Micronesia, from the Greek mikros (μικρός) (meaning small) and nesos (νῆσος) (meaning island), is a subregion of Oceania, comprising hundreds of small islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines lie to the northwest, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Melanesia to the west and south, and Polynesia to the east.
Geography and history
The term "Micronesia" was first proposed to distinguish the region in 1831 by Jules Dumont d'Urville.
Politically, Micronesia is divided into eight nation-states and territories:
- Marshall Islands
- Federated States of Micronesia (sometimes referred to simply as "Micronesia", or abbreviated as "FSM")
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Wake Island
Much of the area was to come under European domination quite early. Guam, the Northern Marianas, and the Caroline Islands (what would later become the FSM and Palau) were colonized early by the Spanish. These island territories were part of the Spanish East Indies and governed from the Spanish Philippines since the early 17th century until 1898. Full European expansion did not come, however, until the early 20th century, when the area would be divided between:
- the United States, which took control of Guam following the Spanish-American War of 1898, and colonized Wake Island;
- Germany, which took Nauru and bought the Marshall, Caroline, and Northern Mariana Islands from Spain; and
- the British Empire, which took the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati).
During the First World War, Germany's Pacific island territories were taken from it and became League of Nations Mandates in 1923. Nauru became an Australian mandate, while Germany's other territories in Micronesia were given as a mandate to Japan and was named The South Pacific Mandate. This remained the situation until Japan's defeat in the Second World War, when its mandate became a United Nations Trusteeship ruled by the United States, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
Today, all of Micronesia (with the exceptions of Guam and Wake Island, which are U.S. territories, and the Northern Mariana Islands, which is a U.S. Commonwealth) are independent states.
The people today form many ethnicities, but are all descended from and belong to the Micronesian culture. The Micronesian culture was one of the last native cultures of the region to develop. It developed from a mixture of Melanesians, Filipinos and Polynesians. Because of this mixture of descent, many of the ethnicities of Micronesia feel closer to some groups in Melanesia, Polynesia or the Philippines. A good example of this are the Yapese who are related to Austronesian tribes in the Northern Philippines