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chain of volcanic islands in the South Pacific, comprising the independent nation of SamoaSamoa,
formerly Western Samoa,
officially Independent State of Samoa, constitutional monarchy (2015 est. pop. 194,000), South Pacific, comprising the western half of the Samoa island chain.
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 (formerly Western Samoa), and E of long. 171° W, the islands of American SamoaAmerican Samoa,
officially Territory of American Samoa, unincorporated territory of the United States (2015 est. pop. 56,000), comprising the eastern half of the Samoa island chain in the South Pacific.
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, under U.S. control. The Samoan islands extend c.350 mi (560 km), with a total land area of c.1,200 sq mi (3,110 sq km), and lie midway between Honolulu, Hawaii, and Sydney, Australia. The major islands are volcanic and mountainous and are surrounded by coral reefs. Soil in the interior is rocky; most cultivation takes place along the coast. Temperatures range from 90°F; (32.2°C;) in December, the hottest month, to 75°F; (23.9°C;) in August; the annual rainfall is 190 in. (483 cm), with the rainy season occurring between December and March.

The natives are Polynesians who may have arrived in the islands as early as 1000 B.C. From Samoa they swept out across the Pacific (c.A.D. 1200), carrying Polynesian civilization to innumerable other islands. The Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to visit (1722) Samoa. Subsequent European expansion into the islands led to disorder and violence, which was compounded by tribal warfare. The first European missionaries arrived in 1830. Between 1847 and 1861, the United States, Great Britain, and Germany sent representatives to Samoa, and in 1878 the United States and the Samoan kingdom signed a treaty giving the United States certain trade privileges and the right to establish a naval station at Pago PagoPago Pago
, town (1990 pop. 10,640) and capital of American Samoa, on the Southern shore of Tutuila island. Pago Pago has an excellent, landlocked harbor and is the only port of call in American Samoa. Tourism and tuna canning are important industries.
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. Germany and Great Britain were accorded similar privileges in 1879. A tripartite treaty in 1899 between Great Britain, the United States, and Germany recognized U.S. interests east of long. 171°W; Germany was granted the western islands, and Great Britain withdrew from the area in consideration of rights in TongaTonga
, officially Kingdom of Tonga, island kingdom (2015 est. pop. 106,000), 270 sq mi (699 sq km), South Pacific, c.2000 mi (3,220 km) NE of Sydney, Australia. Tonga is the only surviving independent kingdom in the South Pacific. Nukualofa is the capital.
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 and the Solomon IslandsSolomon Islands,
independent Commonwealth nation (2015 est. pop. 587,000), c.15,500 sq mi (40,150 sq km), SW Pacific, E of New Guinea. The islands that constitute the nation of the Solomon Islands—Guadalcanal, Malaita, New Georgia, the Santa Cruz Islands, Choiseul, Ysabel
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. New Zealand seized the German islands in 1914 during World War I and received a mandate to administer them from the League of Nations in 1920. In 1946 they became a UN trust territory held by New Zealand. In 1962 the independent nation of Western Samoa was created from the New Zealand territory; it was renamed in 1997. The eastern islands remained under U.S. control. Since 2011, when Samoa moved to the west side of the international date line to align its days with Australia and New Zealand, the two Samoas have been on different sides of the date line.



Western Samoa,

officially Independent State of Samoa, constitutional monarchy (2015 est. pop. 194,000), South Pacific, comprising the western half of the SamoaSamoa,
chain of volcanic islands in the South Pacific, comprising the independent nation of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa), and E of long. 171° W, the islands of American Samoa, under U.S. control. The Samoan islands extend c.350 mi (560 km), with a total land area of c.
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 island chain. There are nine major islands: UpoluUpolu
, volcanic island (1986 est. pop. 163,000), Samoa, S Pacific, the most populous of the Samoan islands. Upolu's land area is c.430 sq mi (1,110 sq km); the highest peak is Vaaifetu (c.3,600 ft/1,100 m).
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, Savai'iSavai'i
, volcanic island (1981 pop. 43,150), Samoa. It is the largest (c.700 sq mi/1,810 sq km) and most westerly of the Samoan islands. Savai'i, fertile and mountainous, has the highest peak in Samoa, Mt. Silisili (6,070 ft/1,850 m). Bananas, copra, and cocoa are exported.
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, Apolima, Manono, Fanuatapu, Namua, Nuutele, Nuula, and Nuusafee, with a total land area of 1,097 sq mi (2,842 sq km). ApiaApia
, town (1983 est. pop. 35,000), capital of Samoa, on the northern coast of Upolu island. The economic, social, and political center of Samoa, Apia is the nation's only port and city.
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, the capital, is on Upolu.

Land, People, and Economy

All the islands are mountainous, fertile, and surrounded by coral reefs; extensive volcanic activity occurred on Savai'i early in the 20th cent. The population is predominantly Polynesian and Christian, mainly Protestant. Samoan (a Polynesian language) and English are spoken. The people are engaged largely in subsistence agriculture and fishing. Industry consists of agricultural processing and the production of auto parts. Tourism and remittances from family members working abroad are also important. The chief exports are fish, coconut oil and cream, and copra; imports include machinery and equipment and foodstuffs. The main trading partners are Australia and New Zealand.


Samoa, a constitutional monarchy, is governed under the constitution of 1962 as amended. The head of state, who is chosen from among the royal families, is elected by the legislature for a five-year term, with no term limits. The head of government is the prime minister, appointed by the head of state with the approval of the legislators. The unicameral Legislative Assembly (Fono) consists of 47 chiefs elected by village-based districts, and 2 members elected by voters without village affiliation, mainly non-Samoan or part Samoan voters; all serve five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 11 districts.


All of the Samoan islands west of long. 171°W were awarded to Germany under the terms of an 1899 treaty among Germany, the United States, and Great Britain. New Zealand seized the islands from Germany in 1914 and obtained a mandate over them from the League of Nations in 1921. The United Nations made the islands a trusteeship of New Zealand in 1946. New Zealand rule was unpopular, and in the 1930s a resistance movement (known as mau) emerged among Europeans and native Polynesians. In 1961 a United Nations–supervised plebiscite was held, and on Jan. 1, 1962, the islands became independent as Western Samoa. The nation was renamed Samoa in 1997. Chief Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II became co-head of state in 1962 and sole head of state in 1963, serving until his death in 2007; Tuiatua Tupea Tamasese Efi, a former prime minister, was elected to succeed him and and was reelected in 2012. Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi has been prime minister since 1998. In 2009 Samoa suffered significant destruction from a tsunami, especially on the south and east coasts of Upolu, and in 2012 a tropical cyclone also caused significant damage, especially around the capital. In 2017 Tuimaleali'ifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II was elected head of state.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(or Samoan Islands; formerly Navigators’ Islands), 14 islands of volcanic origin located in the Pacific Ocean in Polynesia, between 13° and 15° S lat. The most important islands are Savai’i (1,800 sq km), Upolu (1,100 sq km), and Tutuila (137 sq km). Samoa is divided into Western Samoa, which has been an independent state since 1962, and American Samoa, which is a colonial possession of the USA.

In remote antiquity the islands were settled by tribes of Polynesians. The first European to visit Samoa was the Dutchman J. Roggeveen in 1722. In 1768, the islands were visited by the French navigator L. A. de Bougainville, who named them the Navigators’ Islands. In the mid-19th century a struggle developed between Germany, Great Britain, and the USA for possession of the islands. Samoa came under the joint administration of the three powers in 1889. After Great Britain, in exchange for compensation by Germany in other areas, renounced its claims to the islands in 1899, Samoa was divided between Germany, which received the western part, and the USA, which received the eastern part. The subsequent history of the islands is discussed in the articles WESTERN SAMOA and AMERICAN SAMOA.

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


Official name: Independent State of Samoa

Capital city: Apia

Internet country code: .ws

Flag description: Red with a blue rectangle in the upper

hoist-side quadrant bearing five white five-pointed stars representing the Southern Cross constellation

National anthem: “O le Fua o le Saolotoga o Samoa” (The Banner of Freedom), lyrics and music by Sauni I. Kuresa

National motto: “Faavae i le Atua Samoa” (God Be the Foundation of Samoa)

Geographical description: Oceania, group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand

Total area: 1,133 sq. mi. (2,934 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; rainy season (November to April), dry season (May to October)

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

Population: 214,265 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Samoan 92.6%, Euronesians (mixed European and Polynesian) 7%, Europeans 0.4%

Languages spoken: Samoan (Polynesian), English

Religions: Congregationalist 34.8%, Roman Catholic 19.6%, Methodist 15%, Latter-Day Saints 12.7%, Assembly of God 6.6%, Seventh-Day Adventist 3.5%, Worship Centre 1.3%, other Christian 4.5%, other 1.9%, unspecified 0.1%

Legal Holidays:

Boxing DayDec 26
ChristmasDec 25
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
Easter SaturdayApr 23, 2011; Apr 7, 2012; Mar 30, 2013; Apr 19, 2014; Apr 4, 2015; Mar 26, 2016; Apr 15, 2017; Mar 31, 2018; Apr 20, 2019; Apr 11, 2020; Apr 3, 2021; Apr 16, 2022; Apr 8, 2023
Fathers' DayAug 8, 2011; Aug 13, 2012; Aug 12, 2013; Aug 11, 2014; Aug 10, 2015; Aug 8, 2016; Aug 14, 2017; Aug 13, 2018; Aug 12, 2019; Aug 10, 2020; Aug 9, 2021; Aug 8, 2022; Aug 14, 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 DayJun 1
Mothers' DayMay 9, 2011; May 14, 2012; May 13, 2013; May 12, 2014; May 11, 2015; May 9, 2016; May 8, 2017; May 14, 2018; May 13, 2019; May 11, 2020; May 10, 2021; May 9, 2022; May 8, 2023
New Year's HolidayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


1. an independent state occupying four inhabited islands and five uninhabited islands in the S Pacific archipelago of the Samoa Islands: established as a League of Nations mandate under New Zealand administration in 1920 and a UN trusteeship in 1946; gained independence as Western Samoa in 1962 as the first fully independent Polynesian state; officially changed its name to Samoa in 1997; a member of the Commonwealth. Languages: Samoan and English. Religion: Christian. Currency: tala. Capital: Apia. Pop.: 180 000 (2004 est.). Area 2841 sq. km (1097 sq. miles)
2. a group of islands in the S Pacific, northeast of Fiji: an independent kingdom until the mid 19th century, when it was divided administratively into American Samoa (in the east) and German Samoa (in the west); the latter was mandated to New Zealand in 1919 and gained full independence in 1962 as Western Samoa, now Samoa (sense 1). Area: 3038 sq. km (1173 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
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