Buru is an island in the Maluku province of Indonesia. It is located west of Ambon and Seram. The chief port and town is Namlea on the northeastern coast. During former President Suharto's New Order administration, Buru was the site of a prison used to hold thousands of political prisoners. While held at Buru, writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer wrote his Buru Quartet novels.


At 9,505 km² (3,670 sq mi), Buru is the third-largest island in the Maluku Islands. The center of the island is mountainous, with a flat coastal plain where about eighty percent of its approximately 100,000 inhabitants live. The highest point is on Gunung Kaplamada at 2729 m (8950 ft).

Ebony, teak, sago, and coconuts are important products.


Buru islanders recognize a clear distinction between the majority coastal people and the smaller number of mountain-dwellers. The population of the coastal region is generally Islamic, and about one third is considered indigenous, while the rest are immigrants. In the local understanding, however, immigrants are defined broadly, because many have lived on Buru for many generations since moving from other islands in Maluku. There is also a population of Javanese transmigrants who have moved to the island since the 1960s. The smaller mountain-dwelling population differs from the coastal peoples in that they are not Muslim, and have limited social interactions with the coastal people and outside of the island.


Buru island was identified in 14th century Majapahit manuscript, Nagarakretagama, as Hutan Kadali, the island with thick forest in eastern area near Ambon, Maluku, the spice island. Before Dutch colonization, Buru was within the kingdom of Ternate's sphere of influence. The island was occupied by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1658. The colonizers forcibly moved a large part of the population from their interior villages to the coastal plain, where they could be more closely controlled. In the nineteenth century, as the VOC was replaced by formal Dutch government control, the Dutch appointed native leaders, called raja on Buru, to manage the island for them.

Buru became a part of Indonesia upon the nation's independence in 1950. During President Suharto's administration (1965-1998), the island was the site of a large prison camp holding alleged communists and other dissidents. By 1977, about fourteen thousand prisoners were held on the island. The most famous of the inmates was author Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Denied pen and paper, he composed the stories that became his Buru Quartet, by telling them orally to other prisoners.

See also

Islands of Indonesia


  • Grimes, Barbara Dix (1994). Buru inside out. In: Visser, L.E., ed. Halmahera and beyond. Leiden: KITLV Press. p.59-78. ISBN 90-6718-072-6.


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