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Country, North Africa. Area: 919,595 sq mi (2,381,741 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 35,369,000. Capital: Algiers. Most of the population is ethnically and linguistically Arab, with a large Amazigh minority. Languages: Arabic (official), Tamazight (national), French. Religion: Islam (official; predominantly Sunni). Currency: Algerian dinar. Algeria has the second largest land area (after The Sudan) on the continent. The coastline has numerous bays, and the country's rivers are small and generally seasonal. Northern Algeria is mountainous and is crossed from east to west by the Atlas Mountains; its highest point, elevation 7,638 ft (2,328 m), is Mount Chélia. In central and southern Algeria is much of the northern Sahara. Algeria has a developing economy based primarily on the production and export of petroleum and natural gas. After achieving independence, the country nationalized much of its economy but since the 1980s has privatized parts of the economy. Algeria is a multiparty republic with two legislative bodies; its head of state is the president, and its head of government is the prime minister. Phoenician traders settled there early in the 1st millennium BCE; several centuries later the Romans invaded, and by 40 CE they had control of the Mediterranean coast. The fall of Rome in the 5th century led to an invasion by the Vandals and later to a reoccupation by the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. The Islamic invasion began in the 7th century; by 711 all of northern Africa was under the control of the caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty. Several Islamic Amazigh empires followed, most prominently the Almoravid (c. 1054–1130), which extended its domain to Spain, and the Almohad (c. 1130–1269). The Barbary Coast pirates menaced Mediterranean trade for centuries; their raids served as a pretext for France to enter Algeria in 1830. By 1847 France had established military control over most of the region and by the late 19th century had instituted civil rule. Popular protest against French rule resulted in the bloody Algerian War (1954–61); independence was achieved following a referendum in 1962. Beginning in the early 1990s, Islamic fundamentalist opposition to secular rule led to an outbreak in civil violence between the army and various Islamic extremist groups.
Variants of ALGERIA
Algeria officially People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Algeria, visit Britannica.com.