Yemen, People's Democratic Republic of

Yemen, People’s Democratic Republic of


(Jum-huriya al-Yaman al-Dimuqratiya al-Shaabiya), PDRY, a state in Asia in the southern Arabian Peninsula, including the islands of Socotra, Perim, Kamaran, and several smaller ones. The PDRY is bordered on the northwest by the Yemen Arab Republic, on the north by Saudi Arabia, and on the east by Oman. Its southern coast is washed by the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Area, 287, 700 sq km (according to the UN Demographic Yearbook for 1969); population, 1.47 million (1971). The capital is Aden. The country is divided administratively into six provinces (muhafaz).

Constitution and government. The People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen is a republic. The present constitution went into effect on Nov. 30, 1970. Since June 1969 the functions of head of state have been performed by the Presidential Council, whose members, a chairman and not more than six others, are elected by the People’s Supreme Assembly.

The highest body of state power is the People’s Supreme Assembly, elected by the people to a three-year term. It defines the general principles of domestic and foreign policy, adopts laws and resolutions on all of the more important matters, and appoints a permanent committee (consisting of a chairman, three other members, and a secretary). The voting franchise is granted to all citizens who have reached the age of 18. The members of the highest executive body—the government (Council of Ministers), headed by its chairman—are chosen by the People’s Supreme Assembly. The formation of local bodies of state power, elected people’s councils, is envisaged.

The Supreme Court heads the judicial system.


Natural features. The western and central regions are dominated by mountains reaching 2, 508 m (Mount Adaran), which are composed chiefly of volcanic rock and limestone of the Eocene. To the north, the mountains gradually descend to the Rab al-Khali. Stratified uplands reaching 1,000 m in elevation dominate in the east. Almost everywhere along the coast the mountains end in a sharp drop to the coastal plain, which is up to 50 km wide and broken in places by rises and extinct volcanoes. The shores are mostly low, with bluffs in some places. The islands are volcanic (Perim) or coral (Kamaran) in origin.

Mineral resources have been little surveyed. There are deposits of marble, limestone, and salt, and oil prospecting is being conducted.

The climate is tropical and dry. Temperatures on the coast vary from 25°C in January to 32°C in June; it is cooler in the mountains. Aden has about 40 mm of precipitation a year. The mountains experience the effects of a southwesterly monsoon and receive up to 700 mm of precipitation a year in some places (the maximum in summer). The rivers are dry for most of the year. The most important rivers are the Masila (Hadhramawt) and the Huwayra. Soils are chiefly red-brown mountain soils and desert soils, at times saline. Savanna with acacia, cinnamon, and, occasionally, trees is found in the mountains. The coastal oases have date and coconut palms. Wildlife is characteristically represented by the baboon, hyrax, Arabian gazelle, leopard, and hyena.


Population. Arabs constitute about 90 percent of the total population. Some Somalis and immigrants from India and Pakistan (Gujaratis, Punjabis, Hindustanis) live in the cities. The Arabs retain tribal relations, which are gradually being eroded; the main tribal groupings are the Quayti, Kathiri, Wahidi, Aw-laqi, Fadhli, Amiri, and Yafa. The official language is Arabic, and the official religion is Islam. Both the Gregorian and Muslim (Hijra) calendars are used.

Between 1963 and 1970 the average annual population growth was 2.7 percent. The economically active population numbered 325, 000 in 1970. Most of the population is sedentary, but there are seminomads in the mountains and nomads in the northeast. Wage earners constitute 60 percent of the economically active population; most are concentrated in the city of Aden.

The average population density is 4 persons per sq km. The most populous areas are the coastal strip near Aden, the mountains in the northwest, and the broad valleys where wadis descend from the Abyan and Tibban mountains. In 1970, 29 percent of the population was urban. The largest cities (1970) are Aden and its suburbs (250, 000 population), al-Mukalla, Sayun, and Tarim.

Historical survey. An independent state was established in Southern Yemen in November 1967 as a result of the armed struggle of the people of Southern Yemen against the British colonialists. The independent People’s Republic of Southern Yemen was proclaimed on Nov. 30, 1967; on Nov. 30, 1970, the state was renamed the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). Since the republic was proclaimed, the National Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (known as the National Front, or NF, after December 1967) became the ruling organization. The fourth congress of the NF (in early 1968) laid down the fundamental goals of the domestic and foreign policy of the PDRY. A series of urgent measures for the country’s socioeconomic reconstruction were planned (an agrarian reform law and other reforms were to be passed). However, the moderate nationalist wing of the NF, supported by conservative officers, was in control of the government and temporarily held back the implementation of the planned reforms.

On June 22, 1969, the leadership of the NF expelled the representatives of the moderate wing from the party and from the government. The collective Presidential Council was formed, headed by Salim Rubayyi Ali. The leader of the left wing of the NF, Abdul Fattah Ismail, was chosen to be secretary-general of the party. On Aug. 2, 1971, Ali Nasir Muhammad became prime minister of the PDRY. The fifth congress of the NF (in March 1972) adopted a program and party rules. The congress’s decisions emphasized that the PDRY rejected a capitalist path of development and planned to implement socialist transformations, closely cooperating with socialist countries. Between 1969 and 1972 new laws were issued directed at the creation of a national economy, and measures aimed at realizing progressive socioeconomic transformations were implemented. On Nov. 30, 1970, the third anniversary of the PDRY, the constitution of the republic was ratified. The decisions of the sixth congress of the NF (March 1975) confirmed and further developed the fundamental program tenets of the documents adopted by the fifth NF congress. In foreign policy, the government of the PDRY announced an anti-imperialist course, called for the final elimination of colonialism, condemned racial discrimination and apartheid, and called for the development of friendly relations with progressive Arab nations and with the USSR and other socialist countries. On Dec. 3, 1967, the Soviet Union and the PDRY established diplomatic relations and on Feb. 7, 1969, signed an agreement on trade and economic and technical cooperation.

As a result of intrigues of imperialist and other foreign and domestic reactionary forces discontented with the progressive transformations in the country, relations between the PDRY and the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) became strained after 1970. However, relations were soon normalized. On Oct. 28, 1972, the PDRY and YAR reached an agreement on conditions preliminary to forming a unified Yemeni state in the future.


Political parties. trade unions, and other social organizations. The National Front (Al-Jabha al-Qawmiya), or NF, founded in 1963 (known as the National Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen until December 1967), is the ruling political organization in the country.

The General Confederation of Workers of the PDRY, founded in 1968 from a merger between the Aden Trades Union Congress and the Hadhramawt Federation of Trade Unions has been affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions since 1969. It has about 30, 000 members.

Other social organizations include the Women’s Union, founded in 1968; the National Student Union; the Al-Salafi Yemeni Democratic Youth Organization, founded in 1961; the Committee for Peace, founded in 1970; and the Society for Friendship With Socialist Countries, founded in 1970.

Economic geography. The PDRY is an agrarian country. Until independence the economy was based on reexport operations and on servicing the British naval base, the port of Aden, foreign tourists, and sailors. The service sphere provided about 60 percent of the national income. Only one-third of the GNP came from industry, agriculture, and fishing. The economy was characterized by feudal and semifeudal relationships in the protectorates and capitalist relationships in the colony of Aden.

After winning independence, the government started on the road of socioeconomic transformations. Agrarian reform laws were passed in 1968 and 1970 according to which all the lands belonging to former sultans, sheikhs, and ministers were to be expropriated without compensation; the maximum landholding was established at 25faddans (about 10 hectares) of irrigated or 50faddans of bogara (dry-farm) land; and landless and small landholding peasants received plots of three to five faddans of irrigated or six to ten faddans of bogara land. By 1972, 26, 800 hectares (ha) of land had been distributed among 19, 800 landless peasant families. Special attention is given to the organization of agricultural cooperatives.

A state sector is being created: the PDRY has nationalized (with compensation from late 1969 to early 1970) foreign banks (mostly British), insurance firms, trading companies, companies servicing the port of Aden, a few industrial enterprises (the most important being two cotton processing plants, a ship-repair yard, and a cottonseed-oil factory), salt mining, foreign trade operations, and some facilities that had belonged to foreign companies. In industry, the state sector accounts for 9.1 percent.

The main goal of current economic policy is to develop industries that serve the domestic needs of the population. A three-year plan of economic development is being implemented (1971–72—1973–74). The PDRY is strengthening its economic and technical cooperation with the USSR, Bulgaria, East Germany, and other socialist countries and is expanding its economic ties with other Arab states and with international organizations. The socialist and Arab countries account for four-fifths of foreign economic aid to the PDRY. At the same time, foreign, chiefly British, monopoly capital still plays a considerable role in the economy. Foreign capital controls petroleum refining and several other operations, including ship bunkering and plane refueling.

Agriculture is the most important branch of the economy, employing more than two-thirds of the population. Agriculture accounted for 24 percent of the national income in 1968. Only 1.8 percent of the country is suitable for agriculture, and less than 1 percent is cultivated. The lack of water for irrigation, salinity of the soil, and a low level of mechanization have hindered the development of agriculture. New lands are being brought under cultivation and irrigation with the help of the USSR, the People’s Republic of China, the Socialist Republic of Rumania, and the UN. In 1971 two dams built with the assistance of the USSR were put into operation, which made it possible to irrigate another 6, 700 ha.

The main branch of agriculture is raising crops, with 50 percent of sown lands under cereal grains and 25 percent under industrial crops. Long-fibered cotton is grown for export on irrigated lands and occupies 60 percent of the land used for industrial crops (14, 000 ha and 6, 000 tons of cotton fiber in 1971); in 1970 cotton production accounted for one-fifth of the value of all agricultural production. The second largest export crop is coffee (810 tons in 1970).

Other crops are raised for domestic consumption: millet and sorghum occupy 40, 000 ha (80 percent of the land under grain crops) and yielded 75, 000 tons in 1971; wheat (8, 000 ha; 13, 000 tons), barley, sesame (25 percent of the area under industrial crops), and tobacco (11 percent) are also grown.

The production of vegetables (tomatoes and lettuce) and fruits (bananas, peaches, and papayas) exceeds the country’s needs, but the poorly developed transportation network interferes with selling the surplus. The date plam and coconut palm are also grown.

Animal husbandry plays an important role, but a scarcity of fodder hinders an increase in numbers and productivity of livestock. In 1970–71 there were 92, 000 cattle, 215, 000 sheep, 870, -000 goats, 40, 000 camels, and 28, 000 donkeys. Fishing for tuna, herring, and other fish, a traditional sector, is well established. The catch in 1971 was 115, 000 tons. Most of it is consumed domestically, but some dried fish is exported to several countries in South and Southeast Asia.

Industry accounted for 18 percent of the national income in 1968. About 90 percent of the gross industrial production comes from the oil-refining industry, 4.7 percent from light industry, 2.5 percent from the electrical power industry, 1.6 percent from food processing, and 0.6 percent from building-materials production. Small enterprises prevail. Most enterprises are concentrated in and around Aden. The largest is the oil refinery in Aden (with an approximate capacity of 6.8 million tons a year), which uses imported petroleum and belongs to British Petroleum; 80 percent of its output is exported to Great Britain, Japan, the countries of southern Africa, Australia, and the Republic of Somalia. In 1969 production was 3.6 million tons of fuel oil, 1 million tons of diesel fuel, 283, 000 tons of gasoline, and 276, 000 tons of kerosene. Light industry is represented by two cotton mills (in Abyan and Lahij) and two small garment factories. The food-processing industry includes enterprises making dairy products, soft drinks, vegetable oil, baked goods, and candy. There are also enterprises for the production of aluminum utensils, floor tiles, cement blocks, matches, lacquers, and dyes. There is a ship-repair yard. Salt-mining production was 63, 000 tons in 1969.

The chief means of transportation is automotive. There were 480 km of highways in 1971, of which about 200 km were paved. The main seaport is Aden, through which pass almost all the country’s exports and imports. The port’s operations became reduced when the Suez Canal was closed as a consequence of Israeli aggression in 1967. In 1971 the airline company Yemda was formed; the state owns 51 percent of the capital.

In 1970 the exports of the PDRY totaled 60.7 million dinars, and imports, 83.8 million dinars. The percentage breakdown of the value of PDRY exports in 1970 was petroleum products, 74.2 percent; fuel for ships, 6.6 percent; raw cotton, 3 percent;and leather and hides, 2 percent. The remainder was in textiles, coffee, tobacco, fish, and salt. The main imports are food (rice, wheat flour, sugar, tea, and so on), 16.8 percent; crude oil, 39.5percent; clothing and textiles, 7.6 percent; and machinery and equipment. The PDRY’s main socialist trading partners are theUSSR, the People’s Republic of China, Czechoslovakia, and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea; capitalist trading part-ners are Great Britain, Japan, and the countries of the Indian Ocean basin. The monetary unit is the PDRY dinar. Accordingto the exchange rate of the State Bank of the USSR for January1973, 1 dinar = 2 rubles 16 kopecks.


Armed forces. The armed forces include ground troops, an air force, and a navy. The supreme commander in chief is the chairman of the Presidential Council. The minister of defense (a civilian) exercises overall supervision over the defense forces, and the deputy defense minister exercises immediate supervision. The army is manned principally on the basis of universal military obligation. Armed forces in 1971 totaled 11,000 men. In addition, there are internal security troops and police forces, numbering about 10, 000. Ground forces number more than 10, 000 and consist of infantry brigades, detached battalions, and signal corps, engineers, and other specialized units. The air force (about 300 men) consists of three squadrons. The navy (about 150 men) has several patrol vessels. Armaments are foreign-made.

Health and social welfare. According to incomplete data, in 1968 the birth rate was 23.5 per thousand, and the death rate, 6.0 per thousand. The infant mortality rate was 79.9 per thousand live births in 1966. Intestinal infections, geohelminthoses, tuberculosis, trachoma, and venereal diseases are found throughout the country. In the hilly coastal plain are nidi of dengue, pappatachi fever, phagedenic tropical ulcer, and Maduromyco-sis; nidi of malaria, smallpox, and dracontiasis are also found. Malaria and schistosomiases are found in the foothills and medium-altitude hills. Cases of leprosy, leishmanioses, and wuchereriasis are recorded.

In 1970 the PDRY had 27 hospitals with 4, 600 beds, or about0.8 bed per 1,000 people. Medical services were provided by 16polyclinic divisions, 90 health centers, five dispensaries, and two mobile clinics. In 1970 there were 222 doctors (1 per 25, 800inhabitants), 24 dentists, 23 pharmacists, and about 1,000 inter-mediate medical personnel. Doctors are educated abroad; inter-mediate medical personnel are trained in special courses of study.


Education and cultural affairs. The public education system includes free state-controlled four-year primary schools, three-year intermediate schools, and three-year secondary schools. On all levels, instruction is sexually segregated. About 10 percent of all schools are for females. In the 1967–68 academic year there were more than 50, 000 students in primary and intermediate schools and about 17, 000 students in secondary schools. Secondary technical education is given by the Technical School in Aden. Teacher training is given in separate courses for men and women.

In 1970 the first higher education institution was opened in Aden: the Higher College, consisting of a faculty of natural science and a faculty of philology. In the 1970–71 academic year there were 50 students (including nine women) in the faculty of natural science and 50 students (including 22 women) in the faculty of philology.

The largest library is administered by the Aden Municipality and has more than 30,000 volumes in English, Arabic, and Urdu. In Aden there are two archaeological museums. In 1970 a decision was adopted to found the Museum of the Revolution in Aden,


Press, radio, and television. In 1975 one daily newspaper, several weekly newspapers and magazines, and a number of bulletins of various organizations and departments (with a total circulation of 5, 000–6, 000 copies) were being published. Most publications are in Arabic. The media of information and propaganda are controlled by the National Front. The main publications are Arbaatashir Uktubr, a daily newspaper; Al-Thawri, a weekly newspaper published since 1967; Al-Thaqafat al-Jadida, a monthly public affairs magazine published by the Ministry of Culture.

The Aden News Agency was established in 1970. Since 1954, Arabic-language radio broadcasts have been made from Aden and al-Mukalla. Television broadcasts began in 1964 (in Aden).

Architecture and art. Art on the territory of the PDRY has been insufficiently studied. Ruins are preserved of Tamna, the capital of the Qataban kingdom (ninth to first centuries B.C.): part of a stone mountain fortification; remnants of large buildings with wall inscriptions; and tomb stelae of a necropolis, holding square plates depicting the faces of the deceased, carved schematically in relief. The ruins of a palace and temples have been found on the territory of ancient Shabwa (the Himyarite kingdom). In the lower course of the Wadi Hadhramawt lie the ruins of the city of Husn al-Ur, which include a small square temple beside which was found a relief carving of grapevine.

Remains have been found of small cities from the fifth century B.C. through the first century A.D., with structures of mud-brick and stone, the remains of rectangular-planned dwellings, evidently with towers, and other buildings, including temples. Tombs and reservoirs carved into the cliffs are known (the Tawil system of reservoirs in Aden).

There are numerous cliff paintings (scratched in rock and colored with ochre) depicting goats, camels, and horsemen and interspersed with inscriptions, which date from the late first millennium B.C.

Bronze wall reliefs (including “Eros Mounted on a Lion”) and statues in the Hellenistic style from Tamna have come down to us from the first century B.C. In various parts of the country, ornaments and small art objects of bronze and gold have been found: figurines of a warrior, horse, bull, and camel. The features of local representational art can be seen in an alabaster female head from Tamna, very similar to a stone sculpture from Marib. Ceramic dishes, cups, and bowls are decorated with simple motifs of waves, stripes, and zigzags.

The cities of the PDRY, which are not numerous, give an idea of what medieval architecture was like, since they have basically retained their traditional look. The “tower” type of dwelling predominates in the deep interior of the country. In the city of Shibam there are mud-brick tower-houses six or seven stories high, with an internal stairway winding around a central mud-brick column, latticed window shutters, colored windowpanes, and carvings on the exterior doors and window frames. The houses stand close together, forming an impenetrable wall on the outside, which can be entered only by a single gate leading into the city. In the city of Tarim the facades of the tall houses are covered with multicolored wall paintings. In the center of Sayun, a town distinguished by its spacious layout and built of low dwellings, stands the former palace of the emir (a cubical tur-reted structure), gardens, and cemeteries with domed mausoleums of saints.

On the mountain slopes above Aden, a system of fortifications erected in the mid-19th century (parts of which go back to the 16th and 17th centuries) has been preserved. Religious architecture is represented by mosques with flat or dome-roofed galleries surrounding a courtyard; cylindrical minarets tapering toward the top, with bands of crenellated mud-brick ornamentation; and qubab, square-planned saints’ mausoleums, a high ovoid cupola, and an openwork parapet surrounding the walls.

The capital of the PDRY, Aden, has a contemporary look inits administrative buildings, schools, and hospitals; the residen-tial part of the city, Maala, has four- and five-story buildingswith latticed loggias.



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