In the South Pacific, just south of the Marshall Islands, sits the land which holds the honor of being the world’s smallest island nation, covering just 21 square kilometers of land (8.1 square miles). This is Nauru. Since 1968, when it achieved independence from UN trusteeship, Nauru has also held the title of “world’s smallest independent republic.” Impressive diversity thrives here – 42% of Nauru’s more than 13,000 residents are not indigenous Nauruans. Instead, they hail from China, from Europe, from neighboring Pacific Islands and from Australia.
Nauru was occupied by Australian forces in World War I. After the Second World War – and a brutal occupation by Japan – Nauru became a United Nations trust territory.
Phosphate mining has brought the world to Nauru’s doorstep—in ways both enriching and depleting. Nauru, already inhabited by Micronesians and Polynesians for over 3,000 years, was annexed by Germany in 1888. Early in the 20th century a German-British consortium began mining the island’s valuable phosphate deposits. Nauru’s inhabitants are crowded alongside the phosphate-processing facilities and the port, mainly in the southwest corner of the island. Virtually no land is used for agriculture, and the landscape has been devastated by phosphate mining. Its reserves are almost completely exhausted.
The government hopes to restore the land – once known as “Pleasant Island” – to its former beauty by cultivating vegetation and establishing recreation areas.
The people of Nauru speak both Nauruan, a language unlike any other in the Pacific, and English. The Bible was first translated into Nauruan in 1918. Nearly 100% of the population today claims Christian affiliation. All indigenous Nauruans belong to a group or clan determined by matrilineal ties. This lasts the lifetime of the individual and is not altered by marriage.