History of Indonesia



Pre-Indonesia Period:

When the sea level rose as the results of the melting ice north of Europe and the American continent, many island emerged, including Indonesian archipelgo. Java was one of the earliest places where human beings lived. In 1891, Eugene Dubois found the fossils, Homo Erectus who live during the Pleitocene period, on the island of Java. Negritos, a pygmy people who began to radiate through the islands about 30 000 years ago, were some of the first known fully human migrants into Indonesia. There are still genetic traces of these short, woolly-haired, round-headed people eastern Sumatra, the Lesser Sundas, and the deep interior of Irian Jaya.


The Hindu and Buddhist Period:

The Hindu or Buddhist religion lasted from ancient times to the 16th century AD. Because the culture and civilization, which emanated from the Hindu and Buddhist religions, were syncretized with the local cultural elements. Indian influences, including Hinduism, touched only the ruling classes; there was no significant impact on the rural people, who have always leaned more towards animism.

By the 5 th century, Indonesians were using southern Indian script to carve Hindu inscriptions. Sanskrit words found in the Indonesian language today indicate the specific contributions Indians made during their period of influence in the islands, which lasted 1400: the organization of military troops, literature, music and dances, architecture, religious practices and rituals, and even the division of laborers into castes or varnas. For unknown reasons, the mighty kingdoms of central Java disappeared from historic records and new prosperous kingdom emerged in East Java kingdoms. the disappearance of records was presumably caused by a natural disaster or an epidemic.

In 911 to 1007 AD. the powerful kingdom of Singasari emerged in East Java under King Dharmawangsa. He codified laws and translated into Javanese the "mahabharata" epic and its basic philosophy, as exposed in the Bhisma Parva scripture.

In the 10th century Indonesian students were sent to the great Buddhist university of Nalanda in northeastern India; Indonesian even went as far as Tibet for learning and philosophy. Though adherents of Hinduism and Buddhism were enemies in India, in Indonesia most followers of these two religions lived side by side in peace, blending with and borrowing from one another. During the Cailendra dynasty (750-850 AD.) the famous Buddhist temple, Borobudur, was built.

The Indonesian-Indian era reached its apogee in the 14th century with Majapahit Empire (1293-1520), which was considered as the Golden Age of Indonesia. The Moghul Emperor, Kubilai Khan attempted to invade Majapahit. His troops were defeated and driven back to their ships. As Majapahit grew to become a powerful empire, it conquered the kingdom Of Crivijaya in South Sumatra.


The Islamic Kingdoms Period:

Moslem merchants from Gujarat and Persia began visiting Indonesia in the 13th century and established trade links between this country and India and Persia. Along this trade, they began to propagate Islam among the Indonesians people. Demak was the first important javanese city to turn Muslim, in 1477, followed by Cirebon in 1480. In 1478, the Sultan of Demak, brought the downfall of the powerful kingdom of Majapahit. Descendants of Majapahit aristocracy, religious, scholars and Hindu Ksatriyas retreated through the East Java peninsula of Blambangan to the island of Bali and Lombok. In the later period, the eastern part of lombok was converted to Islam, which entered the island from the southern Sulawesi city of Makassar, now name Ujungpandang. Indonesia is one of the few countries where islam did not supplant he existing religion purely by military conquest. In 1527 Sunda Kelapa was conquered by Falatehan, and Islamic troop commander of the sultanate of Demak. After his conquest the city was renamed Jaya Karta, meaning "the great city", this was the origin of the present name, Jakarta.


Dutch Colonialism:

The Dutch started their involvement in Indonesia as traders, first entering Indonesia at Banten in 1596 with just four ships. When these ships return safely to Holland with their valuable cargo of spices, the result was wild speculation. For the purpose of more efficient and better organized merchant trade they established the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1602. To protect the merchants fleet from frequent pirate attacks on the high seas, Dutch warships were ordered to accompany it.

The Dutch did everything they could to isolate the islands from all other outside contact. They gained their first foothold in Sunda Kelapa, was renamed Batavia, in the early 17th century and within 10 years were sinking all foreign vessels found in Indonesian waters. Sultan Agung was the fierce enemy of the Dutch. In 1629, he sent his troops to attack Batavia, but they were repulsed by troops of Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen.

In 1740 the Dutch suppressed a rebellion in Jakarta that was sparked by dissatisfied Chinese, who were later joined by Indonesians. Ten thousand Chinese were massacred. However, mismanagement and corruption forced the VOC into bankruptcy and on December 31, 1799, all its territories in Indonesia were taken over by the Dutch Administration in Batavia. The commercial entreprise has been transformed into colonial empire.

King Sisingamangaraja of the Bataks revolved against the Dutch in 1907. An attempt by the Dutch troops to ocupy Bali in 1908 was repped by King Udayana.


The Japanese Occupation:

Indonesia quickly fell to the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. They invaded the Dutch East Indies and the colonial armed surrendered in March 1942. The Japanese were initially welcomed as asian liberators of European colonialism, but it soon became evident that the Japanese were more despotic and intrusive than the Dutch.

Under the pressure of the 4th pacific war, where their supply lines were interrupted, and the increasing of Indonesian insurrections, the japanese ultimately gave into allow the red-and-white flag to fly as the Indonesian national flag.

Finally, the Japanese surrendered and left Indonesia in 1945, but the Japanese presence did foster several paramilitary, nationalist and anti-colonial organisations which were ready to fight the returning Dutch.



On 17 August 1945, just after the conclusion end of World War II, the Indonesian leader Ahmed Soekarno proclaimed the nation's independence, but it took four years to convince the Dutch that they were not going to get their great colony back. In 1949, the Dutch recognised Indonesia's independence.

Independence was not an easy path for Indonesia to follow at first, and Soekarno, proved less adept at governing the nation in peacetime.

On 30 september 1965, an attempted coup - blamed on the Communist Party (PKI) - led to Soekarno's downfall. General Mohamed Soeharto emerged as the leading figure in the armed forces, displaying great military and political skill in suppressing the coup. The PKI was outlawed and wave of anti-communist reprisals followed, which escalated into wholesale massacre of suspected Communists troughout the Indonesian archipelago.

The New Order:

Following the failed coup and its aftermath, Soeharto established himself as president and took control of the governement, while Soekarno disappeared from limelight. Politically, Soeharto ensured that the Golkar party, with strong support from the army became the dominant political force. Under the banner of "guided democracy", other political parties were banned or cripped by disqualification of candidates and the isenfranchisement of voters. Regular elections maintained the appearance of a national democracy, but until recently, Golkar won every election easily.

Indonesia Today:

In early 1997, South-East Asia began to suffer a severe economic crisis. A year later, 76-year-old Soeharto was re-elected unopposed to a seventh five-year presidential term, much to the anguish of anti-Soeharto and pro-democracy activists. Soeharto then appointed his protege, the 61-year-old Dr. Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, as the Vice-President. To help deal with the continuing economic crisis, Soeharto grudgingly agreed in May 1998 to the International Monetary Fund's demand to increase the government-subsidised price of electricity and petrol, resulting in immediate increases in the cost of most public transport. The price of rice and other food staples also increased and the Indonesian-chinese community, which owns many shops,bore the brunt of riots which broke out across Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. Many students were killed during clashes with police which left about 1100 dead and seriously damaged the central business district of Jakarta.

To the surprise of many, Soeharto resigned on 21 may 1998 after 32 years in power, and handed the presidency to Habibie. Habibie soon made a few encouraging moves, such as releasing political prisoners and promising democratic elections before the end of 1999, but most Indonesians remain unsatisfied because Habibie is deemed to be a Soeharto crony, and Soeharto has yet to be stripped of his enormous fortune and tried for corruption. While the economics crisis continues, Habibie's presidency remains tenuous.