Madagascar, Democratic Republic of

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Madagascar, Democratic Republic of


a state in the western part of the Indian Ocean, 400 km from the southeastern coast of Africa on Madagascar and small neighboring islands. Separated from mainland Africa by the Mozambique Channel, it has an area of 596,000 sq km, of which Madagascar accounts for 590,000 sq km. Population, 7.6 million (1972). The capital is Tananarive. Administratively, the republic is divided into six provinces.

Constitution and government. The state is a republic. The present constitution was adopted after a nationwide referendum held on Dec. 21, 1975. Under the constitution the head of state is the president, who is elected for a seven-year term by universal suffrage. The president is also commander in chief of the armed forces and chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC). The SRC assists the president in formulating state policy and supervising its implementation. The president appoints two-thirds of the members of the SRC, and one-third are chosen by the president from a list submitted by the National People’s Assembly. The highest legislative body is a unicameral parliament—the National People’s Assembly—elected for a five-year term by direct suffrage. Executive power is vested in the president, the SRC, and the government. The prime minister is appointed by the president after consultation with the SRC. Ministers are also appointed by the president upon recommendation by the prime minister. Problems relating to national defense and to the armed forces’ participation in the country’s socioeconomic development are handled by the Military Council of Development.

Natural features. The coastline of Madagascar is little indented. Its eastern and western shores are low, flat, and almost straight. The entire eastern coast is rimmed by dunes, beyond which extend lagoons joined in places by canals. Coral reefs occur along the western coast, where the only good natural harbor is the Gulf of Tulear. The high, and in places steep, southern coast lacks large protected bays, with the exception of Fort-Dauphin. In the northwest and extreme north the rocky coast is steep and strongly dissected, with several large natural ports (Diégo-Suarez, Antongil).

The island is an ancient crystalline block, separated from the African continent at the end of the Paleozoic. The High Plateau, extending from north to south for over 800 km, is a remnant of this block. Its surface slopes gently, descending by stages from east to west, and is deeply dissected into individual massifs. Large level and flat-bottomed depressions and valleys lie between the massifs. Some of the depressions contain lakes (for example, Alaotra) or swamps. The average elevation ranges from 800 m to 1,200 m, reaching 1,500 m near the eastern edge. The highest point is the volcanic massif of Tsaratanana (2,876 m) in the north. In the west the High Plateau gives way to low plateaus (less than 800 m) and a coastal hilly lowland, and in the east it descends in two steep scarps to a narrow (10-20 km) coastal lowland. There are many extinct volcanos, such as the Tsaratanana, that were active mainly during the Paleogene. Earthquakes are frequent, and there are numerous hot springs.

Precambrian formations of the Madagascar massif are well developed in the axial and eastern parts of the island. They are represented by the Androy system of the Lower Archean (3.02 billion years old), the graphite system of the Upper Archean (2.6 billion years old), and the Vohibory system. The Tsipolino series (1.14 billion to 1.17 billion years old) lies unconformably on a metamorphic foundation. Structurally, the western part of the island belongs to the eastern rim of the Mozambique trough, filled with deposits from the Karroo system (Upper Carboniferous and Lower Permian) and more recent Mesozoic-Cenozoic sediments. Rich deposits of graphite (Tamatave), mica, uranium, gold, and precious stones are associated with the Precambrian formations of the Madagascar massif. Beryl, columbite, and thorianite are found in granites and pegmatites, and there are coal deposits in the trough.

The island has a tropical climate, except in the northwest, where it is equatorial monsoonal. On the eastern coastal lowland and the steep scarps of the High Plateau the climate is hot and humid. Average monthly temperatures vary from 13°-20°C to 27°-33°C, and precipitation totals 1,500 mm per year, in some areas exceeding 3,000 mm. The High Plateau has a dry and cool climate. Here the average monthly temperatures range from 13° to 20°C, with occasional light frosts in winter, and the annual precipitation averages 1,000-1,500 mm. On the western plateau and lowland there is a distinct summer rainy season and a winter dry season, and the precipitation ranges from 500 to 1,000 mm. The extreme southwest is hot and arid, with an annual precipitation of under 500 mm.

A large part of the country is covered by a dense network of rivers. In the east the rivers are short but full of rapids and deep, especially after rains. There are fewer rivers flowing into the Mozambique Channel (the largest are the Sofia, Betsiboka, Mahavavy, Mangoky, and Onilahy), but they are longer, deep in summer (November to April), and shallower in winter. The rivers in the southwest dry up in winter. Only the estuaries of the largest rivers are navigable. The most important lake, Alaotra, is shallow.

Infertile mountain red ferruginous soils are characteristic of the High Plateau, and rich black soils are well developed on volcanic roçk. Red-yellow and red ferruginous soils occur on the eastern coastal plain, although mangrove soils are also encountered. On the western coast there are brown-red lateritic soils, and on the southwestern coast red-brown soils. Erosion is extensive.

The island’s vegetation belongs to the Madagascar subregion of the Palaeotropical floristic region. Many of the known species, including more than 6,700 angiosperms, are endemic, including the ravenala, or travelers’ tree and the Angrecum orchid. Tracts of humid evergreen forests with valuable timber varieties such as ebony and bignonia have been preserved along the eastern coast and on the eastern slopes of the High Plateau. Coconut palms grow along the coast, and thorn trees and shrubs that lose their foliage during dry seasons predominate in the west. Much of the forest has been cut down, and wooded areas now occupy less than 13 percent of the island. Most of the High Plateau is occupied by secondary grassy savanna with beard grass and by low prickly shrubs. In the southwest there is a grass and scrub desert with euphorbia. Everywhere the vegetation has been greatly altered by man.

The island’s unique fauna belongs to the Madagascar subregion of the Ethiopian zoogeographic region. Many species of lemurs and tenrecs (insectivores) are indigenous to Madagascar, and predators are represented by viverrines, such as the ichneumon and the foussa. Nearly half the birds are endemic species, and green parrots, cardinals, Madagascar blue pigeons, guinea fowls, and purple gallinules are found everywhere. Among the numerous reptiles are chameleons, geckos, and iguanas. Although there are no poisonous snakes, boas related to South American varieties are encountered, and there are two species of crocodiles. The island has only about 16 species of freshwater fish. Giant turtles (12 species), large lemurs, and a giant bird, Aepyornis, have been exterminated.

Many preserves have been created to protect the island’s unique plant and animal life, notably, the Tsingy du Bemaraha, Tsaratanana, and Zahamena preserves on the High Plateau and the Andohahelo and Andringitra preserves in the southeast. On the northern coast is the national park of Montagne d’Ambre.

The island is divided into five natural regions. The eastern region of humid forests occupies the alluvial coastal lowland and the steep scarps of the windward slopes of the High Plateau. Here forests have survived only in separate tracts, and gully erosion is extensive. The central region consists of mountains and basins, where secondary grass savannas have replaced deciduous forests and sparse woodlands. The northwestern region of humid wooded alluvial plains has been greatly deforested and now consists of secondary savannas, deciduous forests, and pastures. The western low plateaus and coastal alluvial lowland contain typical savannas and xerophilous sparse woodlands. The southwestern plateaus are low and arid, with xerophytic shrub thickets and pastures.

Population. Approximately 99 percent of the population (1970, estimate) consists of the Malagasy, whose language is related to the Malayo-Polynesian language family. Small ethnic groups include Europeans (French), Arabs, and migrants from the Comoro Islands and Asian countries. Malagasy and French are the official languages. About half the population adheres to local traditional beliefs, over 40 percent are Christians (Catholics and Protestants), and the remainder are for the most part Muslims. The official calendar is the Gregorian.

Annual population growth between 1963 and 1970 averaged 2.3 percent. Of the gainfully employed population of 3,583,000 (1970), 86.5 percent were engaged in agriculture. In 1966 there were 196,200 wage earners, including 49,600 in agriculture and forestry, 59,000 in manufacturing, the power industry, and construction, and 10,900 in transport; the rest were government functionaries, persons employed in commerce, and domestic servants. Agricultural laborers and unskilled and semiskilled workers numbered 166,000 (1968). Average population density is 12.7 persons per sq km (1972), with the highest density occurring around Tananarive (112 persons per sq km) and on the High Plateau (23 per sq km); least populated are the western coastal plains and the southern desert regions (1-2 per sq km). The rural population is defined as persons living in a locale of less than 5,000 inhabitants. About 14 percent of the persons who are officially classified as urban residents also maintain close ties with the land. Urban population growth has been retarded by patriarchal-communal vestiges in the countryside, weak social differentiation among the peasantry, the large role of subsistence farming, and poorly developed industry in the cities. The most important cities are Tananarive, with 342,000 inhabitants in 1970, Tamatave, Majunga, Fianarantsoa, Diégo-Suarez, and Tuléar.

Historical survey. The question of the settlement of Madagascar and the ethnic origin of the Malagasy people has been little studied. The island was probably first settled during the Late Paleolithic by peoples who crossed the Mozambique Channel. Indonesians, Polynesians, and Melanesians arrived between the tenth and sixth centuries B.C., later followed by Bantu from the east coast of Africa and by Arabs. The state of Imerina, whose basic population consisted of the Merina, arose in Madagascar in the 14th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries the leading states were the Sakalava on the western coast, the Betsimisaraka on the eastern coast, and the Betsileo in the central region, known as the mountain country. In the 19th century they were incorporated into a centralized state, called the Malagasy Kingdom, or Kingdom of Madagascar, headed by the rulers of Imerina, who called themselves the “kings of Madagascar.” Feudal relations prevailed in the central regions, and vestiges of clan-tribal relations survived in some areas, primarily along the coast.

After the coming of the Portuguese in the 16th century, European colonialists, particularly the French, repeatedly attempted to gain a foothold on Madagascar. In the early 19th century Anglo-French rivalry for hegemony intensified. Exploiting this rivalry, the rulers of Madagascar long succeeded in preserving their sovereignty. Vigorous economic and cultural growth occurred between the 1840’s and 1870’s. The development of commodity-money relations was accompanied by a division of labor among the regions, with animal husbandry developing on the western coast and the central plateau producing rice and other agricultural products. Artisan production appeared, and small industrial enterprises arose, particularly sugar refining in the Tamatave region. Universal compulsory education for children between eight and 16 years of age was instituted in 1876. A national intelligentsia developed, the first printing shops were established, and newspapers and magazines were published.

Independent economic, cultural, and political development was cut short by a French invasion in 1883. After a bloody war, the government of Madagascar was obliged to acknowledge a French protectorate in 1885. After a second armed invasion in 1895, France annexed the island in August 1896 and abolished the Imerina monarchy in 1897. French companies began to exploit the colony’s human and natural resources. During the years of colonial rule some 10 million hectares of fertile land and forest were expropriated from the Malagasy, and forced labor was widely employed. The country was reduced to being a source of agricultural products and raw materials for France.

The Malagasy people ceaselessly struggled for independence during the colonial period. Separate spontaneous revolts and guerrilla actions grew into an organized national liberation movement after World War II. The first broad-based political organization, the Democratic Movement for Malagasy Revival (MDRM), was founded in 1946. An armed rebellion was provoked and brutally suppressed by the colonialists in 1947, with clashes between the Malagasy and colonial forces continuing for another two years. The MDRM was declared illegal, and its organizers and activists subjected to brutal repression. During the 1950’s several political parties emerged, demanding independence for Madagascar. Supported by the colonial administration, several moderate bourgeois reformist parties were also founded, the most influential of which was the Social Democratic Party (PSD), advocating independence within the French Community. In 1958, Madagascar was proclaimed the autonomous Malagasy Republic within the French Community. That year, at a united congress in Tamatave, a number of political organizations formed the Party of the Malagasy Independence Congress (AKFM), which called for complete and immediate independence and advanced a broad program of social reform.

On June 26, 1960, independence was proclaimed, and P. Tsiranana, the leader of the PSD, became the president. In September the republic was admitted to the UN. However, its sovereignty was limited by bilateral agreements on “co-operation,” imposed by France and signed in April 1960. Under these agreements the republic’s armed forces were placed under French control, France retained a number of military bases on the island (Diego-Suarez, Ivato), and French troops could move freely throughout the country. In the economic sphere, the agreements gave French companies various privileges. France took complete control of the system of higher education.

The government of the Malagasy Republic strengthened and expanded political and economic ties with Western Europe, the United States, the Republic of South Africa, and Israel. Much attention was given to cooperation with nations of the Afro-Malagasy and Mauritius Common Organization, which was linked with the western powers, particularly France. Dissatisfaction with the domestic and foreign policies of Tsiranana’s government came to a head in the spring of 1972. Riots broke out in the capital, with students, schoolchildren, teachers, workers, and peasants demanding the democratization of society, stronger controls over the national economy, improvement of the educational system, review of the 1960 French-Malagasy agreements on cooperation, and changes in foreign policy. Mass demonstrations and a general strike occurred. In May, Tsiranana was compelled to transfer power to the military, headed by General G. Ramanantsoa. In October 1972 a national referendum approved the transfer of all power to Ramanantsoa’s government for a five-year period. One of its first actions was the cancellation of the treaty on economic cooperation with the Republic of South Africa. In January 1973 the government announced the annulment of the 1960 Franco-Malagasy agreement on cooperation. In June 1973 a new Franco-Malagasy agreement was signed in Paris, providing for the removal of French military bases and the withdrawal of French troops. The Malagasy government assumed control over the system of higher education. In 1973 the republic withdrew from the Afro-Malagasy and Mauritius Common Organization. With the growth of progressive tendencies in the political life of the Malagasy Republic, G. Ramanatsoa’s government was unable to continue its rule and was compelled to resign in February 1975. The political crisis that lasted for more than six months was resolved when a new government was formed, headed by former foreign minister D. Ratsiraka. On Dec. 21, 1975, a national referendum approved the Charter of the Malagasy Socialist Revolution, a policy-formulating document proclaiming a socialist orientation for Madagascar. A new constitution was adopted, renaming the country the Democratic Republic of Madagascar (DRM), and D. Ratsiraka was elected president. The new socioeconomic program of the DRM calls for agrarian reform, the formation of agricultural cooperatives, and the nationalization of natural resources, industrial enterprises, and foreign trade. The republic’s foreign policy is based on the principles of nonalignment, positive neutralism, and peaceful coexistence. Diplomatic relations were established between the Malagasy Republic and the USSR in 1972.

Political parties, trade unions, and other public organizations. Avant-garde de la Revolution Malgache, founded by President D. Ratsiraka in 1976, is a progressive government party bringing together the most class-conscious peasants and workers, the progressive intelligentsia, and the people’s armed forces. Officially, the activities of other political parties and organizations have been suspended since February 1975, but they continue to function. The Party of the Malagasy Independence Congress (AKFM; Ankotonny Kongreiny Fahaleovantenan Madagasikara) was founded in 1958. An influential progressive party, it represents the intelligentsia, members of progressive petit bourgeois circles, Protestant clergy, workers, and peasants. It opposed Tsiranana and supports the new government. The National Movement for Malagasy Independence (MONIMA; Mouvement Nationale pour l’Independance de Madagascar) was founded in 1958. It is a left nationalist party, uniting peasants, craftsmen, small merchants, and government employees. The Malagasy Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste Malgache)—founded in 1973 through the merger of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), which was formerly in power, and the Malagasy Socialist Union (Union Socialiste Malgache)—actively opposes the progressive regime of D. Ratsiraka. The Federation of Trade Union Workers of Madagascar, founded in 1956, is a member of the World Federation of Trade Unions. It works closely with the French General Confederation of Labor and maintains close ties with the AKFM.

Economic geography. Prior to independence, the country had a poorly developed colonial economy. French monopolies controlled foreign trade and shipping (more than 66 percent of French investments in the country), the mining industry, and the plantations. Over 80 percent of export crops were produced on tiny peasant farms using primitive implements and backward agricultural methods. The manufacturing industry was limited to the processing of agricultural products. Internal transportation was poorly developed.

After the proclamation of independence in 1960, the government attempted to attract foreign investments in the economy by offering privileges and guarantees (Capital Investment Code, 1962) and totally rejecting nationalization, thereby strengthening the position of the imperialist powers. In addition to French companies, West German, US, Italian, and Japanese firms became more active. However, no significant increase in foreign capital investments occurred, and the five-year development plan (1964-68) that depended on these investments was not fulfilled, although it was extended to 1972. The new government announced that it would strengthen the national economy and expand ties with the socialist countries. In May 1973 the republic withdrew from the franc zone and established a currency and finance system independent of France.

AGRICULTURE. The economy is based on agriculture, which accounts for about half of the gross national product. Agricultural products represent 93 percent of export earnings. Communal farming encompassed 1.8 million hectares (ha) in 1962, private farms belonging to Europeans and the native population 2.5 million ha, and concessions 2 million ha. About 8.3 million ha are classified as suitable for farming and 34 million ha as pasture (1969); only 34 percent of potential farmland is being worked. Some 620,000 ha are irrigated (1966). More than 60 percent of the cultivated area is planted to rice, the principal food crop, grown mainly on the High Plateau but also in the west and southwest and in the Lake Alaotra depression. Other domestic food crops are cassava, corn, and sorghum, grown almost everywhere; sweet potatoes and yams, raised on the High Plateau; peanuts, raised along the western coast and on the High Plateau; and potatoes, grown in all parts of the island. The leading export crops are coffee, cultivated on the eastern coast and in the northwest on the slopes of the High Plateau; vanilla, grown mainly in the northern part of the eastern coast; cloves, raised in the eastern part of Tamatave Province and on the Island of St. Marie; sugarcane, grown in the delta of the Mahavavy River and around Brickaville; and tobacco, cultivated on the western coast around Majunga and Morondava. (See Table 1 for the area and harvest of the principal crops.)

The Malagasy Republic is one of the leading African countries in per capita ownership of cattle (zebu). In 1972 there were over 9 million head of zebu, raised chiefly in the west and south.

Table 1. Sown area and yield of principal crops
  Sown area (hectares)  Yield (tons) 
1Yearly average 2Sweet potatoes 31948/49-1952/53 yearly average 41961/62-1965/66 yearly average 51971 61950 71960 na: notavailable
Rice (unhulled)...........615,000843,0001,050,000958,0001,563,0001,925,000
Sweet potatoes and yams...........89,00057,00060.0002286,000318,000345.0002
Sugarcane (raw sugar)15.000318,000424,00016,000398.0004100,000

However, animal husbandry plays a negligible role in the economy, accounting for 6 percent of the gross national product and 3 percent of export revenues. Other livestock includes pigs (509,000 in 1972), sheep (498,000), goats (825,000), and poultry (14.8 million).

INDUSTRY. Semidomestic enterprises for the processing of agricultural products predominate. These include flour and rice mills, meat canneries, sugar refineries, and tobacco factories. Mining accounts for less than 1 percent of the gross national product.

Wood is the main fuel, accounting for 69 percent of all fuel used, followed by liquid fuel (28 percent), coal (2 percent), and hydroelectric power (1 percent). There are several small steam power plants and hydroelectric power stations. The most important enterprises are the sugar refineries in Tamatave and Diego-Suarez provinces, the meat canneries in Tananarive, Fianarantsoa, Tuléar, and Diego-Suarez, the cotton mills in Antsirabe and Majunga, and the cement plant in Majunga.

Most of the output of the mining industry is exported. Graphite is extracted near Tamatave and mica in the southeast. There is small-scale mining of gold, phosphate, granite, quartz, and beryl, and the mining of chromite was begun in Andriamena in 1967. (See Table 2 for the production of major industrial products.)

Table 2. Production of principal industrial products
11953 21961 3Export 41971 na:not available
Electric power (million kW-hr) . . .5611132285
Chromite (tons)...........nana112.0003
Mica (tons)...........800900600
Cement (tons)...........6,60018,50077,0004
Graphite (tons)...........13,60014,40018,000
Tobacco (tons)...........1006002,9004
Sugar (tons)...........13,40085,300104,000

TRANSPORT. Motor vehicles are the chief means of internal transport. There are 34,400 km of roads, of which 2,500 km are paved, and 864 km of railroad track. Cabotage shipments play an important role, and the country’s 20 maritime ports have an annual freight turnover of about 1 million tons. The main ports are Tamatave, handling more than 40 percent of the national maritime freight, Majunga, and Diego-Suarez. Since 1962 ship-ping has been controlled by the National Maritime Transport Company, in which 20 percent of the shares belong to the Malagasy Republic and the rest to foreign companies. There are large international airports at Ivato and Arivonimamo.

FOREIGN TRADE. In 1972 exports amounted to 41.9 billion Malagasy francs, and imports totaled 51.7 billion francs. The chief exports are coffee, accounting for 27 percent of export earnings in 1970, cloves (13 percent), vanilla (9 percent), rice (7 percent), and sugar (3 percent). Other exports include fresh and canned meat, fish, sisal, graphite, and mica. The major imports are consumer products (30 percent in 1970), foodstuffs (11 per-cent), and machinery and equipment (24 percent). In 1961 the Malagasy Republic became an associate member of the European Economic Community. France remains the main trading partner, accounting for 56 percent of the country’s imports and 33 percent of its exports in 1970. The other countries of the European Economic Community account for 8 percent of its imports and 8.7 percent of its exports, and the United States for 6 and 22 percent, respectively. Other trading partners are Japan, Great Britain, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and Iran. The foreign trade deficit in 1971 totaled 18.5 billion Malagasy francs. The monetary unit is the Malagasy franc, with one Malagasy franc equaling one African franc.


Armed forces. In 1973 the armed forces consisted of ground troops totaling about 3,700 men, an air force of about 200 men, a navy of about 300 men, and a gendarmerie of about 4,000 men. The supreme commander in chief is the minister of defense. The army is recruited by conscription. Men are drafted at the age of 20 and serve for two years. Armaments and combat materiel are of French manufacture.

Health and social welfare. In 1970 the birth rate was 39 per 1,000 inhabitants and the mortality rate 14.1 per 1,000; the infant mortality rate (1971) was 55.3 per 1,000 live births. Average life expectancy is 37.5 years for men and 38.3 years for women. Infectious diseases predominate. Basic health problems include gastrointestinal diseases, tuberculosis, dermatovenereal diseases, and leprosy, and epidemic outbreaks of malaria occur.

Gastrointestinal and dermatovenereal diseases are widespread on the eastern coast. There is a high incidence of malaria on the High Plateau, and schistosomiasis is common in areas of rice cultivation. There is a natural focus of plague. Malaria is endemic in the western plains and the southwest; in the northern part of this region there are foci of wuchereriasis and framboesia. Schistosomiasis is found throughout most of the country. Malaria, filariasis, and yellow fever are widespread in the northwest, and framboesia occurs in the coastal regions.

In 1971 there were 744 hospitals with 18,600 beds (2.7 beds per 1,000 inhabitants), of which 16,900 were in 639 state hospitals. Outpatient care was provided by six polyclinic divisions of hospitals, two polyclinics, 34 medical centers, 26 dispensaries, 587 medical stations, eight municipal health bureaus, and 11 mobile units.

In 1971 there were 700 physicians (one per 10,000 inhabitants), of which 494 were employed by the state. The country also had 100 dentists (36 in state service), 81 pharmacists (34 in state service), and 2,800 medical assistants.

The medical school of the University at Tananarive offers two years of medical training, after which students transfer to French universities. The Tananarive Medical School trains dental surgeons, and there are also schools for training medical assistants. In 1968 public health expenditures constituted 7.1 percent of the state budget.


VETERINARY MEDICINE. A number of dangerous diseases are prevalent, including nodular dermatitis (77 outbreaks in 1972), anthrax (four outbreaks), swine plague (15 outbreaks), Newcastle disease (105 outbreaks), and rabies (13 outbreaks). Also widespread are blackquarter (70 outbreaks in 1972; 40,000-60,000 animals die annually), enzootic swine encephalomyelitis (131 outbreaks), rickettsiosis (27 outbreaks), and streptotrichosis (100 outbreaks), as well as helminthiasis and scabious diseases. Q fever and leptospirosis have been identified, and tuberculosis has been recorded in several provinces. Antiepizootic measures have been taken against such infections as anthrax and blackquarter, and losses from disease were significantly reduced between 1967 and 1972. There are veterinary research centers and centers for disease prevention. The country has 43 veterinarians (1972).


Education and cultural affairs. The first schools were founded at the turn of the 19th century by missionaries. When the country gained its independence more than 60 percent of the adult population was illiterate, and only about 30 percent of the school-age children were attending classes. In 1968 expenditures on education amounted to 20 percent of the state budget, or approximately 7 percent of national income.

The public education system consists of a six-year elementary school and several types of secondary school. Children enter school at six, and Malagasy is the language of instruction at the primary level. After graduating from the elementary school, students take competitive examinations for admission to secondary schools, either general or vocational-technical schools. Only the seven-year lycées offer a complete secondary education and enable students to enter the university. Lower secondary schools are the four-year general and technical collèges. The language of instruction in secondary schools is French. In addition to state schools, there are private, chiefly mission, schools. In 1968 approximately 815,000 pupils attended elementary school, including 210,000 pupils in private schools. About 103,100 students were enrolled in various secondary schools, including 94,100 in general schools, 6,400 in vocational-technical schools, and 2,600 in teacher training schools.

The De Gaulle University in Tananarive, the sole higher educational institution, has faculties of legal and economic sciences, natural sciences, and literature and the humanities, as well as schools of medicine and agronomy. In 1972 the university had an enrollment of about 4,000, including students from other African countries. The National Library, founded in 1961 and containing 123,000 volumes, and the National Historical Museum are located in Tananarive.


Scientific institutions. Most research institutions and learned societies are based in Tananarive. They include the Malagasy Academy, founded in 1902 for research in the humanities and natural sciences; the Geological Survey; the National Geographic Institute of Madagascar, founded in 1945; and the observatory, the country’s oldest scientific institution. Founded in 1889, the observatory, in addition to making astronomical observations, conducts studies in climatology, terrestrial magnetism, and seismology. Also important is the Institute for Agronomic Research of the Malagasy Republic, which maintains a number of experimental stations. Branches of French research institutions include the Institute of Tropical Forestry, the Pasteur Institute, and the Office for Scientific and Technical Research Overseas (ORSTOM).

Press, radio, and television. In 1975 more than 40 newspapers and magazines were published in Madagascar, both in the Malagasy and French languages, including the daily Vaovao (founded in 1957, circulation 15,000), a government organ published by the Ministry of Information in the Malagasy language; the weekly magazine Journal officiel de la republique malgache (founded in 1830, circulation 4,000), a government bulletin; Le Madagascar matin (founded in 1972, circulation more than 23,-000), an independent paper published in French and the country’s most popular newspaper; Maresaka (founded in 1954, circulation 5,000), an independent daily published in Malagasy; Imongo vaovao (founded in 1954, circulation 7,000), a daily paper supporting the AKFM; the daily Tolona (founded in 1960, circulation 2,000), the official organ of MONIMA; and the progressive satirical newspaper Hehy (founded in 1959, circulation 17,000), published three times a week. The Madagascar Press Agency, the national information agency, was founded in 1962. National Malagasy Radio Broadcasting, a government company founded in 1960, controls all broadcasting and transmits over two stations. Television was inaugurated in 1967.

Literature. Literature has developed in both Malagasy and French. Literary Malagasy evolved in the second half of the 19th century. The journals Teny Soa, founded in 1866, and Sakaiznanny tanora, founded in the 1880’s, published works by prose writers and poets who drew upon the rich folklore of the Malagasy people. Colonialism retarded the emergence of Malagasy literature. The policy of cultural assimilation that was pursued by the authorities resulted in the suppression of national culture. Publications in Malagasy were banned, but Malagasy literature continued to develop. The country’s progressive intelligentsia struggled against the cultural enslavement of the people and for the preservation of national culture. The historical novels and tales of C. Rajaobelina and Rajaonaha Tselatra date, from this period. The anticolonialist poetry of Ramanantoanina (1891-1940), called Dawn by the people, circulated in manuscript form.

During the 1930’s and 1940’s a group of writers emerged who, publishing in French, depicted the life of the people and their struggle against colonial oppression. The first prominent representative of this group, J.-J. Rabearivelo (1901-37), is known for his verse collections Cutting the Ashes (1924), Sylphs (1927), Books (1928), Nearly Dreams (1934), Translation of the Night (1935), and Old Songs of the Imerina Country (published posthumously in 1939). The poets of this generation, notably J. Rabemananjara (born 1913) and F. Ranaivo (born 1914), used their art to oppose colonialist ideology, striving to awaken national consciousness by asserting the uniqueness of national literary forms, by extolling Madagascar’s natural beauty, native customs, and the feats of past heroes, and even by calling for the overthrow of foreign domination. The appeal for national independence was especially strong in the poetry of Rabemananjara, a writer, public figure, and political leader, whose literary work combines national originality and internationalist concerns. In 1936 he founded the journal Revue des jeunes in Tananarive, and by the end of the 1930’s he had become the leading Malagasy man of letters. He was the author of the verse collections On the Edges of Evening (1942), A Thousand-year-old Custom (1955), and Antidote (1961); the narrative poems Summons (1956) and Lamba (1956); and the plays The Malagasy Gods (1942), Navigators of the Dawn (1957), and Love Feast of the Gods (1962). His popularity grew through his participation in the national liberation struggle after World War II. Malagasy folklore, particularly the hain-teny, was the model for Ranaivo’s poetry. The poems in Shadow and Wind (1947) and My Lifelong Songs (1955), lively and full of healthy humor and subtle cunning, recall folk poetry.

The 1950’s and 1960’s saw the further development of literature in Malagasy. An outstanding representative of this trend was A. Ratsifehera, a progressive public figure, translator of works of Soviet literature, and the author of the short-story collections Tales and Short Stories (1959-60), Portraits From Everywhere (1959-60), and Assignment (1960-61). Ratsifehera’s novel His Anger (1965) deals with complex social changes in contemporary Malagasy society and the process of class differentiation. Notable contemporary national poets include Rado, J. Narivony, J. Raminosoa, who also writes on versification, and M. Rasamuel, the compiler of the collection Ancestral Customs.


Architecture and art. From earliest times there have been different types of rural houses sharing certain common features: a rectangular layout, a gable roof, and elongated proportions. Variations are determined by environmental and climatic conditions. Wooden houses on posts with palm-leaf roofs are constructed in the damp tropical region. In arid regions grass houses are built directly on the ground, and in temperate regions the houses are one- and two-story clay dwellings, with straw or tile roofs supported by one to three posts.

Urban construction developed at the turn of the 20th century. In the 1920’s the French architect G. Cassaigne prepared plans for the reconstruction of Tananarive, Tamatave, and Antsirabe. During the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries palaces, Protestant and Catholic churches, and tombs in the style of European eclecticism were erected in the cities. Austere concrete and glass buildings with jalousie windows have been constructed since the 1950’s.

Traditional crafts include the carving in wood of domestic utensils, masks, and aloalo burial posts adorned with geometric and plant ornamentation and depictions of people and animals, the plaiting of mats, hats, and baskets, and the weaving of decorative rabanes fabrics. Professional painting, mainly in the realistic style, has been developing since the 1930’s. Two important painters are V. Ravelonanosy-Razafimbelo and E. Rabesahala.


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