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Nauru (näo͞oˈro͞o), officially Republic of Nauru, atoll and independent republic (2015 est. pop. 11,000), c.8 sq mi (20 sq km), central Pacific, just south of the equator and west of the Gilbert Islands of Kiribati. It was formerly called Pleasant Island. There is no official capital, but government offices are located in the Yaren District (1996 est. pop. 600) in the southwestern part of the atoll. There is a narrow band of habitable land along the coast; the island's interior is environmentally devastated as a result of phosphate mining.

Nauruans (nearly 60% of the population) are predominantly Polynesian with a mix of Micronesian and Melanesian strains. There is a large Pacific Islander minority and smaller groups of Chinese and Europeans. Nearly all the inhabitants are Christians; two thirds are Protestant and one third are Roman Catholic. The official language is Nauruan, but English is commonly used in government and commerce.

Nauru was important for its high-grade phosphate deposits, now depleted, and more marginal deposits are now being mined. Nauru has few other resources and must import virtually all necessities, mostly from Australia. South Africa and South Korea are also important trading partners. The country placed much of its phosphate revenue in trust funds to ease the transition away from mining, but bad investments and corruption led to a serious depletion of the fund in the 1990s. In an attempt to generate income, Nauru became an unregulated offshore banking center, gaining notoriety for money laundering. It abandoned the industry in Mar., 2003, under the threat of crippling economic sanctions by the United States, which regarded Nauru banks as potential havens for terrorist financing. By mid-2004 Nauru faced bankruptcy, and the remaining assets of the trust, mostly Australian property, were seized to pay off its debts. In July, 2004, Australian officials took charge of the country's finances. Subsequently, income from detention centers holding migrants seeking asylum from Australia has been economically important.

Nauru is governed under the constitution of 1968. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected by the unicameral Parliament for a three-year term. The 18 members of Parliament are popularly elected, also for three-year terms. Administratively the country is divided into 14 districts.


Nauru was visited in 1798 by the British and annexed in 1888 by Germany. Occupied during World War I by Australian forces, it was placed (1920) under a League of Nations mandate to Australia. Throughout World War II the island was occupied by the Japanese. Nauru was administered by Australia, Britain, and New Zealand under a UN trusteeship until 1968, when it became one of the world's smallest independent states. In 1993, Australia agreed to pay Nauru about $75 million for environmental damage caused by mining before independence. The country also has received aid from Australia in exchange for its acceptance (beginning in 2001) of Afghan, Iraqi, and other Asian refugees that Australia refused to admit; in addition, the cost of running the detention center is entirely underwritten by Australia. The center was closed in 2008, but a new center was opened in 2012, when Australia resumed offshore detentions. The operation of and conditions at the center became a subject of controversy, and in 2014 the government did not permit international inspectors to visit. In late 2015 Nauru announced that refugees would no longer be confined to the detention center, and in 2016 the United States agreed to accept up to 1,200 refugees. By Mar., 2019, refugees no longer lived at the detention center, but several hundred remained on Nauru. The income produced by the center became economically important to Nauru, and a source of government corruption.

Bernard Dowiyogo, who became president for a seventh time in Jan., 2003, died in Mar., 2003. Ludwig Scotty was elected president in May but was ousted in a no-confidence vote in August. René Harris, a former president, replaced Scotty, but Scotty returned to office in June, 2004, after Harris was similarly ousted. In elections in October, called after the parliament failed to pass a reform budget, Scotty's supporters secured a majority and he was reelected. Scotty remained in office after elections in Aug., 2007, but was replaced by Marcus Stephen after a no-confidence vote the following December. Parliament was split, however, between Stephen's supporters and opponents, and after several months of deadlock, Stephen declared a state of emergency and called a new election, which resulted in a majority for his government.

By 2010, the parliament was again divided between his supporters and opponents, and a snap election in April returned all members to office, continuing the deadlock. A new election in June led to the loss of an opposition seat, but the deadlock continued and Stephen again assumed emergency powers. The deadlock was finally resolved in November, and Stephen was reelected president. A year later, allegations of corruption led to his resignation. Frederick Pitcher was elected to succeed him, but he lost a confidence vote within days and was replaced by Sprent Dabwido. Dabwido's cabinet was roiled by resignations and a dismissal in Feb., 2013, and parliament was ultimately dissolved. After new elections in June, Baron Waqa was elected president.

The country faced a judicial crisis in early 2014 after the government effectively exiled key members of its Australian-staffed judiciary. The move was sparked by a stay of a deportation order, and prevented a judicial oversight of the government, including its seizure of a profitable foreign-owned commercial property. Subsequently a number of opposition members of parliament were suspended for talking to the foreign media about the crisis. Corruption and human-rights abuses led New Zealand to cut its aid by half in 2015. Waqa and his allies increased their majority after the July, 2016, elections, and he remained president. In 2018, Nauru ended its association with Australia's court system, which had formerly reviewed appeals from Nauru's courts. Elections in 2019 led to Lionel Aingimea, a former human rights lawyer and justice secretary, becoming president.

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



(Republic of Nauru), an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It has “special status” within the British Commonwealth, meaning that it does not participate in meetings of heads of government of the Commonwealth nations. Area, 21 sq km. In 1972 the republic had an estimated population of 8,000, of whom some 50 percent were indigenous Nauruans and the rest Chinese, Europeans, and immigrants from other Pacific islands. English is the official language. More than two-thirds of the population is Protestant. Administratively, Nauru is divided into 14 districts.

Nauru is a republic, and its present constitution was adopted in 1968. The head of state and government is the president, elected for a three-year term by a parliament, called the Legislative Assembly, consisting of 18 members popularly elected for three-year terms. All citizens who have attained 20 years of age may vote. The judicial system consists of the Supreme Court, local courts, and appellate courts.

Nauru is an atoll that was raised by tectonic movements. It is fringed by coral reefs and has a small fresh-water lagoon lake. The surface is a plateau with a maximum elevation of 65 m, encircled by coastal terraces up to 200 m wide. The part of the island that was formerly a lagoon contains a large deposit of phosphate; more than one-third of the island has been turned into quarries. The climate is hot and moderately humid with a dry season. The average monthly temperature is about 28°C, and the annual rainfall is about 2,500 mm. There are no permanent streams, and drinking water is imported. Vegetation consists of light hard-leaved forests and shrubs. The fauna is characteristically insular, with many sea birds and insects.

The island was discovered by the British in 1798. In the 19th century traders in search of pearls settled on the island. Under the Anglo-German agreement of 1886, Nauru came within the German sphere of influence. In 1888, Germany occupied the island and incorporated it into the New Guinea Protectorate. Rich phosphate reserves were discovered on Nauru in the late 19th century. The British Pacific Phosphate Company acquired mining rights and in 1919 established a monopoly over the exploitation of the island’s chief natural resource. During World War I, Australian forces occupied Nauru in 1914. In 1920, as a mandate of the League of Nations, the island was placed under the joint authority of Great Britain, the Australian Commonwealth, and New Zealand. During World War II the Japanese occupied the island from 1942 to 1945. In 1947, as a UN trusteeship, Nauru was again placed under the adminstration of Great Britain, the Australian Commonwealth, and New Zealand. On behalf of the three countries the Australian government appointed the chief administrator of the island. An independence movement arose in the 1950’s. In 1951 the Council of Local Administration, with limited rights, was formed out of the Nauruan Council of Chiefs, established in 1927. The Legislative and Executive councils, established in 1966, to some extent limited the authority of the Australian administrator. The Republic of Nauru, a sovereign state, was proclaimed on Jan. 31, 1968. H. DeRoburt became its first president.


The mainstay of the economy of Nauru is phosphate mining, which came under the control of the government in 1970. Less than 1 percent of the area is used for agricultural purposes, primarily the growing of coconut palms. Fishing and handicrafts are well developed. Copra and the entire output of phosphate (2.2 million tons in 1970) are exported to Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Foodstuffs, building materials, mining equipment, and consumer goods are imported.

Education is compulsory for children from six to 17 years of age. In 1969–70, 1,500 students were enrolled in nine primary schools, and about 400 students attended the island’s two secondary schools.


Viviani, N. M. Nauru: Phosphate and Political Progress. Canberra, 1970.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of Nauru

Capital city: no official capital; government offices in Yaren District

Internet country code: .nr

Flag description: Blue with a narrow, horizontal yellow stripe across the center and a large white 12-pointed star below the stripe on the hoist side; the star indicates the country’s location in relation to the Equator (the yellow stripe) and the 12 points symbolize the 12 original tribes of Nauru

National anthem: “Nauru bwiema” (Nauru Our Home­land)

Geographical description: Oceania, island in the South Pacific Ocean, south of the Marshall Islands

Total area: 8.1 sq. mi. (21 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical with a monsoonal pattern; rainy season (November to February)

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

Population: 13,528 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Nauruan 58%, other Pacific Islander 26%, Chinese 8%, European 8%

Languages spoken: Nauruan (official; a distinct Pacific Island language), English widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes

Religions: Protestant 66.7, Roman Catholic 33.3%

Legal Holidays:

Angam DayOct 26
Boxing DayDec 26
Christmas DayDec 25
Constitution DayMay 17
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
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
Independence DayJan 31
National Youth DaySep 25
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


an island republic in the SW Pacific, west of Kiribati: administered jointly by Australia, New Zealand, and Britain as a UN trust territory before becoming independent in 1968; a member of the Commonwealth (formerly a special member not represented at all meetings, until 1999). The economy is based on export of phosphates. Languages: Nauruan (a Malayo-Polynesian language) and English. Religion: Christian. Currency: Australian dollar. Pop.: 13 000 (2003 est.). Area: 2130 hectares (5263 acres)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
"Phosphate Mining Induced Vegetation Changes on Nauru Island." Ecology 65 (5): 1454-65.
"Report on Research Work in Nauru Island, Central Pacific (Part One)." Oceania 6 (4): 359-93.