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Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, and is made up of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. The Federated States of Micronesia is often referred to simply as Micronesia, but it is actually just one of a number of five countries in Micronesia, the others being the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of Kiribati, the Commonwealth of the Marianas Islands, and the Republic of Nauru. Also in the larger region of Micronesia are the US territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Wake Island.

For the sake of brevity, I will refer to the country as Micronesia here, but this category actually relates specifically to the Federated States of Micronesia, which is a United States associated country that is itself made up of four states: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. Together, these states add up to more than six hundred islands. Although the total land area of the Federated Republic of Micronesia (271 square miles) is fairly small, its islands are spread out to cover more than a million square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

The capital of the Federated Republic is Palikir, on Pohnpei Island. The largest city in Micronesia is Weno, on the Chuuk Atoll. The islands of Micronesia are geologically diverse. Some of its islands, such as Pohnpei and Kosrae, were formed as a result of volcanic activity. The island of Yap is part of the continental shelf that is above sea level, while others are coral atolls. Coral is made up of colonies of small, stationary animals that produce calcium deposits over time, and these deposits become coral reefs. A coral atoll is formed when a ring of coral grows up around an aging volcano, eventually extending above sea level. Often, the center of the volcano forms into an enclosed lagoon that is protected from the ocean. Once sufficient sand and soil accumulated on the exposed reef, a coral atoll can sustain plant and animal life.

Plant life on coral atolls is usually limited, but some of them are able to support coconut trees, breadfruit, pandanus plants, and low-lying shrubs. The most common products of Micronesia are breadfruit, coconuts, taro, and yams. While the islands are home to a large variety of amphibians, reptiles, and insects, the only native terrestrial animals are bats. Birds are plentiful, however, with more than two hundred species of birds common in Micronesia, including eighteen endemic species. As might be expected from a string of Pacific islands, Micronesia is rich in marine life, and some of the Micronesian islands serve as nesting grounds for turtles. Most of its islands are fringed by coral reefs, which support several invertebrates, fish, eels, skates, and turtles.

The Federated States of Micronesia shares a history with Palau. Although the early people of Micronesia and Palau hadn't developed a system of writing, our knowledge of the islands is based on archeology and legend. It is believed that people from what is now the Philippines and Indonesia began moving into Palau and Yap, probably after being forced to flee their homelands by Malay tribes. From there, they moved to settle Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. Over a few thousand years, the people who settled Micronesia and Palau formed societies that were probably based on fishing and agriculture. Although customs on different islands vary somewhat, the similarities are greater.

Eventually, the Europeans came. The first to arrive were the Portuguese. Magellan landed at Guam in 1521 but did not visit any of the islands within the Federated States of Micronesia. A few years later, Dioga da Rocha, a Portuguese explorer, came ashore on an atoll east of Yap, spending four months there. European exploration of Micronesia continued for the next few hundred years, and Christian missionaries became regular visitors. Spain, which had claimed ownership of Micronesia as early as 1565, was granted control of the islands by the Pope in 1885 after Spain's claim was contested by Germany. Still, Spain did not have much of a presence in Micronesia, except for its missionaries. After the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the Micronesian islands to Germany. German rule included violence and hostilities between the people of Micronesia and their foreign rulers. After World War I, Japan occupied the islands. As Japan prepared for World War II, the islands were fortified. During the war, some of the islands were bombed and most of them saw conflict, including naval battles and full-scale invasions.

The United States took control of the islands after World War II. The 1970s began a transition from governance by the United States to self-government for the islands of Micronesia and Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia was formed in 1978 and finalized by 1986, with the US and FSM forming a compact of Free Association. Palau voted to form an independent government rather than joining the Federated States.

 

 

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