The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish themselves in Timor; their claim to the island was disputed by the Dutch, who arrived in 1613. By a treaty of 1859, modified in 1893 and finally made effective in 1914, the border between the Dutch and Portuguese territories was settled. In World War II, Timor was occupied (early 1942) by the Japanese. With the creation of the Republic of Indonesia in 1950, Dutch Timor became Indonesian territory and is now part of Nusa Tenggara Timur province.
In 1975, Portuguese Timor declared itself independent as East Timor. Indonesia invaded, however, and annexed the region. Sporadic guerrilla warfare continued into 1999, when Indonesia agreed to permit a referendum in which voters chose independence. Pro-Indonesian militias and the army subsequently engaged in a campaign of terror and brutality, but under international pressure Indonesia asked for UN peacekeepers, and, following a period of transitional UN administration, East Timor became independent in 2002.
Timor is an island at the south end of the Malay Archipelago, north of the Timor Sea. It is divided between the independent state of East Timor, and West Timor, belonging to the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara.
Christianity is the dominant religion throughout the island of Timor, at about 90% of the population. Roman Catholics are the the majority on both halves of the island; Catholics outnumber Protestants in West Timor by about a 1.5:1 ratio. Muslims and animists are most of the remainder, at about 5% each.
To the south and southeast of Timor is Oceania. To its northwest is the island of Sulawesi, and to its west, the island of Sumba. To the west-northwest of Timor are the islands of Flores and Alor, and to its northeast are the Barat Daya Islands, including Wetar.
Timor has older geology and lacks the volcanic nature of the Lesser Sunda Islands. The orientation of the main axis of the island also differs from its neighbors. These features have been explained as the result of being on the northern edge of the Indo-Australian Plate as it pushes into the South East Asia.
Timor, together with the Lesser Sunda Islands to the northwest and the smaller islands to the northeast, is covered by tropical dry broadleaf forests. Many trees are deciduous or partly deciduous, dropping their leaves during the dry season. Timor, the Barat Daya Islands, and the smaller islands to the northeast of Timor constitute the Timor and Wetar deciduous forests ecoregion.
During the Pleistocene epoch, Timor was the abode of extinct giant monitor lizards similar to the Komodo dragon. Like Flores, Sumba and Sulawesi, Timor was also once a habitat of extinct dwarf stegodonts, relatives of elephants.
The island has been politically divided in two parts for centuries: West Timor, which was known as Dutch Timor from the 1800s until 1949 when it became Indonesian Timor, a part of the nation of Indonesia which was formed from the old Netherlands East Indies; and East Timor which was known as Portuguese Timor, a Portuguese colony until 1975. It includes the enclave of Oecussi-Ambeno in West Timor. The Netherlands and Portugal did not formally resolve the matter of the boundary until 1912.
Following the withdrawal of the Portuguese, internal unrest, and an Indonesian invasion in 1975, East Timor was annexed by Indonesia and became known as Timor Timur or 'Tim-Tim' for short. It was regarded by Indonesia as the country's 27th province, but this was never recognised by the United Nations or Portugal. The people of East Timor resisted Indonesian forces in a prolonged guerilla campaign. (See: Indonesian occupation of East Timor). Following a referendum held in 1999, under a UN sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, in which its people rejected the offer of autonomy within Indonesia, East Timor achieved independence in 2002 and is now officially known as Timor-Leste. A group of people on the Indonesian side of Timor have been reported active since 2001 trying to establish a Great Timor State.