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Ethiopia is the only country in Africa to have escaped European colonialism. Landlocked, it is bordered by Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Archaeological evidence suggests that Ethiopia may have been the birthplace of humanity, and the area from which human beings first set out for the Middle East and beyond. Ethiopia is also believed to have been part of the Land of Punt, which attracted Egyptian trading ships for thousands of years, due to its gold, frankincense, myrrh, ivory, and other resources.

For most of its history, Ethiopia has been a monarchy, ruled by a succession of kingdoms, usually with smaller successor kingdoms arising in between. Around the 8th-century BC, the Kingdom of D'mt, a native Ethiopian one, ruled what is now northern Ethiopia and Eritrea. When D'mt fell in the 4th-century BC, a number of regional powers struggled for control until the Kingdom of Aksum emerged in the 1st-century AD.

In 316 AD, Ethiopia became the second country to adopt Christianity as its official religion after its leaders were converted by two brothers, Frumentius and Edesius, who had been taken as slaves while traveling to Ethiopia from Tyre.

After the Aksumites declined, one of the first Muslim states was established in the Shewa region of Ethiopia.

During the Middle Ages, the Zagwe Dynasty rules mucho of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and was followed by the Solomonic Dynasty. Muslim influences were reintroduced in the late 1500s, when portions of Ethiopia came under the control of the Sultanate of Aussa and the Sultanate of Harar.

Between 1755 and 1855, Ethiopia was split into several regions with no central authority, and Ethiopia became isolated. Ethiopia was reunited under one ruler in 1855, but the kingdom experienced several rebellions and invasions by the Egyptians and the Ottoman Empire.

Ethiopia was established in its current form under the rule of Menelik II, who became Emperor in 1889. During his reign, roads were built, an educational system was established, and electricity was introduced to the country. He also entered into a treaty with Italy, allowing Italy to control much of what is now Eritrea in return for weapons and support. Italy used this region as a base from which to expand its reach, which resulted in the Battle of Adwa in March of 1896, in which Ethiopia defeated Italy's colonial forces.

Haile Selassie came to power in 1916 and ruled Ethiopia until he was deposed in 1974. During his reign, he ended slavery in Ethiopia. Public opinion turned against him largely because of the oil crisis of 1973, and he was deposed by communist local forces backed by the Soviet Union.

The communist regime suffered numerous coups, protests, revolts, a long-term drought, and a large-scale refugee problem. Somalia invaded Ethiopia in 1977, capturing a large portion of the Ogaden region. Ethiopia recovered the region only through military aid from the USSR, Cuba, East Germany, North Korea, and South Yemen. When the Soviet Union pulled back its support under Mikhail Gorbachev, the communist regime in Ethiopia rapidly deteriorated, and the government collapsed in 1991.

Ethiopia's first election in which more than one political party participated was in 1995. Its newly elected president was soon faced with a border war with Eritrea that lasted a couple of years, costing both countries a million dollars a day, but strengthened the ruling coalition's power. Since then, Ethiopia has experienced several protests and has been accused of improper elections and of human rights abuses, but it has held together.

Ethiopia's population is diverse and represented by more than eighty ethnic groups, the largest being the Oromo, the Amhara, Somalis, and Tigrayans. There are about ninety languages spoken in Ethiopia, with English being the most common foreign language, and that language used in secondary education.

Historically, Ethiopia has close ties with all three of the major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Today, more than 60% of its population is Christian, Ethiopian Orthodox being the most common. Nearly 40% are Muslim. A small group of Jews, known as the Beta Israel, have long lived in northwestern Ethiopia, but most of them have immigrated to Israel in the past couple of decades. Traditional African religions make up a relatively small segment of the country's religious practices today.

Until secular education was introduced in the early 1900s, education was dominated by the Tewahedo Church. In recent decades, access to education and literacy rates have improved, although it is still estimated that fewer than 50% of Ethiopians are literate.

 

 

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