Marshall Islands

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Aolepān Aorōkin Ṃajeḷ (Marshallese)
Republic of the Marshall Islands (English)
Republic of the Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands flag
Seal of the Marshall Islands
flag seal
Slogan : Jepilpilin ke ejukaan (Marshallese)
(completion by co-operation)
Official language Marshallese and English
Capital Majuro
Form of government republic
Head of state , also head of government President David Kabua
surface 181.42 km²
population 53,127 (2017 estimate)
Population density 293 inhabitants per km²
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nominal)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
currency US dollar (USD)
independence October 21, 1986 (from the US )
National anthem Forever Marshall Islands
Time zone UTC + 12
License Plate MH
ISO 3166 MH , MHL, 584
Internet TLD .mh
Telephone code + 692
Japan Nördliche Marianen Palau Mikronesien Osttimor Indonesien Midwayinseln Hawaii Johnston-Atoll Wake Papua-Neuguinea Marshallinseln Nauru Kiribati Französisch-Polynesien Pitcairninseln Tokelau Cookinseln Salomonen Norfolkinsel Neuseeland Vanuatu Tuvalu Wallis und Futuna Tonga Niue Australien Samoa Amerikanisch-Samoa Fidschi Howlandinsel Bakerinsel Palmyra Kingmanriff Jarvisinsel Neukaledonien Japan Antarktika Russland Chile (Osterinsel) Vereinigte Staaten (Alaska) Kanada Mexiko Vereinigte Staaten Nordkorea Südkorea Volksrepublik China Republik China (Taiwan) Vietnam Laos Kambodscha Thailand Philippinen China Singapur Malaysia BruneiMarshall Islands on the globe (small islands magnified) (Polynesia centered) .svg
About this picture
Marshall Islands Map.png

Administrative map from 1897

The Republic of the Marshall Islands ( Marshallese Aolepān Aorōkin Ṃajeḷ ) is an island state in central Oceania . It includes the island group of the same name, which belongs to Micronesia . With 53,000 inhabitants on an area of ​​only 181 square kilometers, the Marshall Islands are one of the smallest states on earth. The republic, with Majuro as its capital, is linked to the United States by an association agreement . The official languages ​​are the Marshallese language and the English language . Until independence on October 21, 1986, the islands were a US-controlled UN trust territory . The more than a thousand islands protrude on average only two meters above sea level. Therefore, they are very vulnerable to sea ​​rise caused by climate change . The island nation also includes the Eniwetok Atoll and Bikini Atoll , which were used for nuclear weapon tests .


The Marshall Islands consist of two almost parallel chains of islands and atolls : the Ratak chain ( sunrise islands) with 14 atolls and two islands in the east and the Ralik chain ( sunset islands) with 15 atolls and three islands in the west.

The island chains together include around 1225 larger and smaller islands and 870 reefs, which extend over an area of ​​almost 2 million  km² in the central Pacific. The land area of ​​181 km² rises on average around 2 meters above sea level.

The climate is humid and warm to hot with a rainy season from May to November, with constant winds providing relief. The islands are occasionally hit by typhoons .

Two thirds of the population live on the islands of the Majuro Atoll and on Ebeye in the Kwajalein Atoll. The other islands are sparsely populated or uninhabited due to a lack of work and development opportunities.

The capital is the municipality (Local Government Council, formerly municipality) Majuro , which includes the atoll of the same name .


Approximately 92.1% of the population are Marshallers, 5.9% are Marshallers with mixed roots, and 2% are Other.

The fertility rate per woman was 3.03 children in 2017. In the same year, there were 24.4 births and 4.2 deaths for every 1,000 inhabitants. The average life expectancy at birth in 2017 was 73.4 years (women: 75.7 years, men: 71.2 years). The median age was 22.9 years. Population growth was 1.55 percent per year in 2017.

The country had one of the highest rates of obesity in the population. In 2016, 52.9% of the population was obese .


year population
1950 13.001
1960 14,662
1970 20,395
1980 30,576
1990 47,298
2000 52,159
2010 52,425
2017 53,127

Source: UN


The official languages ​​of the Marshall Islands are Marshallese, with the two dialects Ralik and Ratak , and English.


90 percent of the population belong to the Independent Protestant Church of the Marshall Islands, another 8.5 percent are Roman Catholic .


The Republic of the Marshall Islands operates the University of the South Pacific together with eleven other island states . 98.2% of the population can read and write (as of 2015). Majuro is home to the Alele Museum & Public Library , a museum and the only public library in the country.


Apart from the fact that they were probably settled from Micronesia in the 2nd millennium BC, little is known about the islands' early history. The Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar was the first European to visit the islands in 1526, and the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Saavedra reached them in 1529 . However, the Spaniards made no claims to the islands, so they went unnoticed by the Europeans for another two centuries until the English captain John Marshall visited them in 1788. The islands were later named after him. At the beginning of the 19th century it was first mapped by the German-Baltic explorer Otto von Kotzebue as an officer in the Russian Navy.

Missionaries established the first schools on the islands in the 1850s . As a result, German merchants planted coconut plantations to produce copra . After the German flag was hoisted on the island of Jaluit on October 15, 1885 as a sign of possession , the first Imperial Commissioner Wilhelm Knappe took over the sovereignty of the German Empire in 1886 . From 1894 to 1897 was Georg Irmer Governor of the Marshall Islands. In 1906 the islands officially became part of the German New Guinea colony .

The Imperial Japanese Navy occupied in World War I after the declaration of war of Japan to the German Reich on 23 August 1914 the undefended island group in September / October 1914 and immediately began, military bases to build and take over the management of the islands. After the war, Japan was officially entrusted with the administration of the islands by the League of Nations under the Japanese mandate of the South Seas . Japan used this as an opportunity to isolate the Marshall Islands - like all of their South Sea Mandate Islands - almost completely from the world in order to settle Japanese immigrants undisturbed, to further disenfranchise and exploit the local population and to expand the military presence. In the 1930s, the first airfields for the new air force of the Imperial Navy were created.

At the beginning of the Second World War , the Marshall Islands were important bases of Japan, especially since they were the easternmost possessions in the Pacific. From there, submarines and flying boats were used in the direction of the most important US main base in Hawaii , also in the sea ​​air battle near the Midway Islands . After the Japanese defeat there, the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1942 and 1943 repeatedly relocated larger warship formations to the Marshalls' lagoons and strengthened their defense with numerous soldiers, construction workers and the naval air force , as an American offensive against the archipelago was now to be expected. The atolls Mili, Jaluit, Arno, Wotje and Kwajalein were particularly well defended. Others like Majuro, Eniwetok, Bikini were hardly or not at all occupied.

After the first air raids from aircraft carriers in March 1942 - even with little effect - began on 31 January 1944, the US offensive with the landing strong naval forces under the protection of a large aircraft carrier fleet on the Kwajalein - Atoll , which because of the strategic good location in the archipelago and was conquered after a few days with the destruction of the entire Japanese occupation forces. The Japanese Navy did not intervene, and the regional air force was not reinforced, so that it quickly succumbed to the vastly superior US carrier power. The US armed forces then occupied numerous other islands, whereupon the Majuro atoll in particular was expanded into a very large naval base . Other heavily fortified islands such as Mili and Jaluit were only held down from the air and by ship bombardment, so that Japanese troops remained there until the end of the war.

After the war, the US asked the newly created UN to hand over the Marshall Islands to them as part of the United Nations trusteeship territory . On the one hand, the US military wanted to keep permanent bases there and, on the other hand, use remote islands for atomic bomb tests. After the resettlement of the local population, numerous atomic and hydrogen bomb tests were carried out on Bikini Atoll and Eniwetok from 1946 to 1958 , which caused severe damage to the islands themselves and their flora and fauna. The former residents try in vain to return to their home islands, which are still dangerously high in radioactivity .

Under the administration of the USA, the active and passive right to vote for women was guaranteed on May 1, 1979 and confirmed when independence was achieved in 1986.

In 1979 the Marshall Islands became formally independent as a republic . They signed an association agreement with the United States that came into force on October 21, 1986 and guaranteed continued US military presence for decades. According to international law, they did not achieve full formal independence until 1990, when the UN's protection mandate to the USA officially ended ( UN Trustee Council ).

The people of the Marshall Islands adopted much of the American way of life, not least because they had made themselves dependent on imports from the United States to food. The health of the population is said to have worsened, in particular so-called civilization diseases increased sharply due to obesity . High unemployment also contributed to the decline of the original way of life, as the population no longer wanted to go fishing . The main employers on the islands today are an artificially enlarged administration (especially on the heavily overpopulated Majuro Atoll) and the still existing US base on Kwajalein. However, many citizens are now employed as seafarers for foreign shipping companies and contribute to the livelihood of the population with their income. Due to financial hardship, fishing rights are being sold to Asian countries, especially China , so that the once very rich fish stocks have collapsed.

However, the greatest threat to the republic is rising sea levels. Since most of the atolls are only a few meters above sea level and there are no rock islands at all, there is a real risk that numerous atolls will be uninhabitable or even disappeared in the future.

The history of the Marshall Islands, beginning with the German colony, can be traced on postage stamps from the postal area, which includes the stamps and postmarks of Nauru . The modern editions of the Marshall Islands in particular depict scenes from the history of the island state.


The present Republic of the Marshall Islands has existed since 1990, the constitution dates from 1979 (last changes in 1990). Legislative bodies are the parliament (" Nitijeḷā ") with 33 members who are elected every four years, and the "Council of Iroij" with twelve members. Parliament elects the President, while the Council of Iroij deals with matters relating to the country, customs and traditions . If the cabinet is not trusted twice in a row, the president can dissolve parliament and call new elections. The head of state and government was Hilda Heine from January 2016 to January 2020 . Since January 2020 it's David Kabua . Legislation is reserved for parliament because states and provinces do not exist. However, each of the 24 inhabited islands and atolls has its own administration.

Since 1983 there has been a free association agreement with the USA, which is entrusted with defense policy.


general situation

Main street in the capital Majuro

In the 21st century, the gross domestic product grew by an average of 1% annually. This rather low growth is mainly due to downsizing in public administration , periods of drought, a drop in sales in the construction industry and a decline in tourism . Foreign investment also fell as a result of the financial crisis in Asia. Eventually, the income from the renewal of fishing licenses also decreased. In the 2007 edition of “Doing Business”, edited by the World Bank , the Marshall Islands are described as the “Best Performer” among the economic areas presented in terms of the prevailing legal framework and the low costs involved in hiring and firing employees. In terms of investment security and the ability to enforce contract rights, the Marshall Islands received an extremely poor rating in the same study. In the country ranking of the report from 2010 (database 2008), the Marshall Islands are in 98th place out of 183 countries listed in the weighted average of all criteria used.

On January 28, 2016, the EU Commission presented a package of measures to combat tax evasion , including the Marshall Islands on the black list of tax havens .

In 2007 the Marshall Islands joined the International Labor Organization . This means that labor law conditions that meet an international minimum standard also apply here.

The income tax is depending on the level of income 8% or 14%, the corporation amounts to 11.5%, the turnover to 6%. There is no property tax.

A pillar of the country's economy is support from the United States of America . Under the agreements of the voluntary alliance Compact of Free Association , the United States will provide US $ 57.7 million annually up to 2013 and US $ 62.7 million annually for the Marshall Islands from 2014 through 2023. Thereafter, an indefinite annual payment will come from a trust fund jointly established by the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site , better known as the Kwajalein Missile Range or Reagan Test Site, is a missile test station with missile launch systems on the Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands, among other places . The United States pays the Marshall Islands for this. A large number of local workers are also employed on the base.

National currency

The Marshall Islands formally have a dollar currency. However, only banknotes are in circulation, not specific currency coins. Coins with the Marshall dollar currency exist exclusively for the collector's market in the form of commemorative coins .

Maritime economy

The small country formally maintains the third largest merchant marine in the world. Ships with a total number of 90.3 million gross tons were registered in the Marshall Islands in 2019. The Marshall Islands are one of the most popular countries for flagging European shipowners out of a so-called offshore register. In addition to considerable tax advantages and relaxed labor regulations, the operators of cruise ships also benefit from free regulations for gambling in the ship's casinos .

Other branches of industry

The agricultural production focuses on small establishments where mainly coconuts , tomatoes , melons and breadfruit are grown.

Industrial companies are not represented on the Marshall Islands. Various craft businesses, fish processing businesses and copra extraction are widespread in the island nation. In 1999 a company for filleting tuna was established , employing more than 400 people, mostly women. However, the plant was closed again in 2005 after an unsuccessful attempt to switch production to tuna steaks - a production process that barely required half of the staff. As a result, the costs far exceeded the revenues. The efforts of the company's owners to obtain state participation also failed.

In tourism , one of the few foreign exchange revenue sources, the workers are employed less than 10%. The islands have few resources from which to generate exports, leaving a substantial net import .

The national airline is the Air Marshall Islands .

State budget

PP - Commemorative coin from the Marshall Islands for the first manned moon landing , Apollo 11 in 1969

The state budget made in 2006 about (about 40 million dollars spent) one third of the domestic product. In the same year, international aid reaching the country was approximately $ 69 million.

In 2006, the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was as follows:

  • Health : 14.4%
  • Education : 11.8% (2004)
  • Military : 0.0% (The Marshall Islands have no military, defense is the task of the USA .)


Atomic bomb tests

The Marshall Islands became known worldwide through numerous atomic bomb tests carried out by the USA from 1946 to 1958 on Bikini Atoll and Eniwetok. In 1966 the Americans released the islands as habitable again, but had to be evacuated again in the mid-1970s because the radiation exposure was too high. According to current knowledge, the area will not be habitable again until 2020 to 2040 at the earliest. In 2014, the Marshall Islands filed a lawsuit against the nuclear powers USA, Russia, Great Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea before the International Court of Justice . Great Britain, India and Pakistan accepted the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. In 2015 the people of the island state received the Right Livelihood Award for their commitment to the anti-nuclear movement .

The journalist Giff Johnson dealt with the consequences of the tests in his books. In Don't ever whisper: Darlene Keju, Pacific health pioneer, champion for nuclear survivors (2013), he sets a literary memorial to his wife, health activist Darlene Keju. She had publicized the health consequences of the experiments around the world and, above all, pointed out the numerous stillbirths and deformities in newborns.

Climate change

The Marshall Islands, along with other island states such as Fiji , Tuvalu , Kiribati and the Maldives, are among the regions of the world which, with the increase in extreme weather events and the worldwide rise in sea levels, are in some cases already more or less strongly affected by global climate change ; One of the main problems on site is the already inadequate drinking water supply due to the inadequate infrastructure and an additional crisis caused by salt water intrusion and salinizing wells .

In early 2013, the Marshall Islands appealed to the United Nations Security Council to recognize climate change as a threat to international security. In May 2013, Marshall Islands Secretary of State Phillip Muller published an appeal in the Washington Post describing the current emergency. In 2012, a sustained and season- independent drought began, resulting in water scarcity and infectious diseases . Since January 2013 drinking water has to be imported, which in the long run will exceed the financial resources. The rise in sea levels is already making itself felt. Therefore, the Marshall Islands would accelerate their switch to renewable energies such as solar energy and test promising technologies for the production of ocean energy . Since the majority of global CO 2 emissions come from other countries, he appealed to them to do more to protect the climate than before.


  • Ferdinand Karl, Hermann Mückler : Oases of the South Seas. The largest "smallest states" in the world. Eastern Micronesia: Marshall Islands, Gilbert Islands, Nauru . Weishaupt, Gnas 2002, ISBN 3-7059-0121-4 .
  • Steffen Raßloff : Wilhelm Knappe (1855-1910). Statesman and ethnologist in the focus of German world politics . Glaux, Jena 2005, ISBN 3-931743-86-1 .
  • Ellen Boneparth, M. James Wilkinson: Terminating Trusteeship for the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands: Independence and Self-Sufficiency in the Post-Cold War Pacific . In: Pacific Studies . tape 18 , no. 2 , 1995, p. 61-78 .
  • Friedrich Ruge: Decision in the Pacific. Rütten and Loening-Verlag, Hamburg 1951.
  • EB Potter, CW Nimitz, J. Rohwer: Sea power. Pawlak Verlag, Herrsching 1982, ISBN 3-88199-082-8 .
  • Manfred Pohl: Japan. Thienemanns Verlag, Stuttgart-Vienna 1986.
  • Fritz Kramer: Bikini. Atomic test area in the Pacific. Wagenbach, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-8031-2380-1 .
  • Joachim Schultz-Naumann: Under the emperor's flag. Universitas-Verlag, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-8004-1094-X .
  • Martin Mühlbauer: Marshall Islands . In: W. Kreisel (Ed.): Mythos Südsee. Country profiles of Oceania on economy and society . Merus, Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-939519-29-4 , pp. 74-81 .
  • Carmen CH Petrosian-Husa: Traditional Plaiting Techniques in the Marshall Islands, (traditional plaiting techniques on the Marshall Islands) . In: Historic Preservation Office Majuro, Marshall Islands (Ed.): Alele Report . Majuro, Marshall Islands 2005 ( download ).
  • Peter Rudiak-Gould: Climate Change and Accusation: Global Warming and Local Blame in a Small Island State. In: Current Anthropology 55.4 (2014) 365-386.
  • Peter Rudiak-Gould: Climate Change and Tradition in a Small Island State: The Rising Tide. Routledge / Taylor & Francis, New York & London 2013, ISBN 978-0-415-83249-6 . ( Table of contents )
  • Hermann Mückler : The Marshall Islands and Nauru in German colonial times. South Sea islanders, traders and colonial officials in old photographs. Frank & Timme, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-7329-0285-9 .

Web links

Commons : Marshall Islands  - Collection of pictures, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: Marshall Islands  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations
Wikimedia Atlas: Marshall Islands  - geographical and historical maps
Wikisource: Colonialism  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. UN Statistics Division, World Statistics Pocketbook 2015, p. 125 ( Memento from January 1, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Geography ( Memento of April 24, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on March 28, 2011.
  4. a b c d Australia-Oceania :: Marshall Islands. In: The World Factbook . CIA , accessed September 20, 2010 .
  5. World Population Prospects - Population Division - United Nations. Retrieved July 2, 2018 .
  6. Bauernfeind, Ingo: Radioactive to all eternity - The fate of the Prinz Eugen . ES Mittler & Sohn, Hamburg / Berlin / Bonn 2011, ISBN 978-3-8132-0928-0 , p. 99 f .
  7. - New Parline: the IPU's Open Data Platform (beta). In: May 1, 1979, accessed October 5, 2018 .
  8. ^ Mart Martin: The Almanac of Women and Minorities in World Politics. Westview Press Boulder, Colorado, 2000, p. 252.
  9. ^ Marshall Islands Postage Stamps 1984-Today. In: Marshall Island Stamp Catalog. Retrieved September 20, 2010 .
  10. ^ Stanley, David: Micronesia Handbook; Publisher Gisela E. Walther; 1987; P. 75ff.
  11. ^ Doing Business 2007: How to Reform. (PDF) Who regulates employment the least — and who the most? World Bank , 2006, p. 19 , accessed on September 20, 2010 (English, page 19 corresponds to page 25 in the PDF ).
  12. ^ Doing Business 2010: Reforming through difficult times. (PDF) Rankings on the ease of doing business. World Bank , 2009, p. 4 , accessed on September 20, 2010 (English, page 4 corresponds to page 16 in the PDF ).
  13. Trend: EU wants new black list of tax havens.
  14. ^ Republic of the Marshall Islands becomes 181st ILO member state. International Labor Organization , June 16, 2007, archived from the original on July 24, 2008 ; Retrieved September 20, 2010 (English, also available in French and Spanish ).
  15. Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003. (PDF) December 17, 2003, archived from the original on October 26, 2007 ; accessed on September 20, 2010 (English).
  16. Gambling on the high seas: cruise ships with impressive on-board casinos. Retrieved May 2, 2019 .
  17. ↑ Flags of convenience are increasingly endangering global trade. October 25, 2018, accessed on May 2, 2019 (German).
  18. ^ Marshall Islands. In: Michael Dieckmann, February 6, 2006, accessed September 20, 2010 .
  19. Economy. In: Martin Mühlbauer, archived from the original on August 17, 2009 ; Retrieved September 20, 2010 .
  20. The Fischer World Almanac 2010: Figures Data Facts . Fischer, Frankfurt 2009, ISBN 978-3-596-72910-4 .
  21. ^ US Nuclear Testing Program in the Marshall Islands. US Nuclear Detonationes in the Marshall Islands. Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal, archived from the original on July 14, 2011 ; accessed on September 20, 2010 (English).
  22. ^ Marshall Islands are suing nuclear powers.; Pacific dwarf wants to force nuclear powers to disarm., accessed April 28, 2014
  23. ^ Tiny Pacific Island and Nuclear Test Site Sues Nations for Failing on Nuclear Disarmament.; The Nuclear Zero Lawsuits: Taking Nuclear Weapons to Court., accessed April 25, 2014
  24. ICJ case docket. accessed on May 11, 2015
  25. ^ The Marshall Islands' Nuclear Zero Cases in the International Court of Justice - Background and Current Status.; pdf ( Memento from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on October 5, 2015
  26. Alternative Nobel Prize under the Sign of the Anti-Atomic Movement ( Memento of the original from October 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice., accessed on October 2, 2015 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  27. Fiji relocating villages - How climate change is eating away at home . In: Deutschlandfunk Kultur . ( [accessed on November 3, 2017]).
  28. Wolfgang Roth: South Sea Islands go under first. In: Sü , May 17, 2010. Accessed December 30, 2013.
  29. Climate change: Distress of the Marshall Islands. Retrieved November 3, 2017 .
  30. Climate change should be classified as a security threat. In: Handelsblatt , February 16, 2013. Accessed December 30, 2013.
  31. ^ Phillip Muller: Pacific islands' deadly threat from climate change. In: The Washington Post , May 31, 2013. Retrieved December 30, 2013.

Coordinates: 7 °  N , 171 °  E