Algeria

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Template:Infobox Country The People's Democratic Republic of Algeria (Arabic: الجمهورية الجزائرية الديمقراطية الشعبية) , or Algeria (Arabic: الجزائر), is a presidential state in north Africa, and the second largest country on the African continent, Sudan being the largest. It is bordered by Tunisia in the northeast, Libya in the east, Niger in the southeast, Mali and Mauritania in the southwest, and Morocco as well as a few kilometers of its annexed territory, Western Sahara, in the west. Constitutionally, it is defined as an Islamic, Arab, and Amazigh (Berber) country. The name Algeria is derived from the name of the city of Algiers, from the Arabic word al-jazā’ir, which translates as the islands, referring to the four islands which lay off that city's coast until becoming part of the mainland in 1525.

History

Main article: History of Algeria

Algeria has been inhabited by Berbers (or Amazigh) since at least 10,000 BC. From 1000 BC on, the Carthaginians became an influence on them, establishing settlements along the coast. Berber kingdoms began to emerge, most notably Numidia, and seized the opportunity offered by the Punic Wars to become independent of Carthage, only to be taken over soon after by the Roman Republic in 200 BC. As the western Roman Empire collapsed, the Berbers became independent again in much of the area, while the Vandals took over parts until later expelled by the generals of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian I. The Byzantine Empire then retained a precarious grip on the east of the country until the coming of the Arabs in the 8th century.

File:Roman Arch of Trajan at Thamugadi (Timgad), Algeria 04966r.jpg
Roman arch of Trajan at Thamugadi (Timgad), Algeria

After some decades of fierce resistance under leaders such as Kusayla and Kahina, the Berbers adopted Islam en masse, but almost immediately expelled the Caliphate from Algeria, establishing an Ibadi state under the Rustamids. Having converted the Kutama of Kabylie to its cause, the Shia Fatimids overthrew the Rustamids, and conquered Egypt. They left Algeria and Tunisia to their Zirid vassals; when the latter rebelled and adopted Sunnism, they sent in a populous Arab tribe, the Banu Hilal, to weaken them, thus incidentally initiating the Arabization of the countryside. The Almoravids and Almohads, Berber dynasties from the west founded by religious reformers, brought a period of relative peace and development; however, with the Almohads' collapse, Algeria became a battleground for their three successor states, the Algerian Zayyanids, Tunisian Hafsids, and Moroccan Merinids. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Spain started attacking and taking over many coastal cities, prompting some to seek help from the Ottoman Empire.

Algeria was brought into the Ottoman Empire by Khair ad-Din and his brother Aruj, who established Algeria's modern boundaries in the north and made its coast a base for the corsairs; their privateering peaked in Algiers in the 1600s. Piracy on American vessels in the Mediterranean resulted in the First and Second Barbary War with the United States. On the pretext of a slight to their consul, the French invaded Algiers in 1830; however, intense resistance from such personalities as Emir Abdelkader made for a slow conquest of Algeria, not technically completed until the early 1900s when the last Tuareg were conquered.

File:Constantine Algerien 002.jpg
Constantine, Algeria 1840

Meanwhile, however, the French had made Algeria an integral part of France, a status that would end only with the collapse of the Fourth Republic. Tens of thousands of settlers from France, Italy, Spain, and Malta moved in to farm the Algerian coastal plain and occupy the most prized parts of Algeria's cities, benefiting from the French government's confiscation of communally held land. People of European descent in Algeria (the so-called pieds-noirs), as well as the native Algerian Jews, were full French citizens starting from the end of the 19th century; by contrast, the vast majority of Muslim Algerians remained outside of French law, and possessed neither French citizenship nor the right to vote. Algeria's social fabric was stretched to breaking point during this period: literacy dropped massively, while land confiscation uprooted much of the population.

In 1954, the National Liberation Front (FLN) launched the guerrilla Algerian War of Independence; after nearly a decade of urban and rural warfare, they succeeded in pushing the French out in 1962. Most of the 1,025,000 pieds-noirs, as well as 91,000 harkis (pro-French Muslim Algerians serving in the French Army), together forming about 10% of the population of Algeria in 1962, fled Algeria for France in just a few months in the middle of that year.

Algeria's first president, the FLN leader Ahmed Ben Bella, was overthrown by his former ally and defense minister, Houari Boumédiènne in 1965. The country then enjoyed almost 25 years of relative stability under the one-party socialism of Boumedienne and his successors.

In December 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of the country's first multiparty elections. The military then canceled the second round, forced then-president Chadli Bendjedid to resign, and banned the Islamic Salvation Front. The ensuing conflict engulfed Algeria in the violent Algerian Civil War. More than 100,000 people were killed, often by unprovoked massacres and bombings of civilians by muslim guerrilla groups such as the Armed Islamic Group.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Algeria

The head of state is the President of the republic, who is elected to a 5-year term, renewable once. Algeria has universal suffrage. The President is the head of the Council of Ministers and of the High Security Council. He appoints the Prime Minister who is also the head of government. The Prime Minister appoints the Council of Ministers.

The Algerian parliament is bicameral, consisting of a lower chamber, the National People's Assembly (APN), with 380 members and an upper chamber, the Council of Nation, with 144 members. The APN is elected every 5 years.

Throughout the 1960's, Algeria supported many independence movements in sub-Saharan Africa, and was a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement. While it shares much of its history and cultural heritage with neighbouring Morocco, the two countries have had somewhat hostile relations with each other since Algeria's independence. This is due to two reasons: Morocco's claim to portions of eastern Algeria around Touat (which led to a brief war in 1963), and Algeria's support for the Polisario, a clandestine armed group seeking independence for the Moroccan-ruled Western Sahara, which it hosts within its borders in the city of Tindouf. Tensions between Algeria and Morocco, as well as issues relating to the Algerian Civil War, have put great obstacles in the way of tightening the Maghreb Arab Union, nominally established in 1989 but with little practical weight, with its coastal neighbors.

Provinces

Main article: Provinces of Algeria

Algeria is divided into 48 wilayas (provinces):-

Geography

Main article: Geography of Algeria

Most of the coastal area is hilly, sometimes even mountainous, and there are few good harbours. The area just south of the coast, known as the Tell, is fertile. Further south is the Atlas mountain range and the Sahara desert. Algiers, Oran and Constantine are the main cities.

Algeria's climate is arid and hot, although the coastal climate is mild, and the winters in the mountainous areas can be severe. Algeria is prone to sirocco, a hot dust- and sand-laden wind especially common in summer.

See also: Extreme points of Algeria

Economy

Main article: Economy of Algeria

The hydrocarbons sector is the backbone of the economy, accounting for roughly 60% of budget revenues, 30% of GDP, and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the fifth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the second largest gas exporter; it ranks 14th in Petroleum reserves.

Algeria’s financial and economic indicators improved during the mid-1990s, in part because of policy reforms supported by the IMF and debt rescheduling from the Paris Club. Algeria’s finances in 2000 and 2001 benefited from an increase in oil prices and the government’s tight fiscal policy, leading to a large increase in the trade surplus, record highs in foreign exchange reserves, and reduction in foreign debt. The government's continued efforts to diversify the economy by attracting foreign and domestic investment outside the energy sector has had little success in reducing high unemployment and improving living standards. In 2001, the government signed an Association Treaty with the European Union that will eventually lower tariffs and increase trade.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Algeria

About 90% of the Algerians live in the northern, coastal area, although there are about 1.5 million people living in the southern desert most of them in oases. Ninty-nine percent of the population is classified as Arab-Berber, all of which are muslim; other religions are restricted to extremely small groups, mainly of foreigners. Europeans account for less than 1%.

note: almost all Algerians are Berber in origin, not Arab; the minority who identify themselves as Berber live mostly in the mountainous region of Kabylie east of Algiers; the Berbers are also Muslim but identify with their Berber rather than Arab cultural heritage. [1]

Language

Main article: Languages of Algeria

The official language is Arabic, spoken natively in dialectal form ("Darja") by some 80% of the population; the other 20% or so speak Berber, officially a national language. French is widely known from schools, but is very rare as a native language.

Culture

File:Algiers mosque.jpg
mosque in Algiers

Main article: Culture of Algeria

Algerian literature, split between Arabic and French, has been strongly influenced by the country's recent history. Famous novelists of the 20th century include Mohammed Dib and Kateb Yacine, while Assia Djebar is widely translated. As early as Roman times, Apuleius, born in Mdaourouch, was native to what would become Algeria.

In philosophy and the humanities, Malek Bennabi and Frantz Fanon are noted for their thoughts on decolonization, while Augustine of Hippo was born in Annaba, and Ibn Khaldun, though born in Tunis, wrote the Muqaddima while staying in Algeria.

Algerian culture has been strongly influenced by Islam, the main religion. The works of the Sanusi family in precolonial times, and of Emir Abdelkader and Sheikh Ben Badis in colonial times, are widely noted.

The Algerian musical genre best known abroad is raï, a pop-flavored, opinionated take on folk music, featuring international stars such as Khaled and Cheb Mami. However, in Algeria itself the older, highly verbal chaabi style remains more popular, with such stars as El Hadj El Anka or Dahmane El Harrachi, while the tuneful melodies of Kabyle music, exemplified by Idir, Ait Menguellet, Lounès Matoub, or Salah Sadaoui, have a wide audience. For more classical tastes, Andalusi music, brought from Al-Andalus by Morisco refugees, is preserved in many older coastal towns.

Miscellaneous topics

Directories

External links

Look up Algeria in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

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