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History of Indonesia

by Troy

History of Indonesia

The history of Indonesia began prior to Dutch colonization in Indonesia. Java and Sumatra islands had already established an advanced civilization with a 1,000-year heritage that spans two major empires: the Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya between the 7th and 14th centuries in Sumatra and Majapahit (a Hindu Kingdom) that laid grounds in eastern Java in 14th century.

The empire of Srivijaya spread to as far as the Malay Peninsula and West Java. The chief minister of the Majapahit empire, Gadjah Mada successfully gained allegiance over the other islands that compose of what is known today as modern Indonesia as well as the Malay archipelago. The contributions of chief minister Gadjah Mada were several legacies like an epic poem and the codification of law.

Islam reached the islands of Indonesia around the 12th century. By assimilation, it was able to supplant Hinduism in the major islands of Java and Sumatra by the 16th century, except Bali which remained largely a Hindu island. In the eastern part of the archipelago, proselytizing of Christians and Islamic practitioners occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. This part in the history of Indonesia explains why there exists large communities of the two religions today on the eastern islands.

Moving forward to the history of Indonesia, the Dutch colonization began in 1602 when a fleet of Dutch gradually conquered the smaller kingdoms that replaced Majapahit. The Dutch exploited the weakness of the natives as well as the rich resources through their establishment of the Netherlands East Indies – at that time one of the world’s richest colonies. A new type of feudalism was established in Indonesia during this period.

The rise of capitalism in the 19th century and the fall of global feudalism, the Dutch clout in Indonesia likewise vanished due to several factors. Internally, the natives’ resistance had escalated into a full revolt led mainly by students and young professionals, some of whom were educated in The Netherlands. Even Indonesia’s first president Sokarno was put to prison for engaging in political actions.

The Japanese also had a part in the history of Indonesia. Indonesia was one of the Southeast Asian countries they occupied during the Second World War. The Japanese occupation lasted for three, after which they knelt down to allied forces. Japan and the allied forces had been competing to establish their own neo-colonies, particularly on the weaker nations in Southeast Asia, under a new global system called imperialism.

On August 17, 1945, Soekarno and Mohammad Hatta, with a small group of Indonesians declared independence. In the history of Indonesia, the country became the United Nation’s 60th member in 1950. The Indonesians profited nothing from the Dutch colonization. Until today, the country still reels in poverty, which is quite ironic for a country so abundant in natural resources and manpower.
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