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The Republic of Nauru is an island nation in the Central Pacific Ocean. It is part of the region known as Micronesia that also includes the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and the Northern Marianas. With a population of just over eleven thousand, Nauru is one of the world's smallest countries, and probably the world's smallest independent republic.

The first people to inhabit the islands were Micronesians and Polynesians who came about three thousand years ago. The people of the island were divided into twelve clans, now represented by the five stars on the nation's flag. The early residents of the island developed a form of aquaculture, catching small milkfish, which are ocean fish, acclimating them to fresh water, then raising them in the Buada Lagoon, which provided them with a reliable supply of food. They also grew coconuts and pandanus fruit.

The first European known to visit the island was a British whaling captain, John Fearn, who named it Pleasant Island in 1798. Over the next few decades, whaling ships and traders would replenish supplies and take on fresh water at Nauru. Around 1830, deserters from European ships took up residence on the island, trading alcohol and firearms to the Islanders for food. The firearms would later be used during the ten-year Nauruan Tribal War that started in 1878. In 1888, after reaching an agreement with Britain, Germany annexed the island, incorporating it into the Marshall Islands, which were then under German control. The Germans ended the Nauruan civil war by superior force, establishing kings as rulers of the island.

With the Germans, came Protestant Christian missionaries, some of whom settled on the island, along with other Germans. The Germans ruled over Nauru for about thirty years, renaming it Nawodo or Onawero.

In 1900. a prospector by the name of Albert Fuller Ellis discovered that Nauru was a phosphate rock island, with about ninety percent of the island made of phosphate, and phosphate was valuable for the production of fertilizer, as a supplement in animal feed, food preservatives, anti-corrosion agents, and for other purposes. The Pacific Phosphate Company began exploiting the island's phosphate reserves through strip mining. When Australia took over the islands during World War I, they continued working the island's phosphate deposits and moved 1,200 islanders to work as laborers in the Chuuk Islands, and only 737 of them survived. In 1920, an epidemic led to the deaths of nearly twenty percent of the island's population.

During World War II, Nauru remained occupied by the Japanese until the fall of 1945, as the island was not considered to be of strategic importance to the Americans. Following the Second World War, the United Nations established a trusteeship for the island, with Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom sharing trusteeship. In practice, however, Australia was the only country to exercise its authority. Nauru became self-governing in 1966, and declared its independence in 1968, purchasing the assets of the British Phosphate Commissioners, continuing to mine phosphate.

Governmentally, Nauru has a parliamentary system of government, wherein an elected parliament elects the president from among its members, and the president serves as head of state and head of the government. In practice, its government hasn't been known for stability. The country had seventeen changes of administration between 1989 and 2003. Nauru has a small police force, but no military; Australia is responsible for its defense. Nauru's economy peaked in the early 1980s, largely through phosphate mining. Now, although small-scale mining is still taking place, its phosphate resources are mostly depleted. The island has few other resources. Unemployment on the island is as high as ninety percent, and most of those who are employed are employees of the government. Nauru opened itself up as a tax haven in the 1990s. There is some tourism on the island, but that is not a significant contributor to its economy. A large part of the country's income comes from aid from Australia. As a result of strip mining, the island now suffers from a lack of vegetation and, in the absence of vegetation, many of its indigenous birds have disappeared or have become endangered. There are no native land mammals, although cats, dogs, rats, pigs, and chickens have introduced to the island.

The official language of Nauru is Nauruan, although English is widely used. Most islanders are Christian, two-thirds of them being Protestant, the remainder Roman Catholic. Although Nauru's constitution provides for freedom of religion, the government has restricted the activities of the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses, the majority of whom are not citizens of Nauru. European occupation has displaced the indigenous culture of the island, with few of the old customs in practice.

 

 

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