The Republic of Kiribati is an island nation located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. The country's 33 atolls are scattered over 3,500,000 km² near the equator. Its name is pronounced and is a Gilbertese transliteration of "Gilberts", the English name for the main group of islands: the former Gilbert Islands.
Main article: History of Kiribati
Kiribati was inhabited by a single Micronesian ethnic group that spoke the same Oceanic language for 2,000 years before coming into contact with Europeans. The islands were named the Gilbert Islands in 1820 by an Estonian admiral, Adam Johann von Krusenstern and French captain Louis Duperrey after a British captain, Thomas Gilbert, who crossed the archipelago in 1788 ('Kiribati' is the islanders' pronunciation of plural 'Gilberts'). In 1892, the Gilbert Islands became a British protectorate together with the nearby Ellice Islands. They became a colony in 1916 and finally became autonomous in 1971. In 1943, the Battle of Tarawa was fought at Kiribati's capital Tarawa.
In 1978, the Ellice Islands became the independent nation of Tuvalu, and Kiribati's independence followed on July 12, 1979. With independence, the United States relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix Island and all but three of the Line Islands, which became part of Kiribati territory.
Main article: Politics of Kiribati
The parliament of Kiribati, called Maneaba ni Maungatabu is elected every four years, and consists of 42 representatives. A Maneaba is also the name given to the meeting houses in every local comminity.
The president is both head of state and head of government, and is called te Beretitenti (pronounced te pereseetensee).
Each of the 21 inhabited islands has a local council that takes care of the daily affairs. (3 councils on Tarawa: Betio, South-Tarawa, North-Tarawa).
Main article: Districts of Kiribati
There are no more districts, but a group that unites the Line and the Phoenix islands (ministry at London, Christmas). Each inhabited island has its own council (3 councils on Tarawa: Betio, South-Tarawa, North-Tarawa; 2 councils on Tabiteuea).
Kiribati was divided into 6 districts until independence:
Four of the former districts (including Tarawa) lie in the Gilbert Islands, where most of the country's population lives. Only three of the Line Islands are inhabited, while the Phoenix Islands are uninhabited except for Kanton and Orona (80 people) and have no representation. Banaba itself is sparsely inhabited now. There is also a representative non-elected of the Banabans relocated to Rabi Island in the nation of Fiji.
Main article: Geography of Kiribati
Kiribati consists of about 32 atolls and one island (Banaba), with at least three in each hemisphere. The groups of islands are:
- Banaba: an isolated island between Nauru and the Gilbert Islands.
- Gilbert Islands: 16 atolls located some 1500 km north of Fiji
- Phoenix Islands: 8 atolls and coral islands located some 1800 km southeast of the Gilberts
- Line Islands: 8 atolls and one reef, located about 3300 km east of the Gilberts.
Three additional islands in the Line Islands are United States possessions.
Banaba (or Ocean Island) is a raised-coral island that was once a rich source of phosphates, but it was mostly mined out before independence. The rest of the land in Kiribati consists of the sand and reef rock islets of atolls or coral islands that rise but a few meters above sea level. The soil is thin and calcareous, making agriculture very difficult.
Kiritimati (Christmas Island) in the Line Islands is the world's largest atoll.
Main article: Economy of Kiribati
Kiribati has few natural resources. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence.
Copra and fish now represent the bulk of production and exports.
The economy has fluctuated widely in recent years.
Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets.
Tourism provides more than one-fifth of GDP.
Foreign financial aid, largely from the United Kingdom and Japan, is a critical supplement to GDP, equal to 25%-50% of GDP in recent years.
Main article: Demographics of Kiribati
The name of the people is Gilbertese (or I-Kiribati, in gilbertese).
While English is the constitution's and law's language, kiribati or Gilbertese, the native Micronesian language, is widely spoken.
Note that in Gilbertese there is no letter 's', the sound is represented by 'ti'. That is why Kiritimati Island is known in English as Christmas Island (not to be confused with the Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, which is administered by Australia).
Christianity is the major religion in the country, although mixed with many practices of the indigenous beliefs. There are also some Bahá'ís.
Main article: Culture of Kiribati
There is a great importance of the songs (te anene) and above all of the dances (te mwaie).