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Suriname[1], officially the Republic of Suriname, (often incorrectly written as Surinam, but rectified in most up-to-date dictionaries. Some even call it the old-spelling) is a country in northern South America. In native tongue it is called Sranang. It was formerly known as Nederlands Guyana, Netherlands Guiana or Dutch Guiana. It lies in between French Guiana to the east and Guyana to the west. The southern border is shared with Brazil and the northern border is the Atlantic coast. The southernmost borders with Guyana and French Guiana are disputed (upper Corantijn and Marowijne rivers; the map shows the Guyana and French Guiana versions of the border). The country is the smallest sovereign state in terms of area and population in South America.



The Surinen Indians (from whom the country's name derives) were the area's earliest known inhabitants. By the 16th century, however, the Surinen had been driven out by other South American Indians, namely the Arawak and Carib tribes. On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus visited the New World. In 1499 Amerigo Vespucci, after whom the continent was named, discovered the Northern coast of South America and Spain explored Suriname in 1593. In the 17th century, there were several attempts by the Dutch and English to colonize Suriname, with the Dutch eventually gaining stable control. The Netherlands, and therefore Suriname, had a system of slave labour, with slaves mostly of African descent. The slaves were treated badly, and many escaped to the jungle. These Maroons (also known as "Djukas" or "Bakabusi Nengre") often returned to attack the plantations. Slave labour was only abolished in 1863, placing the Netherlands among the last European countries to do so. (Spanish-controlled Cuba and Puerto Rico had slaves until 1880 and 1873, respectively.) However, slaves were not released until 1873. After that, labourers were imported from the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) and India.

In 1954, Suriname gained self-government, with the Netherlands retaining control of defense and foreign affairs. In 1973, the local government, led by the NPK (a largely Creole party) started negotiations with the Dutch government about independence, which was granted on 25 November 1975. The first President of the country was Johan Ferrier, with Henck Arron (leader of the Suriname National Party) as Prime Minister. Roughly a third of the population emigrated to the Netherlands, fearing that the new country would not be able to survive. A series of military coups in 1980 led to the breakdown in Dutch–Suriname relations. On 8 December 1982, some people were murdered as a result of a bad situation during that time, Desi Bouterse, has recently admitted he might have had a hand in it. In 1987 the first elections in years were held and a new constitution was written. A coup, the so-called 'telephone-coup' in 1990 interrupted this process, but elections were held again in 1991. With democracy, the Dutch government resumed aid. Since 1990, the four-party New Front coalition, led by Ronald Venetiaan has held government. In recent years, developing the economy has been one of the most difficult issues for Suriname.

In the autumn of 2006, Suriname's army was dispatched to Nickerie in anticipation of the possible illegal immigration of Guyanese who would be trying to escape potential violence during Guyana's election on August 28, 2006. The election proved peaceful and there was no immigration crisis.

Administrative divisions

Main articles: Districts of Suriname and Resorts of Suriname

Suriname is divided into ten districts:
  1. Brokopondo
  2. Commewijne
  3. Coronie
  4. Marowijne
  5. Nickerie
  6. Para
  7. Paramaribo
  8. Saramacca
  9. Sipaliwini
  10. Wanica
Map of the districts of Suriname in alphabetical order

Suriname is further subdivided into 62 "resorte" (ressorten).


Main article: Geography of Suriname
Tailor's shop, Paramaribo, 1955.
Tailor's shop, Paramaribo, 1955.

Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America. Situated on the Guiana Shield, the country can be divided into two main geographic regions. The northern, lowland coastal area (roughly above the line Albina-Paranam-Wageningen) has been cultivated, and most of the population lives here. The southern part consists of tropical rainforest and sparsely inhabited savanna along the border with Brazil, covering about 80% of Suriname's land surface.

There are two main mountain ranges in Suriname: the Bakhuis Mountains and the Van Asch Van Wijck Mountains. Julianatop is the highest mountain in the country at 1,286 metres (4,219 ft) above sea level. Other mountains include Tafelberg (1,026 m; 3,366 ft), Mount Kasikasima (718 m; 2,356 ft), Goliathberg (358 m; 1,174 ft) and Voltzberg (240 m; 787 ft).

Lying near the equator, Suriname has a tropical climate, and temperatures do not vary a lot throughout the year. The year has two wet seasons, from December to early February and from late April to mid-August.

Located in the northeast portion of the country is the W.J. van Blommestein Meer, one of the largest reservoir lakes in the world. It was created in 1964 by the Afobakka dam (the Brokopondo Project), built to provide hydropower for the bauxite industry (which consumes about 75% of the output) and for domestic consumption.

In the upper Coppename River watershed, the Central Suriname Nature Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site cited for its unspoiled rainforest biodiversity. There are many national parks in the country: Galibi National Reserve, Coppename Manding National Park and Wia Wia NR along the coast, Brownsberg NR, Raleighvallen/Voltzeberg NR, Tafelberg NR and Eilerts de Haan NP in the centre and the Sipaliwani NR on the Brazilian border. In all, 12% of the country's land area are national parks and lakes.


Main article: Economy of Suriname

The economy of Suriname is dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounts for more than 15% of GDP and 70% of export earnings. Other main export products include rice and bananas. Suriname has recently started exploiting some of its sizeable oil[2] and gold[3] reserves. About a quarter of the people work in the agricultural sector. The Surinamese economy is very dependent on other countries, with its main trade partners being the Netherlands, the United States and countries in the Caribbean.

After assuming power in the fall of 1996, the Wijdenbosch government ended the structural adjustment program of the previous government, claiming it was unfair to the poorer elements of society. Tax revenues fell as old taxes lapsed and the government failed to implement new tax alternatives. By the end of 1997, the allocation of new Dutch development funds was frozen as Surinamese Government relations with the Netherlands deteriorated. Economic growth slowed in 1998, with decline in the mining, construction, and utility sectors. Rampant government expenditures, poor tax collection, a bloated civil service, and reduced foreign aid in 1999 contributed to the fiscal deficit, estimated at 11% of GDP. The government sought to cover this deficit through monetary expansion, which led to a dramatic increase in inflation.


Main article: Politics of Suriname

The Republic of Suriname is a constitutional democracy based on the 1987 constitution.

The legislative branch of government consists of a 51-member unicameral National Assembly, simultaneously and popularly elected for a five-year term.

The president, who is elected for a five-year term by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly or, failing that, by a majority of the People's Assembly, heads the executive branch. If at least two-thirds of the National Assembly cannot agree to vote for one presidential candidate, a People's Assembly is formed from all National Assembly delegates and regional and municipal representatives who were elected by popular vote in the most recent national election. As head of government, the president appoints a 16-minister cabinet. There is no constitutional provision for removal or replacement of the president unless he resigns.

The judiciary is headed by the Court of Justice (Supreme Court). This court supervises the magistrate courts. Members are appointed for life by the president in consultation with the National Assembly, the State Advisory Council and the National Order of Private Attorneys. In April 2005, the regional Caribbean Court of Justice, based in Trinidad, was inaugurated. As the final court of appeal, it was intended to replace the London-based Privy Council.

The country is divided into 10 administrative districts, each headed by a district commissioner appointed by the president. The commissioner is similar to the governor of a United States-type state but is appointed and removed by the president.


Main article: Demographics of Suriname

Suriname's population of 438,144 (July 2005 estimate) is made up of several distinct ethnic groups.

  • The Creoles form about 31% of the population. They are the descendants of West African slaves, some mixed with Dutch, other whites, Sephardi Jews and other ethnic groups.
  • East Indians (known locally as Hindoestanen) form the largest group at 37% of the population. They are descendants of nineteenth-century contract workers from India. They are from the Indian states of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh, in Northern India, along the Nepalese border.
  • The Javanese (descendents of contract workers from the former Dutch East Indies) make up 15%.
  • Maroons (descendants of escaped West African slaves) make up 10% and are divided into five main groups: Aucans, Kwinti, Matawai, Paramaccans and Saramaccans.
  • Amerindians form 3% of the population (some say as low as 1%), the main groups being the Akuriyo, Arawak, Carib/Kaliña, Trío and Wayana.
  • Chinese are mainly descendants of the earliest nineteenth-century contract workers.
  • Boeroes (derived from boer, the Dutch word for farmer) are descendants of Dutch nineteenth-century immigrant farmers.
  • Jews, both Sephardic and East European.

Because of the great number of ethnic groups in the country, there is no one main religion. Christianity, both in the form of Roman Catholicism and variations of Protestantism, is dominant among Creoles and Maroons. Most of the Hindustani are Hindu, but they also practice Islam and Christianity. The Javanese also practice both Islam and Christianity. Despite the diversity, the makeup of Suriname's population is very similar to that of neighboring Guyana, with the exception of the Indonesian population (which Guyana lacks). French Guiana, as part of France, does not collect ethnic statistics.

The vast majority of people (about 90%) live in Paramaribo or on the coast. There is also a significant Surinamese population in the Netherlands. In 2005 there were 328,300 Surinamese people living in the Netherlands, which is about 2% of the total population of the Netherlands (compared to 438,144 in Suriname).

The current leader is Mikal Thomas Davidson, who was born in 1975 on Ocotber 15. He is the youngest leader in Suriname's history. He started in the military and rose to the rank of Lt. General where after a five year stand inn service he retired and ran for presidency.


  • Dutch is the official language of Suriname.
  • Sranan Tongo serves as the lingua franca, initially the native speech of the Creoles. Sranan Tongo is an English based creole language (due to over twenty years of British presence) with a large influence from Dutch and several other languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, West African languages and several indigenous languages.
  • Sarnami Hindustani is the third largest language of the nation. Sarnami Hindustani is a form of Bihari, which is a dialect of modern India's Hindi language. It is spoken by the descendants of British Asian contract workers.
  • Javanese is spoken by the descendants of Javanese contract workers.
  • Maroon languages are somewhat intelligible with Sranan Tongo. Some are based on Portuguese rather than English. Maroon languages include Saramaka, Paramakan, Ndyuka or Aukan, Kwinti and Matawai.
  • Amerindian languages are spoken by the Amerindians of Suriname. These languages include Carib and Arawak.
  • Hakka Chinese and Poenti Cantonese is spoken by the descendants of the Chinese contract workers.
  • Mandarin is spoken by the 'new' Chinese contract workers.
  • Additionally, English and Spanish are also widely used, especially at tourist-oriented facilities or shops.


Main articles: Roman Catholicism in Suriname, Music of Suriname, Hinduism in South America, and Islam in Suriname

Waterfront houses in Paramaribo, 1955.
Waterfront houses in Paramaribo, 1955.

Due to the mix of population groups, Surinamese culture is very diverse. Ethnicity/race: East Indians (Hindustanis) 37%, Creole (mixed white and black) 31%, Javanese 15%, “Bush Negroes” (also known as Maroons) 10%, Amerindian 2%, Chinese 2%, white 1%, other 2%


  • Suriname (referred to as 'Surinam') is the setting for the largest part of Aphra Behn's classic novella, Oroonoko.
  • The 1962 film The Spiral Road, directed by Robert Mulligan and starring Rock Hudson, was filmed in Suriname (then Dutch Guiana).
  • Chapter 19 of Voltaire's classic Candide is set in Suriname.
  • Some of the greatest footballers to represent the Netherlands, such as Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, Aron Winter, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Edgar Davids are of Surinamese descent. Davids in particular has written of his passionate pride in his Surinamese heritage and his love of attending football matches there. There is a number of local heroes in other sports as well, like Primraj Binda, best known as the athlete who dominated the 10 km for nearly a decade, Steven Vismale and Letitia Vriesde.
  • A European mercenary by the name of Karl Penta organised a successful campaign to destabilise the military regime that ruled Suriname under the dictator, Dési Bouterse.
  • Anthony Nesty is the only person to win a medal (for swimming) for Suriname at the Olympics. Originally from Trinidad, not Suriname, he now lives in Miami, Florida, USA.
  • In the film The Silence of the Lambs Suriname is mentioned as the source of a shipment of Death's-head Hawkmoth.
  • Suriname is featured in the TV series E-Ring.
  • Mistakenly referred to as being "a country in Africa" by host Mike Rowe on his popular Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs, and a country in Asia in the film The Silence of the Lambs

See also

  • Boy Scouts van Suriname
  • Foreign relations of Suriname
  • List of cities in Suriname
  • Military of Suriname
  • Transportation in Suriname
  • Corantijn Basin - archaeological site


  1. ^ ISO 3166
  2. ^ (English) Rigzone Staatsolie Launches Tender for 3 Offshore Blocks
  3. ^ (English) Cambior Development of the Gross Rosebel Mine in Suriname

External links

Maps of Suriname 6° N -55° E

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