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Country, south-central Asia. Area: 56,977 sq mi (147,570 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 156,051,000. Capital: Dhaka. The vast majority of the population are Bengali. Language: Bengali (official). Religions: Islam (official; mainly Sunni); also Hinduism. Currency: taka. Bangladesh is generally flat, its highest point reaching over 1,000 ft (305 m) above sea level. The landscape is characterized by alluvial plains dissected by numerous connecting rivers. The southern part consists of the eastern sector of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. The chief rivers are the Ganges (there known as the Padma) and the Brahmaputra (or Jamuna), which unite as the Padma. Though primarily agricultural, the country often is not self-sufficient in food production. The monsoonal rains that occur from May to October produce extreme flooding over much of Bangladesh, often causing severe crop damage and great loss of life. Cyclones in 1970 and 1991 killed some 300,000 and 140,000 Bengalis, respectively. Bangladesh is a unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house; its head of state is the president, and its head of government is the prime minister. In its early years Bangladesh was known as Bengal. When the British left the subcontinent in 1947, the area that was East Bengal became the part of Pakistan called East Pakistan. Bengali nationalist sentiment increased after the creation of an independent Pakistan. In 1971 violence erupted; some one million Bengalis were killed, and millions more fled to India, which finally entered the war on the side of the Bengalis, ensuring West Pakistan's defeat. East Pakistan became the independent country of Bangladesh. Little of the devastation caused by the war has been repaired, and political instability, including the assassination of two presidents, has continued.
Variants of BANGLADESH
Bangladesh officially People's Republic of Bangladesh
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Bangladesh, visit Britannica.com.