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sunnuntai 2. lokakuuta 2016

Federated States of Micronesia, Cool Facts #148

<= 147. Marshall Islands                                                                                               149. Nauru =>

1. Geography of Federated States of Micronesia

There are three major cultural areas in the Pacific: 


Micronesia is the region where the Federated States of Micronesia. There are four major island groups in Micronesia: 

Caroline Islands (divided between Palau and Federated States of Micronesia)
Gilbert Islands (Republic of Kiribati) 
Mariana Islands (Northern Mariana Islands and Guam)
Marshall Islands 

The Federated States of Micronesia: 

- Occupies the eastern side of the Caroline Islands and Palau the western side. 
- Consists of 607 islands extending 2900km across the Caroline Islands
- Land area only 702 square kilometers but occupies more than 2,6 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean, giving the country the 14th largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world

The flag of Federated States of Micronesia: 

- The four stars in the flag represent the islands of Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap and Kosrae

FSM islands
Map of FSM
2. Independence of Federated States of Micronesia

In 1947 the former Japanese possessions in the Pacific Ocean were passed to USA as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The idea was that the trusteeship area would have become independent as one unified federation. The large distances, lack of economy, different cultures and languages worked against the idea of a union. In 1979 four of the Trust Territory districts ratified a new constitution to become the Federated States of Micronesia. 

The present-day Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands decided not to participate. In 1986 the Federated States of Micronesia became an independent state with free association with USA. Marshall Islands became independent in 1986 as well and Palau in 1994. All of the three countries are in free association with the United States, meaning that USA gives financial and defense aid to the countries. 

Raising the flag of FSM

3. Colonial Period in Federated States of Micronesia 

Spanish colony 
Spain started controlling the islands in the 1600s although the Portuguese were the first European visitors of the islands in the 1500s. Spain lost the Spanish-American War to USA in 1898 and lost Guam as a result of the defeat. One year later in 1899 Spain sold Micronesia and the rest of the Mariana Islands to Germany, which incorporated these areas to German New Guinea.

German colony
Imperial Germany established plantations in German New Guinea and tried to force people to work for them. When voluntary recruitment of laborers from China, Japan and Micronesia was explored, only a few hundred came. In 1914 Japan and Australia occupied the German colonies in the German New Guinea.

League of Nations Mandate Area
After the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany lost all of its colonial possessions. The German colonies north of the Equator became a Japanese mandate area. The areas south of the Equator became Australian mandate areas or split between Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.

United Nations Trust Territory
After the Second World War the former Japanese mandate islands were administered by USA as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, which was a United Nations trust territory.

Spanish East Indies
German New Guinea

4. Importance of USA

FSM doesn't have much economic activity, which primarily consists of subsistence farming and fishing. The islands don't have much natural resources except phosphate. The most important source of revenue comes from the US as financial assistance. Between 1986-2001 USA pledged to spend 1.3 Billion US dollars. 

The high dependence on US aid is one of the biggest concerns in Federated States of Micronesia. The long-term growth of the state doesn't look good because of the geographical isolation and poor infrastructure, which is the reason why tourism doesn't flourish in Federated States of Micronesia. 

Meaning of the free association for USA and Federated States of Micronesia (FSM):

- FSM gets to be a self-governing sovereign state
- USA is wholly responsible about the defense
- FSM citizens can join US military, immigrate and work in USA
- FSM often votes with USA in the United Nations General Assembly

The US airforce has dropped presents and humanitarian aid to the islands every Christmas since 1952.

5. Achromatopsia in Micronesia 

The atoll of Pingelap is famous for the extremely high prevalence of an extreme from of color blindness called Achromatopsia. About 5% of the island's 3000 inhabitants have chromatopsia, while the normal prevalence of the disorder is only 0,0033%. 

Also known as total color blindness. People afflicted with complete achromatopsia would see only black, white and shades of grey. The image becomes blurrier in brighter light and less blurry at lower lighting levels. 

The reason for the high prevalence
Around the year 1775 Typhoon Lengkieki struck Pingelap, which together with the ensuing famine left only about 20 survivors. One of the survivors was heterozygous for achromatopsia and he passed the gene to future generations. The population bottleneck caused by the catastrophe caused the high prevalence in the population as many people in the island became carriers of the gene, which causes achromatopsia only when the person gets the gene from both parents.

"The Island of the Colorblind" by Oliver Sacks
A book written by neurologist Oliver Sacks in 1997 about the unusual population of Pingelap with achromatopsia.


Over 4000 years ago the islands were settled from Southeast Asia
500s A flourishing kingdom emerged on the island of Pohnpei
900-1100 The Kingdom was at its peak during the rule of the Saudeleur Dynasty
1450s Chief Isokelekal from Kosrae island conquered Nan Madol, the capital of the Saudeleur Dynasty, and took the title of Nahnmwarki
1500s Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Yap island group was the center of the area
1600s Spain subordinated the islands under its control although the Portuguese were the first Europeans in the area in the 1500s when they searched the Spice Islands (Indonesia)
1887 The Spanish founded the town of Santiago de la Ascension, the current Kolonia, on the island of Pohnpei
1898 Spain lost the Spanish-American War to USA and lost Guam, which belonged to the Marianas island group
1899 Spain sold Micronesia and the rest of the Mariana islands to Germany, which incorporated the areas to German New Guinea
1910s During the World War I Japan captured the Micronesian islands and after the war, the League of Nations awarded a mandate for Japan to administer the islands as part of the South Pacific Mandate
1944 Operation Hailstone, one of the most important naval battles of the war in which many Japanese vessels and aircraft were destroyed
1947 After the war USA started administrating the islands
1979 Four of the Trust Territory districts ratified a new constitution to become the Federated States of Micronesia
1986 Federated States of Micronesia got independence
1990 Independence was formally concluded and at the same time the UN ended the country's Trusteeship status
1991 FSM became a UN member state

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