/div>Country and archipelago, South Pacific Ocean. It lies east of Vanuatu and southwest of Samoa. Area: 7,055 sq mi (18,272 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 845,000. Capital: Suva
. The majority of Fijians are of mixed Melanesian-Polynesian ancestry, with a large South Asian minority. Languages: English (official), Fijian. Religions: Christianity (mostly Protestant, also other Christians, Roman Catholic), Hinduism, Islam. Currency: Fiji dollar. Fiji lies 1,300 mi (2,100 km) north of New Zealand and comprises some 540 islets and 300 islands, of which about 100 are inhabited. The main islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Fiji also includes the dependency of Rotuma, an island located about 400 mi (640 km) to the northwest. The two large islands are mountainous and volcanic in origin, rising abruptly from densely populated coasts to forested central mountains. The smaller islands are also volcanic, and all are ringed by rocky shoals and coral reefs. The coastal deltas of the principal rivers contain most of the fertile arable land. The climate is tropical oceanic. Fiji has a market economy based largely on agriculture (particularly sugar production), tourism, and light industries; gold and silver are mined. Fiji is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state is the president, while the head of government is the prime minister. The first settlers arrived from Melanesia some 3,500 years ago. The first European sighting was by the Dutch in the 17th century; the islands were sighted in 1774 by Capt. James Cook
and in 1789 by Capt. William Bligh, who returned in 1792 to explore them. Traders and the first missionaries arrived in 1835, and European settlers began arriving in the 1860s. In 1874 Fiji was proclaimed a crown colony. It became independent as a member of the Commonwealth
in 1970 and was declared a republic in 1987 following a military coup. Elections in 1992 restored civilian rule. A new constitution was approved in 1997. Coups in 2000 and 2006 created continuing political instability in the early 21st century.