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The Republic of Mozambique is a country in Africa. Located on the continent's southeastern coast, it has the Indian Ocean on its eastern side and Zimbabwe to its west. Tanzania is located to the north, while South Africa is positioned to the south. Consisting of more than 300,000 square miles (482,700 kilometers), Mozambique is ranked number 36 among the largest countries in the world. It is similar in size to Turkey and just a little larger than Texas.
The country's recorded history extends back as far as the time between the first and fourth centuries AD. It was during this time that Bantu-speaking people began to migrate from lands located to the west of the country, as well as to the north. They were primarily farmers, and those who did not work the farms tended to be iron workers. In 1498, Portuguese explorers, including Vasco da Gama, traveled to Mozambique. The Portuguese colonized the country in 1505.
In the 16th century, Mozambique, like other Eastern Africa lands, became part of popular Portuguese trading routes. Eventually, foreigners ventured inland from the coast in search of slaves and precious metals. By the 20th century, the running of the country was largely in the hands of private companies. Such private companies included the Mozambique Company, the Niassa Company, and the Zambezi Company.
The companies charged with administrating Mozambique were primarily controlled by Britain and worked to establish railroads leading to nearby countries. Additionally, these companies often paid African workers very low rates to work in mines and plantations in British colonies and South Africa. In some cases, African workers were forced into service. The policies established during this time were created to provide Portuguese emigrants with the highest advantages. Often, the needs of the native Mozambican population and the country's economic health were ignored in favor of benefits for the Portuguese.
Following World War II, many colonies were granted independence from European countries. However, Portugal maintained its hold on Mozambique and claimed that it was part of the mother country. Over the years, however, the country began to demand its independence. By 1962, a number of anti-colonial political groups had formed, seeking independence from Portuguese rule, and sporadic wars ensued. It was not until 1975 that Mozambique gained its independence.
Once it gained its independence, the country was left to face the chaos caused by having very few professional workers and a decided lack of structure. The Mozambican Liberation Front, or Frelimo, was given the job of operating the country, seeking to cause widespread social change. For example, the new government of the country sought to replace private land ownership with state-run farms and cooperatives for ordinary people. Eventually, the socialist changes led to economic problems, and the country faced near bankruptcy in 1983. In the midst of these issues, the Mozambique National Resistance, an armed rebel organization, came forward and civil war soon followed, ending in October of 1992 after the deaths of more than one million Mozambicans and the exodus of close to two million refugees.
Today, the country still works to recover from its turbulent past. Tourism has begun to take off in the country, and the economy is seeing growth. The Mozambicans are predominately Christian, with approximately 40 percent of the population believing in Christ, about 30 percent maintaining indigenous beliefs, and the other 30 percent believing in Islam. Portuguese is the official language. However, the Bantu's speak several languages, including Swahili, and the majority of educated natives speak English.