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Sumatra is not very densely populated (more than 50 million inhabitants (2017) in an area the size of Germany. The most densely populated regions are most of North Sumatra and the central highlands of West Sumatra. The largest urban centres are Medan and Palembang. The population is largely Malay, the highlands of North Sumatra are inhabited by the Batak and the northernmost coast by Acehnese. Minorities of ethnic Chinese are also found in the urban centres.


The predominant language is Malay, with about 52 different languages. However, many of the groups now share certain traditions and the languages are closely related to each other (although usually not mutually intelligible). Malay-speaking peoples dominate the east coast of Sumatra, while the west coast is mainly dominated by peoples with Malay-related languages such as Lampung and Minangkabau.


The majority of Sumatran people are Muslim. The Batak are generally Protestant Christians, mainly due to Dutch and German influence. A minority of the population is Hindu, Buddhist or Catholic.



CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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