East Timor

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The tiny south pacific nation of East Timor has had a long and tumultuous history. While it has been touted as the first independent country of the 21st century, the government originally declared its independence in November of 1975. East Timor had spent over 300 years under Portugese rule and the colonial influences did much to shape Timorese culture and society. As a result East Timor developed very differently from its neighbours and had little in common with the former Dutch colony that became Indonesia. Portugese rule over East Timor was, like that in other colonies, oppressive and exploitive. The Portugese assumed a paternal role over the inhabitants of East Timor, regarding their own culture as superior. Rebellions were brutally suppressed and Portugese customs, and values along with the Portugese language were imposed on the Timorese. Despite this oppression independence movements in the colony remained strong. Political parties, once they were legalized, quickly formed and groups advocating independence won wide spread support. Following the trend towards decolonization is South East Asia Portugal allowed political parties as a step towards indpendence and democracy in East Timor. However the Portugese failed to ensure the security of East Timor. The was result was that nine days after it had declared its independence from Portugal, East Timor was invaded by neighbouring Indonesia. What followd was a quarter century of brutal oppression in which saw a quarter of the Timorese population lose their lives at the hands of Indonesian troops. The failure of the Portugese decolonization policies cleared the way for the genocide which occurred in East Timor. Until the 1880s Portugese influnece in East Timor was strong, but not complete and the Timorese had been able to maintain their distinct cultural and religious heritages well into the nineteenth century. At this time Portugal was rapidly falling behind its colonial rivals both economically and militarily and thus sought to more fully exploit the economic potential of East Timor. In 1887, using the assassination of the colonial governor as a pretext, the Portugese government instituted harsh new economic programs designed to undermine the existing Timorese clan system, and bring the entire colony under the control of the colonial government. These plicies led to much resentemtn of the Portugese by the Timorese people and culminated in a massive uprising beginning 1910. The revolt lasted two years and was finally put down by Portugese troops in 1912.
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