Bangladesh, People's Republic of

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bangladesh, People’s Republic of


a state in southern Asia, bounded by India to the west, north, and east for a distance of 4, 000 km, by Burma to the southeast, and by the Bay of Bengal of the Indian Ocean to the south. It covers an area of 142, 700 sq km. Population, 71.3 million (1974, preliminary census). The capital is Dacca. Administratively, Bangladesh comprises four divisions consisting of districts and subdistricts (see Table 1).

Table 1. Administrative divisions of Bangladesh
 Area (sq km)Population (1974, preliminary census data)Administrative center
Rajshahi ..........34, 50017, 299, 000Rajshahi
Khulna ..........33, 20014, 143, 000Khulna
Dacca ..........30, 90021.289, 000Dacca
Chittagong ..........44, 10018.585, 000Chittagong

Constitution and government. Bangladesh is a republic. After the revolt of Nov. 7, 1975, all authority passed to the Martial Law Administration, headed by a chief administrator, who was also the president. The National Assembly (parliament) was dissolved, and the offices of vice-president and cabinent ministers were abolished. An advisory council headed by the president assumed the powers of the Council of Ministers. The administration declared its intention to hand over power to a civil government. The judicial system is headed by the Supreme Court, which also functions as a constitutional review court.

Natural features. Most of Bangladesh lies on the eastern rim of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, within the delta of the Ganges and the Jamuna (Brahmaputra) rivers. The 550-km coastline is dissected by the numerous channels and streams of the delta, which occupies about nine-tenths of the country’s area. The coast is predominantly low-lying, and its outline is frequently altered by strong tidal currents. The delta is a flat low-lying plain, with a maximum elevation of 30 m. Its southern part, called the Sundarbans, is swampy. The plain is composed of Pleistocene and recent alluvium, chiefly sand, clay, and silt. In the northeast and east there are hills and low mountains rising to 1, 230 m, composed of limestone, slate, and sandstone. Natural resources include deposits of coal, natural gas, limestone, kaolin, and peat.

The country has a subequatorial and monsoon climate, with average January temperatures ranging from 12° to 25°C; in April, the hottest month, the temperature ranges from 23° to 34°C. The delta receives about 2, 000 mm of precipitation annually, and in the northeast and southeast annual rainfall exceeds 3, 000 mm in places. The rainy season lasts from May to October.

The river network is dense, particularly in the Sundarbans, where the land area of the islands approximately equals that of the channels. The combined flow of the Ganges and Jamuna (Padma) reaches a width of 10 km and, merging with the Meghna, forms a vast estuary. High water, caused by monsoon rains, occurs in the summer, when the water level in the delta may rise as much as 10 m. Much of the country is subject to annual floods lasting up to three months.

Rich alluvial soils, mainly loam and sandy loam, predominate. At higher elevation in the north and southeast there are red and yellow soils. Swampy soils are found in the Sundarbans. During the past 100 years the natural forest vegetation has been greatly reduced. Tropical evergreen forests with bamboo, lianas, and epiphytes grow widely, although large forest tracts have survived only in the south, southeast, and north. Monsoon forests, which shed their foliage during dry seasons, are found in regions with less heavy rainfall. Shrub savannas are encountered in higher areas, and mangrove thickets grow in places along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.

The forests are inhabited by monkeys, both macaques and hanumans. Predators include the Bengal tiger, the leopard and the striped hyena. The sloth bear is encountered, and wild elephants may still be found in the southeast. There are numerous rodents, and cobras, Indian pythons, and crocodiles are common. There are many species of birds and insects. Malarial mosquitoes infest the swampy regions.

The natural regions are the periodically flooded delta of the Ganges and Jamuna (Brahmaputra), the swampy coastal low-land of the Sundarbans, and the hilly and low-mountain southeastern region with tropical forests.


Population. Bengalis constitute about 98 percent of the population (1972, estimate). Muslims of diverse ethnic backgrounds who migrated to Bangladesh primarily from northern India inhabit the northwestern and central regions; in Bangladesh they are collectively called Biharis. Small groups of Santals and Mundas (speaking Munda languages), as well as Dravidian-speaking Oraons, also live in the northwestern and central parts of the country. The northern and eastern border regions are inhabited by small tribes of Burmese-Assamese origin, such as the Chakmas, Marmas, Garos, Mrungs, Doingnaks, Saks, Khayangs, Banjogis, Hajangs, Pankhos, and Kumi.

The Tipras and Lushais, constituting the Kuki-chin group, live in the mountains around Chittagong in the southeast. The Khasi, speaking a Mon-Khmer language, live in the north. Members of the small ethnic groups are generally bilingual; in addition to their native language, they speak Bengali, the official language. More than 80 percent of the people are Muslims, and there are about 10 million Hindus. The majority of persons belonging to the minority groups are Buddhists. Christians number about 150, 000 persons, and some Chakmas, Garos, and Hajangs have preserved their tribal beliefs. The official calendar is the Bengali calendar, and the Muslim (Hegira) and Gregorian calendars are also used.

Bangladesh has a high rate of natural population increase (about 3 percent annually) and is one of the world’s most densely populated countries, with an average density of approximately 500 persons per sq km. Most of the population is concentrated in the central part of the country. By 1974 the urban population had increased to 10 percent, up from 5.2 percent in 1961. The major cities are Dacca (1.3 million inhabitants in 1974), Khulna, Chittagong, and Narayanganj.

Historical survey. The oldest relics found in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) belong to indigenous Stone Age cultures related to the cultures of northeastern India and those of the Indochina Peninsula to the east. The first states emerged in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., notably the Vanga state, from which the country’s present name is derived (Bangla, “Bengali” and desh, “country”). Between the fourth and second centuries B.C. the territory of present-day Bangladesh was part of the Maurya empire. After the dissolution of the empire several independent states emerged, including Samatata and Davaka. In the fourth and fifth centuries A. D., these states were incorporated into the empire of the Guptas. Beginning in the eighth century, the area occupied by these states was united with West Bengal to form a feudal Bengali state, which existed until the 13th century.

As a result of feudal decentralization the Bengali state split into several small principalities, which facilitated their conquest by the forces of Muhammad Ghori between 1199 and 1202. Later, Bengal was incorporated into the Delhi Sultanate. The Muslim conquest was accompanied by the spread of Islam. In the mid-14th century the Delhi vicegerents of Bengal became independent rulers, and several dynasties controlled the region until 1576, when the country was conquered by the Mogul emperor Akbar. In the early 17th century Dacca became the country’s administrative center. In the early 18th century the Bengali vicegerency became in effect an independent state. During this period Bengal was one of the richest, most densely populated, and most highly developed regions of the south Asian subcontinent.

British colonialists established themselves in the coastal regions of the country as early as the 17th century. In the mid-18th century, taking advantage of the decline of the Mogul empire and internecine wars, they embarked on large-scale conquests. After the battle of Plassey in 1757, Bengal came under the control of the British East India Company. The conquerors ruthlessly plundered the country, as a result of which cities declined, crafts stagnated, and millions of people died of hunger. In 1793 the British gave the Bengali peasants’ land to the zamindar landlords, who became the mainstay of colonial power.

During the colonial period (1757–1947), economic and cultural development shifted to the western part of Bengal (Calcutta), and eastern Bengal gradually became a supplier of agricultural products for the industrially developed western region. The first national organizations emerged in Bengal after the rise of a national bourgeoisie. The national movement began in the 1860’s, and in October 1905, in order to suppress the Bengali national movement, the British colonialists partitioned Bengal into two provinces, East and West Bengal. East Bengal, with Dacca as its capital, also included Assam and Tippera, and the majority of its people were Muslims. The capital of West Bengal was Calcutta, and most of the inhabitants were Hindus. Large-scale resistance to the partition compelled the colonialists to abolish it in 1911.

The Bengali national liberation movement grew stronger after World War I and the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, as did the liberation movement throughout all of India. The religious-communal disagreements between Hindus and Muslims that broke out in Bengal in the 1930’s were encouraged by the colonialists.

After World War II, as the colonial system of imperialism began to disintegrate and the national liberation movement of the peoples of the south Asian subcontinent intensified, the British colonialists were compelled to leave India. In accordance with the British government’s declaration of June 3, 1947, on the formation, along religious lines, of two dominions—the Indian Union and Pakistan—out of former British India, East Bengal, with its predominantly Muslim population, was included in Pakistan.

East Pakistan, with 54.2 percent of Pakistan’s population, was formed out of East Bengal. Economically, it lagged behind West Pakistan. The dominant position in the country was occupied by the landed magnates of West Pakistan and powerful non-Bengali entrepreneurs, and the economic and political interests of the Bengali national bourgeoisie of East Pakistan were disregarded. This was evident in the distribution of budgetary appropriations, foreign aid (loans, credits, and subsidies), and civil service posts. Attempts by the ruling circles to make Urdu the sole official language of the country also provoked widespread discontent in East Pakistan. (According to the 1951 census, only 1.1 percent of the population of East Pakistan spoke Urdu.) Overpopulation in the countryside, the bankruptcy of craftsmen and small businessmen, and mass unemployment further complicated the situation in East Pakistan.

The Bengali national movement grew, and from the late 1940’s and early 1950’s it demanded full regional autonomy for East Bengal. The Bengali national movement frequently led to political crises, for example, in 1952 during the mass demonstrations in support of the Bengali language and in 1954, when the ruling Muslim League party was defeated in elections to the Legislative Assembly of East Pakistan. The ruling circles in Pakistan attempted to deal with the crises by simultaneously making concessions to the leaders of the Bengali national movement and initiating repressions against the democratic forces participating in the movement. The president of Pakistan M. Ayub Khan gave the East Pakistani authorities greater power in resolving economic issues and declared Dacca the second capital of the country in 1962, but these measures failed to alleviate the conflict because they did not eliminate the economic and political inequality between the two parts of Pakistan. The growth of the Bengali national movement between 1962 and 1968 was one of the chief causes of the political crisis that came to a head in Pakistan in March 1969 and resulted in the establishment of a military regime headed by General A. M. Yahya Khan.

In Pakistan’s first general elections, held in December 1970, the Bengali national party, called the Awami League (People’s League), won in East Bengal. Headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Awami League took 160 of the 162 seats allocated to East Pakistan in the 300-member National Assembly and received 76 percent of the votes.

When the ruling circles in Pakistan refused to transfer power to the elected majority in the National Assembly and to grant East Bengal full regional autonomy, the members of the Bengali national movement initiated a general strike, which in early March 1971 developed into a campaign of civil disobedience. On Mar. 26, 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by order of the Pakistani military government, and the Awami League was banned. The army began a mass repression against members of the Bengali national movement, and thousands of refugees streamed across the border into India. The People’s Republic of Bangladesh was proclaimed on Mar. 26, 1971, and the leaders of the Awami League who had escaped repression formed the government of Bangladesh on Apr. 13, 1971. Partisan detachments, called Mukti Bahini, were organized to fight for independence.

With millions of refugees fleeing to India, relations between Pakistan and India rapidly deteriorated. Concerned with maintaining peace, the government of the USSR repeatedly appealed to the Pakistani military government to end its repression and come to an immediate political settlement in the province that would reflect the people’s will and enable the regugees to return to their homeland. The refusal of the Pakistani military authorities to follow this course precipitated a large-scale military conflict between India and Pakistan in early December 1971. On Dec. 16, 1971, Indian forces and Mukti Bahini detachments entered Dacca, the capital of East Bengal, and Pakistani forces surrendered to the joint Indo-Bangladesh command.

Released from prison in West Pakistan, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned to Dacca on Jan. 10, 1972. Two days later the provisional constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was promulgated, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became head of government. Banks, insurance companies, and certain key industries were nationalized, and land reforms were instituted. A constitution was adopted in December 1972. In the elections to the National Assembly held on Mar. 7, 1973, the Awami League was victorious, winning 73 percent of the votes.

Economic difficulties created political tension in Bangladesh and activated oppositional forces. On Dec. 28, 1974, a state of emergency was declared, and a presidential form of government was introduced in January 1975 with Mujibur Rahman as acting president. All politica parties were banned, and the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League was formed with Mujibur Rahman as its chairman. On Aug. 15, 1975, Mujibur Rahman was killed during a military revolt. K. Moshtaque Ahmed became president, but on Nov. 6, 1975, he was replaced by A. M. Sayem, who also held the post of chief martial law administrator. An advisory council was created on Nov. 27, 1975, which assumed the powers of the Council of Ministers. In September 1976 political parties were again legalized. On Nov. 30, 1976, General Ziaur Rahman was appointed chief martial law administrator, and on Apr. 21, 1977, he also became president of the country.

The Soviet government’s recognition of Bangladesh as a sovereign state on Jan. 24, 1972, and the signing of the Joint Statement of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in Moscow on Mar. 3, 1972, helped strengthen the international position of the young republic. By 1974, 116 countries had recognized Bangladesh. After Pakistan’s recognition of Bangladesh on Feb. 22, 1974, Bangladesh recognized Pakistan. The USSR, other socialist countries, and India gave Bangladesh extensive aid in repairing the damage caused by military actions.


Political parties and trade unions (until February 1975). The Awami League, founded in 1949 to represent the interests of the national bourgeoisie, actively struggled for the autonomy of East Pakistan. On Mar. 26, 1971, the party was banned, and between April and December 1971 it led the struggle for national independence. Between 1972 and 1975 the government of Bangladesh was formed from among the party’s leaders.

The Communist Party of Bangladesh has been active since 1948. Prior to April 1971 it was called the Communist Party of East Pakistan. The party was subjected to severe repression by the Pakistani authorities, and between 1954 and 1971 it operated underground. The Communist Party played an active part in the struggle for independence.

The National Awami Party of Bangladesh, founded in 1957, called for extensive democratic changes in Pakistan and the country’s withdrawal from military blocs. In November and December 1967 the left-wing extremist faction, headed by A. H. Bashani, left the party, later splitting into several groups. The National Awami Party, headed by Professor Muzaffar Ahmad, advocated an alliance of all democratic forces and progressive changes in the country. It was active in the struggle for independence.

The Bangladesh National League, founded in 1969, advocated full regional autonomy for East Bengal in 1969–70. The National Socialist Party was founded in 1972 as a nationalist party opposing the Awami League.

The National Workers’ League, founded in 1969, unified several hundred trade unions. It supported the Awami League, essentially functioning under the party’s direction. The Trade Union Center, founded in 1966, was reorganized in early 1972. It supported the Communist Party of Bangladesh and the National Awami Party, headed by Muzaffar Ahmad. The Bengali Workers’ Federation, founded in 1966, was controlled by Bashani’s group.

Economic geography. Prior to 1947 the economy of the area now known as Bangladesh (formerly East Bengal) was closely linked with the economic development of Bengal, one of the major provinces of British India. Under British colonial rule the eastern part of Bengal was an agricultural region specializing in the production of jute.

Between 1947 and 1971, when East Bengal was part of Pakistan, jute production and processing expanded, and other branches of light industry were established. In economic development, East Pakistan lagged behind West Pakistan, and its backwardness was linked to government policies. Between 1950 and 1970, East Pakistan, with 54 percent of the country’s population, received one-fourth of Pakistan’s budget appropriations, two-fifths of its state expenditures on development plans, less than one-third of its foreign loans and subsidies, and only 23 percent of its private investments. In 1970 the gross national product was estimated at $4.6 billion, of which agriculture accounted for 55.4 percent and industry for 8.7 percent. In 1971 the economy was severely crippled: the transport system was almost completely destroyed, part of the crop was lost, and most enterprises were shut down.

The young state of Bangladesh inherited a poorly developed economy based on agricultural production for export. Agriculture employs four-fifths of the work force. Small-scale production and small capitalist enterprises predominate. The state sector is developing rapidly through extensive nationalization (mainly in 1972) of large industry, transport, banks, insurance companies, and foreign trade. The Bank of Bangladesh, which functions as the country’s reserve bank, was established in late 1971. In mid-1973 a five-year economic development plan (1973–74 to 1977–78) was initiated, under which the largest investments were allocated for the state sector and certain expenditures were to be financed by foreign sources.

AGRICULTURE. The country’s agriculture is based on small and backward peasant farming with insufficient land. Under the agrarian reforms of 1972, land holdings were limited to 13.4 hectares (ha), and farms of 3.35 ha or less were exempted from paying taxes. The amount of land is limited, and almost all the arable land has been plowed up. Increased agricultural production is possible only through more intensive farming and the raising of two or three crops per year. Rice is the principal crop, occupying four-fifths of the sown area, or 10 million ha in 1973 (yielding 12 million tons of rice). Wheat and barley are raised in small quantities, and legumes are an important crop. The chief industrial crop is jute; with a harvest of 1.2 million tons in 1973, Bangladesh is the world’s leading producer of jute. Also cultivated are sugarcane (7.5 million tons in 1973), oil-producing crops (rape, mustard, sesame, peanuts), tobacco, bananas, mangoes, betel nuts, spices, and various vegetables. In the north and southeast there are 147 tea plantations, more than two-fifths of them owned by British capital. Bangladesh is a leading producer of tea for export (30, 000 tons in 1973). The 1972 livestock population was estimated at 26 million head of cattle, 11.9 million sheep and goats, and 33.5 million poultry.

FISHING. About 1 million tons of marine and freshwater fish are caught annually.

INDUSTRY. Most of the country’s industrial enterprises process agricultural raw materials. The extractive industry is poorly developed; the chief products are natural gas (averaging 1.5 billion cu m annually), limestone, and kaolin. One of the weakest sectors of the economy is the production of electric power. In 1974 the total capacity of electric power plants was 605 megawatts. With the assistance of the USSR, the first unit of a thermal electric power plant with a capacity of 55 megawatts was completed in 1974 at Ghorasal. The most important branch of manufacturing is the jute industry. Bangladesh is the second leading producer of jute products after India (453, 000 tons in 1972–73). Other industrial products include cotton (37, 000 tons of yarn and 54 million m of fabrics in 1972–73), paper (50, 000 tons), sugar (90, 000 tons), matches, chemicals (281, 000 tons of chemical fertilizers), pharmaceuticals, soap, rubber, and cement (33, 000 tons). Bangladesh has an oil refinery with a capacity of 1.5 million tons and a metallurgical plant in Chittagong with a capacity of 150, 000 tons of steel annually. Metalworking and machine building are represented by railroad workshops, shipyards, a diesel plant, and a machine-tool plant; these enterprises do not satisfy the domestic market. In 1974 a large electrical equipment plant was under construction with Soviet assistance in Chittagong. The chief industrial centers are Dacca (including Narayanganj), Chittagong, and Khulna.

Domestic industries, crafts, and small industries (leather goods, ceramics), employing more than 1 million persons, continue to be important. Some 300, 000 persons are engaged in hand weaving, producing much of the country’s cotton fabrics.

TRANSPORTATION. Water transport accounts for three-fourths of the domestic freight and passenger traffic. The length of permanent inland waterways, forming a unified network, is 5, 400 km (8, 000 km during high water). Rivers frequently take the place of highways and even country roads. In early 1971 Bangladesh had 2, 500 large and small motorized vessels and steamboats. Most of the freight and passengers are transported by boats dependent on sails or oars.

In 1973 there were 2, 858 km of railroad tracks and 47, 000 km of roads, of which 5, 900 km were paved. During the rainy season most roads are impassable. About 66, 000 motor vehicles are registered. Sea transport is used in foreign trade, and a merchant marine is being organized. Chittagong, a major seaport, had a freight turnover of 4.8 million tons in 1973; after the country’s devastation in 1971 the port was put into operation with the aid of the USSR. Another important port, Chaina, had a freight turnover of 1.7 million tons in 1973. A state-owned airline, Biman, has been organized.

FOREIGN TRADE. State-run organizations control a large part of the country’s trade. Jute and jute products provide about nine-tenths of export earnings. Tea, leather, fish, and paper are also important exports. Imports include grain and other foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, ferrous metals, and chemical products. Imports significantly exceed exports. A considerable portion of the imports are acquired through loans and subsidies from various countries and international organizations. Bangladesh trades with India, the United States, Great Britain, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany, and the USSR and other socialist countries. Since January 1972 the monetary unit has been the taka, whose exchange rate equals that of the Indian rupee.


Medicine and public health. In 1973 the birth rate was 47 per thousand, and the mortality rate, 17 per thousand; the infant mortality rate was 140 per thousand live births. Infectious and parasitic diseases predominate and are the main cause of death. One of the major public health problems is malnutrition, from which nearly half the population suffers. In 1973 there were 12, 300 hospital beds (10, 500 in state medical institutions), of which only 2, 300 were in rural areas. That year the country had about 7, 000 doctors (some 5, 000 in the cities), about 1, 000 pharmacists, and more than 2, 000 medical assistants. Doctors are trained at nine medical colleges. The five-year development plan from 1973–74 to 1977–78 provides for an increase in the number of hospital beds, the creation of 356 rural hospitals with 9, 000 beds, and the training of 3, 500 doctors and more than 2, 000 other medical workers.

Education. Prior to independence more than 85 percent of the adult population was illiterate and about half the school-age children did not have an opportunity to study. The Bangladesh constitution of 1972 proclaimed the right of all citizens to an education. Classes are conducted in Bengali. At the age of five or six children are enrolled in five-year primary schools, where instruction is free. The five-year secondary schools, consisting of a three-year lower cycle and a two-year upper cycle, charge tuition. Most of the secondary schools are private. In 1972–73 some 6 million pupils were enrolled in primary schools, and more than 1 million students (13 percent of them girls) attended secondary schools. In 1970 there were approximately 4, 500 religious (mainly Muslim) schools in the country. The secondary schools have four divisions: humanities, natural sciences, business, and religion. Students begin to study English in the third grade of the primary school. Intermediate colleges offering a two-year course of study prepare students for higher educational institutions; in 1970–71 about 200, 000 students were enrolled in such schools.

Primary school teachers receive one or two years of training in pedagogical schools upon completing the lower cycle of the secondary school. About 7, 000 primary school teachers are graduated annually. Teachers for the lower cycle of the secondary school receive their training in pedagogical colleges (one or two years) upon completing the upper cycle of the secondary school; some 1, 700 teachers are graduated annually. Teachers for the upper cycle of the secondary school are trained at universities. Those who have completed the lower cycle of the secondary school may enroll in vocational training courses. Technical colleges offering one to three years of training prepare middle-level specialists; they are open to graduates of the upper cycle of the secondary school.

There are six universities: the University of Dacca (founded in 1921), the University of Rajshahi (1953), the University of Engineering and Technology at Dacca (1961), the Agricultural University at Mymensingh (1961), the University of Chittagong (1966), and the Jahangirnagar University near Dacca (1970). In 1972–73 the universities had a combined enrollment of 16, 500 students. The higher educational system also includes polytechnic institutes at Dacca, Chittagong, and Khulna; textile, leather, and medical institutes at Dacca; and an agricultural academy at Comilla. The universities charge tuition. In 1972–73, 176, 000 students were enrolled in technical colleges and institutes.

The largest library is the Dacca University Library, housing more than 285, 000 volumes. Also in the capital are the Dacca Museum (founded in 1913), which exhibits Bengali art, and the Balda Museum (founded in 1927), which has art and archaeology collections.


Scientific institutions. Scientific research is conducted at the University of Dacca, at the University of Rajshahi, and at the Agricultural University in Mymensingh. There are more than 20 research institutions, including the Atomic Energy Center and the Atomic Energy Agricultural Research Center, both in Dacca. Among the research institutions specializing in agriculture and forestry are the Agricultural Academy at Comilla (founded in 1958), the Jute Research Institute at Dacca (1951), the Animal Husbandry Research Institute at Comilla (1947), the Tea Research Station at Sylhet, and the Forestry Laboratory at Chittagong. Research on the treatment and prevention of diseases is conducted by the Cholera Research Laboratory (1960), the Center for the Study of the Medical Use of Radioactive Isotopes, and the Malaria Institute (1947), all located in Dacca. The Institute of Engineers, an association for the development of the exact and technical sciences, was founded in Dacca in 1948. The economic (1958) and sociological (1957) associations are affiliated with the University of Dacca. The Asia Foundation in Dacca specializes in Oriental studies. The Bengali Academy in Dacca, founded in 1955, is concerned with problems of the Bengali language and literature. The Research Institute for Economic Development was established in Dacca in 1971, and the Research Institute for Law and International Relations was organized in 1972.


Press, radio, television. In 1975 there were 28 daily newspapers, with a total circulation of about 250, 000 copies, and 45 weeklies, with a combined circulation of 120, 000 copies. Six of the daily papers were issued in English and 22 in Bengali. The most important Bengali-language newspapers are the progovernment Dainik Bangla, published in Dacca since 1964 (circulation, 60, 000); the progovernment Banglar Bani, published in Dacca since 1972 (circulation, 30, 000); and Sangbad, published in Dacca since 1951 (circulation, 10, 000). The major English-language newspapers are The People, published since 1969 and supporting the Awami League (circulation, 25, 000); Morning News, published in Calcutta until 1942 and in Dacca since 1949 and reflecting the views of the government (circulation, 15, 000); and the progovernment Bangladesh Observer, founded in 1949 and called the Pakistan Observer prior to December 1971 (circulation, 35, 000). The weekly Ekata, published since 1970 in Bengali, is the organ of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (circulation 13, 000). There are three information agencies—the Bangladesh News Agency, the Bangladesh Press International, and the private Eastern News Agency.

The country’s seven radio stations are state owned; they are situated in Dacca, Chittagong, Rangpur, Khulna, Rajshahi, and Sylhet. Broadcasts are conducted mainly in Bengali. A television center has been operating in Dacca since December 1964.


Literature. The literature of Bangladesh is developing in Bengali within the traditions common to Bengali literature as a whole, which the Bangladesh people regard as their national heritage. A distinctive feature of the literature of Bangladesh is the stylistic originality of its Muslim writers, who are strongly influenced by the vocabulary and imagery of Arabic and Persian poetry and by motifs and subjects associated with Muslim tradition. This tendency may be seen as early as the 17th century in the poetry of Daulat Kaji and Saiya Alaol, and since the 19th century it has developed in the works of Mir Musharraf Husain (1848–1911), Kaikobad (1858–1952), and Nazrul Islam (born 1899) and in the writings of members of the Muslim Literary Society (founded in Dacca in 1925), notably Kazi Abdul Wadud (born 1896), Qazi Motahar Hussain, and the poets Abul Fazal (born 1903) and Abdul Kadir (born 1906).

The most celebrated poets are Ghulam Mustafa (1897–1966), Raoshan Izdani (1917–64), and Jasimuddin (born 1903), who has glorified the working peasantry in his collections Rice Field, Sandy Island, Embroidered Quilt, and Shore of the Padma. Also popular are the poems of the woman poet and public figure Begum Sufia Kamal (born 1911). The narrative poems Wanderers of the Seven Seas and Sunlight by Farrukh Ahmad (born 1918) are realistic, even though they express mystical Sufi ideas. The poetry of Talim Hussain (born 1918), Mufakkarul Islam, and Abdur Rashid Khan (born 1927) is similar to that of Farrukh Ahmad.

The poems of Ahsan Habib (born 1917), Abul Husain (born 1921), and Sanaul Hoque (born 1922) are written in a modern style. Social themes dominate the verse of Samsur Rahman (born 1929), Hazan Hafizur Rahman (born 1932), Al Mahmud (born 1936), and Muhammad Moniruzzaman (born 1936).

The development of prose has been strongly influenced by R. Tagore. The heroes of the novels Mother and The Girl’s Laughter by Shaukat Osman (born 1910) are poor peasants and fishermen. The novels Red Shawl and Weep, River, Weep! by Syed Waliullah (died 1972) portray life in the Bengali village. Especially popular are the works of Alauddin al-Azad (born 1932) and Abul Kalam Shamsuddin.

Important works on literary theory and criticism have been written by Shahidullah (1885–1969), Enamul Haq (born 1906), Qazi Abdul Mannan (The Muslim Tradition in Bengali Literature), Anisuzzaman (Bengali Literature and Muslim Thought), Ahmad Sharif, director of the literary research and publishing center of the Bengali Academy, and Mazharul Islam (The Poet Hayat Mahmud).


Architecture and art. The earliest works of art that have survived on the territory of modern Bangladesh date from the seventh to 12th centuries. In the ruins of the fortifications of the city of Pundranagar (Mahasdhan) and in the remains of large Buddhist monasteries in Paharpur and Mainamati are found terracotta wall reliefs of mythological personages, dancers, acrobats, and animals. The reliefs are notable for their realistic forms and expressive movements. The bronze and stone sculptures of divinities of the Buddhist pantheon discovered in Mainamati combine canonical poses and gestures with such ethnic features as a broad face, large eyes, and stocky figure.

With the conquest of the region by Muslim feudal lords in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, the artistic traditions of Central Asia, the Near East, and the Middle East mingled with the indigenous culture. Mosques, minarets, madrasahs and mausoleums were built. Many fortresses were built, such as Idrakhpur in Narayanganj (1660), containing palaces and governmental and cultural buildings. Miniature painting, influenced by the Mogul school, flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries.

European styles were adopted in the plastic arts in the period of British colonial rule. Along with traditional structures (for example, the Starry Mosque in Dacca, 18th century), new types of buildings appeared—railroad stations, municipal buildings, and commercial establishments, built in the English neoclassical style (for example, the bank in Dacca, late 19th century).

After India was liberated from colonial dependence in 1947, many construction projects were undertaken in Bangladesh, which was part of Pakistan until 1971. A hydroelectric complex was built on the Karnaphuli River at Kaptai between 1957 and 1962. In Dacca, multi-story buildings were erected among the traditional low houses of baked brick covered with gabled roofs. Most public buildings combine traditional forms with modern designs and materials, for example, the new mosque built in Dacca in the 1950’s. Art has also flourished since independence. The painter and graphic artist Z. Abedin is the foremost representative of the realistic European trend. His followers include the painters and graphic artists A. Shafiuddin and Q. Hasan, who depict the life of the common people. Such painters as H. Rahman have turned to Mogul miniature painting and ancient Indian murals for inspiration. The painter M. Bashir, the illustrator and graphic artist Q. Chowdhury, and the painter M. Kibria have been strongly influenced by Western modernism, including abstract art. Applied art is represented by such ancient crafts as the carving of wood and ivory, ceramics, wickerwork, and weaving.



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