republic

republic

[ri-puhb-lik]
republic [Lat. res publica,=public affair], today understood to be a sovereign state ruled by representatives of a widely inclusive electorate. The term republic formerly denoted a form of government that was both free from hereditary or monarchical rule and had popular control of the state and a conception of public welfare. It is in this sense that we speak of the ancient Roman republic. Today, in addition to the above characteristics, a republic is a state in which all segments of society are enfranchised and in which the state's power is constitutionally limited. Traditionally a republic is distinguished from a true democracy in that the republic operates through a representative assembly chosen by the citizenry, while in a democracy the populace participates directly in governmental affairs. In actual practice, however, most modern representative governments are closer to a republic than a democracy. The United States is an example of a federal republic, in which the powers of the central government are limited and the component parts of the nation, the states, exercise some measure of home rule. France is an example of a centralized republic, in which the component parts have more limited powers. The USSR, though in theory a grouping of federated republics and autonomous regions, was in fact a centralized republic until its breakup in 1991.

See F. Hermens, The Representative Republic (1958) and Introduction to Modern Politics (1959).

Government of Germany 1919–33, so named because the assembly that adopted its constitution met at Weimar in 1919. In its early years, the Weimar Republic was troubled by postwar economic and financial problems and political instability, but it had recovered considerably by the late 1920s. Its major political leaders included presidents Friedrich Ebert (1919–25) and Paul von Hindenburg (1925–34), as well as Gustav Stresemann, who was chancellor (1923) and foreign minister (1923–29). With the Great Depression, its political and economic collapse enabled Adolf Hitler to rise to power and become chancellor (1933), after which he suspended the Weimar constitution.

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known as Congo (Brazzaville) formerly Middle Congo

Republic, west-central Africa. Area: 132,047 sq mi (342,000 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 3,602,000. Capital: Brazzaville. Roughly half of the population belongs to one of the Kongo tribes. The Teke are less numerous, as are the Mboshi and several other peoples. Languages: French (official), various Bantu languages. Religions: Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic, also other Christians, Protestant); also traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA franc. A narrow coastal plain edges Congo's 100-mi (160-km) stretch of Atlantic coastline, rising into low mountains and plateaus that slope eastward in a vast plain to the Congo River. The country straddles the Equator; rainforests cover nearly two-thirds of the land, and wildlife is abundant. Congo has a mixed, developing economy. Mining products, crude petroleum, and natural gas account for more than 90percnt of the country's exports. A 1997 transitional constitution vested executive power in the president and legislative power in a national transitional council. In precolonial days the area was home to several thriving kingdoms, including the Kongo, which had its beginnings in the 1st millennium AD. The slave trade began in the 15th century with the arrival of the Portuguese; it supported the local kingdoms and dominated the area until its suppression in the 19th century. The French arrived in the mid-19th century and established treaties with two of the kingdoms, placing them under French protection prior to their becoming part of the colony of French Congo. In 1910 it was renamed French Equatorial Africa, and the area of the Congo became known as Middle (Moyen) Congo. In 1946 Middle Congo became a French overseas territory, and in 1958 it voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community. Full independence came two years later. The area has suffered from political instability since independence. Congo's first president was ousted in 1963. A Marxist party, the Congolese Labor Party, gained strength, and in 1968 another coup, led by Major Marien Ngouabi, created the People's Republic of the Congo. Ngouabi was assassinated in 1977. A series of military rulers followed, at first militantly socialist but later oriented toward social democracy. Fighting between local militias in 1997 badly disrupted the economy; a peace process was under way at the beginning of the 21st century.

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or United Kingdom or Great Britain

Island country, western Europe, North Atlantic Ocean. It comprises Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland. Area: 93,788 sq mi (242,910 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 60,020,000. Capital: London. The population is composed of English (major ethnic group), Scots, Irish, and Welsh and immigrants and their descendants from India, the West Indies, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Africa. Languages: English (official); also Welsh, Scottish Gaelic. Religions: Christianity (Protestant [Church of England—established; Church of Scotland—national], Roman Catholic, other Christians); also Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism. Currency: pound sterling. The country has hill, lowland, upland, highland, and mountain regions. Tin and iron ore deposits, once central to the economy, have become exhausted or uneconomical, and the coal industry, long a staple of the economy, began a steady decline in the 1950s that worsened with pit closures in the 1980s. Offshore petroleum and natural gas reserves are significant. Chief crops are barley, wheat, sugar beets, and potatoes. Major manufactures include motor vehicles, aerospace equipment, electronic data-processing and telecommunication equipment, and petrochemicals. Fishing and publishing also are important economic activities. The U.K. is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the sovereign, and the head of government is the prime minister.

The early pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain (see Stonehenge) were Celtic-speaking peoples, including the Brythonic people of Wales, the Picts of Scotland, and the Britons of Britain. Celts also settled in Ireland circa 500 BC. Julius Caesar invaded and took control of the area in 55–54 BC. The Roman province of Britannia endured until the 5th century AD and included present-day England and Wales. Germanic tribes, including Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, invaded Britain in the 5th century. The invasions had little effect on the Celtic peoples of Wales and Scotland. Christianity began to flourish in the 6th century. During the 8th and 9th centuries, Vikings, particularly Danes, raided the coasts of Britain. In the late 9th century Alfred the Great repelled a Danish invasion, which helped bring about the unification of England under Athelstan. The Scots attained dominance in Scotland, which was finally unified under Malcolm II (1005–34). William of Normandy (see William I) took England in 1066. The Norman kings established a strong central government and feudal state. The French language of the Norman rulers eventually merged with the Anglo-Saxon of the common people to form the English language. From the 11th century, Scotland came under the influence of the English throne. Henry II conquered Ireland in the late 12th century. His sons Richard I and John had conflicts with the clergy and nobles, and eventually John was forced to grant the nobles concessions in the Magna Carta (1215). The concept of community of the realm developed during the 13th century, providing the foundation for parliamentary government. During the reign of Edward I (1272–1307), statute law developed to supplement English common law, and the first Parliament was convened. In 1314 Robert the Bruce (see Robert I) won independence for Scotland. The house of Tudor became the ruling family of England following the Wars of the Roses (1455–85). Henry VIII (1509–47) established the Church of England and incorporated Wales as part of England.

The reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) began a period of colonial expansion; in 1588 British forces defeated the “invincible” Spanish Armada. In 1603 James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I, and established a personal union of the two kingdoms. The English Civil Wars erupted in 1642 between Royalists and Parliamentarians, ending in the execution of Charles I (1649). After 11 years of Puritan rule under Oliver Cromwell and his son (1649–60), the monarchy was restored with Charles II. In 1689, following the Glorious Revolution, Parliament proclaimed the joint sovereigns William III and Mary II, who accepted the British Bill of Rights. In 1707 England and Scotland assented to the Act of Union, forming the kingdom of Great Britain. The Hanoverians ascended the English throne in 1714, when George Louis, elector of Hanover, became George I of Great Britain. During the reign of George III, Great Britain's North American colonies won independence (1783). This was followed by a period of war (1789–1815) with Revolutionary France and later with the empire of Napoleon. In 1801 legislation united Great Britain with Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Britain was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, and it remained the world's foremost economic power until the late 19th century. During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), Britain's colonial expansion reached its zenith, though the older dominions, including Canada and Australia, were granted independence (1867 and 1901, respectively).

The U.K. entered World War I allied with France and Russia in 1914. Following the war, revolutionary disorder erupted in Ireland, and in 1921 the Irish Free State (see Ireland) was granted dominion status. Six counties of Ulster, however, remained in the U.K. as Northern Ireland. The U.K. entered World War II in 1939. Following the war, the Irish Free State became the Irish republic and left the Commonwealth. India also gained independence from the U.K. Throughout the postwar period and into the 1970s, the U.K. continued to grant independence to its overseas colonies and dependencies. With UN forces, it participated in the Korean War (1950–53). In 1956 it intervened militarily in Egypt during the Suez Crisis. It joined the European Economic Community, a forerunner of the European Union, in 1973. In 1982 it defeated Argentina in the Falkland Islands War. As a result of continuing social strife in Northern Ireland, it joined with Ireland in several peace initiatives, which eventually resulted in an agreement to establish an assembly in Northern Ireland. In 1997 referenda approved in Scotland and Wales devolved power to both countries, though both remained part of the U.K. In 1991 the U.K. joined an international coalition to reverse Iraq's conquest of Kuwait (see Persian Gulf War). In 2003 the U.K. and the U.S. attacked Iraq and overthrew the government of Ssubdotaddām Hsubdotussein (see Iraq War). Terrorist bombings in London in July 2005 killed more than 50 people.

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Part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland occupying the northeastern portion of the island of Ireland. Area: 5,461 sq mi (14,144 sq km). Population (2001): 1,685,267. Capital: Belfast. It is bounded by the republic of Ireland, the Irish Sea, the North Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean. Northern Ireland is often referred to as the province of Ulster. The people are descended from indigenous Irish and immigrants from England and Scotland. Language: English (official). Religions: Protestantism (the majority) and Roman Catholicism (a minority). Currency: pound sterling. Northern Ireland's industries include engineering, shipbuilding (which has been in severe decline), automobile manufacturing, textiles, food and beverage processing, and clothing. The service industry employs about three-fourths of the workforce, and manufacturing employs less than one-fifth of workers. Agriculture is important, with most farm income derived from livestock. Northern Ireland shares most of its history with the republic of Ireland, though Protestant English and Scots immigrating in the 16th–17th centuries tended to settle in Ulster. In 1801 the Act of Union created the United Kingdom, which united Great Britain and Ireland. In response to mounting Irish sentiment in favour of Home Rule, the Government of Ireland Act was adopted in 1920, providing for two partially self-governing units in Ireland: the northern six counties constituting Northern Ireland and the southern counties now making up the republic of Ireland. In 1968 civil rights protests by Roman Catholics sparked violent conflicts with Protestants and led to the occupation of the province by British troops in the early 1970s. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) mounted a prolonged campaign of violence in an effort to force the withdrawal of British troops as a prelude to Northern Ireland's unification with Ireland. In 1972 Northern Ireland's constitution and parliament were suspended, bringing the province under direct rule by the British. Violence continued for three decades before dropping off in the mid-1990s. In 1998 talks between the British government and the IRA resulted in a peace agreement that provided for extensive Home Rule in the province. In 1999 power was devolved to an elected assembly, though the body was hampered by factional disagreements. Sporadic sectarian strife continued in the early 21st century, as the IRA gradually carried out decommissioning (disarming).

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formerly Neu-Mecklenburg

Island and province (pop., 2000: 118,350), Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea. The island has an area of 3,340 sq mi (8,651 sq km) and is about 220 mi (350 km) long. The terrain is largely mountainous. The province includes many nearby smaller islands. It was discovered by Dutch navigators in 1616 but was little known before 1884, when it became part of a German protectorate. After World War I it was mandated to Australia. The island was occupied by the Japanese in World War II. When Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975, it became part of that country. Most of the inhabitants live in the north. Copra production dominates commercial development.

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Country, western Europe, occupying the greater part of the island of Ireland west of Great Britain. Area: 27,133 sq mi (70,273 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 4,096,000. Capital: Dublin. The northeastern portion of the island is occupied by Northern Ireland. Although Ireland has been invaded and colonized by Celts, Norsemen, Normans, English, and Scots, ethnic distinctions are nonexistent. Languages: Irish, English (both official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also Protestant). Currency: euro. Ireland's topography consists largely of broad lowlands drained by rivers that include the Shannon; its coasts are fringed with mountains. Nearly three-fifths of the population is urban; agriculture employs only a small percentage of the workforce. High technology, tourism, and other service industries are pivotal to the Irish economy, while mining, manufacturing, and construction also remain important. Ireland is a republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. Human settlement in Ireland began circa 6000 BC, and Celtic migration dates from circa 300 BC. St. Patrick is credited with having Christianized the country in the 5th century. Norse domination began in 795 and ended in 1014, when the Norse were defeated by Brian Boru. Gaelic Ireland's independence ended in 1175 when Roderic O'Connor, Ireland's high king, accepted English King Henry II as his overlord. Beginning in the 16th century, Irish Catholic landowners fled religious persecution by the English and were replaced by English and Scottish Protestant migrants. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established in 1801. The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s led as many as 1.5 million people to emigrate, and the British government's grudging and ineffective relief measures built momentum for Irish Home Rule. The Easter Rising (1916) was followed by virtual civil war (1919–21), during which the Irish Republican Army used guerrilla tactics to force the British government to negotiate. The Catholic majority in southern Ireland favoured complete independence, and the Protestant majority in the north preferred continued union with Britain. Southern Ireland was granted dominion status and became the Irish Free State in 1921, and in 1937 it adopted the name Éire (Ireland) and became a sovereign independent country. It remained neutral during World War II. Britain recognized the status of Ireland in 1949 but declared that cession of the northern six counties (Northern Ireland) could not occur without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic Community (later the European Community); it is now a member of the European Union. The last decades of the 20th century were dominated by sectarian hostilities between the island's Catholics and Protestants over the status of Northern Ireland. The Irish government played a pivotal role in negotiating and winning public support for the Belfast Agreement (1998), which gave the country a consultative role in the affairs of Northern Ireland and modified Ireland's constitution to remove its claim to the territory of the entire island.

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officially Republic of Moldova

Country, northeastern Balkan Peninsula, southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Ukraine and Romania. Area: 13,067 sq mi (33,843 sq km). Population (2007 est.): 3,794,000. Capital: Chissubcommaināu. Nearly half the population is Moldovan; there also are large numbers of Russians and Ukrainians, especially in Transdniestria (Transnistria; Pridnestrovie), the self-proclaimed republic located on the east bank of the Dniester River. Languages: Moldovan (official), Russian, Ukrainian. Religions: Christianity (mostly Eastern Orthodox, also other Christians), Islam. Currency: Moldovan leu. Most of Moldova is a fertile region lying between the Dniester and Prut rivers; the northern and central regions of the country are forested. The economy is based on agriculture; the major farm products are grapes, winter wheat, corn, and dairy products. Industry is centred on food processing. Moldova is a unitary parliamentary republic with one legislative body; its head of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. The area of present-day Moldova consists of that part of the historic principality of Moldavia lying east of the Prut River (part of Romania before 1940) and, adjoining it on the south, the region of Bessarabia along the Black Sea coast. (See Moldavia for history prior to 1940.) The two regions were incorporated as the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1940. In 1991 Moldavia declared independence from the Soviet Union. It adopted the Moldovan spelling of Moldova, having earlier legitimized use of the Latin rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. Moldova was admitted to the UN in 1992. In 2000 it abandoned its semipresidential form of government to become a parliamentary republic.

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officially Republic of Madagascar

Country, occupying the island of Madagascar, in the western Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa. The island is the world's fourth largest, about 975 mi (1,570 km) long and 355 mi (570 km) wide. It is separated from the African coast by the Mozambique Channel. Area: 226,658 sq mi (587,041 sq km). Population (2007): 19,683,000. Capital: Antananarivo. Almost all of the population belongs to about 20 Malayo-Indonesian groups. Languages: Malagasy, French, English. Religions: Christianity (Protestant, Roman Catholic), traditional beliefs, Islam. Currency: ariary. Madagascar's high central plateau rises to 9,436 ft (2,876 m) at the volcanic Tsaratanana massif; the island was once heavily forested, and forests still cover one-fifth of the land area. Agriculture dominates the economy; staple crops include rice, sugarcane, and cassava. Cash crops include cloves and vanilla. Aquaculture is also economically important. Madagascar is a republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state and head of government is the president, assisted by the prime minister. Indonesians migrated to Madagascar circa 700 CE. The first European to visit the island was Portuguese navigator Diogo Dias in 1500. Trade in arms and slaves allowed the Malagasy kingdoms to develop at the beginning of the 17th century. In the 18th century the Merina kingdom became dominant; with British assistance, it gained control of a large part of Madagascar in the early 19th century. In 1868 Merina signed a treaty granting France commercial access to the northwestern coast, and in 1895 French troops took the island. Madagascar became a French overseas territory in 1946. In 1958 France agreed to let the territory decide its own fate; as the Malagasy Republic, it gained independence in 1960 and severed ties with France in the 1970s, taking the name Democratic Republic of Madagascar in 1975 (the word “Democratic” was dropped in 1992). Following a brief period of military rule, in 1975 Didier Ratsiraka became president, and he ruled for most of the next 25 years. In the wake of the serious political crisis sparked by the 2001 presidential election, Marc Ravolomanana emerged as president and Ratsiraka left the country.

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officially Kingdom of Cambodia

Country, Southeast Asia. Area: 69,898 sq mi (181,035 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 13,327,000. Capital: Phnom Penh. The vast majority of the population belongs to the Khmer ethnic group. Language: Khmer (official). Religions: Buddhism (official); also traditional beliefs. Currency: riel. The landscape is dominated by large central plains; the Dangrek Mountains rise along the northern border. Cambodia lies largely in the basin of the Mekong River; the large lake Tonle Sap is in its western part. Much of the country is tropical forest. It is one of the world's poorest countries. Agriculture employs about three-fourths of the workforce. Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the king, and its head of government is the prime minister. In the early centuries AD the area was under Hindu and, to a lesser extent, Buddhist influence. The Khmer state gradually spread in the early 8th century and reached its height under Jayavarman II and his successors in the 9th–12th centuries, when it ruled the Mekong valley and neighbouring states and built Angkor. Buddhism was widely adopted in the 13th century. From the 13th century the state was attacked by Annam and Tai (Siamese) city-states and was subject largely to Tai and Vietnamese hegemony. It became a French protectorate in 1863. It was occupied by the Japanese in World War II and became independent in 1954. Its borders were the scene of fighting in the Vietnam War from 1961, and in 1970 its northeastern and eastern areas were occupied by the North Vietnamese and penetrated by U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. A bombing campaign in Cambodia by U.S. warplanes alienated much of the population, enabling the communist Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot to seize power in 1975. Their regime of terror resulted in the deaths of at least 1.5 million Cambodians. Vietnam invaded in 1978 and drove the Khmer Rouge into the western hinterlands, but Cambodian infighting continued. A peace accord was reached by most Cambodian factions under UN auspices in 1991. Elections were held in 1993, and Norodom Sihanouk was restored to the monarchy. A civilian government slowly emerged under UN tutelage until 1997, when a coup by Hun Sen consolidated his position as prime minister. Hun Sen's party won legislative elections in 1998; also that year, Cambodia became part of ASEAN.

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Republic founded in March 1798, constituting the greater part of Switzerland, after it had been conquered by France in the French Revolutionary Wars. The government was patterned after that of the Directory in France. Delegates called on Napoleon to mediate in factional disputes, and in 1803 he substituted a new Swiss Confederation for the republic, forcing it into close association with France.

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officially Republic of the United Netherlands

Former state (1581–1795), about the size of the modern kingdom of The Netherlands. It consisted of the seven northern Netherlands provinces that formed the Union of Utrecht in 1579 and declared independence from Spain in 1581 (finally achieved in 1648). Political control shifted between the province of Holland and the princes of Orange. In the 17th century the Dutch Republic developed into a world colonial empire far out of proportion to its resources, emerging as a centre of international finance and a cultural capital of Europe. In the 18th century the republic's colonial empire was eclipsed by that of England. In 1795 the Dutch Republic collapsed under the impact of a Dutch democratic revolution and invading French armies.

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Country in the West Indies, occupying the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Area: 18,792 sq mi (48,671 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 8,895,000. Capital: Santo Domingo. The majority of the people are of mixed European-African ancestry; most of the rest are of European or African descent. Language: Spanish (official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also Protestant). Currency: Dominican peso. The country is generally mountainous, with ranges and hills running from northwest to southeast. The Central Highlands reach 10,417 ft (3,175 m) at Duarte Peak, the highest point in the West Indies. The Cibao Valley in the north is noted for its fertility; the southwestern part of the country is generally dry with large stretches of desert. Traditionally dominated by sugar production, the Dominican Republic's mixed economy became increasingly diversified in the late 20th century, when the country experienced one of the world's highest economic growth rates, though widespread poverty remained despite a growing middle class. It is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president. The Dominican Republic was originally part of the Spanish colony of Hispaniola. In 1697 the western third of the island, which later became Haiti, was ceded to France; the remainder of the island passed to France in 1795. The eastern two-thirds of the island were returned to Spain in 1809, and the colony declared its independence in 1821. Within a matter of weeks it was overrun by Haitian troops and occupied until 1844. Since then the country has been under the rule of a succession of dictators, except for short interludes of democratic government, and the U.S. has frequently been involved in its affairs. The termination of the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in 1961 led to civil war in 1965 and U.S. military intervention. For the rest of the country, politics in the Dominican Republic were dominated by seven-time president Joaquín Balaguer. The country suffered from severe hurricanes in 1979 and 1998.

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formerly (1918–92, with Slovakia) Czechoslovakia

Country, central Europe. Area: 30,450 sq mi (78,866 sq km). Population (2006 est.): 10,260,000. Capital: Prague. Czechs make up about nine-tenths of the population; Slovaks and Moravians are the largest minorities. Language: Czech (official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic, also other Christians, Protestant). Currency: koruna. The landlocked country is dominated by the Bohemian Massif, a ring of mountains rising to 5,256 ft (1,602 m) at Mount Snezka to encircle the Bohemian Plateau. The Morava River valley, known as the Moravian Corridor, separates the Bohemian Massif from the Carpathian Mountains. Woodlands are a characteristic feature of the Czech landscape; most regions have a moderate oceanic climate. The economy, privatized since 1990, is now largely market-oriented. The Czech Republic is a multiparty republic with two legislative houses; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. Until 1918 its history was largely that of Bohemia. In that year the independent republic of Czechoslovakia was born through the union of Bohemia and Moravia with Slovakia. Czechoslovakia came under the domination of the Soviet Union after World War II, and from 1948 to 1989 it was ruled by a communist government. Its growing political liberalization was suppressed by a Soviet invasion in 1968 (see Prague Spring). After 1990, separatist sentiments emerged among the Slovaks, and in 1992 the Czechs and Slovaks agreed to break up their federated state. At midnight on Dec. 31, 1992, Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved and replaced by two new countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with the region of Moravia remaining in the former. In 1999 the Czech Republic joined NATO, and in 2004 it became a member of the European Union.

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known as Congo (Brazzaville) formerly Middle Congo

Republic, west-central Africa. Area: 132,047 sq mi (342,000 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 3,602,000. Capital: Brazzaville. Roughly half of the population belongs to one of the Kongo tribes. The Teke are less numerous, as are the Mboshi and several other peoples. Languages: French (official), various Bantu languages. Religions: Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic, also other Christians, Protestant); also traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA franc. A narrow coastal plain edges Congo's 100-mi (160-km) stretch of Atlantic coastline, rising into low mountains and plateaus that slope eastward in a vast plain to the Congo River. The country straddles the Equator; rainforests cover nearly two-thirds of the land, and wildlife is abundant. Congo has a mixed, developing economy. Mining products, crude petroleum, and natural gas account for more than 90percnt of the country's exports. A 1997 transitional constitution vested executive power in the president and legislative power in a national transitional council. In precolonial days the area was home to several thriving kingdoms, including the Kongo, which had its beginnings in the 1st millennium AD. The slave trade began in the 15th century with the arrival of the Portuguese; it supported the local kingdoms and dominated the area until its suppression in the 19th century. The French arrived in the mid-19th century and established treaties with two of the kingdoms, placing them under French protection prior to their becoming part of the colony of French Congo. In 1910 it was renamed French Equatorial Africa, and the area of the Congo became known as Middle (Moyen) Congo. In 1946 Middle Congo became a French overseas territory, and in 1958 it voted to become an autonomous republic within the French Community. Full independence came two years later. The area has suffered from political instability since independence. Congo's first president was ousted in 1963. A Marxist party, the Congolese Labor Party, gained strength, and in 1968 another coup, led by Major Marien Ngouabi, created the People's Republic of the Congo. Ngouabi was assassinated in 1977. A series of military rulers followed, at first militantly socialist but later oriented toward social democracy. Fighting between local militias in 1997 badly disrupted the economy; a peace process was under way at the beginning of the 21st century.

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known as Congo (Kinshasa) formerly (1971–97) Republic of Zaire

Country, central Africa. Area: 905,354 sq mi (2,344,858 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 57,549,000. Capital: Kinshasa. Bantu speakers, including the Mongo, Kongo, and Luba, form a majority of the country's population; among non-Bantu speakers are Sudanese groups of the north. Languages: French, English (both official), Lingala, Swahili, Kongo, others. Religions: Christianity (Roman Catholic, Protestant, other Christians); also traditional beliefs, Islam. Currency: Congolese franc. The country, having the third largest land area in Africa, occupies the heart of the Congo River basin and is largely surrounded by high plateaus. At its narrow strip of Atlantic coast, the Congo River empties into the sea. The country straddles the Equator; its climate is humid and tropical. It is among the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is based on mining and agriculture. Exports include diamonds, petroleum, and coffee; mining produces copper, cobalt, and industrial diamonds. The country has a transitional government; the head of state and government is the president, assisted by four vice presidents. Prior to European colonization, several kingdoms had emerged in the region, including the 16th-century Luba kingdom and the Kuba federation, which reached its peak in the 18th century. European development began late in the 19th century when King Leopold II of Belgium financed Henry Morton Stanley's exploration of the Congo River. The 1884–85 Berlin West Africa Conference recognized the Congo Free State with Leopold as its sovereign. The growing demand for rubber helped finance the exploitation of the Congo, but abuses against local peoples outraged Western nations and forced Leopold to grant the Free State a colonial charter as the Belgian Congo (1908). Independence was granted in 1960. The postindependence period was marked by unrest, culminating in a military coup that brought Gen. Mobutu Sese Seko to power in 1965. He changed the country's name to Zaire in 1971. Mismanagement, corruption, and increasing violence devastated the infrastructure and economy. Mobutu was deposed in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, who restored the country's name to Congo. Instability in neighbouring countries, an influx of refugees from Rwanda, and a desire for Congo's mineral wealth led to military involvement by various African countries. Unrest continued into the beginning of the 21st century.

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Former republic, northern Italy. Created by Napoleon in 1797 from conquered territories, it was centred in the Po River valley and included the lands around Milan and Bologna. It was incorporated into the Napoleonic kingdom of Italy in 1805.

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formerly Ubangi-Shari

Country, central Africa. Area: 240,324 sq mi (622,436 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 4,038,000. Capital: Bangui. The people form heterogeneous ethnic groups, with the Banda, Baya (Gbaya), Mandjia, and Ngbaka constituting more than two-thirds of the inhabitants. Languages: French, Sango (both official), several others. Religions: Christianity (mostly other Christians [largely unaffiliated and independent]; also Roman Catholic, Protestant), Islam, traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA franc. The country is landlocked country and consists of a large rolling plateau. The northern half is characterized by savanna and is drained by tributaries of the Chari River. The southern half is densely forested. The country has a developing free-enterprise economy of mixed state and private structure, with agriculture as the main component. It is a republic with one legislative body; its chief of state is the president, assisted by the prime minister. For several centuries before the arrival of Europeans, the territory was exploited by slave traders. The French explored and claimed central Africa and in 1889 established a post at Bangui. They subsequently partitioned the territory into several colonies, one of which was Ubangi-Shari (Oubangui-Chari), the future Central African Republic; it later became part of French Equatorial Africa. Ubangi-Shari became a French overseas territory in 1946. It became an autonomous republic within the French Community in 1958 and achieved independence in 1960. In 1965 the military overthrew a civilian government and installed Jean-Bédel Bokassa, who in 1976 renamed the country the Central African Empire. He was overthrown in 1979 and the former name was restored, but the military again seized power in the 1980s. Elections in 1993 led to installation of a civilian government, which attempted to deal with continued political and economic instability that persisted into the 21st century. The government was overthrown in a 2003 coup, which led to the promulgation of a new constitution in 2004. A democratically elected government was installed in 2005.

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Republic of the Netherlands after it was conquered by France in 1795. Its government, set up in 1798, was bound to France by alliance. In 1805 Napoleon renamed it the Batavian Commonwealth and placed executive power in the hands of a dictator. In 1806 it was replaced by the Kingdom of Holland under the rule of Louis Bonaparte; it was incorporated into the French empire in 1810.

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