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Republiek Suriname
Flag of Suriname Coat of Arms of Suriname
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Motto: Justitia - Pietas - Fides
(Latin: Justice - Piety - Loyalty)
Anthem: Opo kondreman
Location of Suriname
Capital Paramaribo
4°00′ N 56°00′ W
Largest city Paramaribo
Official languages Dutch
Government Constitutional democracy
Ronald Venetiaan
 - Date
From the Netherlands
November 25, 1975
 • Total
 • Water (%)
163,270 km² (90th)
 • 2005 est.
 • 2004 census
 • Density
438,144 (163)
3/km² (190)
 • Total
 • Per capita
2005 estimate
$2,812,000,000 (161)
6,025 (98)
Currency Suriname dollar (SRD)
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
not observed (UTC-3)
Internet TLD .sr
Calling code +597

The Republic of Suriname, more commonly known as Suriname or Surinam, (formerly known as Netherlands Guiana and Dutch Guiana) is a country in northern South America, 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 most southern parts of the 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).



Main article: History of Suriname

Though Dutch traders had established several colonies in the Guyanas region before around 1600, the Dutch did not get full control of what is now Suriname until the Treaty of Breda, settling the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

After becoming an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1954, independence was granted in 1975. A military regime led by Dési Bouterse ruled the country in the 1980s, until democracy was re-established in 1988.


Main article: Politics of Suriname

Suriname is a democracy based on the 1987 constitution. The government's legislative branch is the National Assembly, consisting of 51 members. These members are elected every five years.

The National Assembly elects the head of the executive branch, the president, by a two-third majority. If no candidate achieves such a majority, the president is elected by the People's Assembly, a 869 member institute consisting of the National Assembly and regional representatives.

Suriname is a full & participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).


Main article: Districts of Suriname

Suriname is divided into ten districts:


Map of Suriname
Map of Suriname

Main article: Geography of Suriname

Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America. It is situated on the Guiana Shield and part of Caribbean South America. 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 Bakhuil Mountains and the Van Asch Van Wijck Mountains. Julianatop is the highest mountain in the country at 1286 m above sea level. Other mountains include Tafelberg (1026 m), Mount Kasikasima (718 m), Goliathberg (358 m) and Voltzberg (240 m).

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 Professor Doctor Engineer W.J. van Blommestein Meer, one of the largest reservoir lakes in the world. It was created in 1964 by the Afobakka dam (Brokopondo project), built to provide hydro power 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 countrys land area are national parks.


Government House, Paramaribo, 1955,now Presidential Palace.
Government House, Paramaribo, 1955,
now Presidential Palace.

Main article: Economy of Suriname

The economy of Suriname is dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounts for more than 15 percent of GDP and 70 percent of export earnings. Other main export products include sugar, and Suriname has some oil and gold 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 and exchange rate depreciation. Suriname's economic prospects for the medium term will depend on renewed commitment to responsible monetary and fiscal policies and to the introduction of structural reforms to liberalize markets and promote competition.

Suriname joined Caricom in 1995.


Main article: Demographics of Suriname

Suriname's population of 438,144 (July 2005 est.) is made up of several distinct ethnic groups. Hindustanis (known locally as East Indians) form the largest group at 37 percent of the population. They are descendants of 19th century immigrants from India. The Creoles, mixed white and black, form about 31 percent, while the Javanese ("imported" from the former Dutch East Indies) make up 15 percent. Maroons (descendants of escaped African slaves) make up 10 percent and are divided into five main groups: Aucans, Kwinti, Matawi, Paramaccans and Saramaccans. Amerindians form 3 percent of the population (some say as low as 1 percent), the main groups being the Akuriyo, Arawak, Carib, Tirío and Wayana. The remainder is formed by Chinese and Europeans and Brazilian immigrant workers that have arrived in Suriname in recent times. A small Jewish community composed of several families, descendants of Sephardim who had earlier fled from Iberia to the Netherlands, also inhabit the country. They previously operated an autonomous region of Suriname called the "Jodensavanne."

Because of the great number of ethnic groups in the country, there is no one main religion. Most of the Hindustani are Hindu, but Islam and Christianity are also practised by them. Christianity is dominant among Creoles and Maroons.

Dutch is the official language of Suriname. The Surinamese also speak their own languages: Sranang Tongo (also known as Surinaams), Javanese and others. Also, the original Carib and Arowak Amerindians of Suriname speak their own languages, as do the Maroons; Aucan (n'Djuga or Ndjukas) and Saramaccan. Additionally, English and Spanish are also widely used, especially at tourist-oriented facilities or shops.

The vast majority of people (about 90%) live in Paramaribo or on the coast. There is a also a significant Surinamese population in the Netherlands.


Water-front houses in Paramaribo, 1955
Water-front houses in Paramaribo, 1955

Main article: Culture of Suriname

Due to the mix of population groups, the Surinamese culture is very diverse.


Miscellaneous topics

Further reading

  • V.S. Naipaul, The Middle Passage; impressions of five societies: British, French and Dutch, in the West Indies and South America. London: Deutsch, 1962.
  • R.A.J. van Lier, Frontier society: a social analysis of the history of Surinam. Translated [from the Dutch] by M.J.L. van Yperen. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1971.
  • Henk E. Chin and Hans Buddingh, Suriname: Politics, Economics & Society. London [etc.]: Pinter, 1987.
  • Richard Price and Sally Price; with musical transcriptions by Kenneth M. Bilby, Two Evenings in Saramaka: Afro-American Tale-telling in the Surinam Rain Forest. Chicago, Ill., [etc.] : The University of Chicago Press, 1991.
  • Michel Szulc-Krzyzanowski (photography), Michiel van Kempen (text), Deep rooted words; ten storytellers and writers from Surinam (South America). English translation by Sam Garrett. Amsterdam: Voetnoot, 1992.
  • Mark Plotkin, Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice: an ethnobotanist searches for new medicines in the Amazon rain forest. New York: Viking Penguin, 1993.
  • Edward M. Dew, The trouble in Suriname, 1975-1993. Westport, C.T.: Praeger, 1994.
  • Roy Tjin and Els Schellekens, The Guide to Suriname. Amsterdam: Brasa Publishers, 1999.
  • Rosemarijn Hoefte and Peter Meel (eds.), Twentieth-century Suriname: continuities and discontinuities in a new world society. Kingston: Ian Randle/Leiden: KITLV Press, 2001.
  • Richard Price, First Time: The Historical Vision of an Afro-American People. 2nd. ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.
  • Laura Samsom Rous and Hans Samsom, Tree of forgetfulness / Boom der vergetelheid / L'arbre de l'oubli / A bon fu frigiti. Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2003.
  • Michiel van Kempen: Een geschiedenis van de Surinaamse literatuur. Breda: De Geus, 2003, (2 vols.).

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Tailor's shop, Paramaribo, 1955
Tailor's shop, Paramaribo, 1955

Maps of Suriname 6° N -55° E

Former Dutch colonies
Aruba (current) | Berbice | Brazil (part) | Cape Colony | Ceylon | Demerara | Deshima | Dutch East Indies | Dutch Guiana | Essequibo | Dutch West Indies or Netherlands Antilles (current) | Netherlands New Guinea | New Netherland (New Amsterdam, New Sweden) | New Zealand (part) | Smeerenburg | Taiwan | Tobago | Travancore | Virgin Islands (part)
See also: Dutch colonisation of the Americas | Dutch East India Company | Dutch West India Company | New Holland

Countries in South America
Argentina · Bolivia · Brazil · Chile · Colombia · Ecuador · Guyana · Panama · Paraguay · Peru · Suriname · Trinidad and Tobago · Uruguay · Venezuela

Dependencies: Falkland Islands (UK) · French Guiana · South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (UK)

Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
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Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas¹ | Barbados | Belize | Dominica | Grenada | Guyana | Haiti | Jamaica | Montserrat | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago
Associate members: Anguilla | Bermuda | Cayman Islands | British Virgin Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Observer status: Aruba | Colombia | Dominican Republic | Mexico | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Venezuela
¹ member of the community but not the Caribbean (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy.
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