A country consisting of a group of nine islands in the south-west Pacific and forming part of the Samoan Archipelago.
The country's two major islands, Upolu and Savai'i, are both volcanic and are fringed by coral reefs. The islands have evergreen rainforests and swamps.
The economy of Samoa is based on agriculture. The main exports are cocoa, copra, and bananas, but tropical fruits and timber are also exported. Tourism is expanding.
The Samoan archipelago was first settled in about 1000 bc and was the centre of Polynesian migrations eastwards. Although sighted by the Dutch in 1722, the first European to set foot on the islands was Louis-Antoine de Bougainville in 1768. Germany, Britain, and the USA competed for control of the archipelago until 1899 when the western part of Samoa passed to Germany and the eastern islands became American Samoa. Western Samoa remained a German protectorate until 1914; thereafter it was administered by New Zealand, initially (1920–46) under a League of Nations Mandate and then as a UN Trust Territory. It gained full independence in 1962 as Western Samoa and joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970. Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II became head of state in 1963. He is a constitutional monarch with the power to dissolve the legislative assembly, which is known as the Fono. In 1990 universal adult suffrage was introduced. The 1996 election was won by the Human Rights Protection Party under Tofilau Eti Alesana. In 1997 the country's official name was changed to Samoa.
2831 sq km (1093 sq miles)
1 tala = 100 sene
Congregational 34.8%; Roman Catholic 19.6%; Methodist 15.0%; Mormon 12.7%
Samoan 88%; Euronesian 10%; European 2%
Samoan, English (both official)
UN; Commonwealth; Pacific Islands Forum; Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Subjects: World History.