Western Samoa

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Western Samoa,

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Western Samoa


a state in Polynesia and a member of the British Commonwealth. It occupies the western part of the Samoan Islands in the Pacific Ocean and comprises the inhabited islands of Savai’i, Upolu, Apolima, and Manono and a number of small uninhabited islands. It has a total area of 2,842 sq km, and its capital is Apia. Population, 143,000 (1970, estimate).

Constitution and government. The existing constitution was adopted in 1960. The basis of society is considered to be the community (aiga), a family group headed by a chief who is the elected leader of the community. Only the tribal chiefs have the right to vote or to stand for election to government bodies. They elect a unicameral parliament, the Legislative Assembly, composed of 45 chiefs elected for a three-year term. In addition two representatives of the European population are elected on the basis of universal franchise. Since 1963 the head of state has been the chief Malietoa Tanumafili II; however, the constitution provides that after his death future heads of state will be elected by the Legislative Assembly for a five-year term. The head of state also exercises executive power and appoints the prime minister and cabinet ministers.


Natural features. The islands of Western Samoa are mountainous, volcanic in origin, and composed chiefly of basalts. The mountain massifs, rising to elevations of up to 1,858 m on Savai’i, are divided by broad valleys, and the coastlines are predominantly high and rocky. The climate is both sub-equatorial and tropical, humid, and controlled by trade winds. The average monthly temperature is 25°-27°C, and the variation does not exceed 2°-3°C throughout the year. Precipitation ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 mm annually, and violent hurricanes are frequent. Because of the great water permeability of the volcanic rocks there are few surface streams of water. The flora includes about 600 species, of which about 25 percent are indigenous. Dendroid ferns grow abundantly everywhere, and the dense tropical rain forests found at elevations of up to 1,000-1,500 m on fertile, yellow-brown soils contain many valuable trees, including podocarpus, nutmeg, palms, and rubber trees. Along the coastline are cocoa palms and breadfruit trees. The fauna is represented by few mammals, although birds are numerous, among them the indigenous megapodes and tooth-billed pigeons.

Population. About 99 percent of the population is composed of Samoans (including Samoan mestizos), a Polynesian people, and the rest are immigrants from other islands of Oceania and people of European descent. The official languages are Samoan and English. About 80 percent of the people are Protestants, and the remainder are predominantly Catholics.

Between 1963 and 1970 the population increased at an average annual rate of 2.5 percent. As of 1965, the gainfully employed population totaled 33,000 persons, including 21,000 in agriculture and about 6,000 in services, trade, and transportation. As a result of unemployment there is considerable emigration chiefly to New Zealand (in 1965 about 16,000 persons left). The most densely populated islands are Upolu (over 72 percent of the population in 1966, including the smaller islands of Manono and Apolima) and Savai’i (over 27 percent). The average density of population is 50 per sq km; urban population is 36 percent (1970). The most important city is Apia, with about 28,000 inhabitants in 1970.

Historical survey. In ancient times Western Samoa was inhabited by Polynesians, who were at the clan-tribal stage of social development. They were skillful farmers, fishermen, and builders. At the time of the discovery of the Samoan Islands by Europeans in the 18th century (the Dutchman J. Roggeveen and the Frenchmen L. Bougainville and J. La Pérouse) the clantribal structure had begun to disintegrate. In 1830, British missionaries established an evangelical mission on Samoa.

The advantageous geographical location of the Samoa Islands—they lie along the sea routes from America to New Zealand and Australia—brought about a struggle for them by the capitalist powers (Germany, Great Britain, and the USA); at the end of the 19th century Germany gained control of Western Samoa. In August 1914 the German colony on Samoa was seized by troops from New Zealand. In May 1919, as part of the “division” of the former German colonies, the Supreme Council of the Entente transferred Western Samoa to New Zealand, whose mandate over the area was officially ratified by the Council of the League of Nations on Dec. 17, 1920.

The people of Western Samoa waged a constant struggle against the colonialists, with the most important outbreaks occurring in 1908-09. During the 1920’s the patriotic Mau organization was founded, which led the resistance against the New Zealand colonialists under the slogan “Samoa for the Samoans.” In December 1929 there were demonstrations in favor of independence throughout the country. With the elimination of the mandate system after World War II (1939-1945), the UN made Western Samoa a trust territory under New Zealand. Although the Samoans received autonomy in internal matters, the struggle for independence did not cease. Their demand for independence was reinforced by a plebiscite held on May 9, 1961, and on Oct. 18, 1961, the UN adopted a resolution providing for the termination of Western Samoa’s trusteeship status. On Jan. 1, 1962, Western Samoa was proclaimed an independent state. In that year the government of Western Samoa concluded a friendship treaty with the government of New Zealand, providing for the transfer to New Zealand of control over Western Samoa’s foreign relations, defense, banking, and monetary affairs. Outside Oceania all the foreign affairs of Western Samoa are handled chiefly by the diplomatic representative of New Zealand. In 1970 Western Samoa became a member of the British Commonwealth.


Economy. The basis of the country’s economy is agriculture. In 1966 cultivated land, which is concentrated in the valleys and along the narrow coastal belt, accounted for 31.7 percent of the country’s total area, meadows and pastures 2.1 percent, and forests 64.8 percent. The crops grown on plantations, belonging to American and New Zealand entrepreneurs, and on farms belonging to natives are earmarked chiefly for export and include coconut palms (in 1970, 13,000 tons of copra and 102 million coconuts), bananas (2,000 hectares under cultivation and a harvest of 3,000 tons), and cacao trees (in 1970-71, 3,000 tons of cacao beans). Among crops grown for local consumption are sweet potatoes and yams, corn, rice, taro, oranges, and pineapples. In 1969-70 live-stock totaled 24,000 head of cattle and 45,000 pigs.

There are small enterprises for the primary processing of valuable wood (for export), for grinding coffee beans, and for producing coconut oil and soap, as well as a furniture and a confectionery factory. The lumber and fishing industries are of great importance. Motor vehicles provide the basic means of transportation, and there are about 800 km of roads. The principal port is Apia, which handles all foreign cargo and is an anchorage for ships crossing the Pacific Ocean. Apia also has an international airport. The foreign trade balance is negative, and the deficit is covered by tourism and loans, primarily from New Zealand. Products exported include copra (30 percent of exports by cost), cacao beans (about 50 percent), and bananas (8 percent); among imports are foodstuffs (basically fish, meat, flour, and sugar), as well as gasoline and products of light industry (footwear, fabrics). The country’s principal trading partner is New Zealand. The monetary unit is the Samoan dollar (equal to US $1.12).


Education. At the age of seven children are admitted to the six-year primary school, where instruction is given in English and Samoan. The secondary school, also a six-year school, is subdivided into a junior level (three years) and a senior level (three years), and instruction is given primarily in English. An important role in the school system is played by missionary organizations. Vocational training is available to elementary school graduates. During the 1968 academic year there were over 26,200 pupils enrolled in elementary schools and over 9,400 in secondary and vocational schools. Upon graduating from the junior secondary school, students may apply to the agricultural college at Apia, which offers four years of instruction and enrolled 200 students in 1968. Elementary school teachers receive their training at a pedagogical college offering two years of instruction (250 stu-dents in 1968). There are no higher educational institutions. Some of those who graduate from senior secondary school receive a higher education abroad, primarily in the USA. There is a public library in Apia (founded in 1959, with 8,500 volumes).

Press and radio. The press is represented by the following small-format newspapers: S avail, founded in 1904 (a government newspaper with a circulation of 6,000, published twice a month); the private weekly Samoa Bulletin, founded in 1960; and The Samoa Times, founded in 1964 (circulation of 5,500). All the newspapers are in English and Samoan. The radio broadcasting service, established in 1948, is government-owned and commercial.


Kassis, V. Zapadnoe Samoa. Moscow, 1968.
Nevskii, V. V., and O. A. Nil’son. Okeaniia. Leningrad, 1965.
Western Samoa. Edited by J. W. Fox. Christchurch [1962].
Davidson, J. W. Samoa Mo Samoa. Melbourne, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
I'm so shocked, so saddened by all the loss," he told reporters on a flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Apia, the capital of Western Samoa.Aa
Preliminary Research: Archaeology in Western Samoa, 1957.
Jonathan will find his loyalties divided between Western Samoa and New Zealand - forget the Aussies - but hopes at least one of them beats England.
Inga the Winga, however, has opted to return to Western Samoa for two months following yesterday's Tetley's Bitter Cup Final at Twickenham.
There is an appendix of New Zealand citizenship legislation from the Native Rights Act of 1865 to the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982.
Tradition Versus Democracy in the South Pacific: Fiji, Tonga and Western Samoa. By Stephanie Lawson.
"I've been impressed by the playing side since I came here," said Leu'u, who has 20 caps for Western Samoa and played in the last two World Cups.
Western Samoa, Niue, and Tuvalu, with Kiribati as a Micronesian 'ring in'.
Although in steady decline as a result of missionary prohibitions, Marquardt (1984/1899) recorded that about 60-70% of women sported tattoos at the turn of the century in German-administered Western Samoa. Marquardt speculated that it was done because while "[m]en had themselves tattooed to please women.
The longest section, titled "The Centre," tours various locations in Apia that may be denominated the focal point of life in Western Samoa's largest city, settling provisionally on the market, the Makeki Fou, and concluding with the arrival of the infant Alofa in the Makeki Fou.
Slade, vice chairperson of AoSIS and ambassador to the United Nations from Western Samoa.
Samoa has nine permanently inhabited islands, divided politically as Western Samoa and American Samoa.