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Related to Papua: West Papua


, province, Indonesia

Papua (păpˈo͞oə, –yo͞oə) or Irian Jaya (ĭrˈēän jīˈyə), province (2014 est pop. 3,486,000), 123,180 sq mi (319,036 sq km), Indonesia. Comprising most of the western half of New Guinea and a number of offshore islands, it is Indonesia's largest province; the extreme western peninsulas and offshore islands are now separated as the province of West Papua (see below). The capital is Jayapura (formerly Hollandia). A rugged, densely forested region, it has snow-capped mountains rising to over 16,500 ft (5,029 m; highest in the nation) at Jaya Peak. Papua, once inhabited chiefly by Papuans living in hundreds of tribes, each with its own language and customs, has seen increasing numbers of Malay settlers from other areas in Indonesia. This immigration to Papua and West Papua, which has been encouraged by the national government, has contributed to discontent among indigenous Papuans and helped fuel resistance to Indonesian rule, as has economic development of mineral resources that has contributed little to reducing poverty in rural areas. The tropical coastal lowlands are swampy and cut by many rivers, including the Digul and the Mamberano, Indonesia's largest.

Subsistence farming is carried on (some of the highland tribes terrace and cultivate mountains with slopes of 45°); taro, bananas, sugarcane, and sweet potatoes are the principal crops. Wild game is trapped, and there is fishing along the coast and the rivers. The Grasberg Mine, in central Papua, is the world's largest gold deposit and also contains valuable copper and silver deposits. Magnetite has been found in the Sterren (Star) Mts. near the Papua New Guinea border, a region unexplored until 1959.

West Papua (2014 est. pop. 877,400), 54,199 sq mi (140,376 sq km), comprises the Doberai (Bird's Head) and Bomberai peninsulas, the western portion of the neck connecting them to mainland New Guinea, and offshore islands. Doberai is separated from the rest of mainlain West Papua by Bintuni Bay, at the eastern end of which is a narrow isthmus. The capital is Manokwari, a port on the northeast coast; Sorong, a port on the northwest coast, is the largest city. The population, geography, and climate are largely similar to those of Papua. There is nickel and cobalt on Waigeo Island.

The Dutch first visited the west coast of the island in 1606. They extended their rule along the coastal areas in the 18th cent., and in 1828 claimed possession of the coast west of the 141st meridian and in 1848 of the north coast W of Humboldt Bay. The Dutch claim to the western half of the island was recognized by Great Britain and Germany in treaties of 1885 and 1895. In World War II the northern coastal areas and offshore islands were occupied (1942) by the Japanese but retaken (1944) by the Allies, after which Hollandia became a staging base for operations in the Philippines.

Following Indonesian independence (1949), the Dutch retained control of what was then called Netherlands (or Dutch) New Guinea. Years of dispute over the territory culminated in a declaration of independence in 1961 by native Papuans, which was not recognized by Indonesia, and the landing (early 1962) of Indonesian guerrillas and paratroopers there. The conflict between the Dutch and Indonesia ended in late 1962 when the Netherlands agreed to UN administration of territory and, after May 1, 1963, transfer of it to Indonesian control pending a plebiscite (to be held under UN supervision before 1970). In Aug., 1969, several hundred tribal leaders, voting as representatives of their people, chose to remain under Indonesian rule, and Indonesia then formally annexed the territory. The province, which had been known as Irian Barat (West Irian) was officially renamed Irian Jaya in 1973.

Many Papuans objected to the annexation; resistance to Indonesian rule, which began in 1962, has persisted, leading to sporadic conflicts and repressive army control. In June, 2000, a congress of Papuan activists declared Irian Jaya independent as West Papua, an action that was rejected by the Indonesian government, which subsequently responded with a military crackdown on independence supporters. The area, however, was subsequently granted (2001) limited autonomy. In 2002 the provincial government adopted the name Papua for the province.

A national government proposal in 2003 to split Papua into three provinces sparked new unrest there, and the Indonesia constitutional court annulled (2004) the law that divided the province. However, the court nonetheless accepted the establishment of West Irian Jaya prov., which had already been created on Papua's western peninsula. West Irian Jaya prov. was renamed West Papua prov. in 2007.

Since late 2018, there has been increased fighting between government forces and Papuan separatists. In 2019 a racial incident involving Papuan students in Surabaya, Java, sparked several weeks of recurring protests by Papuans, which spread from West Papua to other provinces. In 2020, Benny Wenda, a rebel leader living abroad, declared himself head of a West Papuan government-in-exile, but not all separatists supported him.

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



a gulf of the Coral Sea off the southeastern coast of New Guinea. It is 150 km long, and it measures approximately 330 km wide at the entrance, where it reaches its maximum depth of 969 m. The coastal areas are shallow. Coral reefs border the gulf. The Fly River empties into the Gulf of Papua.

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


1. Territory of. a former territory of Australia, consisting of SE New Guinea and adjacent islands: now part of Papua New Guinea
2. the W part of the island of New Guinea: formerly under Dutch rule, becoming a province of Indonesia in 1963. Capital: Jayapura. Pop.: 2 220 934 (2000). Area: 416 990 sq. km (161 000 sq. miles)
3. Gulf of. an inlet of the Coral Sea in the SE coast of New Guinea
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
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