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Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga (Tongan)
Kingdom of Tonga (English)
Kingdom of Tonga
Flag of Tonga
Coat of arms of Tonga
flag coat of arms
Motto : Ko e ʻOtua mo Tonga ko hoku tofiʻà
(Tongan for God and Tonga are my heritage )
official language Tongan and English
capital city Nukuʻalofa
form of government and government parliamentary monarchy
head of state King
Tupou VI
head of government Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni
surface 747 km²
population 104,000 ( 181st ) (2019; estimate)
population density 143 inhabitants per km²
population development + 1.2% (estimate for 2019)
gross domestic product
  • total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP/pop. (nom.)
  • GDP/pop. (PPP)
Human Development Index 0.725 ( 104th ) (2019)
currency Pa'anga (TOP)
founding June 4, 1970
national anthem Ko e fasiʻo e tuʻiʻo eʻOtu Tonga
time zone UTC+13
License Plate VOLUME
ISO 3166 TO , TON, 776
Internet TLD .to
telephone area code +676
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The Kingdom of Tonga ( Tongan Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga , English Kingdom of Tonga ) is an island country in the South Pacific that belongs to Polynesia . The archipelago used to be called the Friendship Islands. The inhabitants of Tonga are called Tongans .



The islands of Nuku and Fukave

Tonga consists of 172 named islands in the Pacific with an area of ​​747 km². 36 of them are inhabited, these make up a total area of ​​649 km². They are east of Fiji , south of Samoa and north of New Zealand .

Due to an initially submarine volcanic eruption at the end of 2014/beginning of 2015, a 177th island was added between Hunga Tonga and Hunga Haʻapai , which in mid-January had reached a size of two kilometers long, one kilometer wide and 100 m high.

In a proclamation on August 24, 1887, King George Tupou I determined that Tonga lies between 15° and 23.5° south latitude and 173° and 177° west longitude (but still west of the date line, which bulges east here ).

On June 15, 1972, King Taufaʻahau Tupou IV determined that the North and South Minerva Reefs (Teleki Tokelau and Teleki Tonga) and all areas within a radius of twelve nautical miles also belong to Tonga's sovereignty . Both reefs are located at about 23° 39′ S latitude and 179° W longitude southwest of the island of ʻAta in southern Tonga .

Tonga, with its many volcanic islands , is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire . To the east of Tonga lies the Tonga Trench , which is up to 10,882 m deep . Here, the Pacific Plate is dipping westward under the Australian Plate at 15 to 24 cm per year, forming a subduction zone . The average water depth is therefore only around 500 m, which is why flat coral islands like Tongatapu can develop here. The volcanic islands to the west are more mountainous and rise farther out of the sea. The highest point of Tonga is over 1000 m on the small island of Kao . The country's capital and largest city is Nukuʻalofa .

natural disasters

On February 13, 2010, Tonga was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake . Just two days later, cyclone René hit the island state with wind speeds of up to 228 km/h.

On January 11, 2014, cyclone "Ian" (stage 5) was the most severe in history, with wind speeds of up to 200 km/h (gusts of up to 287 km/h) causing severe damage to Tonga. According to the army chief, the archipelago of Ha'apai and its main island, Lifuka , were particularly hard hit . In the World Risk Report 2021, Tonga ranks third among the countries with the highest risk of an extreme natural hazard becoming a disaster.

Intermittently active from December 2021, the Hunga Tonga -Hunga-Ha'apai submarine volcano erupted again on January 14, 2022, causing a tsunami.


There are flying foxes on Tonga . They fly foraging at dusk, but unlike bats , they do so without echolocation . They feed exclusively vegetarian on nectar , pollen , fruits and blossoms .

administrative division

Tonga is divided at the highest level into five administrative units ( divisions , ngaahi vahe , singular vahe , or houʻeiki kōvana , singular ʻeiki kōvana , or kōvana for short ) administered by governors ( governors ).


Informal Tongan Faikava

Tonga has around 104,000 inhabitants (as of 2019), 98% of whom are Polynesians . The remaining inhabitants are mostly Europeans or Chinese and Indians . A large proportion of Tongan citizens live abroad permanently, primarily in Australia , New Zealand and the United States .

The average life expectancy is 69.5 years. Infant mortality is 12.6 (per 1000).

Tonga has one of the highest obesity rates in the world relative to population. World Health Organization data released in 2014 shows that Tonga ranks 5th in terms of countries ranked by mean body mass index data . It can be assumed that up to 40% of the population suffer from type 2 diabetes . One of the main causes is the increased consumption of imported goods with high fat and sugar content, such as cheap lamb belly fat (mutton flaps). It is imported from New Zealand and is not considered for sale there. Since July 1, 2020, there has been a ban on the import of mutton flaps from New Zealand on the grounds that they play a major role in the rising obesity population.

population development

year population
1950 47,000
1960 62,000
1970 84,000
1980 93,000
1990 95,000
2000 98,000
2010 104,000
2019 104,000

Source: UN


The Tongan language belongs to the Polynesian languages , a branch of the Austronesian languages .


Church building in Tonga

The majority of Tongans are members of a Christian church or community. The predominant denomination (as of 2011) is the Wesleyan Church of Tonga (35.5%), otherwise including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (18%), Roman Catholic Church (15%), the Free Church of Tonga (11.5%) and the Church of Tonga (6.7%).


Tonga, along with eleven other island nations, operates the University of the South Pacific .

Tonga has a well-resourced educational system that allows free access to education. Schooling is compulsory for all children up to the age of twelve , the fees for secondary schools are low and there are grants for further education abroad. The literacy rate is 98%, university degrees are common.


There are archaeological opinions that the first settlers from the Santa Cruz Islands came about 3000 B.C. came to Tonga via Micronesia at the beginning of the migration of peoples from Southeast Asia . The oldest finds of this Lapita culture so far were uncovered in Tonga in the form of the characteristic ceramic objects, which date back to 800 to 750 BC. be dated. Members of this culture lived, sailed, traded, fought and intermarried between the islands that are now part of Samoa, Fiji or even Tonga for about a thousand years before further explorers and eventually settlers to the Marquesas and Tahiti and then to other islands of the South Pacific set out. For this reason, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji are considered by anthropologists to be the cradle of Polynesian culture .

By the 12th century, the Tongans and their chief chief, the Tuʻi Tonga , were known throughout the Pacific from Niue to Tikopia . Some historians speak of a Tongan empire , the description as a network of seafarers, chiefs and adventurers probably describes the situation better. Tribal feuds broke out again and again in the 15th century and then in the 17th century. This is when first contacts with Europeans occurred: in 1616 with the Dutch explorers Willem Schouten and Jakob Le Maire , who shot a Tongan man off Niuatoputapu on their first contact, in 1643 with Abel Tasman (who did some trading with the locals), later around 1773, but above all with James Cook , who subsequently visited the islands two more times (1774 and 1777). In 1781 Francisco Maurelle reached Vavaʻu. The first missionaries followed twenty years later, and the Methodist Walter Lawry was to play an important role, but he only came to Tonga in 1822.

The Tongan tribal feuds in all islands from 1799 to 1852 ended with the unification of Tonga under Siaosi Taufaʻahau Tupou. He united all the islands of Tonga in 1845 to form the oldest Polynesian kingdom. Siaosi Taufaʻahau Tupou's wife was of the Tuʻi Kanakopulu royal line . He later had himself baptized King George Tupou I in the course of Christianization . In 1875 Tonga became a constitutional monarchy with the help of missionary Shirley Waldemar Baker . In November 1876, Tonga signed a peace treaty with the German Reich which, among other things, made the ports of the other country available to warships of both countries. English policy saw it as a step towards making Tonga a colony.

In the 1899 Treaty of Samoa , the German Empire renounced all rights to Tonga and on 18 May 1900 the islands became a British protectorate . It gained its independence on June 4, 1970. Tonga is a member of the Commonwealth in its own right and has also been a member of the United Nations since 1999 . To date, it is the only (parliamentary) hereditary monarchy in the entire Polynesian Pacific region.


Tonga is a parliamentary monarchy , in which the constitution gives the king greater powers than, for example, the monarch of the Netherlands . Respect for royal rule is largely unchanged from that of past centuries, when it was held towards the supreme chief Tuʻi Tonga, who was considered sacred. Criticism of the monarchy is dismissed as untongan and downright impolite. King Taufaʻahau Tupou IV , a direct descendant of the first king, lived in relative wealth with his family, some influential nobles, as well as the growing non-noble elite until his death on September 10, 2006. However, the rest of the population is comparatively poor. The effects of this inequality are mitigated by three factors: education, medical care and land ownership.

The state grants free access to medical care. The constitution prohibits foreigners from acquiring land (although they can lease some). There is a land shortage on the more densely populated main island of Tongatapu, but farmland is mostly vacant on the remaining islands. The majority of the population produces food for their own use. About half of them produce their basic foodstuffs themselves through farming, fishing and animal husbandry. Women and men have equal access to education and medical care, and the number of jobs is almost the same. However, women are disadvantaged when it comes to owning land, since only men are legally entitled to it. Only one woman was represented in Parliament.

Following the example of his mother, Queen Salote, and the advice of foreign advisors, the government of King Taufaʻahau Tupou IV monetized the economy , brought medical care and the education system up to international standards, and gave the population access to material wealth (in the form of housing, cars and other goods), education and trips abroad. The government supports Olympic and other sporting events and has provided soldiers for UN peacekeeping missions (most notably in Bougainville ).

Political system

The National Parliament ( Fale Alea ) has 26 MPs, 17 of whom are elected by the people and 9 by the nobility (the last election was held in 2017). The legislative period lasts three years. Among other things, the parliament appoints the prime minister.

In 1960, while still under British administration, active and passive women's suffrage was introduced. These rights were confirmed upon gaining independence in 1970.


There is a democratic movement in Tonga that advocates reform of the existing system, in particular better representation of ordinary people and greater transparency in the state system. Abolishing the monarchy is not one of their goals. The monarchy itself enjoys great popular support, even if reforms are called for. Until recently, the fact that Tonga is not a democracy has been ignored by foreign leaders, but there are signs of a change of course, or at least criticism of some government actions, notably from Australia and New Zealand , the largest neighbors and donor countries.

Hard-line politics overshadows the otherwise positive life's work of Tupou IV and the positive reforms of his popular son Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka 'Ata, who was Prime Minister from January 3, 2000 to February 11, 2006. Overall, these measures have weakened community and cohesion, but also increased pressure on the monarchy to give more space to democratic elements.

In 2005, the government negotiated with striking public sector workers for weeks before reaching an agreement. The riots that followed were not limited to Tonga; protests in front of the king's New Zealand residence also made headlines. A commission was set up to examine proposals for amendments to the constitution.

Burned out Chinese restaurant in Nukuʻalofa, November 17, 2006

On November 16, 2006, riots broke out in the capital, Nukuʻalofa, which left six dead and burned down the main commercial street containing several government buildings and almost all of the city's shops. The reason for this was the demand by the democracy movement for a more democratic composition of parliament, which the cabinet, most of which was appointed by the king, did not want to implement. The arson attacks primarily targeted Indian and Chinese tradesmen who were accused of corruption. The shops were first looted and then set on fire. Due to the prevailing strong wind, the fire quickly got out of control, so that almost the entire city center burned down. The government declared a state of emergency and asked the governments of Australia and New Zealand for military intervention. After the situation had calmed down again in early December, the 150 foreign soldiers and police officers left the kingdom again. The state of emergency was extended several times and ended in February 2011.

At the end of July 2008, King Tupou V announced that he wanted to relinquish his absolute power and leave day-to-day business to parliament and the executive. This was implemented with the elections of November 25, 2010, so that the prime minister and members of the cabinet are now determined by parliament instead of the king as before.

In the election, the Friendship Islands Democratic Party , which emerged from the pro-democracy movement, won 12 of the 17 parliamentary seats earmarked for members of the general public. The remaining nine seats are reserved for nobles.

change of power

On the night of September 10-11, 2006, King Tupou IV died at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland , New Zealand , where he had been treated for most of the year. He lived to be 88 and had been regent for 41 years.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, Tupoutoʻa, who reigned under the name of Siaosi (George) Tupou V until his death on 18 March 2012. After his death, his brother ʻAhoʻeitu ʻUnuakiʻotonga Tukuʻaho followed on March 19, 2012 under the name Tupou VI.

Kings of Tonga

Political Indices

Political indices published by non-governmental organizations
Index name index value World Rank interpretation aid year
Freedom in the World Index 79 out of 100 Freedom status: free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Press Freedom Index 24.59 out of 100 46 out of 180 Satisfactory situation for press freedom
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation

foreign policy

Tonga traditionally maintains close diplomatic relations with New Zealand, as well as with 33 other countries. Tonga's oldest agreement with another country is the Franco-Tongan friendship treaty of 1855. Tonga broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1999 and instead established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China .

The competent diplomatic representation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Swiss Confederation is the respective embassy in Wellington ( New Zealand ), for the Republic of Austria the embassy in Canberra (Australia). The Tongan representation responsible for Germany, Austria and Switzerland is the Embassy of the Kingdom of Tonga in London ( United Kingdom ). There is an everlasting treaty of friendship between Germany and Tonga from 1876, signed under King George Tupou I , which was renewed in 1977 by the Federal Republic of Germany.

Tonga is not a member of any military alliance , but cooperates closely with New Zealand on defense issues. Tonga sent a contingent of about 40 soldiers to Iraq in 2004 as part of coalition forces . The approximately 50 soldiers stationed in Iraq in 2008 were to leave the country by December 20, 2008. The total force of the Tonga Defense Services has a strength of about 450 men. They are divided into the Royal Marines , Royal Guards and Maritime Force units, plus two support units. According to estimates from 2006, spending on the military amounts to 0.9% of gross domestic product. From October 2010, Tonga was involved in the international security force in Afghanistan , in 2012 the strength was 55 men.


Economic situation

Tonga's economy, like other South Pacific countries, is going through a rough patch. Large farmers from other countries and huge fishing fleets compete with the country in the market. In addition, tourism is poorly developed. Most everyday products have to be imported. The country exports tropical fruits, including vanilla .

Although the government has made numerous investments, these are considered questionable economic decisions. Thus, numerous funds were put into eccentric but dubious projects:

  • Searching for petroleum in areas where geologists say there is no petroleum.
  • There were considerations to use Tonga as a repository for radioactive waste.
  • The national budget was boosted by the sale of Tongan passports. However, these are not recognized internationally.
  • The admission of foreign ships, which were then involved in illegal actions.
  • The leasing of "parking positions" for earth satellites in space to other countries.
  • The long-term chartering of an unusable, massively oversized Boeing 757 , which led to the bankruptcy of the then state airline Royal Tongan Airlines in 2004 .
  • The construction of an airport hotel with attached casino together with a criminal wanted by Interpol.
  • Support for the operation of the top-level domain .to , under which copyrighted material is often offered illegally (cf. ).

The king was accused of having a penchant for speculative large-scale projects that promise high profits. The court had already lost millions to Jesse Bogdonoff , a Bank of America financial adviser hired by King Tupou IV in 1999 as an "official court jester."

state budget

In 2017, the national budget included expenditure equivalent to US $181.2 million, compared to income equivalent to US$181.2 million. This results in a budget deficit of 0.0% of GDP .
The national debt in 2009 was US$205.6 million or 78.5% of GDP. Creditor for 60 percent (US$108 million) of the foreign debt in 2012 was the Import-Export Bank of China .

In 2006, government spending (as a percentage of GDP) accounted for the following areas:


Domestic Terminal of Fuaʻamotu Airport
Real Tonga Airlines plane at Ha'apai Airport

The island archipelago stretches over 800 kilometers, which makes regional air connections particularly important. The national airline Real Tonga flies to all 6 airports. Of these, only Fuaʻamotu Airport and Vavaʻu Airport have international importance. Fuaʻamotu Airport has flights to Auckland (New Zealand) and Sydney (Australia). It is about 10 kilometers from the capital city of Nukuʻalofa on the island of Tongatapu .

Tonga also owned its own domestic airline, the Peau Vavaʻu Air, following the bankruptcy of Royal Tongan Air . Until their office was destroyed by fire in 2006, they regularly flew to all of the country's larger island groups. In 2006 she ceased operations. In April 2008, Chathams Pacific, a newly formed subsidiary of New Zealand's Air Chathams , took over inter-island flights. It used a Douglas DC-3 but ceased operations in March 2013. Since 2009, Real Tonga has been set up as the national airline, but it only started operations in March 2013 and served all larger island groups.

Ferries run daily from Tongatapu to 'Eua, once a week to Ha'apai and Vava'u, and once a month to the Niuas.


public holidays

There are eleven public holidays in Tonga.


Three weekly newspapers are published in Tonga: The Tongan Chronicle ( Kolonikali Tonga ), Tonga Star and The Times of Tonga ( Taimi ʻo Tonga ) , published in Auckland (New Zealand ). The Tongan Chronicle and Times of Tonga are both bilingual, while the Tonga Star is English-only. It also publishes the monthly newspapers Keleʻa (critical of the government), Taumuʻa Lelei (published by the Catholic Diocese), Tohi Fanongonongo (published by the Methodist Church of Tonga), and ʻOfa ki Tonga (published by the Tokaikolo Fellowship), as well as the quarterly magazines Matangi Tonga and Eva .

The state television station TV Tonga has been on the air nationwide since July 2000 . The private broadcaster Oceania Broadcasting Network (OBN) can also be received nationwide. There are four radio stations, Radio Tonga (“The call of the Friendly Islands”), Christian Radio , Radio 2000 and, limited to the Vavaʻu archipelago area, Radio Nukuʻalofa .

The government has repeatedly confiscated the Tongan Times as it denounced the king's misconduct. However, the newspaper Keleʻa , the mouthpiece of the pro-democracy movement around ʻAkilisi Pohiva and the government’s harshest critic, was not censored, whereas Pohiva himself had to repeatedly appear in court.

In mid-2003, an amendment came into force that was intended to "tongaize" the press, but in fact restricted it. Traditional Tongan values ​​were used as justification. In order to obtain a press license, it is now necessary, among other things, that the newspaper is owned at least 80% by a Tongan resident in Tonga. Among those periodicals that failed to obtain a license were the Tongan Times , the Keleʻa and the Matangi Tonga . All remaining licensed periodicals are now ecclesiastical or royalist in character.

However, the amendment to the constitution, which gave the government more powers to control the press, has now been rescinded by a decision of the highest court.

The Tongan top-level domain .to became well-known , which is a source of income from such domains as “ ”, “”, “” or “”, since it translates into handy create domain names.


Rugby sevens match between Uganda and Tonga, 2006
Tongas sipi tau before World Cup match against France 2011

The popular sport in Tonga is rugby union , which is actively played by around 20% of the population. The national rugby team regularly qualifies for the biannual World Cup (currently 2019 in Japan ) and is ranked 16th in the world rugby rankings (as of 10 January 2022).

Tonga, however, faces many problems in sport. Due to the lack of large companies, hardly any sponsorship money can be earned for the sport, which makes professional work impossible, especially in youth work there is a lack of funds. Australia and New Zealand take advantage of this . These two countries lure the best players from Tonga (and the other island nations) through sports scholarships, giving them respective citizenships, causing the islands to lose their best players.

Tonga has managed to build a state-of-the-art rugby arena in recent years, but it stands empty most of the time. There are hardly any opponents who are willing to make the long journey to Tonga. Australia and New Zealand rarely play games against the island nations. In order to still be able to play international games, the tournament Pacific Tri-Nations (since 2006 Pacific Nations Cup ) was founded some time ago. the national teams of Tonga, Samoa and Fiji compete against each other.

There are two recognized rugby competitions in the southern hemisphere – the Super Rugby League (five clubs each from New Zealand, South Africa and Australia) and the Rugby Championship (the three countries' national teams plus Argentina). In both competitions, Tonga was not included despite repeated requests.

As in other Pacific island nations, Tonga plays a traditional native variant of cricket called lanita .

The royal family caused a stir with a campaign in which they cast a luger that was set up with foreign help for international competitions.

In the hope of finding a generous sponsor, the persona Bruno Banani was created. Fuahea Semi was able to achieve some respectable successes, including at the Winter Olympics in Sochi , but also at the Wok World Cup . The action is also plot in the film Being Bruno Banani .

See also

Portal: Tonga  - Overview of Wikipedia content related to Tonga


  • IC Campbell: Island Kingdom. Tonga Ancient and Modern . Canterbury University Press, Christchurch 2001.
  • Paul van der Grijp: Identity and Development. Tongan Culture, Agriculture, and the Perenniality of the Gift . (= Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Institut voor Tal-, Land- and Volkenkunde; 213). KITLV Press, Leiden 2004.

web links

Wiktionary: Tonga  – Explanations of meaning, word origin, synonyms, translations
Commons : Tonga  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikimedia Atlas: Tonga  Geographical and Historical Maps
Wikivoyage: Tonga  - Travel Guide


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Coordinates: 21°  S , 175°  W