The Past and Present of Nauru

Nauru 2

Key Figures

Nauru history has been shaped by many prominent individuals who have contributed to the island’s social, economic, and political development. These key figures include:

Hammer DeRoburt

Hammer DeRoburt is Nauru’s first president and one of its most influential political figures. He led Nauru to independence from Australia on January 31, 1968, and served as president for a total of 14 years. DeRoburt is also credited with championing the cause of environmental conservation for small island countries.

Marcus Stephen

Marcus Stephen was the president of Nauru from 2007 to 2011, and is remembered for his efforts to revive the island’s economy, which had been struggling due to the depletion of the country’s phosphate resources. He also played a leading role in promoting regional cooperation in the Pacific Islands.

Bernard Dowiyogo

Bernard Dowiyogo was a prominent Nauruan statesman who served as president of Nauru on five different occasions. His political career spanned more than three decades, and he was widely respected for his commitment to democracy and his efforts to promote economic development in Nauru.

Ludwig Scotty

Ludwig Scotty served as president of Nauru from 2003 to 2007, and again from 2008 to 2010. He is known for his efforts to promote good governance, transparency, and accountability in public life, as well as his commitment to environmental protection and sustainable development.

David Adeang

David Adeang is a prominent Nauruan politician who has served in various high-level government positions, including Minister for Foreign Affairs and Finance, and is currently the Minister for Justice and Border Control. He is known for his work towards economic reform and his advocacy for Nauru’s interests on the international stage.

Kennan Adeang

Kennan Adeang, who is David Adeang’s younger brother, is also a major political figure in Nauru. He served as Minister for Finance and was widely credited with leading efforts to revive the country’s economy following the depletion of its phosphate resources. He currently serves as a member of parliament.

Benedict Elouma

Benedict Elouma is a well-respected Nauruan academic and former government minister. He has made significant contributions to Nauruan culture and has been involved in efforts to promote education and cultural preservation.

Sprent Dabwido

Sprent Dabwido was the president of Nauru from 2011 to 2013, and was known for his commitment to social justice and his efforts to promote democratic reform. He also advocated for action on climate change and was a vocal critic of Australia’s immigration policy.

Overall, these key figures have played important roles in shaping the course of Nauruan history, and their contributions continue to influence the island’s social, economic, and political development.


Nauru is a small island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, with a total area of only 8.1 square miles. It is one of the smallest countries in the world and is the third smallest state by area in the world. The island was originally settled by Micronesians and Polynesians around 3,000 years ago, who were the first inhabitants of the island. These early settlers lived a simple life and relied on fishing and agriculture for their survival.

The first recorded sighting of Nauru by Europeans was made by British Captain John Fearn in 1798. However, it was German traders who made the first contact with the Nauruan people in the late 19th century. The Germans were interested in the island’s rich phosphate deposits, and they eventually took control of the island in 1888.

German Colonial Rule

Under German colonial rule, Nauru became known as Pleasant Island and was used primarily as a phosphate mining center. The Germans brought in indentured laborers from China, the Philippines, and other parts of Micronesia to work in the mines. The living and working conditions were harsh, and many of the laborers died from diseases such as tuberculosis and dysentery.

During World War I, Australian and New Zealand troops occupied Nauru, and after the war, the island was administered by Britain, Australia, and New Zealand as part of the League of Nations’ mandate system. Nauru remained under joint British, Australian, and New Zealand administration until 1968 when it gained independence.

Phosphate Mining and Environmental Issues

Phosphate mining has played a major role in the economy of Nauru since the early 20th century. The island is believed to have one of the richest phosphate deposits in the world, and mining of the phosphate has been the mainstay of the economy, accounting for more than 90% of the country’s export earnings.

However, phosphate mining has also had a significant impact on the environment of Nauru. The island’s terrain has been flattened and scarred by mining operations, and the natural vegetation has been destroyed. The mining has also caused severe damage to the island’s coral reefs, which was once a popular attraction for tourists.

The environmental degradation caused by phosphate mining has led to land degradation, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity. In recent years, the Nauruan government has attempted to address these problems by imposing a moratorium on mining and investing in renewable energy and tourism.

World War II and Japanese Occupation

During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese forces from August 1942 to September 1945. The Japanese used Nauru as a military base and mining center, and the island was heavily bombed by Allied forces. The bombing caused significant damage to the island’s infrastructure, and many Nauruans were killed or injured in the bombing raids.

The Japanese occupation was also marked by the mistreatment of the Nauruan people, who were forced into labor and suffered from food shortages and diseases. Many Nauruans died during the occupation, and the island’s population was drastically reduced. After the war, Nauru was administered by the Allied powers until it came under joint Australian, New Zealand, and British administration.

Independence and Recent Developments

Nauru gained independence on January 31, 1968, and became a member of the United Nations. The first President of Nauru was Hammer DeRoburt, who led the country through its early years of independence.

Since gaining independence, Nauru has faced a number of challenges, including economic difficulties and political instability. However, the country has also made progress in areas such as education, healthcare, and human rights. In recent years, the government has sought to diversify the economy by investing in renewable energy and tourism.

Today, Nauru remains one of the smallest and most isolated countries in the world. Its economy is heavily dependent on phosphate mining, although the government is making efforts to promote other industries. Despite its challenges, Nauru has a rich cultural heritage and a unique natural environment that make it a fascinating destination for travelers and scholars alike.


Nauru, an island country located in Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean, has a fascinating history. The island has gone through several transformations over time, from being a coral reef to becoming an independent country. Here is a brief look at the evolution of Nauru:

Formation of Nauru

Nauru was formed as a result of a geological process that took place millions of years ago. The island was formed from a coral reef on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Over time, the coral reef was uplifted by tectonic activity, and eventually, the island emerged from the sea.

The island is relatively small, measuring just 53 square kilometers, and is oval-shaped. It is located 42 kilometers south of the equator and is surrounded by a coral reef, making it difficult for ships to dock.

Discovery and inhabitation of Nauru

The first documented exploration of Nauru was in 1798 by a British sea captain named John Fearn. At that time, the island was uninhabited. However, it was soon discovered that Nauru had vast phosphate deposits, which were valuable for fertilizer and other industrial uses.

As a result, several countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia, began mining phosphate on the island. They brought in laborers from other countries, such as China and Kiribati, to work in the mines.

Over time, the population of the island grew, and the people developed their own unique culture and language. They also established their own government and political system.

World War I and II

During World War I, Nauru came under German control. The Germans used the island to mine phosphate, which was used in the manufacturing of explosives. However, after the war, Nauru came under the control of Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

During World War II, Nauru was occupied by the Japanese. The Japanese used the phosphate on the island to support their military efforts. The island also suffered significant damage as a result of Allied bombings.


After World War II, Nauru was placed under the control of the United Nations. In 1968, the country became an independent republic. Today, Nauru is a member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Despite its small size, Nauru has played an important role in international affairs. It has been involved in peacekeeping missions around the world and has supported initiatives to combat climate change.

Phosphate mining and environmental concerns

Phosphate mining has been the backbone of Nauru’s economy for decades. However, it has also had a significant impact on the environment. Mining has stripped the island of much of its natural vegetation and has left behind large areas of land that are barren and unproductive.

Furthermore, phosphate mining has led to environmental pollution, with toxic chemicals and heavy metals leaching into the soil and groundwater. These pollutants have had a significant impact on the health of the people of the island.

As a result, the Nauruan government has taken steps in recent years to reduce its reliance on phosphate mining and to diversify its economy. The government has also worked to improve environmental standards and to mitigate the impact of past mining activities.

Population and demographics

Nauru has a population of around 10,000 people. The majority of the population is of Nauruan descent, but there are also significant populations of other ethnic groups, including Chinese, Kiribati, and Tuvaluan.

The official languages of Nauru are Nauruan and English. The majority of the population practices Christianity, with the largest denomination being the Nauru Congregational Church.

Nauruan culture and traditions

Nauruan culture is unique and has been shaped by the island’s history and geography. Traditional arts and crafts include weaving, pottery, and carving. Dance and music are also an integral part of Nauruan culture, with traditional songs and dances passed down through generations.

The Nauruan diet is based on fresh seafood, coconut, and locally grown produce. Traditional dishes include fish, coconut cream, and breadfruit.

Despite the challenges the island has faced over the years, the people of Nauru are proud of their culture and traditions. They continue to celebrate their heritage and work to preserve it for future generations.

Social, Cultural, and Political Context of Nauru

Nauru has a rich and complex history that is intertwined with social, cultural, and political factors. The island has been home to various indigenous communities that had complex social structures and cultural practices. However, with the arrival of foreign powers and their influence, the island’s social, cultural, and political context has undergone significant changes. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of Nauru’s social, cultural, and political history.

Indigenous Nauruan culture

Before the arrival of foreign powers, Nauru was home to three distinct indigenous communities: the Micronesian, Polynesian, and Melanesian. These communities had their own unique cultures, languages, and traditions, but they shared some commonalities in terms of social structures and religious practices.

The Micronesian community was the largest community on the island and had a complex social structure that was based on clans. Each clan had its own chief, and the chiefs were responsible for maintaining law and order within their territories. The Polynesian community was smaller and had a more centralized social structure. They had a king who was responsible for maintaining law and order across the entire island.

The Melanesian community was the smallest group on the island and was known for their skilled craftsmanship in areas such as woodcarving and weaving. They had a less formal social structure compared to the Micronesian and Polynesian communities, but they played an important role in the island’s economy.

The indigenous communities had their own unique languages, which were distinct from other Pacific Island languages. However, due to the small size of the island, there was a high degree of intermarriage between the communities, which led to the development of a pidgin language that was used for communication.

Colonization and foreign influence

Nauru came under the influence of foreign powers in the late 19th century when Germany annexed the island. The Germans introduced Christianity to the island, which had a significant impact on the indigenous communities’ traditional religious practices. The Germans also introduced modern technology such as railways and mining equipment, which revolutionized the island’s economy.

In 1914, during World War I, Australian troops occupied the island and took control of the phosphate industry. The Australians continued to oversee the island until it gained independence in 1968. During this time, Nauru underwent significant economic and social changes as the phosphate industry became the sole driver of the island’s economy.

The introduction of foreign influence also had a significant impact on Nauru’s culture. Western cultural practices began to replace traditional cultural practices, particularly among the younger generations. English became the dominant language, and indigenous languages fell into disuse. The island’s traditional dress and musical practices also began to decline.

The rise of Nauru nationalism

As Nauru’s phosphate resources dwindled, the government began to explore other ways to generate income for the island. The government’s attempts to diversify the economy, however, were met with limited success. This led to a growing sense of frustration and disillusionment among the Nauruan people.

In the 1970s, a group of young Nauruans began to advocate for greater autonomy and control over the island’s resources. This movement led to the formation of the Nauru Local Government Council, which advocated for self-government and the preservation of Nauru’s natural resources.

In 1968, Nauru gained independence from Australia, and the country’s first president, Hammer DeRoburt, focused on promoting Nauruan nationalism and identity. The government invested in education and culture, and there was a renewed interest in preserving the island’s traditional practices and culture.

The challenges of modernization

Since gaining independence, Nauru has faced a range of challenges associated with modernization. The country’s small size and remote location have made it difficult to access resources and to diversify the economy beyond the phosphate industry. The country has also faced significant environmental challenges associated with phosphate mining.

The rush to modernization has also had an impact on Nauru’s social and cultural fabric. The country’s traditional social structures have been undermined, and there has been a growing sense of individualism among younger generations. The country is also grappling with modern social issues such as drug abuse and alcoholism, which have had a significant impact on the island’s social fabric.

Despite these challenges, Nauru has continued to preserve its unique identity and culture. The country hosts an annual cultural festival, which showcases traditional dance, music, and crafts. The government has also invested in promoting Nauruan language and culture through the education system.

In conclusion, Nauru’s social, cultural, and political history reflects the island’s complex and diverse cultural heritage. The arrival of foreign powers and modernization have brought significant changes to the island, but the Nauruan people have remained resilient in their efforts to preserve their unique identity and culture.

Impact and significance

The history of Nauru is characterized by its changing fortunes in relation to its primary resource: phosphate. The discovery of this resource in the late 19th century brought a period of prosperity to the island nation, but the exploitation of the resource also brought great environmental and social costs. The history of Nauru is important not only for understanding the island’s contemporary situation but also for understanding the broader dynamics of colonialism, capitalism, and the global resources trade.

Phosphate discovery and exploitation

Nauru’s fortunes changed dramatically with the discovery of phosphate in the late 19th century. The island’s first European visitors, British whalers, noted the presence of guano (bird droppings used as fertilizer) on the island, but it was not until the German geologist Albert Hahl’s survey in the late 1890s that the true extent of the phosphate deposits was understood. The British Phosphate Commission (BPC) obtained control of the phosphate deposits in 1919 through a League of Nations mandate, and Nauru became one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of phosphate.

The wealth generated from phosphate enabled the development of infrastructure and social services on Nauru, and many Nauruans enjoyed a higher standard of living than their Pacific Island neighbours. However, the exploitation of phosphate also had devastating impacts on the island’s environment and traditional culture. Strip-mining of the phosphate led to the demolition of much of the island’s natural landscape, and the processing of the phosphate generated large amounts of pollution. The Nauruan people were largely relegated to being wage labourers on the phosphate mines, and traditional practices and social structures were disrupted.

Colonialism and the struggle for independence

Nauru was colonized by a succession of foreign powers throughout its history, including Germany, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. The impact of colonialism on Nauru was characterized by the imposition of foreign rule and the subjugation of Nauruan culture and autonomy. The League of Nations mandate system, which governed Nauru from 1920 to 1947, granted the BPC virtual control over all aspects of Nauruan life.

In the aftermath of World War II, Nauru was placed under joint administration by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. This arrangement was meant to prepare the island for self-government, but it was marked by continued exploitation of the phosphate resource and further damage to the island’s environment. In the 1960s, a Nauruan nationalist movement emerged, demanding independence and greater control over the island’s resources. After a decade of negotiations, Nauru finally gained independence in 1968.

Impact of phosphate depletion

The impact of phosphate depletion on Nauru has been significant and far-reaching. By the 1980s, the easily extractable phosphate reserves had been largely depleted, and the island’s economy entered a period of decline. The Nauruan government sought to diversify its economy through offshore banking and investment, but these efforts were marred by corruption and mismanagement. The environmental damage caused by phosphate mining also made it difficult to attract tourism or other industries to the island.

Nauru’s contemporary situation is marked by economic and social challenges. Rapid population growth, coupled with the depletion of its resource base, has made it difficult for the island to maintain even basic services such as health care and education. Nauru has also faced criticism for its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, whom it has detained on the island under a controversial agreement with the Australian government.

International advocacy and action

The impact of Nauru’s history has not gone unnoticed by the international community. Concerns over human rights abuses, environmental degradation, and economic challenges have prompted advocacy and action from a variety of organizations and nations. The United Nations has played a significant role in monitoring and addressing the situation on Nauru, through bodies such as the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and the Pacific Islands Forum have also been active in raising awareness of Nauru’s situation and advocating for change. Nauru’s reliance on foreign aid has also made it vulnerable to the demands of its aid partners, who have used their leverage to push for policy changes and reform.

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