Once a sultanate under Dutch and then British protection, The Maldives won its independence from the British in 1965, becoming a republic. For thirty years, Maldives was under the autocratic rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Asia's longest-serving leader. Though his rule was marked by near stability, he was succeeded by Mohamed Nasheed, the winner of Maldives’ first multi-party presidential elections in October 2008.
The Maldives is made up of nearly 1,200 islands. Due to its natural beauty, some of the islands have been converted into world class resorts, attracting international tourists.
In December 2004, the Maldives was hit by the Asian tsunami. Giant waves destroyed homes, businesses and resorts. A massive rebuilding program is attempting to bring the islands back to the pre-tsunami days.
Maldives faces a number of challenges, including rampant drug usage, a growing radical Islamic movement and the tourism-based economy, which may suffer due to the global credit crisis. In addition, poverty is common among the Maldivians, though the government has made attempts to develop its infrastructure and advance health care, education and literacy.
Sources: BBC, International Crisis Group, CIA World Factbook.
Republic of Maldives
Form of Government:
Year of Independence:
1965 (from Britain)
298 sq km (115 sq miles)
Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English spoken by most government officials
72 years (men), 76 years (women) (2009 est.)
1 rufiyaa = 100 laari
GDP - Per Capita (PPP):
$5,000 (2008 est.)
International Dialing Code: