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Federated States of Micronesia: The facts

The Federated States of Micronesia is an independent nation consisting of four separate states named Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. They run from west to east and are made up of approximately 607 islands. The Micronesian landmass is only 702 square kilometres and it occupies an area of 2.6 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean.

History

The Micronesian islands were first reached by Europeans in the 16th Century, with the Portuguese and then the Spanish arrived in the Caroline Islands, over which Micronesia is spread. The ancestors of the present-day Micronesians had reached the area some four thousand years before. However, this didn't prevent the Spanish establishing sovereignty. It was sold to Germany in 1899 and conquered by Japan in 1914. The US conquered it in World War Two and the Americans under United Nations auspices in 1947, as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In May 1979, four of the Trust Territory districts ratified a new constitution to become the Federated States of Micronesia.

Geography & economy

The Federated States of Micronesia is spread across part of the Caroline Islands in the wider region of Micronesia,a term often used to refer to the geographical area, which consists of thousands of small islands whose political control is divided between several countries. There are seven official languages in the country: English, Ulithian, Woleaian, Yapese, Pohnpeian, Kosraean and Chuukese. A host of other languages is spoken in the country. However, English is the official language. The major industry in the country is subsistence fishing and farming. There are few mineral deposits apart from high-grade phosphate. Economic development is hindered by remoteness and a lack of infrastructure. The currency used is the US dollar.

Politics

Each of the four states making up the political entity of the nation is represented by a white star on the Micronesian flag. The 1979 constitution guarantees fundamental human rights and establishes a separation of governmental powers. There are no formal political parties.

Culture & religion

The indigenous population of the country is Micronesian, with a variety of ethnic divisions based upon language. The population is roughly divided ethnically as follows: Chuukese 48.8%, Pohnpeian 24.2%, Kosraean 6.2%, Yapese 5.2%. There are also minority populations of Polynesians and Asians, with some natives possessing Japanese ancestry due to intermarriage during the Japanese colonial period, which stretched from 1914 until the end of World War Two. Each of the four states has a distinct culture. However, there is a commonality of outlook between them. Clan systems and the high value given to extended family networks are two examples of this. Giant examples of 'stone money' exist on Yap. Micronesia lacks a significant body of written literature.

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