Indonesia, with over 18,000 counted islands, is by far the largest and most varied archipelago on Earth. It spans almost 2 million square kilometers between Asia and Australia. With a population of 248,216,193, Indonesia shares land borders with 3 countries: Malaysia, Timor-Leste and Papa New Guinea.
Positioned on the Equator, across a region of immense volcanic activity, Indonesia has some 400 volcanoes within its borders, with at least 90 still active in some way.
Many of the islands here are still uninhabited, with the larger islands of Java, Kalimantan (Borneo), Irian Jaya (Papua), Sumatra and Sulawesi home to most of the population base.
Forming a bulk of the modern population are Austronesian peoples, who migrated from Taiwan around 2000 BC seeking out the ideal agricultural conditions. The strategic sea-lane positioning of Indonesia also played host to the cultivation of international trade with China and Indian kingdoms.
Through the early centuries AD, a number of small states flourished across Indonesia, including the Tarumanagara who produced some of the earliest known inscriptions on Java island.
By the 7th century BC the Srivijaya naval kingdom had established on Sumatra, bringing with them the influences of Hinduism and Buddhism, and shaping much of the southeast Asia maritime.
The Srivijayans were severely weakened by a series of Chola raids in the 11th century, and by 1414 had completely ceased to exist.
Islam made its way to Sumatra during the slow downfall of the Srivijayan kingdom, and in its wake the Majapahit state formed. Under the ruling of Gajah Mada, Indonesia experienced a Golden Age, and extended through much of the southern Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra and Bali.
Warfare dominated the late 1500s and on into the mid 1600s as the Sultanate of Mataram expanded the kingdom further, and the Dutch East India Company began dominating trade and colonization in Asia.
Discontent with the current king, Amangkurat I, rose during the 1670s. Despite his attempt at bringing long-term stability, revolts only intensified.
Following the death of Amangkurat I, Amangkurat II gained control of the kingdom, but efforts were lost as a two-year war completely toppled the kingdom.
For a brief period, the Portuguese established missions, forts and trading posts on several Indonesian islands, but failed to maintain control.
During the 1600s, the Dutch awarded a monopoly on trade and colonization in the region, and the East India Trading Company conquered Jayakarta, founding the city of Batavia (present-day Jakarta).
Unlike the Portuguese before them, the Dutch utilized an exceptional financial backing, better organization, strategy, weapons and ships, but were still unable to completely dominate the Indonesian spice trade.
The Dutch East India Company dissolved in 1800, as a result of bankruptcy, and the Netherlands turned the Dutch East Indies into a nationalized colony.
Although the Dutch lived with the natives, they sat at a higher social class, and their control over the islands at times were quite cruel.
While in control of Indonesia, upgrading the current infrastructure and modernizing the economy became a high priority for the Dutch.
A national awakening for the natives of Indonesia began in the early 1900s, as the first nationalist mass movement, Sarekat Islam, was formed. Within a few months the movement grew to 93,000 members. After World War I, the Dutch attempted to repress the Sarekat Islam.
As World War II began, Indonesia became occupied by Japanese forces, and Dutch rule over the islands came to an end. For most of the Indonesian population, the Japanese occupation was brutal, and thousands were subjected to various war crimes or taken away as war laborers.
After Japan conceded in August of 1945, Sukarno, a powerful forerunner of the nationalist movement, declared independence for Indonesia, and was appointed president.
In a bold move, Sukarno transitioned Indonesia from a democracy to authoritarianism, and preserved power by balancing the Communist Party of Indonesia against opposing military forces.
Violence erupted by the mid-1960s, as an attempted coup was carried out, and nearly 500,000 were killed as the army retaliated.
President Sukarno sought to restore and shift the country back into a democracy in 1966, however, the Communist Party of Indonesia destroyed his efforts, and Sukarno was forced to transfer power to General Suharto.
During the period of military dominance, hundreds of thousands of citizens were killed or imprisoned, and civil unrest was prevalent throughout Indonesia.
A period of financial crisis gripped much of Asia in 1997, hitting Indonesia the hardest, and consequently jeopardizing Suharto's presidency. In addition to the economic trouble, a severe drought, complete with massive forest fires, spread throughout Indonesia.
Protests loomed as the parliament granted Suharto a new term, and ultimately flared into the Indonesian Revolution of 1998. Weakened, Suharto stepped down from power, and was replaced by Jusuf Habibie.
In 2004, Indonesia moved forward with the strengthening of its democratic processes, and the first direct presidential elections took place. However, a period of political and economic instability, social unrest, corruption, and terrorism slowed progress, however.
Some citizens in the outer-reaches of the country still demand more freedom, and that struggle continues today within the democratic process, and not on the battlefields of the past.
This tropical country and its many islands are one of the most stunning destinations on our planet, but terrorism attacks in Bali and other areas of the country in the early and mid-2000s have stifled some of the country's tourism.
The major Tsunami of December, 2004 severely damaged most of the northern reaches of Sumatra, and there's still an apprehensive feeling in the air for both residents and visitors alike.