Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a country situated in the Horn of Africa. It has one of the most extensive known histories as an independent nation on the continent. Unique among African countries, Ethiopia maintained independence during the Scramble for Africa, and continued to do so until 1936, when the Italian army invaded the country. British and Ethiopian troops defeated the Italians in 1941, and Ethiopia regained its sovereignty upon the signing of the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement in December 1944. Ethiopia was historically called Abyssinia.
Ethiopia has an extremely long and storied history. The first verifiable kingdom of great power to rise in Ethiopia was that of Axum in the first century AD. The Persian religious figure Mani listed Axum with Rome, Persia, and China as one of the four great powers of his time. It was at this time that Frumentius introduced Christianity into the country, converting king Ezana. For a short period in the 6th century, Axum controlled most of modern-day Yemen across the Red Sea.
The line of rulers descended from the Axumite kings was broken several times: first by Queen Judith around 950, then by the Zagwe dynasty. Around 1270, the Solomonid dynasty came to control Ethiopia, claiming descent from the kings of Axum. They called themselves negus negusti ("king of kings," or Emperor), basing their claims on their direct descent from Solomon and the queen of Sheba.
During the reign of Emperor Lebna Dengel, Ethiopia made its first successful diplomatic contact with a European country, Portugal. This proved to be an important development, for when the Empire was subjected to the attacks of Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi, Portugal responded to Lebna Dengel's plea for help with an army of 400 men, who helped his son Gelawdewos defeat Ahmad and re-establish his rule. However, Jesuit missionaries eventually offended the faith of the local Ethiopians, and in the mid-16th century Emperor Fasilidos expelled these missionaries. At the same time, the Oromo people began to migrate north into Ethiopian territorities, and settle in the depopulated lands.
All of this contributed to Ethiopia's isolation during the 1700s. The Emperors of Ethiopia became figureheads, controlled by war lords like Ras Mikael Sehul of Tigray. Ethiopian isolationism ended following a British mission which concluded an alliance between the two nations; however, it was not until the reign of Tewodros II that Ethiopia began to take part in world affairs once again.
The 1880s were marked by European colonization of Africa and some modernisation, when the Italians began to replace the British influence. Assab, a port near the
southern entrance of the Red Sea, was bought from the local sultan in March 1870 by an Italian company, which by 1882 led to the Italian colony of Eritrea. Conflicts between the two countries resulted in 1896 to the Battle of Adowa, which the Ethiopians surprised the world by defeating the colonial power and remained independent. Italy and Ethiopia signed a provisional treaty of peace on October 26, 1896.
The early 20th century was marked by the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, who undertook the modernization of Ethiopia, despite several years of occupation by Italy
(1936-1942). His reign came to an end in 1974, when a pro-Soviet Marxist-Leninist military junta, the Derg, deposed him, and established a one-party socialist state. The ensuing regime suffered several bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problem. It was eventually defeated in 1991 by the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of rebel forces. In 1993, the Province of Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in an amicable separation following a referendum. In 1994, a constitution was adopted leading to Ethiopia's first multiparty elections in the following year. In May 1998, a dispute over the undemarcated border with Eritrea led to the Ethiopia-Eritrea War that lasted until June 2000. This has hurt the nation's economy but strengthened the ruling coalition. On May 15, 2005, Ethiopia held another multiparty election, which returned the EPRDF to power. In early June police shot and killed demonstrators protesting alleged election fraud.