venezuela devalued its currency due to the rising shortages in the country. Shortages of items included milk, flour, and other necessities. As of December 2014, Venezuela's inflation had increased to 68.5%. This was one of the main causes of the 2014 Venezuelan protests.
Vietnam officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. With an estimated 90.5 million inhabitants as of 2014, it is the world's 13th-most-populous country, and the eighth-most-populous Asian country. The name Vietnam translates as "Southern Viet"; it was first officially adopted in 1802 by Emperor Gia Long, and was adopted again in 1945 with the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnamunder Ho Chi Minh. The country is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea to the east Its capital city has been Hanoi since the reunification of North and South Vietnam in 1976.
Vietnam was part of Imperial China for over a millennium, from 111 BC to AD 938. The Vietnamese became independent from Imperial China in 938, following the Vietnamese victory in the Battle of B?ch Ð?ng River. Successive Vietnamese royal dynasties flourished as the nation expanded geographically and politically into Southeast Asia, until the Indochina Peninsula was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Following a Japanese occupation in the 1940s, the Vietnamese fought French rule in the First Indochina War, eventually expelling the French in 1954. Thereafter, Vietnam was divided politically into two rival states, North and South Vietnam. Conflict between the two sides intensified, with heavy intervention from the United States, in what is known as the Vietnam War. The war ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.
Vietnam was then unified under a communist government but remained impoverished and politically isolated. In 1986, the government initiated a series of economic and political reforms which began Vietnam's path towards integration into the world economy. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with all nations. Since 2000, Vietnam's economic growth rate has been among the highest in the world,and, in 2011, it had the highest Global Growth Generators Index among 11 major economies Its successful economic reforms resulted in its joining the World Trade Organization in 2007.
However, regardless of the advancements that have been made in recent years, the country still experiences high levels of income inequality, disparities in access to healthcare, and a lack of gender equality
Wallis and Futuna, officially the Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands; French: Wallis et Futuna or Territoire des iles Wallis et Futuna, Fakauvea and Fakafutuna: Uvea mo Futuna), is aFrench island collectivity in the South Pacific between Tuvalu to the northwest,Rotuma of Fiji to the west, the main part of Fiji to the southwest, Tonga to the southeast, Samoa to the east, the New Zealand territory of Tokelau to the northeast and to a more distant north the Phoenix Islands (Kiribati). Wallis and Futuna is not part of French Polynesia, nor even contiguous with it, as the former are located at the very opposite western end of Polynesia.
Its land area is 142.42 km2 (54.99 sq mi) with a population of about 12,000.Mata-Utu is the capital and biggest city. The territory is made up of three mainvolcanic tropical islands along with a number of tiny islets, and is split into two island groups that lie about 260 km (160 mi) apart, namely Wallis Islands(Uvea) in the northeast, and Hoorn Islands (also called the Futuna Islands) in the southwest, including Futuna Island proper and the mostly uninhabited Alofi Island.
Since 2003 Wallis and Futuna has been a French overseas collectivity(collectivite d'outre-mer, or COM). Between 1961 and 2003, it had the status of a French overseas territory (territoire d'outre-mer, or TOM), though its official name did not change when the status changed
Yemen, officially known as the Republic of Yemen, is an Arab country in Southwest Asia, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is the second largest country in the peninsula, occupying 527,970 km2 (203,850 sq mi). The coastline stretches for about 2,000 km (1,200 mi).It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to the south, and Oman to the east. Its capital and largest city is Sana'a. Yemen's territory includes more than 200 islands, the largest of these is Socotra.
Yemen was home of the Sabaeans (biblical Sheba) a trading state that flourished for over a thousand years and probably also included parts of modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 275 AD, the region came under the rule of the later Jewish influenced Himyarite Kingdom Christianity arrived in the 4th century AD whereas Judaism and local Paganism were already established.Islam spread quickly in the 7th century and Yemenite troops were crucial in the expansion of the early Islamic conquests. Administration of Yemen has long been notoriously difficult Several dynasties emerged from the 9th to 16th century, the Rasulid being the strongest and most prosperous. The country was divided between the Ottoman and British empires in the early 20th century. The Zaydi Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen was established after World War Iin North Yemen before the creation of Yemen Arab Republic in 1962. South Yemen remained a British protectorate until 1967. The two Yemeni statesunited to form the modern republic of Yemen in 1990.
Yemen is a developing country. Under the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen was described as a kleptocracy. According to the 2009 international corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Yemen ranked 164 out of 182 countries surveyed. In the absence of strong state institutions, elite politics in Yemen constituted a de facto form of collaborative governance, where competing tribal, regional, religious and political interests agreed to hold themselves in check through tacit acceptance of the balance it produced.The informal political settlement was held together by a power-sharing deal between three men: president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who controlled the state; major general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who controlled the largest share of the army; and sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, figurehead of the Islamist Islah party and Saudi Arabia's chosen broker of transnational patronage payments to various political players, including tribal sheikhs The Saudi payments have been intended to facilitate the tribes autonomy from the Yemeni government and to give the Saudi government a mechanism with which to weigh in on Yemen's political decision making.
Yemen has been in a state of political crisis since 2011. In January 2011, a series of street protests began against poverty, unemployment, corruption andpresident Saleh's plan to amend Yemen's constitution and eliminate presidential term limit, in effect making him president for life. He was also grooming his eldest son Ahmed Saleh, the commander of the Republican Guard, to succeed him. The United States considers Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to be the "most dangerous of all the franchises of Al-Qaeda".The U.S sought a controlled transition that would enable their counter-terrorism operations to continue, while Saudi Arabia's main concern was to maintain its influence in Yemen through some old regime figures and other tribal leaders who were part of the so-called "GCC initiative".President Saleh stepped down, the transition quickly proceeded per the "GCC Initiative"; the powers of the presidency were transferred to Vice President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was formally elected president on 21 February 2012 in a one-man election. The interim parliament conferred immunity on presidentSaleh and 500 of his associates that same month. A National Dialogue Conference was launched on 18 March 2012 to reach consensus on major issues facing the country's future In January 2014, the National Dialogue Conference extended Hadi's term for another year.
However, the transitional process was disrupted by conflicts between theHouthis and Islah, as well as the al-Qaeda insurgency. In September 2014, the Houthis took over Sana'a,forcing Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar to flee the country, and prompted the formation of a new "unity government" including a variety of Yemeni factions. A draft constitution was discussed that would split Yemen into six federal regions, but the Houthis rejected the proposal.]Hadi, his prime minister and cabinet resigned on 22 January 2015 amid a political impasse against the Houthis and ongoing violence in the capital.]Three weeks later, the Houthis declared themselves in control of the government in what Abdul-Malik al-Houthi called a "glorious revolution", although opposition politicians, neighbouring states, and the United Nationsdecried the takeover as a Most of Yemen's political factions and the international community have refused to recognise the Houthis' authority, and UN-brokered talks on a power-sharing deal are ongoing However, on 21 February, Hadi rescinded his resignation and declared he was still the legitimate president in Aden. Hadi called on government institutions to gather in Aden, which has increasingly been described as the country's de facto capital for political and diplomatic purposes.
Republic of Zambia /zambi/ is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, neighbouring the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north,Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe,Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west. The capital city isLusaka, in the south-central part of Zambia. The population is concentrated mainly around Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt Province to the northwest.
Originally inhabited by Khoisan peoples, the region was colonised during theBantu expansion of the thirteenth century. After visits by European explorers in the eighteenth century, Zambia became the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia towards the end of the nineteenth century. For most of the colonial period, Zambia was governed by an administration appointed from London with the advice of the British South Africa Company.
On 24 October 1964, Zambia became independent of the United Kingdom and then-prime minister Kenneth Kaunda became the inaugural president. Kaunda's socialist United National Independence Party (UNIP) maintained power from 1964 until 1991. From 1972 to 1991 Zambia was a single-party state with the UNIP as the sole legal political party under the motto 'One Zambia, One Nation'. Kaunda was succeeded by Frederick Chiluba of the social-democratic Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in 1991, beginning a period of social-economic growth and government decentralisation. Levy Mwanawasa, Chiluba's chosen successor, presided over Zambia from January 2002 until his death in August 2008, and is credited with campaigns to reduce corruption and increase the standard of living. After Mwanawasa's death,Rupiah Banda presided as Acting President before being elected President in 2008. Holding office for only three years, Banda stepped down after his defeat in the 2011 elections by Patriotic Front party leader Michael Chilufya Sata. Michael Sata died on 28 October 2014, the second Zambian president to die in office. Guy Scott was the interim president, until new elections that were held on 20 January 2015. elected Edgar Lungu as the 6th President.
In 2010, the World Bank named Zambia one of the world's fastest economically reformed countries. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa(COMESA) is headquartered in Lusaka
Zimbabwe officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is alandlocked country located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi andLimpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. The capital and largest city is Harare.
What is now Zimbabwe was historically the site of many prominent kingdoms and empires, as well as a major route for migration and trade. The present territory was first demarcated by Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Companyduring the 1890s, becoming the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia in 1923. In 1965 the conservative white minority government unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia. The unrecognized state endured international isolation and a 15-year guerrilla war with black nationalist forces; this culminated in a peace agreement that established universal enfranchisement and de jure sovereignty in April 1980.
An ethnically diverse country of roughly 13 million people, Zimbabwe has 16official languages, with English, Shona and Ndebele being most common.President Robert Mugabe is head of state and government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Renowned as a champion for the anti-colonial cause, Mugabe is also viewed as authoritarian responsible for Zimbabwe's problematic human rights record and substantial economic decline He has held power since 1980: as head of government until 1987, and head of both state and government since then