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Bolivia (bōlĭvˈēə, Span. bōlēˈvyä), officially Plurinational State of Bolivia, republic (2020 est. pop. 11,670,000), 424,162 sq mi (1,098,581 sq km), W South America. One of the two inland countries of South America, Bolivia is shut in from the Pacific in the W by Chile and Peru; in the E and N it borders on Brazil, in the SE on Paraguay, and in the S on Argentina. Sucre is the constitutional capital and seat of the judiciary, but La Paz is the largest city, political and commercial focus of the nation, and the administrative capital and seat of government.

Land and People

Bolivia presents a sharp contrast between high, bleak mountains and plateaus in the west and lush, tropical rain forests in the east. In the southeast it merges into the semiarid plains of the Gran Chaco. The Andes mountain system reaches its greatest width in Bolivia. Two cordilleras, the western one tracing the border with Chile and the eastern running north and south across the center of the country, are divided by a high plateau (altiplano), most of it 12,000 ft (3,660 m) above sea level—barren, windswept, and segmented by mountain spurs.

Despite the harsh conditions the altiplano is the population center of Bolivia. Many sections for want of drainage have brackish lakes and salt beds, notably the extensive Salar de Uyuni (see Uyuni, Salar de) in the south. In the north are Lake Titicaca, which Bolivia shares with Peru, and Lake Poopó. This region, world famous for its breathtaking scenery, was the home of one of the great pre-Columbian civilizations. Well known are the ruins of Tiahuanaco.

The eastern mountains, consisting of three major ranges, rise to the cold, forbidding heights of the Puna plateau (as high as 16,000 ft/4,880 m) and in the north to the snowcapped peaks of Illimani (21,184 ft/6,457 m) and Illampú (21,276 ft/6,485 m). In these mountains lies the source of the exploited wealth of Bolivia—its minerals. Tin is by far the most important product, but silver was once the chief metal, and tungsten, copper, wolframite, bismuth, antimony, zinc, lead, iron, and gold are also mined. The names of some mining towns, notably Potosí and Oruro, are world famous.

From the mountains, headstreams cut eastward, carving deep gorges and fingerlike valleys. In these valleys are some of Bolivia's garden spots—Sucre, Cochabamba, and Tarija. Santa Cruz de la Sierra and La Paz are the two main cities of tropical Bolivia. In the eastern foothills headstreams gather to form the Beni, the Guaiporé, and the Mamoré (tributaries of the Madeira, in Brazil), which flow through the torrid, humid yungas, covered with dense rain forests, and inhabited mainly by indigenous South Americans. The region is the most fertile in the country, yielding cacao, coffee, and tropical fruits, and in the early 20th cent. was a major source of wild rubber and quinine. Some of the more accessible valleys, with luxuriant scenery and a pleasantly warm climate, have become popular Bolivian resort areas.

About 30% of the people are Quechua and 25% are Aymara (though many are of mixed descent), with indigenous groups largely living in the western highlands. Citizens of European descent (13% of the people) or mixed European and native ancestry (26% of the population), who live primarily in the cities and eastern lowlands, have historically maintained economic, political, and social hegemony, but this was challenged by Evo Morales, who was first elected president in 2005, and by the constitution adopted in 2009. Spanish and 36 indigenous languages including Aymara, Quechua, and Guaraní are all constitutionally recognized as official languages. A few indigenous groups have remained isolated from European culture. Most of the population is Roman Catholic, although many people of indigenous descent retain the substance of their pre-Christian beliefs. There is also an evangelical Protestant minority.


Despite the importance of its tin, silver, and other mines and its large reserves of natural gas and crude oil, Bolivia is one of the poorest nations in Latin America and still largely lives by a subsistence economy. A large part of the population makes its living from the growing of coca, the source of cocaine; it is typically grown largely legally for the leaves and products in which they are used, and illegally for cocaine. Soybeans, coffee, cotton, corn, sugarcane, rice, and potatoes are the other major crops; timber is also important. Industry is limited to mining and smelting, petroleum refining, food processing, and small-scale manufacturing. The tin industry has received increasing competition from SE Asia, and as a result several tin mines have closed. Although Bolivia has much hydroelectric potential, it is underutilized.

Bolivia's natural resources and agriculture furnish the bulk of its exports, with natural gas, soybeans, crude petroleum, zinc, and tin most important. Petroleum products, plastics, paper, aircraft and parts, prepared foods, automobiles, and insecticides are important imports. Brazil, Argentina, the United States, and Peru are the chief trading partners. Bolivia is a member of the Andean Community, an economic organization of South American countries.


Bolivia, which has had more than 190 revolutions and coups since it became independent in 1825, is governed under the constitution of 2009. The head of state and of government is the president, who is elected to five-year term. The bicameral legislature, the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, consists of an upper Chamber of Senators and a lower Chamber of Deputies. The 36 senators and 130 deputies are all elected for five-year terms. Administratively, Bolivia is divided into nine departments.


Early History

The altiplano was a center of native life even before the days of the Inca; the region was the home of the great Tihuanaco empire. The Aymara had been absorbed into the Inca empire long before Gonzalo Pizarro and Hernando Pizarro began the Spanish conquest of the Inca in 1532. In 1538 the indigenous inhabitants in Bolivia were defeated.

Uninviting though the high, cold country was, it attracted the Spanish because of its rich silver mines, discovered as early as 1545. Exploiters poured in, bent on quick wealth. Forcing the natives to work the mines and the obrajes [textile mills] under duress, they remained indifferent to all development other than the construction of transportation facilities to remove the unearthed riches. Native laborers were also used on great landholdings. Thus began the system of plunder economy and social inequality that persisted in Bolivia until recent years. Economic development was further retarded by the rugged terrain, and conditions did not change when the region was made (1559) into the audiencia of Charcas, which was attached until 1776 to the viceroyalty of Peru and later to the viceroyalty of La Plata.

Independence and the Nineteenth Century

The revolution against Spanish control came early, with an uprising in Chuquisaca in 1809, but Bolivia remained Spanish until the campaigns of José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar. Independence was won with the victory (1824) at Ayacucho of Antonio José de Sucre. After the formal proclamation of independence in 1825, Bolívar drew up (1826) a constitution for the new republic. The nation was named Bolivia, and Chuquisaca was renamed Sucre, after the revolutionary hero.

Bolivia inherited ambitions and extensive territorial claims that proved disastrous, leading to warfare and defeat. At the time of independence it had a seacoast, a portion of the Amazon basin, and claims to most of the Chaco; in little more than a century all these were lost. The strife-ridden internal history of Bolivia began when the first president, Sucre, was forced to resign in 1828. A steady stream of egocentric caudillos plagued Bolivia thereafter. Andrés Santa Cruz, desiring to reunite Bolivia and Peru, invaded Peru in 1836 and established a confederation, which three years later was destroyed on the battlefield of Yungay.

Although a few presidents, notably José Ballivián, made efforts to reform the administration and improve the economy, the temptation to wholesale corruption was always strong, and honest reform was hard to achieve. The nitrate deposits of Atacama proved valuable, but the mining concessions were given to Chileans. Trouble over them led (1879), during the administration of Hilarión Daza, to the War of the Pacific (see Pacific, War of the). As a result Bolivia lost Atacama to Chile, and no longer had direct access to the Pacific. The next serious loss was the little-known region of the Acre River, which had become valuable because of its wild rubber. After a bitter conflict, Bolivia, under President José Manuel Pando, yielded the area to Brazil in 1903 for an indemnity.

Twentieth-Century Bolivia

Attempts at reorganization and reform, especially by Ismael Montes, were overshadowed in the 20th cent. by military coups, rule of dictators, and bankruptcy. This repeated sequence led to an increase in foreign influence, through loans and interests in mines and oil fields. Attempts to raise Bolivia from its status as an underdeveloped country met with little success, although great personal fortunes were amassed from tin mining by tycoons such as Simón I. Patiño.

Conflicting claims to the Chaco, which was thought to be oil-rich, brought on yet another disastrous territorial war, this time with Paraguay (1932–35). The fighting ended in 1935 with both nations exhausted and Bolivia defeated and stripped of most of its claims in that area. Programs for curing the ills of the nation were hampered by military coups and countercoups. World War II proved a boon to the Bolivian economy by increasing demands for tin and wolframite. International pressure over pro-German elements in the government eventually forced Bolivia to break relations with the Axis and declare war (1943).

Rising prices aggravated the restiveness of the miners over miserable working conditions; strikes were brutally suppressed. The crisis reached a peak in Dec., 1943, when the nationalistic, pro-miner National Revolutionary Movement (MNR) engineered a successful revolt. The regime, however, was not recognized by other American nations (except Argentina) until 1944, when pro-Axis elements in the MNR were officially removed. In 1946 the leader of the MNR-backed government, Major Gualberto Villaroel, was lynched. The conservative government installed in 1947 was soon threatened by opposition from the MNR and the extreme left.

In the 1951 presidential elections Victor Paz Estenssoro, the MNR candidate, won a majority of the votes, but was prevented from taking office by a military junta. The MNR, with the aid of the national police (the carabineros) and of a militia recruited from miners and peasants, rebelled and took power. The revolutionary government proceeded to expropriate and nationalize the tin holdings of the huge Patiño, Hochschild, and Aramayo interests and inaugurated a program of agrarian reform. Civil rights and suffrage were extended to the indigenous people. Education, health, and construction projects were begun.

In 1956 the MNR candidate, Hernán Siles Zuazo won the presidential election, and in 1960 the MNR further consolidated its power with the reelection of Victor Paz Estenssoro. The United States, in spite of losses incurred by American investors, stepped up its program of technical and financial assistance, and Siles Zuazo temporarily succeeded in stemming inflation. But economic and political factors weakened the government, and the eruption of dissident splinter groups, some fostering acts of political terror, brought all attempts at further reform to a virtual halt.

In 1964 the government was overthrown by the military. A junta dominated by Gen. René Barrientos Ortuño assumed power. The regime used troops to occupy the mines but did not rescind the important reforms of the MNR. Barrientos was elected president in 1966. A radical guerrilla movement, led by the Cuban Ernesto “Che” Guevara, was set back seriously when government troops killed Guevara in 1967. Barrientos died in 1969; his successor, Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas, was overthrown by Gen. Alfredo Ovando Candia. Ovando nationalized the Gulf Oil Company facilities in Bolivia.

A rightist military junta overthrew Ovando in 1970 but lasted only one day, succumbing to a leftist coup led by Gen. Juan José Torres. Under Torres relations with the Soviet Union, which had been established by Ovando, became closer, to the detriment of ties with the United States. Torres was overthrown in 1971 by Col. Hugo Banzer Suárez, who was supported by both the MNR and its traditional rightist opponent, the Bolivian Socialist Falange. Banzer closed the universities, arrested opposition politicians, and returned Bolivia to a pro-U.S. foreign policy. In 1974 an all-military cabinet was installed. Banzer was forced to resign in 1978 by the military, which soon gained control of the government and imposed martial law.

Civilian rule and democratic government were restored in 1982, when Siles Zuazo again became president. He served from 1982 to 1985, when he was succeeded by Victor Paz Estenssoro. During the 1980s, hyperinflation and labor unrest led to internal disturbances, which were intensified by government austerity programs. The government, however, made progress in its efforts to suppress the drug trade. Jaime Paz Zamora succeeded Paz Estenssoro as president in 1989. In the early 1990s the government offered tax incentives to attract foreign investment in the mining industry.

Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, a mining entrepreneur and former planning minister, was elected president in 1993. He pursued a policy of privatization and continued the free-market reforms begun in the late 1980s. He also launched a social security program and granted greater autonomy and more resources to poor urban and indigenous communities. In 1997, Hugo Banzer Suárez once again came to power, this time through democratic elections. He continued his predecessor's reform programs and pursued an aggressive coca-eradication and alternative-crop program. The government's antidrug programs led to economic difficulties in some regions in Bolivia, which resulted in protests and clashes and the temporary declaration of a state of emergency in Apr., 2000. Protests again in September–October paralyzed the economy, forcing Banzer's government to grant economic concessions to indigenous groups, although it refused to alter its plans to end illegal coca production.

In Aug., 2000, illness led Banzer to resign the presidency; the vice president, Jorge Fernando Quiroga Ramírez succeeded him. After a close election in June, 2002, in which no presidential candidate won 50% of the vote, the congress elected former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, who had won a plurality. The country's economic difficulties and anti-coca campaign led to increasing political assertiveness by persons of indigenous descent; roughly 60% of Bolivians lived in poverty at the beginning of 2003. Proposed tax increases, which were designed to reduce government deficits to the level demanded by the International Monetary Fund, sparked protests in La Paz (Feb., 2003) that turned violent and forced the president to flee the presidential palace.

Plans to export natural gas led to new demonstrations against the government beginning in Sept., 2003. As the demonstrations grew and led to violence in October, the government lost support in Congress and the president resigned and went into exile. Vice President Carlos Diego Mesa Gisbert, a former journalist, succeeded to the presidency, and subsequently won approval for exporting natural gas in a July, 2004, referendum. However, increases in fuel prices, autonomy for Santa Cruz prov., and other issues sparked a series of demonstrations in early 2005 that threatened to plunge Bolivia into chaos. Mesa offered some concessions, but when some of the protests continued he offered to resign (Mar., 2005). Congress rejected his resignation, and Mesa, who remained popular with many Bolivians, attempt to rally his supporters.

Passage in May of an oil and gas taxation law, which became law without Mesa's signature when he failed to veto it as he had said he would, led to protests by labor and indigenous groups, who demanded the industry be nationalized, and unsettled the oil-rich south and east. Continuing demonstrations by supporters of nationalization and roadblocks that isolated Bolivia's major cities led Mesa to resign in June; Supreme Court president Eduardo Rodgríguez Veltzé became interim president. In July the congress scheduled new presidential and congressional elections for December, and also approved calling a constitutional assembly and holding a referendum on greater autonomy for Bolivia's departments. The December elections resulted in a solid victory for oppostion leader Evo Morales and his Movement toward Socialism (MAS). Morales, an opponent of the coca-eradication program, became the first Bolivian of indigenous birth to be elected president. The election also marked the beginning of increasing polarization between supporters of Morales, largely of indigenous descent and inhabitants of Bolivia's poorer western highlands, and his conservative opponents, largely of European descent and inhabitants of the wealthier eastern lowlands.

In May, 2006, Morales moved to nationalize the natural gas and oil industry, sparking anxieties in Argentina and Brazil, countries that were largely supportive of his presidency but were also Bolivia's major natural gas customers and investors. In August, however, the nationalization process was temporarily suspended because of a lack of resources on the part of Bolivia's state energy company. A move in September to nationalize Brazilian-owned oil and gas refineries without compensation was suspended after Brazil's government protested, but the refineries were sold to Bolivia in June, 2007. In Oct., 2006, the government signed new agreements with the foreign energy companies. The nationalizations, while increasing government development funds in subsequent years, also led Argentina and Brazil to proceed with energy projects that would reduce their dependence on Bolivia.

Meanwhile, in June, 2006, the government began a land redistribution program, which met with resistance from landowners in E Bolivia. despite the fact that, at least initially, only government-owned land was involved; subsequent attempts to expand the program were stymied in Congress until late in 2006, but even then the program's passage depended on questionable votes by two senators' assistants. Also in June plans were announced to reassert government control over telecommunications, electric, and rail companies that previously had been privatized. Morales also formed a close relationship with the like-minded president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, who offered financial aid to (and later, military support for) Morales's government.

The July constitutional assembly balloting gave the MAS a majority of seats in the body but not the two-thirds majority required to enact constitutional changes freely, and subsequent attempts to limit the two-thirds requirement only to final approval of a new constitution provoked anti- and progovernment demonstrations. The referendum on increased autonomy for Bolivia's departments, voted on at the same time, failed to win a national majority, but four departments voted for it. The Morales government was also subjected to strikes and blockages by opponents of its policies and by supporters angered over unmet expectations.

In Jan., 2007, there were violent demonstrations in Cochabamba against the governor, who had denounced Morales and supported increased autonomy for the departments, and clashes between supporters of both men. The government announced in 2007 that it planned to extend its nationalizations to the mining and telecommunications industries and to the railways, and it later moved to nationalize the largest private electricity companies (2010–12) and three Spanish-owned airports (2013). By late 2007 the constitutional assembly had failed to deliver a new constitution on time and had its deadline extended; a number of divisive issues frustrated its work, including the status of Sucre as the capital and land reform.

The approval (Nov.–Dec., 2007) of a draft constitution without the presence of opposition constitutional assembly members sparked sometimes violent protests and led four departments to declare themselves autonomous, but Morales and the governors subsequently agreed to negotiations concerning the constitution. In late Feb., 2008, however, the Congress approved a national referendum on the new constitution, setting it for May 4; the vote was taken largely in the absence of opposition legislators. The National Electoral Court subsequently ruled that the referendum date failed to meet the constitutional requirement that it be set at least 90 days after congressional approval.

In May–June, four eastern departments voted for autonomy in referendums rejected by Morales; the governors of those departments and a fifth subsequently rejected Morales's call for a recall vote on himself, the vice president, and all the governors. The recall referendum was nonetheless held in Aug., 2008, and Morales and most of the opposition governors were returned to office. Turmoil continued as the country remained polarized; demonstrations increased with violence on both sides and relations with the United States also worsened sharply. In October, however, an agreement was reached, setting a constitutional referendum for Jan., 2009, with new elections the following December. As part of the agreement, Morales agreed to seek only one additional term as president; the constitution was approved by a substantial majority, but failed to win majorities in the eastern departments. In the 2009 elections Morales was easily reelected, and his MAS secured control of both houses of the legislative assembly. Manfred Reyes Villa, Morales's opponent, was subsequently charged with election fraud; he accused the government of political prosecution and fled the country. In the Apr., 2010, regional and local elections MAS won six of nine department governorships but won the mayoralties of only two department capitals. The MAS subsequently used a new law that allowed for removal of an officeholder who had been charged with (but not convicted of) a crime to oust a number of prominent opponents, including a governor, from office.

Morales faced a number of protests from his ostensible supporters in the second half of 2010, including a nearly three-week-long one in Potosí in July–August involving a range of local demands. After subsidized fuel prices were nearly doubled in late December, protests and strikes forced the government to rescind the increases after less than a week. Antigovernment protests and union strikes recurred in 2011 and 2012, including one that forced the government to suspend constructing a road through an Amazon reserve.

In Apr., 2013, the constitutional court ruled that the presidential two-term limit did not apply to Morales's term before the 2009 constitution was adopted and he could run again. In Oct., 2014, elections, Morales easily won reelection, and MAS again won control of both houses of the legislative assembly despite losing a few seats. In the Mar. and May, 2015, regional elections, however, MAS suffered losses in its share of the vote and in the regional posts it controlled. A constitutional amendment that would have permitted Morales to run for a fourth term was rejected in a referendum in Feb., 2016, but in Nov., 2017, the constitutional court set aside the result, saying that term limits violated voters' and candidates' human rights and that an illegal defamatory campaign against Morales had influenced the vote. Wildfires in 2019 scorched more 15,400 sq mi (40,000 sq km), mainly tropical savannas in E Bolivia.

In the Oct., 2019, presidential election the final tally showed Morales winning a sufficient margin to avoid a runoff, but a delay in the reporting of the results raised suspicions of fraud and led to several weeks of demonstrations. In the legislative elections, the MAS won fewer seats but secured a majority. After an OAS audit determined (November) the presidential results to have been manipulated, the army chief called for Morales to resign, and he, the vice president, and the legislative leaders did. Morales fled the country, and deputy senate leader Jeanine Áñez, a member of the opposition, became president. Morales supporters demonstrated against the new government, but in late November both sides agreed to annul the October elections and hold new presidential and legislative elections (later scheduled for May, 2020, but still later delayed to October by the COVID-19 pandemic) that would respect presidential term limits. In the elections, Luis Arce, a former economy minister and the MAS candidate, easily won the presidency, and MAS won majorities in both legislative houses.


See H. Osborne, Bolivia: A Land Divided (3d ed. 1964); W. E. Carter, Bolivia: A Profile (1971); J. V. Fifer, Bolivia: Land, Location, and Politics Since 1825 (1972); D. B. Heat, Historical Dictionary of Bolivia (1972); H. S. Klein, Bolivia: The Evolution of a Multi-Ethnic Society (1982); J. Dunkerley, Rebellion in the Veins: Political Struggle in Bolivia, 1952–82 (1984).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Republic of Bolivia (República de Bolivia).

Bolivia is located in the central part of South America. It borders Brazil on the north and northeast, Paraguay on the southeast, Argentina on the south, and Chile and Peru on the southwest and west. Its area is 1,098,600 km, and its population is 4.8 million (1969 estimate). Under the constitution, its capital is Sucre; for all practical purposes, it is La Paz. Administratively, the country is divided (1969) into nine departments (see Table 1).

Table 1. Administrative divisions of Bolivia
DepartmentArea (sq km)Population (1968 esyimate)Administrative center
Chuquisaca ........51,500438,600Sucre
El Beni ........213,600185,800Trinidad
La Paz ........134,0001,470,300La Paz
Oruro ........53,600326,000Oruro
Pando ........63,80030,700Cobija
Potosí ........118,200828,500Potost
Santa Cruz ........370,600443,500Santa Cruz
Tarija ........37,600196,600Tarija

Bolivia is a republic. The constitution presently in effect was adopted in 1967. The head of state and of the government is the president, who is elected by direct popular vote for a four-year term. (He can be reelected for the succeeding term.) The vice-president is elected at the same time as the president. The president appoints and replaces ministers; he is the supreme commander in chief of the armed forces and has the right of state patronage over the church. The members of the government—the ministers—form the Council of Ministers. Legislative authority is exercised by parliament—the National Congress—which consists of two chambers: the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. In the departments, the administration is headed by prefects and in the municipalities, by alcaldes; they are appointed by the president. There are elected municipal councils.

The judicial system of Bolivia comprises the Supreme Court, superior district courts, and district courts. The attorney general, to whom the Ministry of Justice is subordinate, is appointed by the president.


Terrain. Bolivia is situated in the subequatorial and tropical belts. It occupies most of the eastern part of the Cordillera Central of the Andes in the west and vast plains in the east, which differ sharply in their natural conditions. The Andes consist of a high plateau (about 4,000 m)—the Altiplano (or Puna)—which lies between the extreme chains of the Cordilleras and is almost devoid of external drainage. In the Altiplano, lava plateaus are distinguished in the northwest and basins of elevations up to 3,800 m in the southeast with residual lakes (Poopó) and salt marshes (Coipasa, Uyuni, and others); part of Lake Titicaca lies within Bolivia in the Altiplano’s extreme northeast. In the west, the Altiplano is framed by the volcanic Cordillera Occidental (Mount Sajama, 6,780 m) and in the east, by the Cordillera Real and its extension, the Cordillera Central. Deep canyons and basins of the upper reaches of the Beni and Mamoré rivers in the northeast and the Pilcomayo and Bermejo rivers in the southeast separate these mountain ranges from the Cordillera Oriental, which rises to 4,051 m. In the northeast, the plains are irrigated by the dense network of the Beni-Mamoré river system; they gradually slope down toward the Amazon basin.


Geological structure and mineral resources. Situated in Bolivia, from east to west, are the eastern outskirts of the Brazilian Platform, the Pre-Andean foredeep (the Beni-Chaco plains), and the fold belt of the Cordillera Central and Cordillera Occidental of the Andes and the Altiplano. Precambrian gneiss of the Brazilian Platform’s fundament are covered by Ordovician and Devonian shales and aleurites and continental Permian sandstones. Toward the west, these rocks submerge under marine and continental Mesozoic sandstones and coarsely broken continental Cenozoic molasses of the Pre-Andean foredeep. Cenozoic, Mesozoic, and to some extent Paleozoic rocks in the extreme western part of the foredeep (in the subandean Cordillera) are crushed in folds and form displaced scales. The Cordillera Central is formed primarily of marine and glacial Paleozoic rocks, broken by Mesozoic and Cenozoic intrusive granites and dacites. In the west, between the Cordillera Central and Cordillera Occidental, the narrow, deep Cenozoic graben of the Altiplano is observed; it is filled with continental terrigenous deposits of the Cenozoic. Late Paleozoic (Lower Permian), Laramide (Upper Cretaceous-Paleocene), and Andean (Miocene) tectonic movements are most clearly expressed in the fold belt of the Andes. The intrusion of quartz monzonites and dacites within the Cordillera Central and Altiplano is connected with the latter tectonic movements. Abundant deposits of tin ore containing tin and other valuable components in the Cordillera Central are associated with these intrusions. Total tin reserves are estimated at 1.2 million tons (1968). There are deposits of virgin copper as well as zinc, lead, and silver in the Altiplano. Deposits of oil are concentrated in the Pre-Andean foredeep.


Climate. The Altiplano and Cordillera Occidental lie in a region of tropical high-mountain climate that is semidesert in the west (annual precipitation less than 150 mm) and less arid in the east (annual precipitation of 500–600 mm). The average July temperature in the Altiplano varies from 3° to 7° C and the January temperature, from 9° to 11° C; the daily temperature fluctuates as much as 40°-50° C. Very strong winds and rapid changes in the weather are characteristic. Typical high-altitude climate zones are clearly delineated on the eastern slopes of the Andes; precipitation reaches 2,000 mm per year. The Cordillera Real’s snow line falls to 4,850 m; its crest is covered with thick snows and mighty glaciers. The eastern plains have a subequatorial climate with a dry season of up to 4–5 months in the north; in the south, the climate is tropical, with droughts of up to nine months. The average July temperature varies from 17° to 22° C; annual precipitation is between 1,300 and 1,600 mm in the north and up to 800 mm in the south.

Rivers and lakes. In the west of Bolivia the river network is part of the basin of interior flow of the Altiplano and in the east, of the basin of the Atlantic Ocean. The rivers that flow down the slopes of the Cordillera Occidental and Cordillera Oriental discharge into Lakes Titicaca and Poopó. They are small but turbulent and flow in deep channels. Only one river—the Desaguadero—flows out of Lake Titicaca. Large, deep rivers flow through the north of the country—the Beni, Mamoré, and Guaporé; they merge to form the Madeira River, the largest tributary of the Amazon. During periods of tropical downpours, the rivers overflow tremendously, submerging large areas (up to 120,000 sq km). Owing to the very dry climate in the eastern part of the country, south of 17° S lat., only the Pilcomayo (a tributary of the Paraguay) and Parapeti rivers emerge from the mountains; the others dry up in debris cones.

Soil and flora. In the west, puna-type semidesert vegetation is prevalent and in the east, high-altitude tropical steppe (jalga) growing on mountain-steppe soils. The eastern slopes of the Andes are covered by perpetually humid forests and the southern, by variably humid forests, both on lateritic soils. Forests occupy over 40 percent of Bolivia’s area. Valuable varieties of trees abound; however, the forests are not extensively exploited owing to the lack of roads. The main type of vegetation on the eastern plains in the north is savanna growing on red soils; it gives way to tropical rain forests in the north and to tropical, partly swamped, sparse forests growing on red-brown soils in the south.

Fauna. The eastern part of Bolivia is characterized by monkeys, armadillos, tapirs, and rodents; there are many birds, reptiles, and insects. The Altiplano is inhabited by wild and domestic llama and mountain rodents; there are numerous waterfowl.

Natural regions. Three main natural regions are distinguished—the Altiplano and Cordillera Occidental, which are located in a region of tropical, high-altitude climate; the eastern slopes of the Andes, with clearly delineated high-altitude zones of climate, soil, and flora; and the eastern plains.


Gozhev, A. D. luzhnaia Amerika: Fiziko-geograficheskaia kharakteristika. Moscow, 1948.
James, P. Latinskaia Amerika. Moscow, 1949. (Translated from English.)
Lukashova, E. N. luzhnaia Amerika. Moscow, 1958.


About two-thirds of Bolivia’s population consists of the major Indian groups—the Quechuas and Aymarás—who inhabit the Altiplano and the high-altitude valleys. Spanishspeaking Bolivians, primarily mestizos (the so-called cholos) and to some extent Creoles of Spanish descent, predominate in the cities and lowlands. About 100,000 so-called forest Indians of different tribes (the Tupí-Guaraní, Arawakaní, Mataco-Mataguayo, and other language groups) live in the tropical forests of the country’s east. The state language is Spanish; a considerable portion of the population speaks Quechua, Aymará, and Guaraní. The official religion is Catholicism; vestiges of pre-Christian beliefs survive among the Indians. The official calendar is Gregorian.

Bolivia’s population increases by natural growth; immigration to Bolivia is virtually nonexistent. Between 1963 and 1968 the population increased at a rate of 2.6 percent a year. The economically active population (1968) totals 1.8 million, of which 66 percent is involved in agriculture and fishing, 2.6 percent in the mining industry, 8 percent in the manufacturing industry, 7.7 percent in construction, 2.7 percent in transportation, and 13 percent in services and other branches. The average density is over four people per sq km (1969). About 80 percent of the population lives in the west—the Altiplano and the eastern slopes of the Andes—where the most densely populated department is Cochabamba, with a density of 12 persons per sq km. (The average density in these regions is seven persons per sq km.) The northern and eastern regions have a density of one person per 8 sq km. Urban dwellers constitute 35 percent (1968) of the total population. La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, Potosí, Santa Cruz, and Sucre are the major cities.


Before the 16th century. The territory of Bolivia was settled from earliest times by the Aymará, Quechua, and other Indian tribes during their primitive communal stage of development. In the early 14th century, these tribes were subjugated by the Incas. The Inca state was conquered by the Spanish conquistadores between 1532 and 1538. As a result of the Spanish conquest, the independent development of the Indian tribes was forcibly interrupted, and millions of Indians were exterminated.

The colonial period (early 16th to early 19th centuries). For nearly 300 years the territory of Bolivia was a constituent part of the Spanish colonial empire (from 1542, part of the viceroyalty of Peru and from 1776, part of the viceroyalty of La Plata) and bore the name of Upper Peru. Throughout the entire colonial period, and especially during the 16th and 17th centuries, Upper Peru was one of the main economic centers of the Spanish colonial empire in South America. At that time, the silver mines in Potosí were the largest in the world. Indian mitayos toiled in the mines, serving as labor conscripts. More than half of the lands in Upper Peru were distributed as encomiendas by the royal government of Spain to Spanish colonists. Indians bore numerous obligations which benefited the owners of encomiendas—the encomienderos. Socioeconomic relations in Upper Peru constituted an interlacing of slave and feudal-serf forms of exploitation. The Indians struggled stubbornly against colonial enslavement. The largest manifestation was the uprising of 1780–81 under the leadership of the Catari brothers; however, it, like all the other Indian actions, was cruelly suppressed.

War for independence (1809–25). The war for independence was an important revolutionary stage in Bolivia’s history. The independence movement was headed by patrioticminded circles of the Creole landowning nobility and incipient commercial bourgeoisie and by the progressive intelligentsia. The war for independence in Upper Peru began with the uprising in Chuquisaca that erupted on May 25, 1809. There were also anti-Spanish uprisings in Cochabamba, La Paz, Oruro, Potosí, and other cities. One of the prominent leaders of the liberation movement in Bolivia was P. D. Murillo, chairman of the Revolutionary Junta; he was executed after the suppression of the uprising that began in La Paz in July 1809. The colonizers’ position was more stable in Upper Peru than in other regions of the viceroyalty of La Plata, and only in December 1824 did the liberation army commanded by General Sucre—a fellow fighter of S. Bolívar—win a decisive victory at Ayacucho and crush the Spanish forces. In August 1825 a congress in Chuquisaca proclaimed the creation of the sovereign, independent republic of Bolivia (named in honor of Bolívar).

The formation and development of the independent state (until 1918). When its political independence was proclaimed, Bolivia was a backward, agricultural country with a primitive mining industry (silver mines). Precapitalist methods of exploitation were dominant in the rural areas; all land was essentially in the hands of large latifundistas. Wealthy landowners and merchants played the main role in the political life of the country. Capitalist relations developed very slowly because of the backwardness of agriculture, the economic disconnectedness of the country, and the narrowness of the internal market. Only the mining industry saw some progress; however, it too declined toward the end of the colonial period because of the low economic effectiveness of slave labor. In the middle of the 19th century the mining industry began to revive because of the introduction of the use of hired labor. A considerable portion of the industry was controlled by British companies, which had received concessions to exploit the mines. The uneven economic development of different regions of the country served as the stimulus for the intense struggle for power between the unitarians, representing the commercial and mining bourgeoisie, and the federalists, composed essentially of the landed oligarchy. These forces backed the parties of liberals and conservatives, respectively, which formed in the 1880’s. Their struggle for power ended in a liberal victory.

In 1879, Bolivia and Peru were drawn by British capital into the War of the Pacific (1879–83) against Chile. As a result of this war, Bolivia lost part of the Atacama Desert (rich in nitrates) and thus access to the Pacific Ocean. The penetration of Bolivia by foreign capital intensified in the last third of the 19th century as a result of the discovery and exploitation of rich reserves of tin on Bolivian territory. The first large investments were made in 1913 by American companies. Foreign financial capital retarded the development of the national economy and changed its structure. Bolivia, in effect, was turned into a supplier of tin (70–75 percent of Bolivia’s exports), antimony, and other minerals for the world market.

During World War I (1914–18), Bolivia maintained neutrality (in April 1917 it broke off diplomatic relations with Germany), although its economic resources were placed in the service of the Entente states. Foreign capital investment in Bolivia increased considerably during the war, and exports of tin, copper, antimony, tungsten, and bismuth rose sharply. Bolivia became a country with an export economy, initially dependent on British and then on North American imperialism, following the development of tin mining and the country’s inclusion in the world market. The economic boom led to the growth of a national bourgeoisie and working class and to the aggravation of social contradictions.

Recent history. Under the influence of the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia and the development of the class struggle in Latin America, Bolivia experienced an upsurge in the anti-imperialist mass movement in the early 1920’s. The creation of the first Communist groups dates to the 1920’s; however, they were destroyed in the struggle against Bolivian reactionary forces. In 1924 there was a massacre of miners at the Patino mines. The first all-Bolivian workers’ congress, at which the National Confederation of Workers of Bolivia was created, was held in 1925. By the end of the 1920’s, the confederation had united five departmental federations: La Paz, Potosí, Oruro, Sucre, and Cochabamba. In 1920 the Republican Party (founded in 1914), which expressed the interests of those strata of the bourgeoisie and landlord class that were oriented toward the USA, came to power. The USA’s influence on Bolivia continued to rise in the 1920’s. Between 1917 and 1928 the USA granted Bolivia four loans for a total of $68.4 million, obtaining in exchange the right to control all customs houses, the National Bank of Bolivia, and the collection and expenditure of the tax from the liquor and tobacco monopolies. By 1928, USA investment had risen by a factor of 11 in comparison with 1912. British capital was increasingly losing its position. A number of American companies obtained concessions for the extraction of lead, copper, antimony, tungsten, and oil. The total amount of USA capital investment in the exploitation of Bolivia’s mineral resources reached $133 million by 1929. During the world economic crisis of 1929–33, Bolivia’s economy underwent a serious decline; unemployment increased sharply, and thousands of Indian peasants died of hunger and disease. All this aggravated the class struggle. An uprising of workers, peasants, and the urban petite bourgeoisie broke out in the south in June 1930. The major demands of the rebels were the expropriation of foreign company-owned property and the cancellation of foreign debts. The uprising was supported by students’ and workers’ actions in La Paz.

In 1932, Bolivia was drawn into a war against Paraguay over the oil-bearing region of Chaco Boreal (Chaco War of 1932–35). The war had actually been unleashed by two groups of monopolies—the American group, which stood behind Bolivia, and the British group, upon which Paraguay was dependent. It ended in the defeat of Bolivia, which lost two-thirds of the disputed territory. This aggravated the social and political contradictions in Bolivia. The series of state coups that followed the war was a manifestation of the sociopolitical crisis that the country was undergoing. Under pressure from the masses, the government of Colonel Toro—hero of the Chaco War—in 1937 proclaimed the confiscation of the property of the American company Standard Oil. Monopoly rights for prospecting and drilling oil were given to a state oil company. The movement to confiscate national resources from the foreign monopolies expanded in Bolivia. The most influential workers’ organization at the end of the 1930’s was the Trade Union Confederation of Workers of Bolivia (founded 1936); in 1938 it numbered about 70,000 people.

Bolivia’s participation in World War II (1939–45) was merely formal. In 1942 it broke off diplomatic relations with Germany, Italy, and Japan and in April 1943 declared war on them. At the start of 1942 the Bolivian government paid the Standard Oil trust $ 17 million as compensation for the property confiscated in 1937. The pro-American policies of the Bolivian government evoked growing resistance among the working people. A strike against the exploitation of miners and the administration’s abuses broke out in 1942 at the Patin̄o mines; it was harshly suppressed by the government. The Revolutionary Party of the Left (founded 1940) and the party of the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR, founded 1941) were created amid universal indignation with the policies of the reactionary ruling groups. The local manufacturing industry in Bolivia was developed to some extent as a result of severed trade relations with Western Europe during World War II. This somewhat strengthened the position of the national bourgeoisie and aggravated its contradictions with USA imperialist circles. G. Villarroél’s government, which was in power from 1943 to 1946, carried out highly contradictory policies, since the cabinet included representatives of both the reactionary military clique and the nationalistically inclined bourgeoisie. In July 1946, Villarroél was killed and power was seized by a military junta. E. Hertzog, candidate of the bourgeois-landlord Socialist Republican Union Party (founded 1946), became president in January 1947. In foreign policy he was oriented toward the USA; domestically he continued the policy of suppressing the class struggle of the working people. However, the struggle of the masses was intensifying. During 1947–48 there were peasant uprisings and in 1949–50, mining workers’ strikes. The Communist Party of Bolivia was formed in January 1950; however, it was immediately banned and went underground. In the 1951 presidential elections, the MNR candidate, Paz Estenssoro, obtained a majority of votes offering a program of radical socioeconomic reforms. However, the reactionary forces of Bolivia prevented him from fulfilling his presidential duties. The junta that came to power introduced martial law and prohibited strikes and demonstrations.

The situation in Bolivia became extremely strained by early 1952. The reactionary policies of the local oligarchy provoked a revolutionary outburst. A popular uprising erupted on Apr. 9,1952, signifying the beginning of the antiimperialist, antifeudal revolution. After a three-day battle, the popular masses overthrew the government of the landlords and large mineowners who were allied with foreign imperialism. The MNR, which represented the interests of the petite-bourgeoisie and middle strata of the population, came to power. Taking into account the mood of the masses and attempting to overcome the country’s economic backwardness, the government of President Paz Estenssoro (1952–56) strove to implement a number of bourgeoisdemocratic reforms and also to strengthen the state sector. In October 1952 a decree was issued nationalizing (with the payment of compensation) the tin mines that produced up to 80 percent of the country’s tin and belonged to the three largest tin magnates—Patino, Hochschild, and Aramayo—who were allied with foreign monopolies. Universal suffrage was introduced, a national program for the liquidation of illiteracy adopted, the old army liquidated, and a workers’ and peasants’ militia established. In 1952 the trade unions of Bolivia united to form the Bolivian Workers’ Center (Central Obrera Boliviana). A law on agrarian reform was adopted in 1953 according to which a considerable portion of the land of the large latifundistas was to be redistributed among the peasants (see below: Economic geography). All these measures testified to the important strides that were made in Bolivia’s socioeconomic and political development. The country was boycotted by the imperialist circles of the USA. The American government refused to buy tin, curtailed its imports of zinc and lead from Bolivia by 20 percent, stopped the delivery of mining equipment to Bolivia, and so forth. Under pressure from foreign imperialism and domestic reaction, the MNR government, particularly under president H. Siles Zuazo (1956–60), began to act indecisively and contradictorily; it gradually retreated from the fulfillment of the general democratic tasks. The adoption of an oil code in 1955, which established a number of privileges for foreign companies, and of the plan for the “stabilization of currency” (1956) were evidence of this. Between 1956 and 1958, American monopolies obtained oil concessions covering an area of more than 11 million hectares (ha). The working class resolutely protested the policies that made the country more and more dependent on the USA. In 1958–59 there were mass popular demonstrations against the expansion of American imperialism. The discontent of the masses increased as a result of the sharp deterioration of their economic condition. In 1959 alone, 1,272 strikes were officially recorded.

In June 1960, Paz Estenssoro was again elected president. In his preelection statement he promised that his government would serve the national interests of the country. However, in implementing a program of stabilizing the economy, the government froze wages and resorted to mass dismissals of miners and the curtailment of appropriations for social and economic needs. The new government began to implement the previous policy of extensive enlistment of foreign capital. For all intents and purposes, the plan for reorganizing nationalized tin mines with the aid of the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Inter-American Development Bank, which was adopted in 1960, aimed at curtailing the state sector in the mining industry. At the conference of the Organization of American States, held in Costa Rica in August 1960, Bolivia supported the anti-Cuban position of the USA. A new wave of strikes swept over the country. Class battles attained maximum scope in 1961. Workers demanded that the MNR government carry out its preelection promises of improving economic conditions, ending USA interference in the country’s domestic affairs, and expanding ties with socialist countries. In its attempt to suppress the strike movement, the government introduced a state of siege, arrested a number of leftist professional and political figures, and fired on demonstrators. The struggle of the working people unfolded with still greater force. The movement of solidarity with the Cuban Revolution attained a mass scale. Continuing to intensify the persecution of progressive forces, the government in October 1963 arrested a number of leaders of the Communist Party of Bolivia. At the same time, contradictions within the ruling circles grew. The government experienced two crises in 1963. Despite the fact that Paz Estenssoro was reelected president in 1964, his prestige in the country had been greatly undermined. The elections were boycotted by both leftist and rightist parties. The latter considered the MNR government to be insufficiently decisive in the struggle against the popular masses. Under pressure from the reactionary forces, the MNR government broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in August 1964, ordered that student demonstrations in La Paz and workers’ actions in Oruro, La Paz, Sucre, and other cities be fired upon, and introduced a state of emergency in the country. Paz Estenssoro permanently lost the support of the working masses, at the same time failing to win the support of rightwing forces. He was overthrown in November 1964.

A military junta led by General R. Barrientos Ortunáo came to power. A few months later, the junta still further increased repression against the working masses. In May and September 1965 it instituted a state of emergency in La Paz and the country’s mining regions (Oruro, Cochabamba, and other areas); it repeatedly postponed elections set for September 1965. In its foreign policy, the junta was totally oriented toward the USA. The struggle of the working people against the reactionary policies of the military junta acquired a mass character, and in May 1965 there was a general strike. Attempting to split the oppositional forces and simultaneously lend the appearance of constitutionality to the military regime, the junta proceeded to hold presidential elections. In July 1966, Barrientos was elected president of Bolivia. The elections, however, did not end the sharp political struggle. Mass antigovernment actions took place once more in September 1966. The situation continued to worsen. In March 1967 clashes began between government forces and the group of partisans led by E. Guevara, who had come to Bolivia. Political differences among the various groups that supported the government continued to increase. It was in this context that a critical governmental crisis developed in August 1967. The Barrientos government, which expressed the interests of the bourgeois strata allied with North American imperialism, relied on the support of the army command. In October 1967 the government crushed Guevara’s detachment with the active aid of the USA Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The government’s attempts to improve the economic situation by lowering wages, dismissing miners, and refusing to satisfy the economic demands of the other strata of workers were not effective; the country’s foreign debt continued to grow, and spending invariably exceeded income. Antigovernment actions did not cease despite the fact that the organized workers’ movement was split and troops had been brought into miners’ settlements. Student riots and teachers’ strikes broke out repeatedly in 1968–69. The government resorted to mass arrests of oppositional political figures and the dispersal of demonstrations. Constitutional rights were periodically abolished and states of emergency instituted under pretexts of discovering “conspiracies.” In July-August 1968 the Barrientos regime with difficulty overcame the political crisis that broke out as a result of the minister of internal affairs Arguedas’ flight from the country. Arguedas had exposed and denounced the interference of the CIA in Bolivia’s internal affairs. Barrientos died in an air crash in April 1969. The presidency was taken over by vice-president L. A. Siles Salinas, who implemented the same policy as his predecessor. The domestic political situation in Bolivia became even more aggravated. Amid these conditions, the army command led by General A. Ovando Candia removed Siles Salinas from power in September 1969. Ovando’s government proclaimed the abolition of the oil code that had been forced on Bolivia by American monopolies; it also abolished the antidemocratic and antitrade union decrees adopted under Barrientos. In October 1969 a decree nationalizing (with the payment of compensation) the property of the American oil company Bolivian Gulf Oil was promulgated. InNovember the government withdrew the troops from the mining settlements and in December introduced a state monopoly on the export of minerals. Bolivia established diplomatic relations with a number of socialist countries. An agreement providing for the exchange of diplomatic representatives with the USSR was reached. At the same time, Ovando announced his government’s aims to maintain friendly relations with the USA.

The process of positive change has slowed down since May 1970 under pressure from right-wing military circles. Patriotic-minded ministers were dismissed from the government. In October 1970 a group of reactionary military leaders attempted a coup d’etat, forcing Ovando to retire. However, the conspirators’ plans were thwarted as a result of the actions of the working masses. A general strike was declared at the call of the Bolivian Workers’ Center. The Political Command of Trade Union and Workers’ Forces established by the Bolivian Workers’ Center, students, and left-wing parties supported General J. Torres, who, with part of the army on his side, came out against the insurgents. Torres’ government, which came to power, announced its intention of achieving the independent economic development of Bolivia, improving the situation of the working people, and carrying out an independent foreign policy.


González Ruîz, Raul. Boliviia—Prometei And. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from Spanish.)
Fellman Vellarde, J. Histoire de Bolivia, vol. 1. La Paz-Cochabamba, 1968.
Arguedas, A. Histoire générale de la Bolivia. Paris, 1923.
Diaz Machicao, P. Historia de Bolivia, vols. 1–5. La Paz, 1954–58.
Antezana, L. El movimiento obrero boliviano (1935–1943). 1966.
Osborne, H. Bolivia: A Land Divided, 3rd ed. London-New York, 1964.
Anaya, R. Nacionalización de las minas de Bolivia. Cochabamba, 1952.
Pen̄taloza Luis, C. Historia del Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, 1941–1952. La Paz, 1963.
Amado Canelas, O. Petróleo: imperialismo y nacionalismo. La Paz, 1963.


Political parties. The Bolivian Socialist Falange (Falange Socialista Boliviana) was established in 1937. It expresses the interests of the bourgeoisie and of the landlord latifundistas. It finds little support among the petitebourgeoisie of the cities and countryside and among students. The Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, MNR) was founded in 1941. The social composition of the party is quite varied. It enjoys influence among the petite and middle bourgeoisie, intelligentsia, tradesmen, and portions of the workers and peasants. The Revolutionary Party of the Nationalist Left (Partido Revolucionario de Izquierda Nacional) formed as a party from the left wing of the MNR in early 1964. It includes most trade union figures and is supported by the workers. The Authentic Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Auténtico) formed as a party from the right wing of the MNR in 1960. It expresses the interests of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie bound to American imperialism. The Revolutionary Party of the Left (Partido de Izquierda Revolucionaria) was established in 1940. A petitbourgeois party, it is supported by certain strata of the intelligentsia and students. The Christian Popular Movement (Movimiento Popular Cristiano) was founded in 1965. It expresses the interests of proimperialist strata of the bourgeoisie. The Communist Party of Bolivia (Partido Comunista de Bolivia) was founded in 1950.

Trade unions. The Bolivian Workers’ Center was founded in 1952. It numbers about 400,000 people (1970) and includes a number of large trade union associations—the federation of miners, factory workers, builders, and railroad workers, the confederation of Bolivian students, the confederation of workers of the free professions, the confederation of craftsmen, the confederation of air transport workers, the confederation of peasants, and other organizations.


General characteristics. In terms of economic development Bolivia is one of the most undeveloped countries of Latin America. The per capita national income is very low—$ 120 in 1968. Industry and construction provide (1967) 37 percent of the gross national product, including mining industry, 17 percent; manufacturing industry, 12.3 percent; construction, 6.1 percent; and power industry, 1.6 percent. Agriculture accounts for 23.7 percent, transportation for 8.1 percent, and other branches for 31.2 percent. Foreign capital—especially that of the USA and Great Britain—occupies a strong position in the economy; Japanese capital has increasingly penetrated in the postwar period. In 1966 foreign investments totaled $150 million, 75 percent of which was attributable to the USA. Foreign investments are particularly large in the oil industry, the mining and refining of nonferrous metals industry, and foreign trade. State capital plays a significant role in the mining industry—primarily tin—and the oil industry. As a result of the government measures that were carried out primarily in 1952 and 1969 (see above: Historical survey), large tin mines and oil and gas fields passed into the hands of the state; it also acquired control over the sale of minerals.

The economy is based on the extraction of mineral resources (primarily tin), which are mainly exported and provide the country with about 70 percent of its currency receipts. Agriculture is poorly developed and does not supply Bolivia with enough food.

Industry. Mining, primarily of tin, is the leading branch of industry. Bolivia is the capitalist world’s second largest (after Malaysia) producer and exporter of tin. About 70 percent of the tin concentrates are produced by the state company COMIBOL, and about 30 percent by 80 intermediate and over 2,450 small private mines. The extraction of lead, zinc, antimony, and oil are also important. Deposits of copper, tungsten, bismuth, silver, and sulfuric ores are being exploited; the mining of gold varies greatly (1,439 kg in 1961 and 2,123 kg in 1968). Large deposits of iron ore and gas have been discovered in the east. The main mining regions of nonferrous metals are in the mountainous departments of La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí; oil is found in the departments of Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca, and Tarija (the output of the major minerals is shown in Table 2).

Table 2. Output of major minerals
1 By content of metal
2 By content of metal; export
3 Concentrate; export
Tungsten (WO3)31,5001,3002,300

The electric power industry is poorly developed. The established capacity of electric power stations totals 222,000 kW (1968); the production of electric energy is 672 million kW-hr (1968).

There are small cement (71,000 tons in 1968) and oil refining plants (over 500,000 tons of petroleum products in 1968) and plants for smelting tin (Oruro; 1,100 tons in 1967; for export) and lead (200 tons in 1967; for export). Other branches of industry are represented essentially by small domestic and handicraft enterprises. Of the branches of the manufacturing industry, the most important are the textile industry and the food industry, primarily sugar and flour. The textile industry is the oldest and a comparatively developed industry, totaling 2 million meters of wool fabric and 11 million meters of cotton fabric in 1966. La Paz, Cochabamba, Sucre, and Santa Cruz are the manufacturing centers.

Agriculture. Large-scale, semifeudal land ownership predominates in agriculture; feudal methods of exploitation are intertwined with capitalist methods. Prior to the agrarian reform, over one-third of the peasants were landless, and about 29 percent had plots less than 1 ha; 47 percent of the cultivated land belongs to latifundistas (with holdings of over 1,000 ha each), which accounts for 6.3 percent of all farms.

The distribution of land among 235,000 small owners and among communes, cooperatives, and other organizations had taken place by 1965 on the basis of the agrarian reform adopted in 1953. The agrarian reform helped accelerate the development of capitalism in agriculture. It somewhat stimulated the growth of agricultural production and increased the colonization of unused lands in the departments of Santa Cruz, El Beni, and Pando. However, latifundismo was not liquidated by the agrarian reform; landlords lost only about one-fifth of their land, and the bulk of the peasants remained landless and engaged in subsistence farming. The decree of 1965 permitting peasants to sell or mortgage the lands they obtained aimed at strengthening the prosperous stratum by depriving poor peasants of land; it led to the stratification of the peasantry. The level of agricultural technology is extremely low (the hoe, wooden plow, and sickle); agricultural machines are concentrated on large farms. The soil is fertilized poorly, and the harvest is low.

The main branch of agriculture is farming. Cultivated land totals 3.1 million ha, or 2.8 percent of the country’s territory. Commercial farming predominates in the Altiplano; the main region of commercial farming is the eastern slopes of the Andes. Barley, quinoa (a cereal), and potatoes are cultivated in the Altiplano (15 percent of the territory, 49 percent of the cultivated area); corn, wheat, rice, manioc, sugarcane, coffee, cacao, cotton, tobacco, coca, and other crops are cultivated on the eastern slopes of the Andes (25 percent of the territory, 40 percent of the cultivated area). The main crops on the plains in the east and the north are manioc, sugarcane, and cacao. (The area and harvest of the main agricultural crops are shown in Tables 3a and 3b.) The leaves of the coca

Table 3a. Area of main agricultural crops
* Yearly average

shrub and the bark of the quinine and rubber trees are gathered. Pastured livestock raising is developed. In 1967–68 there were 2.7 million head of cattle, which are raised primarily on the plains; and 6.5 million sheep, 1.3 million goats, and 400,000 llamas and alpacas, which are raised in the mountains. Andalusian horses are bred in the department of Santa Cruz.

Table 3b. Harvest of main agricultural crops
* Yearly average

Transportation. There are 3,600 km of railroads (1967). A large portion of the railroads belongs to the state and a small part to British monopolies. The major railroad junctions are Viacha (near La Paz), Oruro, and Uyuni. According to various sources, automobile roads total between 16,000 km and 24,700 km (1968), of which only 7,700 km are passable the year round; about 600 km of roads are paved. A highway linking all the Andean countries, Brazil, and Paraguay is being constructed along the eastern slopes of the Andes (1969). In 1968 there were 46,800 motor vehicles in Bolivia, including 27,100 passenger cars. Cart and pack transport is of great importance in the mountain regions. River routes total 19,000 km. The main river ports are Cobija on the Acre, Rurrenabaque on the Beni, Puerto Ballivián on the Mamoré, and Puerto Suárez in the Paraguay River basin. There is transportation on Lake Titicaca between the ports of Guaqui (Bolivia) and Puno (Peru). Oil pipelines connect the oil fields with the oil refining locations in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Sucre, and in Chile (Arica) and Argentina. Since Bolivia lacks access to the ocean, its main streams of foreign trade pass through the ports of Moliendo (Peru) and Arica and Antofagasta (Chile). National airline companies essentially service domestic air routes; foreign companies (USA, Brazil, Argentina, and other countries) service international transport.

External economic relations. The main export products (in percent of total value, 1967) are tin (concentrates and metal), 54.4; antimony, 3.7; lead, 2.7; silver, 3.8; tungsten, 4.4; copper, 3.7; zinc, 2.7; and oil, 13.8. The major import products are food (grain, flour, lard, sugar, and the like), liquid fuel, lubricating oil, industrial alcohol, various kinds of equipment, and articles of light industry. Bolivia exports primarily to (1968) Great Britain (45 percent of the total value of exports), the USA (38 percent), and Japan (6 percent). It imports primarily from the USA (51 percent), Japan (13 percent), and the Federal Republic of Germany (9 percent). Economic relations with Argentina and Brazil have increased in the postwar period. The foreign debt totaled $301 million in 1967. The monetary unit is the Bolivian peso; $ 1 USA = 11.88 Bolivian pesos (March 1970).

Internal differences. The Bolivian highlands—the departments of La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí—are an old mining region. Industries include nonferrous metallurgy (Oruro), the food industry, and light industry. Barley, quinoa, and potatoes are grown for local needs. There is livestock raising (cattle, sheep, goats, alpaca, and llama). Three railroad lines connect the region with the Pacific coast. The main centers are La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí.

The eastern slopes of the Andes include the departments of Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, and Tarija. Oil and nonferrous metals are extracted here. Industries include nonferrous metallurgy, oil refining, light industry, and the food industry. There is plantation farming in the region (sugarcane, coffee, cacao, cotton, tobacco, and rice). Barley, corn, potatoes, and wheat are planted. Livestock raising is poorly developed. The region is linked by rail lines to the cities of the highlands. The main economic centers are Cochabamba, Sucre, andTarija.

The plains of the east include the department of Santa Cruz. There is plantation farming (sugarcane, coffee, cacao, cotton, tobacco, and rice). Pastured livestock raising predominates in agriculture (horses and cattle). Oil is drilled. Industries include oil refining, light industry, and the food industry. The main industrial center is Santa Cruz. There is railroad communication with Brazil and Argentina.

The plains of the north include the departments of Beni and Pando. It is the least developed region. There is pastured livestock raising, primarily cattle, in the Beni River basin. Grains and manioc are cultivated. Forestry is developed here. There is river and air transportation. The main center is Trinidad.


Galin, Iu. Boliviia. Moscow, 1962.
Ekonomika Latinskoi Ameriki v tsifrakh: Statisticheskii sb. Moscow, 1965.
“Sintesis economica Bolivia.” Panorama económico latinoamericano, 1967, no. 239.


Bolivia’s armed forces consist of land troops, an air force, and a river fleet. In 1970 the armed forces totaled about 29,000 persons. In addition, there are about 5,500 military police and border troops. The commander in chief is the president; the minister of national defense exercises immediate leadership of the armed forces. The army is built up to prescribed strength according to the law on compulsory military service. Active military service is two years. Men at least 19 years of age are drafted. The country is divided into eight military districts. The land forces include seven infantry divisions armed primarily with obsolete forms of weapons and materiel. The air force (about 70 planes, including 30 combat planes) consists of air groups and individual squadrons of auxiliary aircraft. The river fleet has ten river vessels.

Medicine and public health. In 1967 the birthrate was 51.8 per 1,000 residents; the general mortality rate, 12.9 per 1,000 residents; and infant mortality, 88.9 per 1,000 live births. The average life span is 30 years (1965). Infectious pathology predominates in Bolivia. Dysentery, helminthiasis, tuberculosis, venereal disease, and malaria are prevalent; individual cases of yellow fever, plague, and visceral leishmaniasis are recorded; Bolivian hemorrhagic fever is endemic in the northeast in the Amazon Basin. Endemic goiter is prevalent in many regions. High-altitude conditions (the Altiplano, 3,800–4,000 m above sea level) produce distinctive adaptational changes in the organs of breathing, circulation, and blood among the local populace—for example, special chest structure, a high level of blood cell content, and a low globulin content in the blood serum. Malaria is a common disease in the valleys. The population of the plains region (5 percent), where savannas and tropical forests predominate, and of Indian settlements live in unsanitary conditions and are systematically undernourished. Anemia is prevalent (alimentary, especially iron-deficiency anemia of the microcytic hypochromic type, and, less frequently, megaloblastic anemia), as are parasitic worm invasions, frequently double and triple (ascariasis, trichuriasis, and ancyclostomiasis), and dysentery; yellow fever is recorded. The central organ of public health is the Ministry of Hygiene and Public Health. Medical aid in the social insurance system is organized by the Ministry of Labor and Industrial Medicine. In 1968 there were 1,900 doctors (one doctor per 2,154 residents) and 986 registered nurses. There are 238 hospitals with 9,500 beds in Bolivia (2.7 beds per 1,000 population); 62 of the 238 hospitals, with 4,500 beds, are state-owned. Doctors are trained at three medical faculties attached to universities; 104 doctors are graduated annually.


Galin, Iu. Boliviia. Moscow, 1962.
Dobrovol’skii, Iu. A. Zdorov’e naseleniia mira v XX veke. Moscow, 1968.
Boletin de la oficina sanitaria Panamericana, 1966, vol. 61, no. 3, p. 264.
Veterinary services. Livestock raising in Bolivia on the whole meets with little success because of a number of infectious and parasitic diseases. The main cause of this is the presence of a large number of reservoirs and carriers of diseases. Rabies is one of the leading diseases in the pathology of agricultural animals; yearly losses total about 20,000 head (1966), and the carriers-reservoirs are blood-sucking bats. Foot-and-mouth disease inflicts great economic damage. Herpetic stomatitis is prevalent. Venezuelan encephalitis is recorded among solid-hoofed animals; there is trypanosomiasis of solid-hoofed animals, swine fever, coccidiosis of rabbits, and pasteurellosis of fowl. Helminthiasis and skin diseases have been found in the mountain regions—the departments of La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí—where sheep raising predominates. There are enzootic (natural) beds of anaplasmosis and babesiasis in the valleys of the Santa Cruz and Beni rivers, where almost all cattle raising is concentrated. Malignant anthrax and blackleg are noted more frequently in the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando. Deficiency diseases appear among cattle and sheep (acobaltosis and enzootic ataxia). There are about 70 veterinarians in Bolivia (1970).


The first schools on the territory of Bolivia were opened by missionaries in the mid-16th century. After the establishment of the republic in 1825, state secular schools appeared. The first law on compulsory elementary education was passed in 1874. The principles of universal, compulsory, free education for children ages seven to 14 were proclaimed by the educational reform law adopted in 1955. In 1967, however, 60.5 percent of the population was still illiterate. In addition to state schools, there are a considerable number of private schools belonging primarily to the Catholic Church. Public education is directed by the Ministry of Education in cities and the Ministry of Agriculture in rural localities. The initial link in the system of public education is the kindergarten for children ages three to seven years. (In 1968 there were over 25,600 children in kindergartens.) Elementary school is six years; instruction is in Spanish. In addition to general education, rural elementary schools give the students elementary preprofessional training in the areas of handicrafts and agriculture. Many rural schools instruct Indians in their native language (Quechua, Aymará, Guaraní); Spanish is studied as a compulsory subject. Secondary schools in the cities (colleges for boys and lyceums for girls) are six years and are divided into two cycles—four and two years of instruction. In addition to the general education subjects, dressmaking, home economics, and child care are taught in the lyceums; drafting, metalworking, and carpentry are taught in the colleges. Secondary schools are four years in rural localities. In 1968 there were over 640,000 pupils in elementary schools and over 122,000 students in secondary schools.

Vocational schools (technical, commercial, art, and others) are four and six years and operate on the basis of elementary school. The teachers of city elementary schools are trained in four-year pedagogical schools that accept students who have completed the first cycle of secondary school; teachers of rural elementary schools are trained in four-year pedagogical schools that operate on the basis of elementary school. In the 1967 academic year, 10,900 students were studying in vocational schools and 8,000 in pedagogical schools. Teachers for secondary schools are trained by the Higher Pedagogical School in Sucre and the Higher Pedagogical Institute in La Paz. There are eight universities in Bolivia—two universities in Cochabamba and universities in La Paz, Sucre, Santa Cruz, Potosí, Oruro, and Tarija. In the 1966 academic year there were 13,400 students in higher educational institutions. About two-thirds of the students acquire specialties as lawyers, doctors, and economists.

The largest libraries are the Library of the Department of Culture (1832), containing 130,000 volumes, and the Municipal Library (1838), containing 80,000 volumes—both in La Paz—and the National Library and Archives in Sucre (1836), containing 26,000 volumes.

Museums include the Tiahuanaco National Museum (founded 1846) in La Paz, the archaeology and art museums in Sucre, and the National Museum of the Mint in Potosí (founded 1938).


Natural and technical sciences. Until the 19th century there were only an isolated number of natural scientists in Bolivia. Among these were A. Barba, who in 1640 published a work on the beneficiation and metallurgy of gold and silver ores; J. Vázquez de Acuña, who advocated Galileo’s ideas in Bolivia; the physician M. Crespo (18th century), who studied medicinal plants; and T. Jenque, who between 1794 and 1810 conducted geographical and botanical investigations in the eastern regions of Bolivia. Geography, geology, and medicine developed somewhat during the 19th century. The first geographical and statistical descriptions by natural scientists and officials of the colonial administration also appeared during this period (the work of T. Haenke, P. Nolasco, and F. de Viedma). The end of the 19th century and the 20th century saw the rise of scientific societies; medical, natural science, and engineering faculties at universities; and the geophysical observatory at La Paz; and the gradual development of the present-day system of scientific research based mainly on universities.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s research was conducted in experimental biology and physiotherapy (at the universities in Sucre and La Paz); selection, soil science, and botany (at the university in Cochabamba and others); mining and the beneficiation of minerals (at the Technical University in Oruro); and certain branches of engineering (construction) and cosmic physics (at the universities in Oruro and La Paz, among others).

The role of the state and industrial companies in the development of scientific research increased during the 1960’s. A petroleum institute was founded in La Paz by private companies in 1959; the National Academy of Sciences, the National Commission on Atomic Energy, and the National Geological Administration were created by government decree in 1960. The National Academy of Sciences coordinates and finances research in universities. Within the Academy of Sciences is the Center for Biological Research (founded 1962), where work is conducted mainly in high-altitude biology, in the use of solar energy, and on the upper layers of the atmosphere. The National Commission on Atomic Energy has two laboratories—for radioactive isotopes and chemistry and for the geology of radioactive minerals. The National Geological Administration coordinates all geological research and conducts work on the compilation of geological maps of Bolivia. Many new scientific research institutes were organized after 1960: a geophysical institute in La Paz, which conducts gravimetric, seismological, and geomagnetic research: and a technological institute, which conducts research on oil deposits and Devonian fauna. The Center for Scientific and Technical Information was established in 1963. Bolivia has a number of scientific societies; well-known scientists include the physicist F. Escobar, the biologist O. Suárez Morales, and the botanist M. Cárdenas Hermosa.


Instituciones científicas y cientificos de Bolivia. Montevideo, 1963.
UNESCO: World Directory of National Science Policy-making Bodies, vol. 3. Paris, 1968.
Mesa, J. de, and T. Gisbert. La ciencia en Bolivia (Siglos XVII y XVIII). La Paz, 1962.
Social sciences. The center for the study of the humanities during the colonial period was the University of San Francisco Xavier (founded 1624) in Chuquisaca (now Sucre). This university contributed to the dissemination of the scholastic concepts of “the common good” and of “national sovereignty” of the Spanish philosophers F. Suárez and F. de Vitoria. In 1739, J. Velez de Córdova came out in defense of the Indian population with a plan for restoring the Inca empire. In the middle of the 19th century fictionalized sketches of Bolivia’s modern history written in the style of romanticism appeared (R. Bustamante, J. M. Loza, and M. J. Cortés). In philosophy, the mystical ideas of the German philosopher K. C. Krause were disseminated. The increased interest in the economics and history of the country coincided with the spread of positivist ideas. The most important representatives of positivism were the historian G. R. Moreno, the sociologist and literary critic D. Sánchez Bustamante, the philosopher B. Fernandez, and the lawyer and diplomat C. Pinilla. The journal La revista de Bolivia began publishing at the end of the 19th century. It became the forum of the naturalist school in prose, of modernism in poetry and of positivism in philosophy, pedagogy, and literary criticism. Developing the ideas of the Venezuelan sociologist S. Sumeta, the Argentine philosopher J. Ingenieros, and the Bolivian writer A. Arguedas in works published in the 1920’s, the journal emphasized racial and psychological factors in the interpretation of history and social and political life. In opposition to Arguedas, the writer and lawyer J. Mendoza, who was influenced by the works of A. M. Gorky, concentrated on bringing out the role of the social factor in Bolivian society and subjected Arguedas to sharp denunciatory criticism. Interest in socialist ideas grew noticeably. (The ideas of Utopian socialism were still current in Bolivia in the 19th century.) The philosopher and lawyer I. Prudencio Bustillo contributed to the dissemination of these ideas and positively assessed the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia as an experiment in “the realization of integral democracy.” However, he continued to adhere to the Fabian trend in socialism. The writer and political figureG. A. Navarro (pseudonym, Tristán Maroff) correctly noted that Bolivia’s dependence on the imperialist powers and the oppression of the landlords were the major reasons for its backwardness. However, Navarro was unable to provide a revolutionary solution and began to preach the restoration of the Inca empire, which he claimed was a model of communism. Later Navarro switched to the position of Indian racism, then joined the Trotskyites, and finally repudiated the anti-imperialist struggle. In the 1930’s and 1940’s the views of “legal Marxism” were disseminated in Bolivia; its adherents, J. A. Arze, R. Anaya, A. Urquidi, S. Aimaras, A. Canelas, and others, supported an anti-imperialist position. However, idealizing precapitalist relations in the country, they ignored the role of the working class and contributed to the spread of the illusion that the petitbourgeois intelligentsia play a decisive role in the revolutionary process. The “legal Marxists” waged a struggle against nationalist extremism, whose most prominent representative was the Nietzschean F. Tamayo. Rejecting humanism and democracy and glorifying authoritarianism and national egotism, Tamayo called for the creation of new, purely national Indian social and ethical criteria, “a scale of new values” (the so-called conception of Indianism). The program of “Bolivian nationalism” founded by Tamayo became the basic ideology of the contemporary rightwing parties. According to this program the Bolivian bourgeois state was proclaimed the “legal, nationalist, and popular state” called upon to carry out a national revolution, a state in which all classes must obey general national discipline. The creation in 1944 of a faculty of philosophy and literature at the University of La Paz contributed to the spread in Bolivia of the ideas of the German philosophers E. Husserl (in particular, his intuitive gnoseology) and N. Hartmann (mainly his notions of the many-layered structure of being, his theory of unchanging ethical values, and his doctrine of free will as the only basis of morality). The Spanish philosopher A. Pescador, who worked in La Paz, was a follower of N. Hartmann. The lawyer R. Garcîa Rosquellas became a follower of the normative theory of law of the Austrian lawyer H. Kelsen. In the 1960’s works by Bolivian scholars appeared which represented concrete factual studies in the history of the country (H. Vás-quez-Machicado), the history of Bolivian social thought (G. Francovich), Bolivian culture (P. Díaz Machicao, J. de Mesa, T. Gisbert), and archaeology and history of the precolonial period (A. Posnansky, J. Fellman Velgarde, B. Ibarra Grasso) as well as studies of the heritage of the Quechua Indians (J. Lara).
The literary critic, writer, and essayist C. Medinacelli devotes his attention primarily to the process of intermixing the population and attaches his hopes for the transformation of the country to this process. Marxist historians (J. Ovando, A. Villalpando, and others) devote their studies to the specific character of the problem of nationalities in Bolivia; they disclose the double oppression experienced by the masses of workers (enslavement by foreign imperialism and national oppression of the Indian peoples), expose the bourgeois nature of the Bolivian state, and point to the necessity for a national revolution under the leadership of the working class. The main attention of Bolivian economists is directed at the study of the economics of the major branch of the country’s economy—the mining industry—and the significance of its nationalization in achieving Bolivia’s economic independence from foreign capital (G. Bedregal). The economic and financial problems of nationalization (J. Pando Gutiérrez) are also studied, and the improper role of British and North American oil corporations in the country’s economy comes to the fore (S. Aimaras). The works of F. Beltrán, J. Fernández, and the Colombian economist A. García (who worked in Bolivia) discuss the problems of agrarian reform, the liquidation of the consequences of latifundismo, and the intensification of agricultural production. Progressive economists sharply criticize the predatory nature of USA policy (M. T. Calleja). The ideology of bourgeois reformism is represented by the adherents of the theory of “mutual dependence” of Latin American countries and the USA within the framework of the “free Western world” (V. Paz Estenssoro, W. Guevara Arze). They favor active state interference in the economy and state aid for the development of the private enterprise sector.
The most important scientific centers for the social sciences are the National Academy of History (founded 1929) in La Paz; the Society for the Study of Geography and History (1903) in the city of Santa Cruz, which publishes Boletin; the Bolivian Institute of Sociology (1941) in Sucre, which publishes Revista; the Technical University in Oruro, which publishes Revista de la facultad de economia and the yearbook Annualio de la facultad de economia; and the university in La Paz, which publishes the journal Dinamica economica.


Abecia Baldivieso. Historiografia boliviana. La Paz, 1965.
Francovich, G. El pensamiento boliviano en el siglo XX. Mexico-Buenos Aires, 1956.
Francovich, G. La filosofia en Bolivia. Buenos Aires, 1945.
Arze y Arze, J. A. Sociologia marxista. Oruro, 1963.
Crawford, W. A Century of Latin-American Thought. Cambridge, 1961.
Anaya Rolón, M. Política y partidos en Bolivia. La Paz, 1966.


Several dozen different periodicals are published in Bolivia. Ninety percent of all periodicals are published in La Paz; the rest are published in the official capital—the city of Sucre—and in the city of Cochabamba.

The largest newspapers are the conservative El diario (since 1904), with a circulation of 30,000 (here and below, 1970 data); the right-bourgeois Hoy (since 1969), with a circulation of 30,000; Presencia (since 1962), with a circulation of 35,000, which is the organ of the reactionary clerical circles tied to USA monopolies; Ultima hora (since 1928), with a circulation of 20,000; Unidad (since 1953), the organ of the Communist Party of Bolivia; El pueblo (since 1946), a weekly progressive newspaper; and the independent daily La Jornada (since 1964), with a circulation of 3,000.

There are two radio broadcasting companies uniting 69 radio stations—the Asociación Boliviana de Radio Difusoras and the Dirección General de Radio Communicaciónes. The largest radio stations are Radio Nacional de Bolivia, Radio Municipal, Radio Bolivia, and Radio Sucre. Broadcasts are conducted in Spanish and also in Quechua. The State Television Company has been in operation since 1970.


The literature of the Bolivian people is developing primarily in Spanish. Our only information about ancient Indian culture on Bolivian territory (until the Spanish conquest) comes from ancient models of the Bolivian-Peruvian drama Ollantay and from contemporary folk songs (for example, taqui). In the literature of the colonial period only certain historical chronicles, for example those of the Indian F. Guarnán Poma and the monk A. de Calancha, are of any interest. Beginning at the end of the 18th century and during the war for independence, patriotic journalism (V. Pazos Kanki, and others) and patriotic lyrics (J. I. de Sanjinés and the Indian poet Hallparrimachi) developed. Antifeudal and antityranny sentiments marked the works of Bolivian romantics, who were influenced by European romanticism: the poets R. J. Bustamante, N. Galindo, and M. J. Mujía; the novelists N. Aguirre (author of the historical novel Juana de la Rosa, 1885), M. S. Caballero, and E. VacaGuzmán; and the playwrights F. Reyes Ortiz and J. Rosendo Gutiérres, among others. The 1880’s and 1890’s saw the rise of so-called costumbrismo —literature about everyday life. This was the first stepin the development of realistic art. L. Ansoategui de Campero, A. Samudio, J. Lucas Jaimes, and others wrote costumbrista novellas and short stories.

Bolivian poetry of the late 19th century was dominated by so-called modernism—a movement combining enthusiasm for French poetry with an interest in the national theme (R. Jaimes Freyre, G. Reynolds, F. Tamayo, J. E. Guerra, and others). (For F. Tamayo’s views, see above: Social sciences.) The realistic social novel appeared. One of the first representatives of realism in Bolivia was A. Arguedas (the novel Creole Life, 1912, and The Bronze Race, 1919). J. Mendoza exposed the exploitation of workers in the novels In the Depths of Potosí (1911) and Barbarous Pages (1914). A. Chirveches created a satirical picture of bourgeois society in the novels Rojas’ Candidacy (1908) and Family Home (1916).

In the 1920’s the social theme was developed by O. Estrella, E. Paz and F. Diez de Medina in poetry and by G. A. Navarro (pseudonym, Tristán Maroff (for the evolution of his views, see above: Social sciences), G. A. Otero, L. Toro Ramallo, and others in prose. The so-called Indianist prose literature depicting the social drama of the disfranchised Indians arose in the 1930’s. Its founder was A. Arguedas, and its leading writers were R. BotelhoGosállvez, A. Guillén Pinto, R. Leitón, and N. Pardo Valle. A. Céspedes’ novel Devil’s Metal (1946) and F. Ramírez Velarde’s The Mines of Sorrow (1953; Russian translation, 1962) depict the hard life of the miners. In the novel Deluge of Fire (1935), O. Cerruto portrays the revolutionary struggle of soldiers and miners. The Indianist novels of one of the greatest contemporary Bolivian writers, J. Lara, are also devoted to the struggle for social justice; (Surumi, 1943,) Yanakuna, (1952; Russian translation, 1958) as is M. Mendoza López’ novel The Sun of Justice (1947). The events of the 1952 revolutionary movement are artistically reflected in many novels—for example, Bullet in the Wind (1952) by J. Fellman Velarde and Our Blood (1959; Russian translation, 1962) by J. Lara.


Khudozhestvennaia literatura Latinoskoi Ameriki v russkoi pechati, 1765–1959. [Compiled by L. A. Shur.] Moscow, 1960.
Shur, L. A. Khudozhestvennaia literatura Latinskoi Ameriki v russkoi pechati, 1960–64. Moscow, 1966.
Kuteishchikova, V. N. Roman Latinskoi Ameriki v XX v. Moscow, 1964.
Díaz de Medina, F. Literatura boliviana. Madrid, 1954.
Finot, E. Historia de la literatura boliviana, 2nd ed. La Paz, 1955.


In the fifth through eighth centuries the ancient Tiahuanaco culture flourished on the mountain plateaus of Bolivia (edifices made of hugh monoliths, stone statues, planar carpet embossments depicting mythological beings, and polychrome ceramics). During the 16th through 18th centuries Indian experts participated in the construction of the cities of Potosí, Sucre, and La Paz. Antiearthquake constructions were erected; as were massive houses made of adobe, stone, and brick; palaces; and churches with vaults and domes, including those made of quincha (a type of concrete supported by a cane frame). Order motifs on stone portals, wooden retablos, pulpits, and choir benches were combined with rich and intricate carving including motifs of Indian art and local flora and fauna. The religious paintings of M. Pérez de Holguín (turn of the 18th century) are pervaded by the spirit of strict realism. G. Sangurima was a unique sculptor of the early 19th century. The architecture of industrial and public buildings of the 19th century and the first third of the 20th century followed European and American models (electicism, “modern style”), while apartment houses, on the whole, preserved the old style until the middle of the 20th century (one to three courtyards, carved portals, massive gateways, and carved wooden balconies). Numerous multistoried reinforced-concrete buildings were built (under the influence of Brazilian and Argentine architecture), and the cities of La Paz and Cochabamba were partially reconstructed in the middle of the 20th century.

Such local artists as the portrait painter A. Nogales, the genre painter J. García Mesa, and the landscape artist S. Iturralde appeared at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. The 20th-century modernist movement has not become widespread in Bolivia. The National school of realistic art formed in the 1920’s. The painters S. Guzmán de Rojas, R. Berdecio, V. S. Romero, and M. Ejido; the sculptor M. Nún̄ez del Prado; and the graphic artist A. Reque Meruvia turn to themes of history and the contemporary life of their people, including the dramatic aspects, and to the beauty of Bolivian nature. They study the experience of European and Mexican art and the traditions of Indian culture. These traditions have been preserved to our day by the Quechua Indians in the country’s southwest (weaving and jewelry-making) and by the Aymará in the northwest (ceramics, stone carving, and weaving).


Meza, J. de, and T. Gisbert. Holguin y la pintura altoperuana del Virreinato. La Paz, 1956.
Hissink, K. Alte Kulturen im Zentralen Andegebiet. Darmstadt, 1957.
Vethey, H. E. Arquitectura Virreinal en Bolivia. La Paz, 1961.

The musical art of Bolivia is represented by the music of the indigenous population of the country—the Indians and also the Creoles. Indian musical folklore is varied and original. Lyrical songs are widespread—for example baguala, yaravi, vidala, and the gayer and livelier huanca, all of which are performed in solo; choral singing is alien to Bolivian Indians. The instrumental forms of music that accompany dances are also popular—for example, huaiño, huainito, and yumbo. The Indian music is based on a pentatonic scale in which all its harmonies are used. A two-part structure is typical of Indian songs and dances. Indian music is characterized by a definite rhythm (it has its rhythmic formulas) and a distinct compositional structure. The music of the inhabitants of the mountain regions is restrained by nature and somewhat austere; the music of the inhabitants of the plains is more cheerful. The Indians have a wide assortment of instruments. The wind instruments, which number more than 20 types, include the quena and charca (vertical reed flutes), erqu (a large horn of up to 3 m long), and sicus (in the Aymará language; antara in the Quechua language; a variety of panpipes). The percussion instruments include all kinds of drums— putuca, huanara, and tintaya, among others.

The music of the Bolivian Creoles, which is common to all Creoles of South America, has a strongly pronounced Spanish character. In Bolivia such Creole dances as zamacueca (cueca), gato, and marinera are popular. The most widely known song types are the love song yaraví, which is unique and distinct from the Indian song of the same name, and the lyrical song triste. The favorite musical instrument among the Creoles is the six-stringed Spanish guitar. They also use the diatonic harp and the charango, a rural guitar that has five double strings and a different tuning from the usual guitar.

Professional Bolivian composers of the end of the 19th century and of the 20th century include E. Cabo, who directed the National Conservatory in La Paz and composed numerous vocal, choral, and instrumental works, among them the tone poems Potosí and Illimani and the ballet Kollana; the composer and folklorist T. Vargas; and the composer and conductor J. Maidana, composer of four ballets, symphonic works, music for the theater and other works.

One of the few examples of pre-Columbian culture that has survived until our day is the Bolivian-Peruvian drama Ollontay. In the 16th and 17th centuries Spanish missionaries staged theatrical productions during various holy days in Potosí. Two theaters were opened in the city of La Paz between 1617 and 1619. In the 19th century the plays of F. Reyes Ortiz and J. Rosendo Gutiérrez were well known. The plays of R. Mujía, J. D. Berrios, E. Caballero, and A. Alarcón were staged at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. During the 1920’s the playwright N. Ortiz Pacheco developed the trend of social criticism in the theater.

Professional theater did not develop in Bolivia. However, the Tiahuanaco and the Lyre of the Incas theater troupes, which performed from 1924 to 1932 in Bolivia and also in other Latin American countries, somewhat enlivened the life of the theater.

A characteristic manifestation of the national culture are the carnivals held in February and March in the larger cities, especially in the “tin capital” of Oruro. During the carnival days the streets are filled with dramatized processions. The so-called diablados —a dance and choral production consisting of an allegorical play about the struggle between good and evil—is performed; the actors wear devils’ masks and colorful costumes. These presentations date from ancient Indian rituals. Troupes of “Incas” stage the folklore drama The Capture and Death of Atahualpa, where the Indian characters speak in Quechua and the Spanish, in Spanish. In Sucre, open-air theaters where semiprofessional troupes perform operate irregularly. Well-known playwrights include M. Flores, A. Saavedra Pérez, A. Díaz Villamil, V. Ruiz, R. Salmón, H. S. Palza, L. Llanos Aparicio, and A. Santalla Estrella.

The Academy of Theatrical Art and Recitation was established in La Paz. The Society of Theater and Radio Workers was founded in 1949; the society irregularly published the journal Mascara.

The Bolivian Film Institute, founded in 1943, is responsible for the production of films in Bolivia. From one to two feature films are released each year. The major part of film production consists of short documentary films and newsreels. The film director J. Sanjines (now the director of the Bolivian Film Institute), who made the full-length feature films Hucamay and The Blood of the Condor (the latter sympathetically depicting the life of the indigenous Indian population of Bolivia) and the documentary films The Revolution and Aisa, among others, is well known. Of foreign films shown in Bolivia, films imported from the USA, Argentina, and Mexico predominate. Most movie theaters are located in Potosí and La Paz. There are also mobile cinema units serving the remote mountain regions.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Bolivia

Capital city: La Paz

Internet country code: .bo

Flag description: Three equal horizontal bands of red (top), yellow, and green with the coat of arms centered on the yellow band; similar to the flag of Ghana, which has a large black five-pointed star centered in the yellow band

Geographical description: Central South America, south­west of Brazil

Total area: 425,000 sq. mi. (1.1 million sq. km.)

Climate: Varies with altitude; humid and tropical to cold and semiarid

Nationality: noun: Bolivian(s); adjective: Bolivian

Population: 9,119,152 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Quechua 30%, mestizo (mixed European and Amerindian) 30%, Aymara 25%, European 15%

Languages spoken: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, Guarani

Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, Evangelical Methodist 5%

Legal Holidays:

All Souls' DayNov 2
Christmas DayDec 25
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Labor DayMay 1
NationalAug 6
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


an inland republic in central S America: original Aymará Indian population conquered by the Incas in the 13th century; colonized by Spain from 1538; became a republic in 1825; consists of low plains in the east, with ranges of the Andes rising to over 6400 m (21 000 ft.) and the Altiplano, a plateau averaging 3900 m (13 000 ft.) in the west; contains some of the world's highest inhabited regions; important producer of tin and other minerals. Official languages: Spanish, Quechua, and Aymara. Religion: Roman Catholic. Currency: boliviano. Capital: La Paz (administrative); Sucre (judicial). Pop.: 8 973 000 (2004 est.). Area: 1 098 580 sq. km (424 260 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Lo interesante de El Diario Secreto de Lima estuvo en las diversas redes de comunicacion que construyo a partir de su circulacion por multiples espacios y regiones de America como: Cuzco, Trujillo, Arequipa, Puno, el Alto Peru, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, etc.
La accion llevada a cabo por los paisanos de la campana saltena, con el apoyo de jefes de las milicias rurales locales, convencio a Manuel Dorrego de la oportunidad de alentar en Salta la insurreccion y resguardar al Ejercito Auxiliar del Peru en Tucuman, a fin de favorecer de este modo su reorganizacion y fortalecimiento, antes de emprender una nueva expedicion hacia las provincias del Alto Peru. Aconsejo por lo tanto a Jose de Santa Martin, a la sazon Jefe del Ejercito Auxiliar en esos primeros dias de 1814, a no avanzar sobre Salta estimando que "...
El ambiente no esta para morenadas, y sus libros hoy sirven como obras de consulta (OVANDO SANZ 1996): Ultimos dias coloniales en el Alto Peru, entre los estudiosos de la independencia (ROCA 1998); el Catalogo de Mojos y Chiquitos, entre los del oriente boliviano.