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Ethiopia is a country in the northeastern part of Africa, popularly known as the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somaliland and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, South Sudan to the west and Sudan to the northwest. With over 102 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent with a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres. Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa, which lies a few miles west of the East African Rift that splits the country into the Nubian and Somali tectonic plates.
Some of the oldest skeletal evidence for anatomically modern humans has been found in Ethiopia. It is widely considered as the region from which modern humans first set out for the Middle East and places beyond. According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations settled in the Horn region during the ensuing Neolithic era. Tracing its roots to the 2nd millennium BCE, Ethiopia’s governmental system was a monarchy for most of its history. Oral literature tells that the monarchy was founded by the Solomonic dynasty of the Queen of Sheba, under its first king, Menelik I. In the first centuries , the Kingdom of Aksum maintained a unified civilization in the region, followed by the Ethiopian Empire circa 1137. During the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia was one of two nations to retain its sovereignty from long-term colonialism by a European colonial power. Many newly-independent nations on the continent subsequently adopted its flag colors. The country was occupied by Italy in 1936 and became Italian Ethiopia (part of the Italian East Africa) until it was liberated during World War II. Ethiopia was also the first independent member from Africa of the 20th-century League of Nations and the United Nations. In 1974, the Ethiopian monarchy under Haile Selassie was overthrown by the Derg, a communist military government backed by the Soviet Union. In 1987, the Derg established the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, but it was overthrown in 1991 by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has been the ruling political coalition since.
Ethiopia and Eritrea use the ancient Ge’ez script, which is one of the oldest alphabets still in use in the world. The Ethiopian calendar, which is approximately seven years and three months behind the Gregorian calendar, co-exists alongside the Borana calendar. A majority of the population adheres to Christianity (mainly the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and P’ent’ay) and the historical Kingdom of Aksum was one of the first states to officially adopt the religion, whereas around a third follows Islam (primarily Sunni). The country is the site of the Migration to Abyssinia and the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash. A substantial population of Ethiopian Jews, known as Bete Israel, also resided in Ethiopia until the 1980s. Ethiopia is a multilingual nation with around 80 ethnolinguistic groups, the four largest of which are the Oromo, Amhara, Somali and Tigrayans. Most people in the country speak Afroasiatic languages of the Cushitic or Semitic branches. Additionally, Omotic languages are spoken by ethnic minority groups inhabiting the southern regions. Nilo-Saharan languages are also spoken by the nation’s Nilotic ethnic minorities. Oromo is the most populous language by native speakers, while Amharic is the most populous by number of total speakers and serves as the working language in the federal government and as the lingua franca of the country. Ge’ez remains important as a liturgical language, both for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and for the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews).
The nation is a land of natural contrasts, with its vast fertile west, its forests, and numerous rivers, and the world’s hottest settlement of Dallol in its north. The Ethiopian Highlands are the largest continuous mountain ranges in Africa, and the Sof Omar Caves contains the largest cave on the continent. Ethiopia also has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Additionally, the sovereign state is a founding member of the UN, the Group of 24 (G-24), the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77 and the Organisation of African Unity. Its capital city Addis Ababa serves as the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Standby Force, and many of the global NGOs focused on Africa. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ethiopia experienced civil conflicts and communist purges, which hindered its economy. The country has since recovered and now has the largest economy (by GDP) in East Africa, having the largest population in the region.