Indonesia History Timeline

According to, Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia, consisting of the world’s largest archipelago, and the six main islands Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Bali, Kalimantan and Irian Jayasamt 13,677 smaller islands. About 3,000 of the islands are inhabited and extend over a volcanic area of ​​almost 5,000 km. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago. The country is a member of ASEAN.

The country covers only 1.3 per cent. of the Earth’s surface, but is a region with great natural variation in flora and fauna. 10% of the Earth’s flowering plants, 17% of its birds, 12 per cent. of its mammals and 16 per cent. of its reptiles and amphibians are represented in Indonesia.

Archaeological traces show that Indonesia was one of the first places on earth where homo sapiens lived. The current population is predominantly descended from immigrants from Malaya who around the year 400 had developed kingdoms on Java (Jawa) and Sumatra (Sumatera) with cultural and religious influence from India.

The peak of Indo-Indonesian civilization was reached in the 15th century with the kingdom of Mojopahit, which stretched across Java, Bali, Sumatra and Borneo. It was at the same time commercially and culturally connected with China.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Indonesia was the center of rivalry between Spaniards and Portuguese, Dutch and English, who each set up their own trading company. It was these companies that introduced the export crops of coffee and sugar on the islands. These crops provided a tremendous economic return, but at the same time upset the local economic and social structures that had been respected until then. The consequence was a series of anti-colonial uprisings.

The country was formed after the dissolution of the Dutch East Indies.

Rubber is the country’s main export product, other important crops are rice, bananas, coffee and coconuts.

69-77,000 BCE – The super-volcano in Lake Toba, on the island of Sumatra erupted, and the lake in which it is located is called the Caldera. A caldera is a crater-like formation that occurs when a volcano collapses after a large eruption. The word “caldera” comes from Spanish and means kettle. 100 km long and 30 km wide, and 500m at its deepest point, this is the largest volcano in the world. Scientists believe that the eruption may have had an impact on almost eradicating all of humanity at this time. Ash and volcanic debris were 3,000 times larger than what came from Mount St. Helens in 1980. All over India was covered with ash, and and around the globe the sunshine was reduced and the temperature dropped 3 degrees, and remained so for several years. Millions of life forms died everywhere on Earth. A new theory from April 2013, however, explains that the Toba eruption may not have been to blame for human fate at this time. Read more here (in English). 10,000 BCE – Homo floresiensis, man’s last known relative, extinct during a volcanic eruption.

14th century – From the end of the 13th century an Islamization process took place in the archipelago. Unlike Christianity, it was not practiced by Arab conquerors, but because Islam was attractive as an equality-oriented faith that was simple and adaptable to local conditions. The Arab traders brought Indonesian spices to Europe, thus tempting the European colonists.

1511 – The first Portuguese arrive in Malacca.

1521 – The Spaniards arrive in the Moluccas, and in 1595, private Dutch interests organize the first expedition to the archipelago.

1602 – Various Dutch trading companies form the East India Company, which not only obtains a monopoly on trade with the region from the government but also acquires a colonial mandate.

1799 – The East India Company is dissolved and all its interests are taken over by the Dutch state.

1824 – After a brief English intermezzo (1811-16), England and Holland divided the area between them, so that England gained control of the Malay Peninsula (later Malaysia ) and Holland gained control of the islands. Borneo was similarly divided later in the century.

1877-1903 – The Netherlands decide to subjugate the whole of Indonesia, leading to bloody battles. A 30-year war against Sultanate Aceh on North Sumatra was the bloodiest of them all.

1883 – On August 27, the Indonesian volcanic island of Krakatau is shaken by an explosion that can be heard at a distance of 5,000 km. Ash clouds rose 80 km into the atmosphere and circled around the globe. When the island collapsed, 40-meter-high tsunami waves formed, destroying 163 villages in Java and Sumatra. Approx. 36,000 people are believed to have died. It is said that a year after the eruption, sailing ships still had to keep a close eye so as not to collide with “islands” of pumice, which floated around in the Indian Ocean.. The fact that the catastrophe on Krakatau has become so infamous is, in the opinion of many, due to the fact that in the 1880s the telegraph had just been taken into use. The media could bring the news quickly. An even more violent eruption, which had taken place on the island of Tambora in 1815, is today almost forgotten. ( All About History 8/2008 )

1900 – After the year 1900, the Dutch state initiated a number of development projects in the country. The road network, the health system and the school system were expanded. Members of the Indonesian elite also gained access to European education. The aim was to enable them to meet the demands of the increasingly advanced requirements colony administration and also to bind them culturally to the Netherlands.

1908-1914 – Dutch racism provoked nationalist and anti-colonial currents, both among the working class and among Indonesian petty capitalists – especially Sumatra and Java. They were strongly Islamic-oriented and reacted especially to the Chinese minority, who sat heavily on local trade. With the two groups as leading forces, the first nationalist mass organization, Sarekat Islam, was developed in the years around World War I. The colonial power tried to stem this development by setting up the Volksraat – the People’s Council – in 1916, which was to consider proposals from the native population. However, the defensive maneuver had a limited effect, as the Dutch did not take the advice seriously themselves.

1921 – The Left is thrown out of Sarekat Islam and forms a new party: the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). It recruited especially among the proletarians in the cities, but also among small farmers and landless in the countryside.

1926 – Under the leadership of the PKI, riots broke out in the western part of resp. Sumatra and Java. The uprising was crushed and PKI banned.

1939 – GAPI (Gabungan Politics Indonesia) is formed. It was a coalition of 8 nationalist organizations demanding democracy, autonomy and national unity. A red and white flag was made and it was decided to make Bahasa Indonesia a national language.

1942 – Japan invades Indonesia. The Japanese portrayed themselves as Asian brothers and liberated nationalist leaders such as Sukarno and Mohammed Hatta. The fraternity, however, was no greater than the Japanese stepping up the exploitation of the population – in favor of the Japanese war effort. However, some Indonesian nationalists like Sukarno took advantage of the Japanese’s room for maneuver to propagate against the old regime. In this way, it succeeded in strengthening the Indonesian national feeling. Others – both Western-oriented Democrats and Communists – went underground to launch a resistance struggle against the occupiers.

1945 – August 17. Towards the end of the war, the legal and illegal currents merged, declaring Indonesia an “independent, united, sovereign, just, and prosperous” republic. A constitution was adopted that gave the country’s new president, Sukarno, great power. The Netherlands, however, had no intention of releasing its fertile colony, so fighting began for the next 4 years, which was only interrupted by negotiations. Eventually, however, Holland had to bow.

1948 – The decisive turnaround takes place this year when it comes to a rift between the PKI and the rest of the resistance movement after a PKI revolt against the republic was bloodily crushed. The United States found it easier to recognize the new republic without communist influence.

1954 – Indonesia breaks ties with the Netherlands.

1955 – Sukarno is one of the initiators of the Bandung Summit, which laid the foundation stone for the Alliance-Free Countries Movement.

1964 – Small farmers and landless farm workers began to occupy land in many places with the support of the PKI and (especially) the communist peasant organization BTI. The occupations in many places in Java led to serious clashes between landowners and poor peasants, and at the end of 1964 ebbed out. This was the prelude to what was to happen in the fall of 1965.

1965 – September 30. 7 senior officers were assassinated by a group of junior officers – given with support from parts of the PKI. It was supposed to be the beginning of an uprising against the military top, but the revolt was crushed after a few hours by Major General – later General and President – Suharto. The event was the signal for a general persecution and massacre of real and supposed communists. About 700,000 communists or suspected communists were killed in a few months, and 200,000 ended up as political prisoners. Most in the rural areas of Java and Bali. To a large extent, these were acts of revenge for the land occupations the year before. At the same time was Sukarno by becoming too nationalistic for the foreign multinationals. Until then, oil production had rested in the hands of the British-Dutch company, Shell, but in 1965 Sukarno decided to nationalize the oil.

1965 – In the wake of the massacre, which claimed the lives of 700,000 suspected or actual communists, the state developed an ideology of legitimacy – the so-called Pancasila. According to it, the state is secular (non-religious), unity-oriented and free from opposition to the outside world. The PKI and all other left-wing organizations were banned, and Sukarno was gradually pushed aside.

1966 – In March, Suharto takes real political power, becoming “acting president” in 1967 and actually president in 1968.

1970 – Sukarno dies.

1973 – The two allowed opposition parties until the end of the 1990s were created by the government (!). It is about the United Party for Development (PPP), which is conservative and Islamic. Furthermore, it is about the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), which organizes Christian and traditional nationalist groups from the Sukarna period.

1975 – Suharto orders the military to invade East Timor, which had just seceded from Portugal. US President Gerald Ford visited Jakarta a few hours before the invasion, and apparently gave his consent to this. The people of East Timor did not accept the Indonesians as liberators, but rather as colonialists of a new type. Instead of curbing Indonesia’s problems, these were reinforced by the fierce opposition of the East Timorese to the new colonial masters.

1983 – March 10. The People’s Consultative Assembly unanimously elected Suharto for a fourth 5-year term as president despite growing opposition to his government.

1990 – The Partisan Movement launches the Free Aceh and Aceh National Liberation Movement attacks in this region of northern Sumatra. There are also independence movements in Irian Jaya (OPM), as well as the Moluccas.

1990s – The National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) were formed in the late 1990s. Until the military coup in 1965, Indonesia’s Communist Party (PKI) was the world’s third largest communist party. It has since had to work illegally.

1991 – Clashes escalate between the army and the liberation movements in Aceh in northern Sumatra, and at the same time the military commander-in-chief calls for the complete extermination of the partisans. In November, Indonesian troops bombed thousands of demonstrators in Dili, the capital of East Timor. 271 were killed.

1992 – In March, separatist groups launch an armed offensive in Irian Jaya province. At the same time, the US government decided to propose to Congress a $ 2.3 million grant for the training of Indonesian officers and security forces.

1996 – The political climate becomes increasingly tense as more allegations of illegal enrichment of the president’s family and friends emerge. The military considered the Islamic groups, PDI and Sukarnoputri as the biggest threats to the Suharto regime.

1997-1998 – During this period from October 97 to March 98, 2 million people lost their jobs. After months of protests in the wake of the renewal of Suharto’s mandate, in May 1998 he was forced to resign from the presidency. He was replaced by his Crown Prince and Vice President, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie. The protests had then cost hundreds of lives.

1998 – In October, violent student protests call for the transition to democracy and the ouster of the military commander, Wiranto. The students got the capital under control and in the ensuing clashes with anti-demonstration police, 5 students were killed. That same month, two civilians were killed in armed clashes between separatists and police in Aceh province in the northwestern part of the country, where the military is accused of carrying out a wide range of attacks on the population.

1999 – In Borneo, ethnic conflicts escalate between indigenous Malays, Dayaks and Chinese, and immigrants from the rest of Indonesia.

In March, the clashes killed 70 people.

April. Hundreds of Muslims set fire to a Christian town hall in Jakarta in retaliation for the explosion of a mosque in Ujung Pandang – the largest in Southeast Asia.

In September, the UN sent an Australian-led peacekeeping force into East Timor, the Indonesian forces withdrew from the country, and its transition to independence could begin.

October – The presidential election is won by Abdurramán Wahid, who until then had been chairman of the Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama.

2000 – Despite Wahid’s pledge to fight widespread corruption in the country, he was quickly embroiled in financial scandals that prompted parliament to set up a commission of inquiry in August. The first scandal broke out in May, when the president’s personal masseur had received 4.1 million. dollars from the National Food Agency. The next scandal was about a donation from the Sultan of Brunei to Wahid, which he had kept secret. The 2 scandals were dubbed Buloggate and Bruneigate, respectively, in the press . In both cases, the money should have been used for humanitarian programs in Aceh, where the uprising continued. Parliament continued its efforts to bring Wahid to justice.

2001 – February. One had to give up putting Wahid in court after thousands of his supporters took to the streets with support for him and demands for Golkar’s dissolution.

March. The Dayak people of Kalimantan took control of parts of the province. The worst outbreak of violence in the area since 1997.

May. Wahid was charged with corruption and incompetence. Prior to the vote, he had written to Parliament declaring that he refused to resign. At the same time, he declared the country in a state of emergency, but this call was not followed by either the police or the military. The Supreme Court subsequently declared the call unconstitutional, and in July, parliament removed Wahid by 591 votes to 0. Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri took over the presidency. She is the daughter of Sukarno.

2002 – In March, the son of the former president, Tommy Suharto, is convicted of killing a Supreme Court justice who had sentenced him to prison for corruption. Iflg. analysts, the verdict was a crucial test for the judiciary, which was still perceived as sensitive to corruption.

In October, more than 180 people – including 3 Danes – died in a terrorist attack on a nightclub on the holiday island of Bali. The same day, another bomb exploded near the US consulate in Sanur without claiming victims. Both attacks were initially attributed to the Islamic terrorist network al-Qaeda. The government gave per. decree police extended powers to prosecute suspected terrorists.

In December, the government and Aceh’s Liberation Front (GAM) signed a peace agreement in Geneva to end 26 years of violence.

2003 – However, in May, negotiations broke down again and the government launched a major military offensive in the province, which was declared a state of military emergency.

In August, a bomb exploded at a hotel in Jakarta, killing 15. Jemaah Islamiya (JI) was suspected of being behind the attack. The JI was created in 1970, when President Suharto needed the support of extreme Islamists in his fight against the “communist danger”.

In December, Human Rights Watch published a report accusing Indonesia of assaults on civilians, extrajudicial executions, arrests and violent attacks in the government’s fight against the GAM in Aceh. At the same time, the government’s “curtain of silence” was criticized over the fighting caused by journalists’ forms of entry to the war zone. One week later, 3 soldiers were sentenced to 20 months in prison for beating peasants during the attack on a village.

2004 – The earthquake in the Indian Ocean was an undersea earthquake unleashed December 26, 2004 at 12:58:53 UTC (01:58:50 o’clock Danish time at 7:58:50 local time) with epicenter west of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The earthquake was caused by subduction and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coast of most stretches of land bordering the Indian Ocean, which killed more than 225,000 people in eleven countries and 130,000 disappeared. Coastal areas were flooded with waves up to 30 meters high. It was especially the province of Aceh that was affected, and the provincial capital Banda Aceh was largely leveled by the violent tidal wave. Villages in a wide belt down the coast were likewise washed away by the tidal wave. The rebel movement subsequently declared a ceasefire, so as not to complicate the relief effort, but the Indonesian army used the disaster as a cover to escalate its attacks on the rebels in the province. It is one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in history.

2005 – March. An earthquake off Sumatra killed more than 1,000 people. Most on the island of Nias.

In August, the government and Aceh’s liberation movement signed a peace agreement, and at the end of the month, the government released about 1,500 prisoners linked to the armed struggle.

September. Both the governor of Sumatera Utara, Rizal Nurdin and his predecessor Raja Inal Siregar died in a plane crash.

2006 – February. President Yudhoyono met with his East Timor counterpart Xanana Gusmao for a summit that paved the way for a normalization of relations between the two countries. It came after a UN report on Indonesia’s 25-year occupation of East Timor made the Indonesian security forces aware of the deaths of 180,000 East Timorese.

May. A powerful earthquake hit Java, leaving 6,000 dead and 200,000 homeless.

2007 – A public prosecutor earlier this year filed a lawsuit against former President Suharto for stealing $ 440 million. US $ from education funds during its 30 year rule.

January 10th. Six were killed and more than 20 people were injured when two bombs exploded a few hours apart in the southern Indonesian cities of General Santos and Kidapawan. The bombs were detonated the day before 16 Asian leaders were due to arrive for a summit.

February. Several days of heavy rain have flooded three quarters of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta. Up to 30 people have been killed and more than 340,000 have lost their homes. The poor are hardest hit because the water masses have particularly violent consequences when they hit a city like Jakarta, which is enormously densely populated, paved and built up, and there is a lack of green areas. The earth is violently saturated. The city’s poorest residents are being pressured to relocate to the lowest areas. These are the areas that are being flooded again and again. Poor urban planning is one of the reasons why Jakarta is particularly prone to floods. Peder Dam from the Red Cross says: “ Land prices are sky-high, which is why people are building close and in many layers to bring investment back home. It is enormously expensive for the government to buy land for the necessary water drainage ”.

2008 – January 27. The former dictator of Indonesia, General Suharto, died on Sunday at a hospital in the country’s capital, Jakarta. He turned 86 years old.

2009 – January 4. A series of earthquakes, with the strongest reaching 7.56 on the Richter scale, have hit the northern coast of Papua in Indonesia. The Indonesian government said at least four people were killed and five were injured. The quake was followed by about ten aftershocks and sent about ten centimeters of mini-tsunamis off the coast of Japan north of Papua. The city of Manokwari in western Papua in particular was hit hard. It was here that the four people were killed when two hotels collapsed. Taiwan was hit earlier in the day by a moderate 5.1 magnitude earthquake, but there are no reports of injuries. Almost simultaneously, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the northeastern part of Afghanistan. Here, too, there should be no casualties.

Indonesia History Timeline