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Related to Indonesians: Malays, Malaysians
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(orang-orang Indonesia), the self-designation of the inhabitants of the Republic of Indonesia. Indonesians themselves constitute 96 percent of the country’s population. They speak various Indonesian languages of the Austronesian language family and belong to the Pareoean subrace. In the broad sense the term “Indonesians” refers to all citizens of the republic—Indonesians proper, as well as those who speak non-Indonesian languages (the North Halmaherans, Papuans, and Indonesian Chinese). Linguists and ethnologists sometimes apply the term to all peoples speaking languages of the Indonesian branch, including those living outside Indonesia. There are 124.9 million Indonesians who are citizens of Indonesia (1971, estimate).

Indonesia has more than 150 peoples and more than 1,000 languages and dialects. A total of 90 percent of the country’s population is made up of the 13 largest peoples, those with more than 1 million each. Most Indonesians, about 84 percent, profess Islam; about 2 percent, a variety of Hinduism; about 4 percent, Christianity; 3 percent, Buddhism and Confucianism (Chinese); and about 5 percent, ancient traditional beliefs.

The Indonesians proper are made up of several ethnic groups: the Pareoean subrace, the Melanesian and Veddoid anthropological types of the equatorial race (Negroid-Australoid), and partly Europeanoids. The Pareoeans came to the archipelago in several waves from the southern regions of mainland Asia, beginning at the turn of the second millennium B.C. and there came in contact with Veddoids and Melanesians. The present ethnic pattern of Indonesia is the result of continuing external and internal migrations and interethnic contacts. The various peoples of the country are at different levels of socioeconomic and cultural development. Capitalist relations are developing among the Javanese, Sundanese, Indonesian, Malayans, Bugi, Makassarese, Menangkabau, Madurans, Atjehnese (Achinese), Bandjari, Batak, and Balinese, and vestiges of communal and clan relations are strong among the Sasak, Dyak, Toradja, and many peoples of the Moluccas and Lesser Sunda Islands; some tribes, such as the Papuans, Kubu, and Akit, are very primitive.

The beginning of the formation of modern nations (natsii, nation in the historical sense), above all the Javanese, and of an all-Indonesian consciousness dates to the turn of the 20th century. During the past few decades there has been an intensive process of ethnic and national integration and consolidation among all the major peoples. The largest peoples are becoming centers of attraction for the smaller neighboring peoples, and the peoples of the country are moving closer together. The Indonesian language, Bahasa Indonesia, which is of Malay origin, has become the language of intercourse and the state language. The culture of Indonesia has been affected by the insular nature of the country, and a variety of influences have impinged upon it: Indian, from the beginning of the Common Era through the 15th and 16th centuries; Arabic and, more broadly, Muslim, from the tenth to 17th centuries; Chinese, from the beginning of the Common Era; and European, from the 16th century. Although Indonesian culture is very diversified, it also shows many common traits, both genetic and those acquired through centuries of external and internal contacts.


Narody Iugo-Vostochnoi Azii. Moscow, 1966. (Bibliography.)
Maretin, Iu. V. “Osobennosti bakhasa Indonezia kak gosudarstvennogo iazyka Respubliki Indonezii.” In Voprosy sotsial’noi lingvistiki. Leningrad, 1969.
Indonesia. Edited by R. T. McVey. New Haven, 1963. (Survey of World Cultures, 12.)
Tanah air kita: A Book on the Country and People of Indonesia, 5th ed. The Hague-Bandung [196—].


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