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(born June 8, 1921, Kemusu Argamulja, Java, Dutch East Indies) Second president of Indonesia (1967–98). Suharto initially served in the Dutch colonial army, but after the Japanese conquest (1942) he joined a Japanese-sponsored defense corps. After Japan's surrender he joined the guerrilla forces seeking independence from the Dutch. When Indonesia became independent (1950), he was a lieutenant colonel. A strong anticommunist, he crushed what was purported to be an attempted communist coup d'état in 1965 with a ruthless purge of communists and leftists throughout the country that left as many as 1,000,000 dead. He deposed the sitting president, Sukarno, and was himself appointed president in 1967. He established authoritarian rule and was repeatedly elected without opposition. In 1975 he brutally annexed the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. A severe economic downturn focused public attention on his government's corruption, and this led to massive demonstrations that prompted his resignation in 1998, after 31 years in power.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Suharto, visit Britannica.com.