Mariana Islands

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Mariana Islands
Map of the Mariana Islands (excluding Guam)
Map of the Mariana Islands (excluding Guam)
Waters Pacific Ocean
Geographical location 16 ° 8 ′  N , 145 ° 45 ′  E Coordinates: 16 ° 8 ′  N , 145 ° 45 ′  E
Map of Mariana Islands
Number of islands 17th
Main island Guam
Total land area 1026 km²
Residents 251.023

The Marianas , also Mariana Islands, are an archipelago in the West Pacific ( Oceania ), which are geographically assigned to the island region of Micronesia .

Geopolitically , the Marianas are divided into the two US American outlying areas of Guam and the Northern Marianas .


The arch of the Mariana Islands extends over a distance of about 800 km from the northernmost island Farallon de Pajaros to the southernmost island Cocos Island near Guam . Most of the islands are of volcanic origin. Some were created by corals . The Mariana Trench east of the islands has the deepest point in the world's oceans with a maximum depth of 11,034 m. Together with the Ogasawara and Izu Islands in the north, they form the system of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana Islands arch .

The most important islands of the Mariana Islands are:

island Area [km²] Residents (state)
Agrigan 00043.51 000.000 (evacuated in 1990, last 9)
Aguijan 00007.1 000.000 (uninhabited)
Alamagan 00013 000.007 (2005)
Anatahan 00033.9 000.000 (evacuated in 1990, last 23)
Asuncion 00007.9 000.000 (in 1695 the natives were deported, uninhabited)
Farallon de Medinilla 00000.845 000.000 (uninhabited)
Farallon de Pajaros 00002.3 000.000 (uninhabited)
Guam 00545 185,427 (April 2012)
Guguan 00003.87 000.000 (uninhabited)
Maug 00002.13 000.000 (in 1695 the natives were deported, uninhabited)
Pagan 00047.23 000.000 (evacuated in 1981, last 53)
rota 00085.39 003,283
Saipan 00115.38 040,220 (2010)
Sarigan 00004.5 000.000 (residents resettled from 1945, most recently 10–20 families)
Tinian 00101.01 003,540 (2000)


On March 6, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to discover the archipelago, formerly known as Ladrones ("Ladrones"), and his sailors called them Islas de Ladrones ("Thieves' Islands" because of thefts by islanders who had come on board). ).

The Spanish colonial rule of the Philippines rested on the connection to and from the east, specifically the Manila galleon route from Acapulco in New Spain ( Mexico ) to Manila. On this route, the islands about 2,000 kilometers east of the Philippine Archipelago are the closest landmass and were soon a natural and common stopover on the long journey across the Pacific to ingest fresh water and food.

Postage stamp from the Mariana Islands from the late Spanish colonial period, around 1898–99.
Commemorative coin to the time of the German occupation in 1899.
The Mariana Island of Pagan during the German colonial period, illustration by Rudolf Hellgrewe around 1900 .
75 Pfennig emergency note from 1922. The text laments the loss of the colonies on the Marianas and the Carolines after the Treaty of Versailles .

But Magellan had little good to say about the islands, he experienced the inhabitants as thieving, even a dinghy was stolen from him, which he recovered in a bloody punitive expedition; in short, he had nothing but trouble there and couldn't even take up fresh supplies. Disgusted, he left the islands after a short stay. His chronicler Antonio Pigafetta wrote: "Since the inhabitants of these islands were very skilled thieves, we gave these islands the name" Ladronen ", thief islands" (quoted from: Fernão de Magalhães. The first circumnavigation , based on contemporary sources by Dr. Hans Plischke , FA Brockhaus, Leipzig 1936).

Spanish war of conquest and hub of the Asian fleet

For the geographical reasons mentioned above, it was obvious for Madrid in the long term to incorporate the archipelago under Spanish rule in order to be able to better organize the sea connection from Manila to Mexico. In 1667, almost 150 years after Magellan's "discovery" of the Philippines, the "Islas de los Ladrones" were officially subordinated to the Spanish crown. In a protracted war of conquest from 1668 to 1696, the archipelago was conquered and proselytized against the bitter resistance of the population. Contemporary sources estimate the population before the war of conquest at up to 100,000 inhabitants, of which only about 5,000 survived. This population collapse is viewed by some historians as genocide , while others, such as B. Jesuit historians , as a result of the diseases introduced. Almost all of the surviving population was forcibly relocated to the island of Guam in order to keep it under direct Spanish control.

The Marianas became the hub of the Spanish Asian fleet with the Manila galleon . On Guam, the necessary infrastructure for supplying the galleons was expanded. For this purpose, a garrison was maintained on the island of Guam, which consisted of around 20 Spanish officers and NCOs, 110 Filipino troops, and a militia. Around 460 men from the population deported to Guam, who were selected by lot, had to serve in the militia. The cost of this garrison in the amount of 20,000 Pesos was financed as an annual real situado from the customs revenue of the Manila galleon collected in Acapulco.

Only the term “thief's islands” was no longer really suitable for a Spanish territory and for a more detailed description of the now subjects of the crown; a new name was needed. In the meantime, King Philip IV reigned in Spain, the islands could not be named after him, the Philippines already existed. His wife was Maria Anna of Austria , Archduchess of Austria, the daughter of Emperor Ferdinand III. , in Spanish she is called "Mariana de Austria". In her honor the Spaniards renamed the archipelago “Islas Marianas”, the name has been kept to this day.

With the end of Spanish colonial rule in South America , the trade in the Manila galleon also ended. The former hub of the lucrative silver trade with China became an insignificant outpost of Spanish East India , which was directly subordinate to Spain after the independence of New Spain. The maintenance costs previously borne by Acapulco had to be borne by Manila. However, the financial means were lacking for the technical renewal of the fleet and garrison. The militia service was retained, but only required a few hours per week. The stationed troops were mainly used as guards for the newly created Spanish penal colony.


Already at the beginning of the Spanish-American War , Spain lost almost its entire Pacific fleet to the technically superior US Asia Squadron in the battle of Manila Bay . The Marianas, who had not yet been informed of the war, were thus helplessly delivered to the US squadron. The Spanish governor of Guam, Juan Marina, surprised by the protected cruiser USS Charleston (C-2) , handed over the understaffed garrison and civil administration to Captain Henry Glass on June 21, 1898 without a fight. Finally, in the Peace of Paris in 1898 , Spain officially ceded Guam to the USA . Even before the peace treaty came into being, Spain sold the rest of the Marianas, together with the remaining Spanish colonies in the South Seas, to the German Empire in the German-Spanish Treaty on February 12, 1899 . From then on they were administered as part of the German New Guinea colony . The Marianas were thus divided between the German Empire and the USA, with the Germans taking over the northern Marianas and the Americans owning the island of Guam, which, with around four-fifths of the total population, was the political and economic center of the Spanish Marianas up until then.

Japanese mandate administration and US trustee territory

After the First World War , the Marianas, with the exception of the American Guams, were placed under Japanese control by the League of Nations . During World War II , the United States captured the islands in the Battle of the Mariana Islands . After the war, the area was placed under the control of the United States by the United States, which in 1978 granted them the status of a state associated with the United States ( Northern Mariana Islands ) except for Guam , which is under the direct control of the United States as a "dependent territory" and only a certain one has internal autonomy as it serves as an important military base for the United States.


The islands in the north of the Mariana Islands, from Farallon de Pajaros to Anatahan , are all partly active stratovolcanoes . The Zealandia Bank is an active, ascending volcano whose summit are located approximately at sea level. The Ahyi is a submarine volcano in the northern area of the island group, about 18 km south-east of the island of Farallon de Pajaros.


Based on archaeological finds, it is assumed that the Marianas were settled from the Philippines 4,000 years ago. Before the violent proselytizing and colonization, an estimated 100,000 people lived on almost all of the islands. The population called Chamorro by the Spaniards lived matrilinearly from farming near the coast and from extensive fishing. Unlike in colonial times, there was a constant exchange between the islands. Due to the almost complete extinction in the course of the Spanish colonization and the deportation of the few survivors, the Chamorro were denied their traditional way of life, so that their culture was largely destroyed by the colonization.

On the island of Saipan , the Spaniards settled with Carolinians in 1816, who for a long time formed the largest minority of the Marianas. In contrast to the Chamorro, they were able to retain parts of their culture. In the meantime, the Chamorro on the Mariana Islands have become a minority themselves through many waves of immigration and only make up a third of the population. The largest group are Filipinos . (As of 2020)

The four large islands in the south - Guam , Rota , Saipan and Tinian - are inhabited, the islands in the north of the island arc are mostly because of active volcanism , but uninhabited ( Alamagan island since 2009).


Since the most widespread language of the Marianas, Chamorro , does not belong to the Micronesian languages , the culture of the Marianas is sometimes referred to in older literature under the collective term " Melanesian culture".


NKK sugar factory, Saipan

The rail traffic in the Marianas played only until the end of the Second World War, a role for the transport of sugar cane and military supplies.


Stanislaus von Prowazek : The German Marianas (1913)
  • HR Spennemann: Aurora Australis. The German Period in the Mariana Islands 1899-1914 . Occasional Historical Papers Series. Vol. 5th NMI Division of Historic Preservation, Saipan 1999. ISBN 1-878453-36-X
  • Scott Russel: Tiempon Alemán. A Look Back at German Rule of the Northern Mariana Islands 1899–1914 . NMI Division of Historic Preservation, Saipan 1999. ISBN 1-878453-38-6
  • Francis X SJ Hezel: From Conquest to Colonization. Spain in the Mariana Islands 1690 to 1740 . NMI Division of Historic Preservation, Saipan 2000. ISBN 1-878453-46-7
  • Georg Fritz, Scott Russell: The Chamorro. A History and Ethnography of the Mariana Islands . Translated by Elfriede Craddock from ETHNOLOGICAL NOTE SHEET. Haack, Berlin 3.1904.3, 25-110. ISSN  0934-2478 , NMI Division of Historic Preservation, Saipan 1989.
  • Scott Russell: Tiempon, I Manmofo'na. Ancient Chamorro Culture and History of the Northern Mariana Islands . Micronesian Archeological Survey Report. 32. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Division of Historic Preservation, Saipan 1998. ISBN 1-878453-30-0
  • Gerd Hardach : German Imperialism in the South Seas. The Marianas 1899 to 1914. in: Wilfried Wagner (Hrsg.): Structural change in the Pacific region. Lectures at the annual conference of the Pacific working group from 9. – 11. September 1987 in Bremen . Übersee-Museum Bremen, Bremen 1988, pp. 269–299. ISBN 3-88299-049-X
  • Gerd Hardach: King Copra. The Mariana Islands under German rule 1899–1914. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 1990. 220 pp. (Articles on colonial and overseas history. Vol. 49)
  • Wilhelm Donko: Austria-Philippines 1521–1898 - Austrian-Filipino points of reference, relationships and encounters during the period of Spanish rule , Verlag GmbH, Berlin 2011 (352 pages) ISBN 978-384420853-5 (On the subject of Marianas: p. 59–67)
  • Erich Kaiser: Contributions to the petrography and geology of the German South Sea Islands. In: Yearbook of the Royal Prussian Geological State Institute and Bergakademie zu Berlin for the year 1903. Volume XXIV, Berlin 1907, pp. 114-120. pdf

Web links

Commons : Mariana Islands  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Johann Jakob Egli : Nomina geographica. Language and factual explanation of 42,000 geographical names of all regions of the world. , Friedrich Brandstetter, 2nd ed. Leipzig 1893, p. 582.
  2. ^ A b Diego Luis de Sanvitores: Mission in the Marianas: An Account of Father Diego Luis De Sanvitores and His Companions, 1669 - 1670 . Translated and commented by Ward J. Barrett. Univ. Of Minnesota Press, Minnesota 1975, ISBN 978-0-8166-7235-6 (Spanish: Noticia de los progressos de nuestra Santa Fe, en las Islas Marianas, llamadas antes de los ladrones, y de el fruto que han hecho en ellas el padre Diego Luis de Sanvitores, y sus compañeros, de la Compañia de Iesus, desde 15 mayo de 1669 hasta 28 de abril de 1670 sacada de las cartas, que ha escrito el padre Diego Luis de Sanvitores, y sus compañeros. Madrid 1671. OCLC 1078485349 ).
  3. a b c d e Gerd Hardach : King Kopra: The Marianas under German rule 1899–1914 . Steiner , Stuttgart 1990, ISBN 978-3-515-05762-2 , pp. 19-26 .
  4. ^ Francis X. Hezel SJ : From Conversion to Conquest: The Early Spanish Mission in the Marianas . In: The Journal of Pacific History . tape 17 , no. July 3 , 1982 (English, [1] [accessed July 11, 2020]).
  5. Jan-Martin Zollitsch: Guam as an archipelago? Introduction to Island Studies . In: APuZ . tape 32 - 33 , 2018 ( [accessed on July 11, 2020]).
  6. ^ The world factbook. AUSTRALIA - OCEANIA :: Northern Mariana Islands. Retrieved July 10, 2020 .
  7. ^ The world factbook. AUSTRALIA - OCEANIA :: Guam. Retrieved July 10, 2020 .