The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, or Algeria, is the second largest country in northern Africa. 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. The name Algeria (Arabic al-jazā’ir) is derived from the name of the city of Algiers, which itself is from the Arabic 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.
الجمهورية الجزائرية الديمقراطية الشعبية
|National motto (translation): The Revolution by the people and for the people
Berber, French unofficial but commonly used in administration
Algiers مدينة الجزائر
(El Djazaïr, Al-Jazàir)
|Head of State
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President
|Head of Government
Ahmed Ouyahia, Prime Minister
- % water:
July 5, 1962
Sunni Islam (state religion)
Algerian dinar (DA) = 100 centimes
|Kassaman (Qassamman Bin Nazilat Il-Mahiqat)
(Arabic: We Swear By The Lightning That Destroys)
Main article: History of Algeria
The native Berber population of Algeria has been under the rule of foreign occupants for much of the last 3000 years. The Phoenicians (1000 BC) and the Roman Republic (200 BC) were the most important of these, until the coming of the Arabs in the 8th century. However, the flow of conquests was not all one-way; in medieval times the Berber Fatimid dynasty, originating in Algeria, took over Egypt, although it soon afterwards abandoned North Africa.
Algeria was brought into the Ottoman Empire by Khair ad-Din and his brother Aruj who made its coast a base for the corsairs; their privateering peaked in Algiers in the 1600s, after which the center of activity moved to Tripoli in Libya. 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.
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 across the Mediterranean 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; though they could apply for full citizenship starting from 1865, few chose to make this move. 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 the 1990s, Algeria was engulfed in a protracted and violent civil war after the military prevented an Islamist political party, the Islamic Salvation Front from taking power following the country's first multiparty elections. More than 100,000 people were killed, often in unprovoked massacres of civilians, by guerrilla groups such as the Armed Islamic Group.
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 also is 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.
Algeria has been a political maverick in the Maghreb, making it difficult to create the Moroccan Maghreb Arab Union , proposed in 1989. Throughout the 1960's, Algeria supported many independence movements in sub-Saharan Africa, and was a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement. Tensions over Western Sahara (Algeria supporting the right to self-determination of the Saharawis) have caused tension with Morocco.
Main article: Provinces of Algeria
Algeria is divided into 48 wilayas (provinces):-
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
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 oil 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.
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. The mixed Berber and Arab population is mostly Islamic (99%); other religions are restricted to extremely small groups, mainly of foreigners.
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.
Main article: Culture of Algeria
See also: Music of Algeria, List of Algerian writers, Islam in Algeria.
Official government websites