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The United Republic of Tanzania is in East Africa, with a coastline on the Indian Ocean. Neighboring countries include the Democratic Republic of the Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia.

The elongated Lake Tanganyika forms its boundary with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with both countries sharing the lake, along with Burundi. Its boundaries with Malawi are under dispute, with Malawi claiming the whole of the surface of the lake that is not in Mozambique, while Tanzania holds that the international border is in the middle of the lake. In the north, Tanzania shares Lake Victoria with Kena and Uganda.

Archaeologists hold that Tanzania was home to humanity's ancestors more than 3.6 million years ago. Remnants of axes made 1.8 million years ago have been found at lakesides throughout East Africa. The area then became populated by waves of migrations, but most of the people of modern-day Tanzania are descended from Bantu-speaking settlers who came in the 1st century AD.

By 400 BC, the coastal area was well known to the ancient Greeks, who established trading settlements, where they engaged in trade. Beginning in the 11th century, Arabic traders established posts along the coast, bringing Islam.

Vasco de Gama, a Portuguese explorer, was the first European to arrive. This was in 1498. The Portuguese established small settlements along the coast, but did not make significant excursions to the interior. In the early 1700s, the Portuguese were driven out by the Arabs, who took control of Kilwa and Zanzibar, islands off the coast of Tanzania, as well as the coastal towns on the mainland, and traded cloth and firearms for ivory and slaves. Besides guns, they also brought smallpox and cholera, and by the time the Europeans were ready to divide up the continent, the area of Tanzania was weakened by warfare and disease.

In 1885, although Britain had claimed authority of the region, a German adventurer collected signatures from tribal chiefs in Tanzania, and German Chancellor Bismarck approved the acquisition of the land that was to become Tanzania. Of course, the Africans were not consulted.

Under German rule, roads and railways were built with forced African labor, and German occupation was very unpopular among the Africans. From 1888 to 1889, there was a revolt by the Arab and Swahili population against the Germans. Known as the Abushiri Revolt, the insurrection was put down by German forces, but it was followed in 1905 by the Maji Maji Rebellion, which caused a great deal of destruction in southern Tanzania, but led to a Tanzanian nationalist movement.

The German areas of East Africa came under British rule during World War I, when it became known as Tanganyika. Approximately 100,000 people from British Tanganyika fought with the Allies during World War II, and returned to supply the region's nationalist movement with people trained in warfare. In 1848, a group of Africans formed the Tanganyika African Association to protest British policies over the region. By 1953, this became the Tanganyika African National Union, and its objective had become independence. By then, a growing European sentiment had turned against African colonialism, and the British left Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1961 and 1963, respectively.

Tanganyika was not prepared for independence. In 1961, there were no more than 120 university graduates in the country, there was no treasury, and its economy was undeveloped, largely because Britain had discouraged manufacturing or industry. Its new government was forced to turn to British expatriates to staff the government's bureaucracy.

Zanzibar was not yet part of Tanzania, and it remained occupied by the British until 1964. Only weeks after the British left Zanzibar, the island was in revolution and its army was in mutiny over wages. The Tanganyikan government united with Zanzibar, giving the island's politicians a prominent role in the new government, while granting the island autonomy in internal affairs. At that time, the country became the United Republic of Zanzibar.

Julius Kambarage Nyerere, who had been a teacher prior to his taking the lead in the Tanganyika African Union and becoming the head of the new government, was faced with creating a new nation without assistance from abroad, civil unrest at home, and a shortage of educated citizens. He had studied democracy, and incorporated elements of democracy with the type of family system that had traditionally been a part of life among the Swahili. The result was a form of socialism that was approved as the Arusha Declaration.

While Tanzania experienced tough times financially, its economy gradually improved and, more importantly, Tanzania has displayed more political stability than most African countries, and has been free of internal violence. Tanzania remains a struggling country.

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