Brazzaville is the capital and largest city of the Republic of the Congo and is located on the Congo River. As of the 2001 census, it has a population of 1,018,541 in the city proper, and about 1.5 million in total when including the suburbs located in the Pool Region. The populous city of Kinshasa (more than 7 million inhabitants in 2004), capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lies just across the Congo River from Brazzaville. Together with Kinshasa, the combined conurbation of Kinshasa-Brazzaville has thus nearly 9 million inhabitants.
Brazzaville was founded in 1880 on the site of a village named Nkuna by an Italian born French explorer, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, after whom the city was named. Over a third of the population of the Republic of Congo lives in the capital, and it is home to 40% of non-agricultural employment. It is also a financial and administrative capital.
Brazzaville is located at In order to distinguish between the two African countries with "Congo" in their names, the Republic of the Congo is sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville, as opposed to Congo-Kinshasa (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known from 1971 to 1997 as Zaire, the capital of which is Kinshasa). Kinshasa lies on the southern bank of the Congo, across from Brazzaville. This is the only place in the world where two national capital cities are situated on opposite banks of a river, within sight of each other.
While Kinshasa lies to the south, Brazzaville lies to the north of the Congo River. The city is inland from the Atlantic Ocean and south of the equator. The city is a commune that is separated from the other regions of the republic; it is surrounded by the Pool Region. Around the city is a large savanna. The town is relatively flat, and situated at an altitude of .
French control over the area was made official by the Berlin Conference of 1884. The city became the capital first of the French Congo, and then of French Equatorial Africa, a federation of states which encompassed Gabon, the Central African Republic and Chad. In 1924, the Congo-Océan railway was brought into service which linked Brazzaville with the port of Pointe-Noire.
In 1944, Brazzaville hosted a meeting of the Free French forces and representatives of France's African colonies. The resulting Brazzaville Declaration was intended to redefine the relationship between France and its African colonies after World War II.
Until the 1960s, the city was divided into European (the center of the city) and African sections (Poto-Poto, Bacongo, and Makélékélé). In 1980 it became a "commune" separated from the Pool Region and divided into seven "arrondissements": Makélékélé (1), Bacongo (2), Poto-Poto (3), Moungali (4), Ouenzé (5), Talangaï (6) and Mfilou (7).
The city has frequently been a staging ground for regional conflicts, including conflicts between rebel and government forces and between forces of the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola. It was also the scene of bloody civil wars throughout the 1990s which resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and which forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee the city.
The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa is based in Brazzaville on a vast campus at the Cité du Djoué.
The city is home to Maya-Maya Airport and a railway station on the Congo-Ocean Railway. It is also an important river port, with ferries sailing to Kinshasa and to Bangui via Impfondo. The port for ferries to Kinshasa is known locally as "The Beach". The Congo River Rapids lie on the outskirts of the city, where the Djoué River meets the Congo, rendering river transport to the coast impossible, qualifying the railway as a portage railway.
Taxis are available on every street, and the fare for a short trip is CF700, although foreigners will usually be expected to pay CF1,000. Walking is quite safe, even while carrying expensive equipment and money, and since Brazzaville is a relatively small "ville" it is easy enough to get around on foot.