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Federated States of Micronesia

After World War II, all Caroline Islands became part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands and administered by the United States on 18 July 1947.

In July 1978, the Trust Territory "states" of Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk, Yap, Marshall Islands and Palau voted on a joint constitution. However, the Marshall Islands and Palau withdrew due to a majority vote against it. They would eventually become independent countries. On 10 May 1979, the new constitution came into force and from then on the remaining states were called the Federated States of Micronesia.

On Reahse in 1982, the Federated States of Micronesia signed a 15-year contract, the Compact of Free Association, with the United States. This meant that the Federation would receive an annual sum of money in exchange for exclusive presence of the US military in the area. The Compact was officially launched on 3 November 1986 and at the same time the trusteeship of the United States ended.

In 1991, the Federation joined the United Nations. Despite the agreement with the United States, the presence of US troops remained very limited, especially with the end of the Cold War. In 1999, negotiations for a new term began. It is uncertain whether the United States wants to continue now that the Cold War has ended.

The federation of Micronesia has been led by President Peter Christian since May 2015. In May 2019, he will be succeeded by David Panuelo. The next elections are scheduled for 1923.


Kosrae once had the most orderly society in Micronesia. Around 1400, Kosrae was united under the chief of Tokosra, who governed Kosrae from the island of Lelu. In fact, a handful of chiefs owned the land, some lower chiefs ran the daily affairs and the ordinary people did the physical work. There was also a loan system whereby each group paid a certain percentage of the revenue to a higher group. The common people lived on the main island, then called Ualang, the higher class lived on Lelu, Pisin, Yenyen and Yenasr. There are indications that Kosrae was an important power in this region at that time. Pohnpei and Chuuk are said to have been under the rule of Kosrae. So far, no evidence for this has been found.

Kosrae was first sighted by Europeans in 1801 and was known as Strong's Island, after the then governor of the state of Massachusetts, USA. It was not until 1824 that the first Western ship sailed into port, the French ship Coquille under Captain Louis Duperrey, and maintained friendly relations with the unarmed local population. Duperrey and his crew stayed for about 10 days. In 1827, the Russian ship Senyavin, with captain Fedor Lutke, also moored without any problems. Whalers and traders visited Kosrae from the early 1930s onwards.

Not all confrontations between Westerners and locals were peaceful. In 1835, only two of the crews of two ships remained alive in revenge for having fooled around with two local women without the consent of the men. Under the reign of Chief Awane Lapalik I, it became safe again for Westerners. Until about 1865, dozens of whalers visited Kosrae every year. From 1852, Kosrae was visited by missionaries, including from Hawaii. Meanwhile all sorts of diseases brought by the whites plagued Kosrae. Around 1880 there were only about 300 people left in Kosrae.

By this time all the people of Kosrae had been converted to Christianity. These conversions had a deep impact on the lives of the people, as almost all traditional songs, dances, myths, etc. fell into oblivion. Also, the matrilineal society (according to a kinship, where the descent through the female line is decisive) changed to a western patrilineal system (= according to a kinship, where the descent through the male line is decisive).

From 1870 onwards, many merchant ships arrived. One of the most notorious traders and swindlers was "Bully Hayes", who, in addition to opium from China, also traded in copra and coconut oil. In 1914, the Japanese took over the islands and occupied three of the four villages on the coast. The villagers were forced to move inland. The Japanese developed agriculture, forestry, fishing and copra production, things that served them well in the Second World War, including as food for the 7,000 Japanese who were then on the island. There was never an invasion on Kosrae by the Allies. After the war, the United States took over and established the Trust Territory, after which Kosrae became part of the Pohnpei district. For three decades, Kosrae played a modest role in the development of the two islands; everything was concentrated on Pohnpei. In 1977, Kosrae became a separate "state" within the Trust Territory and later an independent state within the Federation of Micronesia. Kosrae now had more money at its disposal. Another reason was that Kosrae and Pohnpei never felt like a political unit.


As far as is known today, Pohnpei was already inhabited by the Saudis around 200 AD. It was a people with tyrannical kings who ruled from Nan-Madol, an extensive city with stone forts and temples. In the 13th century, this dynasty was at the height of its power. After the fall of the Saudeleurs, Pohnpei was divided into districts with two noble families in each district. The oldest male person of the highest ranking family became the nah-nmwarki. The head of the other noble family was called nahnken. Isokelekel became the leader of the Madolenihmw region, the main district that included Nan-Madol.

By 1820, Pohnpei was divided into five districts: Madolenihmw, Uh, Kitti, Sokehs and Nett. This division still exists, only the capital Kolonia has been added. Each district still has its nah-nmwarki and nahnken. In 1528 the Spaniard Alvaro de Saavedra was the first European to see Pohnpei. It was not until 1595 that Pohnpei was claimed for Spain by Pedro Fernandez de Quirós. Like most Caroline Islands, Pohnpei was then virtually ignored by the Spanish, who concentrated more on the Mariana Islands. In 1828, the Russian Fedor Lutke named the island together with the atolls Ant and Pakin the "Senyavin Islands".

Whalers, traders and Protestant missionaries arrived in Pohnpei from around 1850 onwards. In 1855 and 1856 more than fifty whalers moored in the lagoon of the island. During this time Pohnpei was known as Ascension Island. As on all islands in Micronesia, European diseases took their toll on Pohnpei. A smallpox epidemic in 1854 killed between 2 and 3,000 Pohnpei residents. The indigenous population dropped from around 10,000 in the early 19th century to around 5,000 by the end of the century. In 1870, the chiefs of the islands were forced to sign an agreement with the Americans that allowed foreigners to buy land without much difficulty. The capital Kolonia at that time was called Jamestown.

From 1886, Pohnpei was occupied by the Spanish after the Pope decided in an international arbitration case that Spain could rule the Caroline Islands. However, after only three months, the first Spanish governor was killed following a revolt against the building of a Spanish fort in Kolonia. The Spanish occupation was constantly characterised by riots and revolts, among others after an attempt to convert the heavily Protestant population to Catholicism.

The Germans arrived in 1899 after having bought the Caroline Islands from the Spanish. They were mainly interested in the production of copra and other commercial products. The population was more or less forced to work for the Germans. In 1910-1911, the Sokehs rebellion broke out after a man from Pohnpei was beaten by a German overseer. The Pohnpeians murdered the overseer and the rebellion was a fact. The Germans, however, took revenge and together with Melanesian troops blocked the port of Kolonia and crushed the rebellion. Seventeen rebel leaders were executed and thrown into a mass grave. As a precaution, 426 Pohnpeians were exiled to Palau, while people from other islands had to move to Pohnpei.

The Japanese took over Pohnpei from the Germans in 1914. Like elsewhere in Micronesia, Pohnpei became a place of increased commercial and agricultural development. At the beginning of the Second World War, there were 14,000 Japanese and Koreans and only about 5,000 indigenous people. Although Japanese military fortifications were bombed by the Americans and Kolonia was almost completely razed to the ground, Pohnpei never suffered an Allied invasion.


Legend has it that around the 14th century, the great leader of Chuuk, Sowa Kachaw, landed on Chuuk in a canoe together with his son Sowooniiras. Where they came from is a mystery, but the most obvious is Kosrae as many legends have connections with Kosrae. They introduced new types of breadfruit trees and methods of preserving fruit for longer, obviously important to the island's food supply. With the arrival of Sowukachaw, clan formation and a social ranking system also emerged.

The first Europeans to see Chuuk lagoon were Spaniards led by Alonso de Arellano in 1565. They were received with great hostility by the local population and had to flee. It was not until 1814 that Europeans, the Spaniard Manuel Dublon, landed there again. The Germans bought Chuuk from the Spanish in 1899 and further developed copra production and had their headquarters on Dublon Island. In 1914 Chuuk was occupied by the Japanese who immediately began to build bases on Dublon Island.

During World War II, the Chuuk lagoon was the main military base of the Central Pacific Japanese Imperial Fleet. The Japanese believed that the lagoon was unconquerable and it was called the "Gibraltar of the Pacific". For a waterborne invasion it was indeed well defended, but from the air the Japanese were like rats in a trap. On 17 and 18 February 1944 (Operation Hailstone), the Japanese fleet was bombed and some 60 warships sank to the bottom of the ocean. However, there would never be an invasion on Chuuk. When the military entered Chuuk, there were still 30,000 Japanese on Dublon who would not leave the island. The American headquarters were then established on the island of Weno.

After a change in the constitution in 1989, the name officially became Chuuk, although many still refer to it as Truk if they do not speak the native language.


Pottery and other archaeological finds on Map Island date the first inhabitants of Yap to around 200 AD. The inhabitants of Yap once ruled over a vast empire that included both the Mariana Islands and Chuuk. Yap's empire was based more on magic than conquest. The high bosses of Yap Proper employed magicians who could bring about famine, disease and typhoons. The highly superstitious islanders of the other islands donated annual tributes to enforce favours.

The first contact with Europeans dates from 1526 when the Portuguese explorer Dioga da Rocha landed on Ulithi. Over the next 300 years, the rest of the islands of Yap were "discovered". The first attempts to colonise Yap were few and far between. In 1731 a Jesuit mission was established at Ulithi. When a supply ship passed by in 1732, the 13 missionaries were murdered by the islanders. It would be another 100 years or so before Europeans would regularly visit Yap again. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 19th century, the Frenchman Dumont d'Urville found people who spoke Spanish reasonably well. One suspects that this was due to the island trade where many Spaniards had already settled. Around 1830, two Spanish ships were attacked and their crews killed.

It was not until around 1860 that normal trade between the westerners and the inhabitants of Yap could be resumed. The Germans opened the first permanent trading post in 1869. In 1885, the Germans tried to annex Yap although the Spanish had long claimed it. Thereafter, a permanent garrison was established by the Spanish at Yap. In 1899, after the Spanish-American War, Spain sold Yap to Germany, which was only commercially interested in Yap. The inhabitants of Yap were more or less forced to work in the mines and on the plantations. In 1914, the outbreak of World War I forced the Germans to withdraw from the islands.

After a change in the constitution in 1989, the name officially became Chuuk, although many still refer to it as Truk if they do not speak the native language.

At that point, the Japanese took control of Yap. Concerns about the trans-pacific cable station between the United States and Shanghai led the United States to first seek guarantees of unrestricted access to Yap. Only then would they sign Japan's League of Nations mandate over Yap. This agreement between the United States and Japan was signed in 1921. After this, the Japanese began to emigrate to Yap on a large scale, establishing shops, farms and a number of naval industries. Although there were not as many Japanese as on other islands in Micronesia, they still outnumbered the indigenous inhabitants of Yap.

As World War II approached, the Japanese were forced to build airfields and military fortifications. During the Second World War, the Americans decided not to invade Yap Proper by sea, but to bombard it from the air. The Ulithi atoll was conquered and developed into an important support base for the Allies in 1944. Most of Micronesia is independent, except for Guam and Wake Island (United States) and the Northern Mariana Islands (British Commonwealth).


Galbraith, K. / Micronesia Lonely Planet

Levy, N.M. / Micronesia handbook Moon

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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