Located in northeastern Africa, in an area known as the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is one of the largest and most populous countries in Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti and the former Ethiopian autonomous region of Eritrea on the north, Somalia on the east, Kenya on the south,and Sudan on the west. Ethiopia's landscape varies from lowlands to high plateaus and its climate from very dry to seasonally very wet. The Ethiopian population is also very mixed, with broad differences in cultural background and traits, methods of gaining a livelihood, languages,and religions. While influenced and even occasionally occupied by other nations, Ethiopia is one of the few countries in Africa or Asia never truly colonized. Since World War II Ethiopia has often been economically, politically, or militarily dependent on the major world powers. Its substantial balance-of-trade deficit has been attributed to internal disorder. Land and Climate The landscape of Ethiopia is dominated by the northern end of the East African Rift system and by central highlands of plateaus and mountains that rise from about 6,000 feet (2,000 metres) to more than 14,000 feet (4,300 metres). Surrounding these highlands are hot, usually arid, lowlands. The highlands are cut by deep river valleys. Situated in the tropics, Ethiopia has climatic regions that vary with elevation: the hot and arid lowlands at elevations from below sea level to about 5,000 feet (1,500 meters); the densely populated warmer uplands and the cooler uplands at about 5,000 to 7,500 feet (1,500 to 2,300 metres) and 7,500 to 10,000 feet (2,300 to 3,000 metres), respectively; and alpine regions above 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). Daily temperatures range seasonally from well above 100 F (40 C) in the lowlands to below freezing in the cooler upland elevations and higher. Moisture is also unevenly distributed. Most areas have regular wet and dry periods in the year. The amount of rainfall often depends on altitude higher areas are wetter, lowlands drier. There is also a fairly predictable annual amount of rainfall from the drier northeast to the wetter southwest. Drier areas occasionally receive much less moisture than even their already low average. Rains may start later or end earlier than usual, or storms may be separated by a few weeks, allowing the soil to dry out. Such drought is most common in the northern and eastern highlands and in lowland areas. When this happens farming and herding suffer, causing famine. Environment and Resources Under natural conditions the nondesert parts of Ethiopia are grasslands or forests. After many thousands of years of farming and herding, much of this natural landscape is altered. At least 85 % of the natural forest has been cleared, especially in the northern part of the country, usually to create fields. From the 1960s onward local and government efforts at environmental rehabilitation have led to the replanting of trees in some deforested areas. The most valuable natural resource is the soil. It is potentially highly productive for traditional and modern agriculture, but this potential is largely unmet. In parts of Ethiopia soil resources suffer from declining fertility and erosion. The decline results from the continuous inefficient use of the soil, including the cultivating of land that is better for grazing or that should be left fallow, or unplanted, for a while. This is partly the result of a socioeconomic system that does not reward investment in soil protection and partly the result of the increasing demands of a rapidly growing population. As a consequence, agricultural production per person has declined in the late 20th century. This decline in agriculture is common not only in Ethiopia but also in much of the rest of Africa. Little has been done to find possible mineral resources in Ethiopia. Those known and exploited include gold, platinum, manganese, and salt. There is little extraction of either metallic ores or mineral fuels such as coal or petroleum. People and Culture Ethiopia has historically been an empire, expanding in area and incorporating new groups into the population. A major expansion of the empire in the second half of the 19th century incorporated new peoples in the west, south, and east. The result is a population of great diversity. Many languages and dialects are spoken. The greatest numbers of people speak either Semitic or Cushitic languages and their dialects. Semitic includes Amharic, the official national language, Tigrigna, Tigre, and Guragingna. Cushitic includes Oromigno, Somali, Sidama, and Afar. In the west and southwest some people speak Nilotic languages. Some of the Semitic languages have been written since before European influences. Various religions are represented, with numerous people following Christianity, Islam, and traditional sects. Most Christians are Coptic,or Ethiopian Orthodox, Christians who follow rites similar to those of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Christianity was introduced into Ethiopia in the 4th century and was the official state religion until 1974. Although there is often a great mix of religions in any given place, Christians tend to be the most numerous in highland areas, Muslims in the lowlands, and traditional religious groups in the south and west. There is also a small Jewish religious group known as Beta Israel, or Falasha, in the northwest. The diversity of people has always played a significant role in Ethiopia. Disagreements and problems between groups are often tied to differences in language, religion, and other cultural lines. According to a 1992 estimate, the national population is about 54 million. It is most densely concentrated in the highland areas. Almost 90 percent of the people live outside cities. More than 45 percent of the people are 15 years of age and younger. Both birth and death rates are high. The average life expectancy at birth is about 45 years for males and 49 years for females, among the world's lowest. History and Government Ethiopia's history is virtually that of a continuous feudal monarchy. Originally centered in the north of modern Ethiopia and Eritrea, the monarchy predates the Christian Era and continued under various guises to 1974. Over the last 2,000 years Ethiopia and its center of power have moved southward. The greatest expansion of the empire occurred with the conquests of Emperor Menelik II in the late 19th century, when the modern national boundaries were drawn. The Ethiopian monarchy was a Solomonic dynasty, claiming descent from the Biblical joining of Solomon and Sheba. Anyone accepted as possessing Solomonic descent could claim monarchical rights. This caused frequent internal strife, civil wars, and wars of succession. Ethiopian history also includes wars with neighbors and colonial nations. The 16th-century war with forces from the eastern lowlands of the Horn of Africa nearly succeeded in conquering Ethiopia. Italian colonial influences expanded into Eritrea and Ethiopia in the last two decades of the 19th century, but the Italian armies were defeated in 1896 at the battle of Aduwa. This preserved Ethiopia as one of the few noncolonized nations of Africa, but in 1935 Italy once again invaded Ethiopia,occupying the country until 1941. MENELEK II
Much of Ethiopia's 20th-century history is dominated by Emperor Haile Selassie. He was named regent in 1916 and subsequently crowned emperor in 1930. His regency and rule were characterized by the breaking of regional feudal powers. He encouraged some movement toward becoming a modern nation and ruled until 1974, when he was deposed in a Marxist revolution
HAILE SELASSIE After 1974 Ethiopia had a Marxist military government run by the Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC), also called the Derg. The Derg was rocked by internal power struggles until Lieut.Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam emerged as the head of state. Under Mengistu, the Derg enlarged the military tenfold. Beginning in 1975 it also instituted a program of nationalization of industry, banking, insurance,and large-scale trade. Many Ethiopians who opposed military rule supported the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary party, which fought the military regime in the cities until it was crushed in 1978. Separatist movements arose in attempts to break away from Ethiopia or to change the people or the pattern of government.The most active of these movements were in the north, in Eritrea and in Tigre. There was also warfare with the Somalia-backed Western Somali Liberation Front, beginning in 1977. Ethiopia shifted its international ties with the United States to an alignment with the Soviet Union, which became its chief source of weapons. Economic aid and foreign investment from the West dried up, while Ethiopia's own resources were consumed by the wars. In 1987 a new constitution was approved to make the country the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. This constitution established a civilian Communist government. The PMAC was dissolved, members of the new assembly, or Shengo, were installed, and Mengistu became the first president of the republic. Ethiopia was struck by a major famine in the early 1970s and two more during the 1980s. More than 200,000 people may have died in the first of these. Ethiopia has been heavily dependent upon international donations to overcome starvation in famine areas. Conflict between Eritrean and Tigrean rebel groups and the government continued. By 1991 rebel forces controlled all or parts of seven provinces. Already facing a bankrupt economy and famine, the government saw its army fall apart. Mengistu resigned and fled the country. An unstable transitional government, led by Meles Zenawi, was appointed in August 1991. The government planned a general election for 1993. The Eritreans' goal, for which they had been fighting for more than 31 years, was finally realized. Eritreans voted overwhelmingly for independence in an April 1993 referendum.They promised to allow Ethiopia free access to the Red Sea ports of Massawa and Aseb when granted their independence.Ethiopia, meanwhile, was beset by factional violence and famine. Meles's government seemed unable to improve the country's economy.
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