Kongo


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Kongo

 

a state that existed on the lower course of the Congo River from about the 14th through the 18th centuries. The main inhabitants were the Bakongo.

According to legends, the Kongo state was founded by the chief Nimi-a-Lukeni, or Ntinu Wene, who entered the region leading a detachment of warriors from the area around the Kwango River. The Kongo state reached the summit of its power in the mid-15th century, ruling over several vassal states and chiefdoms, the Loango, Kakongo, and Ngojo on the northern bank of the Congo River and the N’Dongo on the territory of present-day northern Angola. The capital of the state, Mban-za-Kongo (modern Säo Salvador), was a major artisan center and the focal point of the country’s political life. The state was ruled by a king the manikongo, and a council of chiefs played an important role. Feudal relations developing at that time merged with institutions of the clan system; domestic slavery also existed.

The Portuguese began arriving in the area in the late 15th century. The raids of slave traders and the internecine strife fomented by the Portuguese led to the gradual decline of the state beginning in the second half of the 16th century. In 1570 the warlike Jagga tribes, who came from the heart of tropical Africa, destroyed the capital of the Kongo state. They were repulsed with Portuguese aid, but at the price of strengthening Portuguese influence in the country. Growing Portuguese domination and the arbitrary rule of the feudal chiefs provoked a large popular uprising under the leadership of Moula Matadi about 1587. Throughout the 17th century the Portuguese, who had allied themselves with the Jagga, waged numerous wars against the Kongo state, and by the mid-18th century the state had completely disintegrated into warring chiefdoms.

REFERENCES

Orlova, A. S. Istoriia gosudarstva Kongo (XVI-XVII vv.). Moscow, 1968.
Ihle, A. Das alte Königreich Kongo. Leipzig, 1929.

A. S. ORLOVA

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