Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 



 

 


 


United Nations General Assembly hall

 

 

 


Algeria
 


Overview
Country, North Africa.

Area: 919,595 sq mi (2,381,741 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 32,854,000. Capital: Algiers. Most of the population is ethnically and linguistically Arab, with a large Berber (Amazigh) minority. Languages: Arabic, Berber (both official), 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 republic with two legislative bodies; its chief of state is the president, and its head of government is the prime minister. Phoenician traders settled there early in the 1st millennium bc; several centuries later the Romans invaded, and by ad 40 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 Berber 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.

Profile
Official name Al-Jumhūrīyah al-Jazāʾirīyah ad-Dīmuqrāṭīyah ash-Shaʿbīyah (Arabic) (People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria)
Form of government multiparty republic with two legislative bodies (Council of the Nation [144]1; National People’s Assembly [389])
Chief of state President
Head of government Prime Minister
Capital Algiers
Official language Arabic2
Official religion Islam
Monetary unit Algerian dinar (DA)
Population estimate (2008) 34,574,000
Total area (sq mi) 919,595
Total area (sq km) 2,381,741
1Includes 48 nonelected seats.

2The Berber language, Tamazight, became a national language in April 2002.

Main

large, predominantly Muslim country of North Africa. From the Mediterranean coast, along which most of its people live, Algeria extends southward deep into the heart of the Sahara, a forbidding desert where the Earth’s hottest surface temperatures have been recorded and which constitutes more than four-fifths of the country’s area. The Sahara and its extreme climate dominate the country. The contemporary Algerian novelist Assia Djebar has highlighted the environs, calling her country “a dream of sand.”

History, language, customs, and an Islamic heritage make Algeria an integral part of the Maghrib and the larger Arab world, but the country also has a sizable Amazigh (Berber) population, with links to that cultural tradition. Once the breadbasket of the Roman Empire, the territory now comprising Algeria was ruled by various Arab-Amazigh dynasties from the 8th through the 16th century, when it became part of the Ottoman Empire. The decline of the Ottomans was followed by a brief period of independence that ended when France launched a war of conquest in 1830. By 1847 the French had largely suppressed Algerian resistance to the invasion and the following year made Algeria a département of France. French colonists modernized Algeria’s agricultural and commercial economy but lived apart from the Algerian majority, enjoying social and economic privileges extended to few non-Europeans. Ethnic resentment, fueled by revolutionary politics introduced by Algerians who had lived and studied in France, led to a widespread nationalist movement in the mid-20th century. After a civil war (1954–62)—so fierce that the revolutionary Frantz Fanon noted, “Terror, counter-terror, violence, counter-violence: that is what observers bitterly record when they describe the circle of hate, which is so tenacious and so evident in Algeria”—France granted Algeria independence, and most Europeans left the country. Although the influence of the French language and culture in Algeria has remained strong, since independence the country consistently has sought to regain its Arab and Islamic heritage. At the same time, the development of oil and natural gas and other mineral deposits in the Algerian interior has brought new wealth to the country and prompted a modest rise in the standard of living; in the early 21st century its economy was among the largest in Africa.

The capital is Algiers, a crowded, bustling seaside metropolis whose historic core, or medina, is ringed by tall skyscrapers and apartment blocks. Algeria’s second city is Oran, a port on the Mediterranean Sea near the border with Morocco; less hectic than Algiers, Oran has emerged as an important centre of music, art, and education.

Land
Algeria is bounded to the east by Tunisia and Libya; to the south by Niger, Mali, and Mauritania; to the west by Morocco and Western Sahara (which has been virtually incorporated by the former); and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. It is a vast country—the second largest in Africa and the 11th largest in the world—that may be divided into two distinct geographic regions. The northernmost, generally known as the Tell, is subject to the moderating influences of the Mediterranean and consists largely of the Atlas Mountains, which separate the coastal plains from the second region in the south. This southern region, almost entirely desert, forms the majority of the country’s territory and is situated in the western portion of the Sahara, which stretches across North Africa.


Relief
The main structural relief features in Algeria were produced by the collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates along the Mediterranean margin, giving the country its two geographic regions. The Tell, home to most of the country’s population, contains two geologically young massifs, the Tell Atlas (Atlas Tellien) and the Saharan Atlas (Atlas Saharien), that run generally parallel from east to west and are separated by the High Plateau (Hauts Plateaux). The south, consisting of the Sahara, is a solid and ancient platform of basement rock, horizontal and uniform. This region is uninhabited desert with the exception of several oases, but it conceals rich mineral resources, most significantly petroleum and natural gas.


The Tell
In succession from north to south are intermittent coastal folded massifs and coastal plains. Along with the Tell Atlas, High Plateau, and Saharan Atlas, they form a sequence of five geographically variegated zones that roughly parallel the coast.

The coastal ridges and massifs are indented with numerous bays and are often separated from each other by plains—such as the plains of Oran and Annaba—that extend inland. In the same way, the Tell Atlas is not continuous; in the west it forms two distinct ranges separated by interior plains. Thus, the Maghnia Plain separates the Tlemcen Mountains to the south from the Traras Mountains to the northwest. Similarly, the plains of Sidi Bel Abbès and Mascara are nestled between hill ranges to the north and south. The Dahra Massif forms a long range extending from the mouth of the Chelif River in the west to Mount Chenoua in the east; it is separated from the Ouarsenis Massif to the south by plains of the Chelif valley.

The relief as a whole, therefore, does not constitute a barrier to communications in the western Tell. However, this is not the case in the central Tell, where the Blida Atlas merges with the Titteri Mountains and the mountainous block of Great Kabylia (Grande Kabylie) joins with the Bibans and Hodna mountains to make north-south communications more difficult. Only the valley of the Wadi Soummam permits communication with the port of Bejaïa.

Farther east, from Bejaïa to Annaba, one mountain barrier follows another to separate the plains of Constantine from the sea. The lands south of the plains are dominated by the Hodna, Aurès, and Nemencha ranges. The plains themselves, which have long been used for growing cereal grains, have a distinct local topography and do not present the same features as the High Plateau, which extends westward from the Hodna Mountains into Morocco. The latter is broken by sabkhahs (lake beds encrusted with salt) and is much less favourable to agriculture because it receives less precipitation.

To the south of the High Plateau and the plains of Constantine runs the Saharan Atlas, which is formed from a series of ranges oriented southwest to northeast. These decline in elevation from the west, where Mount Aïssa reaches 7,336 feet (2,236 metres) in the Ksour Mountains, to lower summits in the Amour and Oulad Naïl mountains. Higher summits are again found in the Aurès Mountains, where the highest peak in northern Algeria, Mount Chelia, which reaches 7,638 feet (2,328 metres), is located.

Only the northern Tell ranges, lying along the tectonic plate boundary, experience much seismic activity. Severe earthquakes there have twice destroyed the town of Chlef (El-Asnam), in 1954 and 1980. An earthquake in 1989 caused severe damage in the zone between the Chenoua massif and Algiers, as did another in 2003 just east of Algiers.


The Sahara
The Algerian Sahara may be divided roughly into two depressions of different elevation, separated from one another by a central north-south rise called the Mʾzab (Mzab). Each zone is covered by a vast sheet of sand dunes called an erg. The Great Eastern Erg (Grand Erg Oriental) and the Great Western Erg (Grand Erg Occidental), which average 1,300 to 2,000 feet (400 to 600 metres) in height, decline in elevation northward from the foot of the Ahaggar (Hoggar) Mountains to below sea level in places south of the Aurès Mountains. The Ahaggar Mountains in the southern Sahara rise to majestic summits; the tallest, Mount Tahat, reaches an elevation of 9,573 feet (2,918 metres) and is the highest peak in the country.


Drainage
Most of the rivers of the Tell Atlas are short and undergo large variations in flow. The largest river is the Chelif, which rises in the High Plateau, crosses the Tell Atlas, and flows through an east-west trough to reach the sea east of Mostaganem. The Chelif has been so intensively exploited for irrigation and drinking water that it has ceased to flow in its lower reaches during the summer months. South of the Tell Atlas there are only ephemeral rivers (wadis), and much surface runoff ends in chotts (salt marshes) within inland depressions. Several Saharan watercourses, in particular those flowing off the Ahaggar uplands, occupy valleys formed largely during pluvial periods in the Pleistocene Epoch (2,600,000 to 11,700 years ago). Some southward-flowing wadis feed the water tables beneath the Saharan surface, and desert oases appear in locations where the water, under hydrostatic pressure, rises to the surface in artesian wells or springs.


Soils
Continued vegetation clearance and erosion have limited the area of fertile brown soils to those uplands where evergreen oak forests are still found. Mediterranean red soils occupy the lower elevations in much of the northern Tell. Farther south the soils become progressively immature as aridity increases; they are characterized by little chemical weathering or accumulation of organic matter. In the desert areas soil development is further impeded by strong and nearly constant wind erosion. An ambitious project was initiated in the mid-1970s to create a “green barrier” against Saharan encroachment northward, reforesting a narrow strip up to 12 miles (19 km) in width and some 1,000 miles (1,600 km) in length; it proved only somewhat successful. Another plan, however, was introduced in the mid-1980s to reforest an additional 1,400 square miles (3,600 square km).


Climate
Climate, more than relief, is the country’s major geographic factor. The amount of precipitation and, above all, its distribution throughout the year, as well as the timing and magnitude of the sirocco—a dry, desiccating wind that emanates seasonally from the Sahara (often with gale force)—constitute the principal elements on which agriculture and many other activities depend.

Algeria’s coastal zone and northern mountains have a typical Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Algiers, for example, has afternoon temperatures in July of 83 °F (28 °C), which drop to about 70 °F (21 °C) at night, while in January daily temperatures range between 59 and 49 °F (15 and 9 °C). Four-fifths of the city’s 30 inches (760 mm) of annual precipitation falls between October and March, and July and August are usually dry. Total annual precipitation increases along the coast from west to east but diminishes rapidly from the coast southward into the interior. The greatest amount of precipitation occurs in the mountainous regions of the eastern littoral, which are directly exposed to the humid winds that blow inland from the Mediterranean. From a point about 50 miles (80 km) west of Algiers to the Tunisian frontier, annual precipitation exceeds 24 inches (600 mm), and in certain places—for example, in the Great Kabylia, Little Kabylia (Petite Kabylie), and Edough regions—it reaches about 40 inches (1,000 mm). West of this location a considerable part of the Chelif Plain and the plains of the littoral and the region immediately to the south of it in the vicinity of Oran are insufficiently watered, receiving less than 23 inches (580 mm). Precipitation also diminishes after crossing the Atlas ranges to the south, except in the Aurès and in a section of the Amour Mountains, which still receive about 16 inches (400 mm).

This east-west boundary roughly separates the two principal agricultural zones of the country. Dry farming is generally possible and commercially profitable in the eastern zone, where fine forests and abundant vegetation also exist. In the western zone cereal crops can be cultivated only with irrigation; pastoral activities dominate, and the forests disappear.

Northern Algeria’s relief, parallel to the coastline, limits the southward penetration of the Mediterranean climate. The plains and hills in the region immediately to the south of the coastal mountains still receive sufficient precipitation but have a much drier atmosphere, and temperature ranges are more varied. The High Plateau, on the other hand, is characterized by daily and annual extremes of temperature, hot summers and cold winters, and insufficient precipitation. Summer temperatures are typically above 100 °F (38 °C) in the afternoon and drop to about 50 °F (10 °C) at night, while in winter they range from about 60 °F (16 °C) during the day to about 28 °F (−2 °C) at night. Annual precipitation varies from 4 to 16 inches (100 to 400 mm).

The Sahara proper begins on the southern border of the Saharan Atlas. The demarcation coincides with a diminution of the precipitation to less than 4 inches (100 mm) per year. The landscape and vegetation differ greatly from those in the north, with life and activity limited to a few privileged locations. Daily and annual temperature ranges are even more extreme than on the High Plateau, and precipitation is marked by greater irregularity. Three years may pass without precipitation in the Tademaït region, as many as five years on the Ahaggar plateau.


Plant and animal life
Natural vegetation patterns generally follow the country’s north-south climatic gradient, and elevation produces additional variations. All vegetation in Algeria, where all areas are subject to some seasonal aridity, is characteristically drought-resistant. Forests cover only about 2 percent of the entire land area and are found primarily in the less-accessible mountain regions, where remnants of evergreen forests remain on the moister slopes. Dominated by holm oak, cork oak, and conifers such as juniper, the forests today contain only limited patches of economically valuable cedar. Much of the entire Tell region in the north was once covered with woodland, but most of this has been replaced by a poor maquis scrubland consisting of evergreen, often aromatic, hard-leaved shrubs and low trees that include laurel, rosemary, and thyme. On limestone and poorer soils, however, maquis degenerates into garigue (or garrigue), a low-growing shrub association of gorse, lavender, and sage.

Farther south, increasing aridity reduces the vegetation to a discontinuous type of steppe (treeless plain) dominated by esparto grass. A richer association containing Barbary fig and date palm, however, is still found along the wadis. In the desert proper, plant life is highly dispersed and consists of tufts of several kinds of robust grass species that need almost no water, such as drinn (Aristida pungens) and cram-cram (Cenchrus biflorus); several types of shrubs, which are always stunted and sometimes spiny; tamarisk, acacia, and jujube trees; and some more varied species that are found in the beds of wadis with underground water or in mountainous regions.

The animal life of the northern mountains includes wild mouflons, Barbary deer, wild boars, and Barbary macaques. A multitude of migratory birds pass through the country, including storks and flamingos. In the Sahara, gazelles, fennecs, hyenas, and jackals can be found, together with many smaller mammals such as gerbils and desert hare. Insect life is abundant and is most spectacularly manifested in the region’s periodic massive swarms of locusts. Scorpions are common in the arid and semiarid regions.


People
Ethnic groups
More than four-fifths of the country is ethnically Arab, though most Algerians are descendents of ancient Amazigh groups who mixed with various invading peoples from the Arab Middle East, southern Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa. Arab invasions in the 8th and 11th centuries brought only limited numbers of new people to the region but resulted in the extensive Arabization and Islamization of the indigenous Amazigh population. Some one-fifth of the Algerians now consider themselves Amazigh, of whom the Kabyle Imazighen (plural of Amazigh), occupying the mountainous area east of Algiers, form the largest group. Other Amazigh groups are the Shawia (Chaouïa), who live primarily in the Aurès Mountains; the Mʾzabites, a sedentary group descended from the 9th-century Ibāḍī followers of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Rustam, who inhabit the northern edge of the desert; and the Tuareg nomads of the Saharan Ahaggar region. Nearly all the European settlers—mainly French, Italian, and Maltese nationals, who formed a sizable minority in the colonial period—have left the country.


Languages
Arabic became the official national language of Algeria in 1990, and most Algerians speak one of several dialects of vernacular Arabic. These are generally similar to dialects spoken in adjacent areas of Morocco and Tunisia. Modern Standard Arabic is taught in schools. The Amazigh language (Tamazight)—in several geographic dialects—is spoken by Algeria’s ethnic Imazighen, though most are also bilingual in Arabic.

Algeria’s official policy of “Arabization” since independence, which aims to promote indigenous Arabic and Islamic cultural values throughout society, has resulted in the replacement of French by Arabic as the national medium and, in particular, as the primary language of instruction in primary and secondary schools. Some Amazigh groups have strongly resisted this policy, fearing domination by the Arabic-speaking majority. The Amazigh language was adopted as an official language in 2002.


Religion
Most Algerians, both Arab and Amazigh, are Sunni Muslims of the Mālikī rite. A source of unity and cultural identity, Islam provides valuable links with the wider Islamic world as well. In the struggle against French rule, Islam became an integral part of Algerian nationalism. Alongside the more traditional institutions of the mosques and madrasahs (religious schools), Islam has possessed from its outset a deep mysticism, which has manifested itself in various, often culturally unique, forms. A distinctive North African facet of this tradition, stemming from Islamic folk practices and Sufi teaching, is the important role played by marabouts. These saintly individuals were widely held to possess special powers and were venerated locally as teachers, healers, and spiritual leaders. Marabouts frequently formed extensive brotherhoods and at various times would take up the sword in defense of their religion and country (as did their namesakes, the al-Murābiṭūn; see Almoravids). In more peaceful times these local religious icons would practice a type of Islam that stressed local custom and direct spiritual insight as much as Qurʾānic teachings. Their independence was often perceived as a threat to established authority, and Islamic reformers and state bodies have historically sought to restrict the growth of marabout influence.

While Algeria’s postindependence governments have confirmed the country’s Islamic heritage, their policies have often encouraged secular developments. Islamic fundamentalism has been increasing in strength since the late 1970s in reaction to this. Muslim extremist groups periodically have clashed with both left-wing students and emancipated women’s groups, while fundamentalist imams (prayer leaders) have gained influence in many of the country’s major mosques.


Settlement patterns
Algeria’s population density is highest in the plains and coastal mountains of the northern Tell—the areas of higher, more reliable precipitation. Density declines southward, so that much of the southern High Plateau and Saharan Atlas are very sparsely populated and, farther south, large stretches of the Sahara are virtually uninhabited. Traditionally, rural settlement in Algeria consisted of widely scattered hamlets and isolated dwellings, with nomads in parts of the Sahara and its fringes. Concentrated village settlements were sometimes found at oases and in certain upland regions, such as the Aurès Mountains and the Great Kabylia, the latter being an Amazigh stronghold renowned for its hilltop villages and traditional way of life.

French settlers who arrived in Algeria in the latter half of the 19th century built several hundred “villages of colonization” in the countryside. Often geometric in layout, these settlements replicated French villages and house designs and often provided important service centres in areas of dispersed rural population. The Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) destroyed nearly 8,000 villages and hamlets and displaced some three million people. Many of the displaced were relocated to several thousand new resettlement centres, while others were moved to towns. Most of the resettlement centres continued to exist after the war and became regular villages as they acquired service functions. Another wave of rural settlement occurred in the 1970s through a government-sponsored agrarian reform program that constructed some 400 “socialist villages.” This program was abandoned by the 1980s, however, in favour of privately funded settlement efforts.

Urbanization had increased greatly under French rule. As service centres were created in rural areas, European suburbs and new public buildings were added to the larger cities. Port and industrial activities also accelerated the development of certain coastal towns, such as Annaba (Bône), Skikda (Philippeville), and Mostaganem. During and after the War of Independence, the rural exodus to many towns changed them from mainly European settlements to overcrowded cities with a mixed population. The urban growth rate was so rapid that even the departure of some one million Europeans after the war, which made many dwellings available, and considerable new construction did little to alleviate overcrowding in the cities. Roughly half of the population live in urban areas, the largest concentration being along the coast. Algiers is by far the largest city.


Demographic trends
Algeria’s annual rate of population growth was high throughout much of the latter half of the 20th century, but by the late 1980s overall growth—birth rates in particular—had begun to decline. The population is youthful, about half being age 19 or younger. A drop in infant mortality rates has contributed to a decline in overall death rates, but these have been partly offset by the lower birth rates. The decline in fertility has occurred in the cities, where the government has focused some efforts at family planning. Life expectancy is about 70 years.

Algerian emigration to Europe, once a viable alternative for the country’s unemployed, declined in the late 20th century as France restricted further immigration, but decades of such migration have left a large Algerian diaspora in France, Belgium, and other western European countries. In addition, Saharan nomadism was sharply reduced in the 20th century, stemming from the effects of drought in the desert region and because of government policies promoting settlement. A number of the country’s Tuareg nomads, for example, now lead sedentary lives around oases such as Djanet and Tamanghasset (Tamanrasset), while others cling to a precarious and ever-declining way of life.


Economy
Algeria’s economy is dominated by its export trade in petroleum and natural gas, commodities that, despite fluctuations in world prices, annually contribute roughly one-third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Until 1962 the economy was based largely on agriculture and complemented France’s economy. Since then the extraction and production of hydrocarbons have been the most important activity and have facilitated rapid industrialization. The Algerian government instituted a centrally planned economy within a state socialist system in the first two decades after independence, nationalizing major industries and implementing multiyear economic plans. However, since the early 1980s the focus has shifted toward privatization, and Algeria’s socialist direction has been modified somewhat. Standards of living have risen to those of an intermediately developed country, but food production has fallen well below the level of self-sufficiency, and an increase in international debt poses a major obstacle to continued rapid development.


Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Cultivated land is largely restricted to the coastal plains and valleys. These areas were colonized by French settlers, who established vineyards, orchards, citrus groves, and market gardens. The best farms were located in the well-watered fertile plains around Bejaïa and Annaba in the east, in the Mitidja Plain south of Algiers, and beyond Oran from Sidi Bel Abbès to Tlemcen. Rich vineyard areas were also maintained on the Médéa and Mascara plateaus.

The country’s aridity, however, renders more than four-fifths of the land uncultivable, and most of the remaining agricultural land is suitable only for pasture. The rest is tilled or devoted to vineyards and orchards. Winter grains—wheat, barley, and oats—are grown on the largest area of arable land in the drier High Plateau, notably around Constantine, and in the Sersou Plateau to the west. Also in the west, esparto grass grows naturally on the region’s steppe plains. Tobacco, olives, and dates are important crops, as are sorghum, millet, corn (maize), rye, and rice. The climate is not well suited to extensive stock raising, but there are many scattered herds of cattle, goats, and sheep, and stock raising contributes significantly to the traditional sector of agriculture.

Irregular precipitation has long been a threat to agriculture, but dam construction and irrigation projects have added some stability to crop production. At independence Algeria possessed some 20 sizable dams. An active and ongoing construction program nearly doubled that number by the late 1980s, adding substantially to the country’s total irrigated acreage. Despite such efforts, the nation’s meagre water resources are under increasing pressure to meet its urban-industrial demands as well.

Since independence agriculture has been the neglected sector of Algeria’s economy, suffering from underinvestment, poor organization, and successive restructuring; it now contributes less than one-eighth of GDP annually. As a result, cereal production has undergone large annual fluctuations, orchard and industrial crops have largely stagnated, and viticulture has declined markedly. Wine production, once the mainstay of colonial agriculture and exports, is now at only about one-tenth of its 1950s levels; because of Islam’s ban on alcohol consumption, viticulture is increasingly deemed culturally inappropriate. Wine exports to France have substantially declined, and most vineyards have been uprooted, with considerable loss of employment. Only market gardening and livestock production have shown significant growth. As a result, Algeria changed from a food-exporting nation in the 1950s to one that by the late 20th century had to import about three-fourths of its food needs.

In addition, the program to privatize former state farms since the 1980s caused legal wrangling over landownership. A substantial area of fertile agricultural land in and around Algiers and Oran has gone out of production because of the civil strife in the country that began in the early 1990s.

Algeria’s scant forests have relegated only minor importance to timber production in the country’s economy, although some cork from the cork oak forests in the higher elevations of the Tell Atlas is processed domestically. Forest area has decreased rapidly since the 1950s through logging operations, forest fires, and urban encroachment, adding to the country’s serious problem of soil erosion. However, the Algerian government aims at preserving and expanding the remaining woodlands.

Even with the country’s long coastline, the fishing industry is underdeveloped and lands only a portion of its estimated potential catch. Refrigeration and canning facilities, necessary for transporting the catch inland, are limited. The government, however, has taken steps to develop the industry by constructing additional fishing ports.


Resources and power
Hydrocarbons
Extensive deposits of sulfur-free light crude oil were discovered in the Algerian Sahara in the mid-1950s. Production began in 1958, concentrated in three main fields: Hassi Messaoud, in the northeastern part of the Sahara; Zarzaïtine-Edjeleh, along the Libyan border; and El-Borma, on the Tunisian border. Deposits of natural gas were first discovered at Hassi R’Mel in 1956, and since then discoveries have also been made at several other fields. Algeria ranks fifth in the world in terms of total gas reserves and second in gas exports. The gas has a methane content of more than 80 percent and also contains ethane, propane, and helium.

The main petroleum prospectors and producers following the discovery of oil were two French groups, Compagnie Française des Pétroles-Algérie and Entreprise de Recherches et d’Activités Pétrolières. Other international oil companies soon followed. Algeria nationalized all international oil companies operating in the country in 1971 and gave control of their assets to the state-owned Algerian oil concern, Société Nationale de Transport et de Commercialisation des Hydrocarbures (Sonatrach), which had been set up in 1963–64. Sonatrach undertook its own exploitation and production activities, with some success, although much of this was made possible by Soviet assistance and, more recently, by the establishment of joint service companies with help from American specialists. State liberalization during the 1990s permitted North American and European petroleum companies to enter into joint ventures to explore and exploit Algerian reserves. More than a dozen foreign companies were involved in joint ventures in Algeria by the late 1990s, reversing the earlier state monopoly of Sonatrach.

Four pipelines transport petroleum from Algeria’s oil fields to the Mediterranean for export overseas. The Trans-Mediterranean natural gas pipeline from Tunisia to Sicily and on to Naples, Italy, was completed in 1981, substantially boosting the sales of Algerian natural gas to Europe. In 1996 a second Maghrib-Europe gas pipeline began to supply Spain with Algerian gas, and Portugal was linked to the system in 1997. With petroleum reserves expected to run out in the first decades of the 21st century, exports of natural gas hold the promise of being more important for the economy than sales of oil.


Mining
The main mining centres are at Ouenza and Djebel Onk near the eastern border with Tunisia and at El-Abed in the west. Extensive deposits of high-grade iron ore are worked at Ouenza, and major deposits of medium-grade ore exist at Gara Djebilet near Tindouf. Nearly all the high-grade iron ore from the open-cut works at Ouenza is used to supply the domestic steel industry.

Reserves of nonferrous metal ores are smaller and more scattered. These include sizable quantities of zinc and lead at El-Abed near Tlemcen—the source of most of the country’s production—and of mercury ore at Azzaba. However, it is estimated that the zinc will be depleted in the early 21st century.

Phosphate deposits of relatively inferior grade are mined south of Tébessa at Djebel Onk. About one-third of this supplies the Annaba fertilizer complex, but the remainder is exported as raw material. Overall phosphate production declined by the mid-1990s.

Intensive prospecting for minerals in the Ahaggar Mountains has been carried out, and traces of tin, nickel, cobalt, chrome, and uranium have been found. Development of the Ahaggar uranium deposits began in the early 1980s. There are also sizable kaolin deposits at Djebel Debar and large reserves of marble at Djebel Filfila near Skikda.


Manufacturing
The manufacturing sector was mainly confined to food processing, textiles, cigarettes, and clothing before independence. Since 1967, however, the main emphasis has shifted toward heavy industry. The state steel corporation, for example, completed its large El-Hadjar steelworks complex at Annaba in the early 1970s and has constructed a zinc electrolysis plant near the El-Abed mine, at Ghazaouet. Much of the steel produced for domestic consumption is allocated for machine tools, tractors, agricultural equipment, buses, trucks, and automobiles. Paralleling the Annaba steel complex is the vast Skikda petrochemical works, which includes a gas liquefaction plant, an ethylene factory, liquid petroleum gas separation facilities, a plastics factory, and a benzene refinery. Other gas liquefaction plants are located at Bejaïa and Arzew; the latter is also the site of a nitrogenous fertilizer factory, an oil refinery, and a liquid petroleum gas separation plant. A complex at Sétif houses methanol and plastics factories. The phosphate fertilizer factory at Annaba is a major component of Algeria’s heavy industrial development.

A large proportion of the country’s industries were state-run until the 1980s, when the government restructured these large operations into smaller state-run units and encouraged these to pursue joint ventures with private concerns. Algeria was unable to use its full industrial capacity at that time, however, because its financial situation had deteriorated and the economy remained poorly managed. Nonetheless, the state continued to encourage private industry, and in the early 1990s a privately owned steel mill began operation. Joint ventures between Algerian and foreign companies have been promoted at a growing rate, especially in the field of petrochemicals. Agreements were also made with European countries to set up automobile assembly and engine production industries, and South Korean firms have become more involved in various endeavours, notably the manufacture of electrical goods, fertilizers, and automobiles. Within Algerian-owned industries, continued restructuring during the 1990s resulted in many factory shutdowns and job losses, and production levels varied from year to year.


Finance
The Banque d’Algérie, an independent central bank established in 1963, issues the Algerian dinar, the national currency. The government restructured the commercial banking system in the mid-1980s, increasing the number of state-owned commercial banks in the country. The state also opened the financial market to private banks, including some foreign ones, in the 1990s. A law enacted in 1995 lifted government price controls on a variety of commodities. Price subsidies on various basic products have been gradually phased out, in line with Algeria’s restructuring agreements with the International Monetary Fund. These agreements also resulted in the floating and subsequent devaluation of the dinar, which had formerly been artificially tied to the French franc.


Trade
Virtually all of Algeria’s foreign-exchange earnings are derived from the export of petroleum and natural gas products, both of which are refined domestically at an increasing rate. Other exports include phosphates, vegetables, dates, tobacco, and leather goods. The major imports are capital goods and semifinished products, consisting mostly of industrial equipment and consumer goods, followed closely by foodstuffs. About two-thirds of all trade is with countries of the European Union, and the United States is next in importance.

Algerian trade with France dropped from four-fifths of the total trade in 1961 to about one-fifth in the late 20th century. French imports of Algerian agricultural products, especially wine, were severely restricted after independence. Algerians in France formerly remitted substantial sums of money annually to relatives in Algeria; this was partly responsible for Algeria’s healthy balance-of-payments position. By the mid-1990s, however, the annual balance of payments was often negative, and Algeria had a high level of external debt.


Services
The service sector contributes a relatively small amount to the country’s GDP and employs only a small proportion of the labour force. Tourist-related activities have traditionally made up only a minute part of the service sector—this, despite Algeria’s many striking natural features and significant historical wealth—and even this share declined beginning in the 1990s because of civil unrest.


Labour and taxation
The right for labour to organize is guaranteed by Algerian law, although there is only one nationwide trade union, Union Générale de Travailleurs Algériens, which is also the country’s largest labour organization. The government guarantees a minimum wage, and the workweek is set at 40 hours and—as in many Muslim countries—extends from Saturday to Wednesday. The largest employment sectors in Algeria are public administration, agriculture, and transportation. Unemployment, however, is high by any standard, with nearly one-third of the eligible labour force out of work.

Proceeds from the sale of petroleum and natural gas are far and away the government’s largest source of revenue. Despite fluctuations in the world oil market, this sector provides more than half the government’s annual receipts, with other sources—such as tax revenue, customs duties, and fees—generating the balance. Of these latter sources, taxes, both income and value-added, constitute the largest proportion.


Transportation and telecommunications
At independence Algeria inherited a transportation network geared toward serving French colonial interests. The network did not integrate the country nationally or regionally, and few north-south routes existed. However, a good road network was in place in the densely populated Tell region, complete with express highways around the city of Algiers. Fast and frequent rail service was established between Oran, Algiers, and Constantine by the late 20th century.

The main rail line parallels the coast and extends from the Moroccan to the Tunisian border. Several standard-gauge lines branch from the main line to port cities and to some interior towns, and a few narrow-gauge lines cross the High Plateau to the Algerian Sahara. Two trans-Saharan roads have been built: one paved route from El-Goléa to Tamanghasset and then south to Niger, the other from El-Goléa to Adrar and then on to Mali. A state bus company and several private companies provide reliable intercity bus services.

The principal ports are Algiers, Oran, Annaba, Bejaïa, Bettioua, Mostaganem, and Ténès, in addition to the primarily petroleum and natural gas ports at Arzew and Skikda. Algeria’s merchant fleet has grown into a major world shipping line. Administered by the Algerian National Navigation Company, the fleet includes more than 150 vessels, including oil tankers and specialized liquefied natural gas tankers.

Air Algérie, the state airline, operates flights to many foreign countries and provides daily domestic flights between the country’s major cities and towns. There are international airports at Algiers, Annaba, Constantine, Oran, Tlemcen, and Ghardaïa.

The Algerian government began investing heavily in the country’s telecommunications infrastructure in the 1970s and ’80s, and, beginning in the early 1990s, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), the sector’s controlling body, began to slowly deregulate what had been a complete government monopoly. In 2000 a series of laws opened up the market even further—including allowing foreign companies to tender bids—and Algérie Telecom, a state-owned telecommunications company distinct from MPT, was founded. A separate regulatory body was formed to organize the free-market system.

Despite intensive investment in Algeria’s telecommunications infrastructure, telephone, mobile telephone, and Internet access is still limited. Few Algerians can afford the luxury of a home computer, and cable and telephone access has limited the number of Internet subscribers to a few thousand. Consequently, cybercafes are popular among those seeking Internet access.


Government and society
Constitutional framework
Algeria was dominated for the first three decades following independence by the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale; FLN), until 1989 the sole legal political party. New electoral laws passed in that year made the country a multiparty state. The constitution adopted in 1996 provides for a strong executive branch headed by a president, who was to be elected by universal suffrage for a maximum of two five-year terms; in late 2008, however, the legislature approved a constitutional amendment that abolished the two-term limit. The president, who is chief of state, appoints numerous state officials, including a wide range of civilian and military leaders, provincial governors, and the prime minister, who acts as head of the government. The prime minister nominates a government for the president’s approval, thus completing the executive, and presents a program to the lower house of the nation’s bicameral legislature for ratification.

Once the government is in place, the head of government presents draft legislation, which is debated first in the country’s lower house, the National People’s Assembly (Majlis al-Shaʿbī al-Waṭanī), deputies of which are elected for five-year terms by universal adult suffrage. Debate then passes to the upper house, the Council of the Nation (Majlis al-Ummah), members of which serve six-year terms. One-third of council members are appointed by the president, and the remaining two-thirds are elected indirectly by a secret ballot of local and district legislatures. In addition, the constitution requires that one-half of the council’s members be replaced every three years. Both houses are able to debate any draft law put before them, but only the lower house may alter draft documents. The upper house is required to vote on material presented to its members by the lower house and must achieve a three-fourths majority to pass any legislation. The legislature meets twice per year, each session lasting no less than four months. It is empowered to draft and ratify legislation on a wide variety of issues, including matters of civil and criminal law, personal status, state finance, and the exploitation of natural resources.

The constitution of 1996 also established a Constitutional Council (Majlis Dustūrī) to oversee elections and referenda, rule on issues of the constitutionality of treaties, negotiations, and amendments, and, when called on by the president, issue opinions on the constitutionality of laws. The Council is appointed jointly by the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.


Local government
Below the national level, the country is divided into wilāyāt (provinces), each with its own elected assembly (Assemblée Populaire de Wilaya; APW), executive council, and governor. The provinces are in turn divided into dawāʾir (administrative districts) and then into baladīyāt (communes), each one having its own assembly (Assemblée Populaire Communale) to run local affairs.

The executive council of the province is the chief regional authority. It is composed of the regional directors of the state agencies that are located in the province. The council is thus responsive to both regional and national concerns. Through the provincial governor, the province exercises trusteeship and administrative control of local collectives, public establishments, independent enterprises, and national societies. As an organ of the national government, the provincial leadership participates in the planning and application of the national development plan and helps coordinate matters related to the province.

The governor is solely responsible for interaction between the national government and the province. Appointed by the president for an indeterminate term, the governor assumes any necessary function in order to coordinate relations between the national government and its local constituency. As the representative of the province, the governor presides over the implementation of the decisions of the APW, and, as a senior state functionary, the governor is the direct representative in the province of each national ministry.


Justice
At independence Algeria inherited colonial judicial institutions that were widely held by Muslim Algerians to have been established to maintain colonial authority. Judicial organization was based on two separate foundations: Muslim jurisdiction—practicing Sharīʿah (Islamic law)—and French civil courts; the latter were primarily located in the larger towns where the Europeans were concentrated. Sharīʿah courts were the first—and all too frequently the final—recourse for Muslims seeking judicial redress.

Postindependence governments were quick to take steps to eliminate the French colonial judicial legacy. In 1965 the entire system was reformed by a decree that instituted a new judicial organization. This decree was followed a year later by the promulgation of new legal codes—the penal code, the code of penal procedure, and the code of civil procedure. A provincial court in each province and nearly 200 widely distributed tribunals were eventually created.

The judiciary now consists of three levels. At the first level is the tribunal, to which civil and commercial litigation is submitted and which takes action in penal cases of the first instance. At the second level is the provincial court, which consists of a three-judge panel that hears all cases and that functions as a court of appeal for the tribunals and for the administrative jurisdictions of the first instance. At the third and highest level is the Supreme Court, which is the final court of appeal and of appeals against the decisions of the lower courts. In 1975 the Court of State Security, composed of magistrates and high-ranking army officers, was created to handle cases involving state security. The constitution of 1996 instituted two new high courts to complement the Supreme Court. The Council of State acts as an administrative equivalent to the Supreme Court, hearing cases not ordinarily reviewed by that body; and the Tribunal of Conflicts was instituted to regulate any jurisdictional disputes that might arise between the other two high courts.


Political process
Until 1989 all candidates for the National People’s Assembly were chosen by the FLN. Following reforms, the scope of political participation widened with the birth of new independent political parties. In local and national elections in 1990 and 1991, the Islamist parties, especially the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut; FIS), made the largest gains of any new parties, while in Kabylia local Amazigh parties gained control of local assemblies. With this democratization hundreds of new cultural, environmental, charitable, and athletic associations were formed, independent of the stringent control formerly exercised by the FLN in those areas. A coup in 1992 slowed democratization but did not totally suppress the process. Corruption among government officials and violent outbreaks by Islamic extremists against democratic reforms continued in the late 1990s. Conditions had improved sufficiently by 2003 to permit the release from detention of two main FIS leaders.


Security
Although its yearly military expenditures are well above the world average, Algeria maintains a relatively small active military. More than half of its troop strength consists of conscripts who serve for six months (with an additional year of civic service). Most conscripts serve in the army. Algeria has only a small air force and navy. The former has relatively few high-performance aircraft, and the navy consists largely of coastal patrol craft.

Paramilitary and police forces outnumber the active-duty military by a substantial margin, and years of civil unrest have forced the government to rely on such forces—divided among several ministries and directorates—both for internal security and, often, for quelling internal dissent.


Health and welfare
Because of the country’s relatively young population and pressing medical needs, the health care system is oriented toward preventive medicine rather than treatment. Instead of building expensive hospitals, Algeria emphasizes smaller clinics and health centres and maintains a comprehensive vaccination program. Medical care, including medication, is provided by the state without charge, although those earning middle and higher incomes pay a part of their medical fees on a proportional scale. There is an increasing trend toward private health care. In an effort to extend health care to everyone, the government requires all newly qualified physicians, dentists, and pharmacists to work in public health for at least five years. Most medical personnel and facilities, however, remain concentrated in the north, especially in the large cities. Remote mountain locations and much of the Sahara are nearly devoid of modern facilities. Tuberculosis, hepatitis, measles, typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery are the principal health problems, often brought about by inadequate sanitation facilities and a lack of safe drinking water.


Housing
Algeria’s chronic housing shortage contributed to health problems throughout much of the latter half of the 20th century. Continuous rural-urban migration and unchecked population growth allowed urban shantytowns to proliferate. The government, whose spending priorities had been focused largely on heavy industry since independence, did little to relieve the housing shortage until the mid-1980s. At that time, however, development plans began emphasizing investment in social infrastructure and services. More construction of affordable government-subsidized housing units has since taken place, including a large prefabricated housing construction program to tackle the most urgent housing needs.

The growth of more than 100,000 new households each year placed a considerable strain on existing housing conditions. A sharp drop in oil prices in 1986 and the inability to meet the mounting needs for new housing led the Algerian government to withdraw from some of its commitments and encourage local and private housing initiatives. Foreign companies—including some from the now defunct Yugoslavia—were increasingly granted large construction contracts. Algeria also benefited from soft loans throughout the 1990s from the World Bank, the European Union, and other Arab countries to promote its construction sector. State companies were privatized, and joint ventures with European and American companies finally began to address some of the country’s housing needs.


Education
Since independence Algerian authorities have worked on redesigning the national educational system. Particular attention has been given to replacing French with Arabic as the language of instruction and to emphasizing scientific and technical studies. Education in Arabic is officially compulsory for all children between 6 and 15 years of age, and roughly nine-tenths of boys of that age are in school; enrollment for girls is slightly lower. Children residing in rural areas have remained underrepresented in the classroom, although much progress for both groups has been made since independence. The literacy rate is about three-fourths for men but less than half for women. The educational system has experienced extreme difficulty in trying to accommodate the increasing number of school-age children. The scarcity of qualified Arabic teachers has been ameliorated by the recruitment of teachers from other Arab countries. Arabic replaced French as the language of instruction at all institutes of higher learning in 2000. Amazigh discontent over the policy of Arabization, however, has prompted the government to restore Amazigh language and literature studies at a number of universities. The major institutions include Islamic universities in Algiers and Constantine, several regional university centres, and a number of technical colleges. Each year a few thousand Algerian students go abroad to study, mainly in France, other European countries, or the United States.


Cultural life
Cultural milieu
Algerian culture and society were profoundly affected by 130 years of colonial rule, by the bitter independence struggle, and by the subsequent broad mobilization policies of postindependence regimes. A transient, nearly rootless society has emerged, whose cultural continuity has been deeply undermined. Seemingly, only deep religious faith and belief in the nation’s populist ideology have prevented complete social disintegration. There has been a contradiction, however, between the government’s various populist policies—which have called for the radical modernization of society as well as the cultivation of the country’s Arab Islamic heritage—and traditional family structure. Although Algeria’s cities have become centres for this cultural confrontation, even remote areas of the countryside have seen the state take on roles traditionally filled by the extended family or clan. Algerians have thus been caught between a tradition that no longer commands their total loyalty and a modernism that is attractive yet fails to satisfy their psychological and spiritual needs. Only the more isolated Amazigh groups, such as the Saharan Mʾzabites and Tuareg, have managed to some degree to escape these conflicting pressures.

As is true elsewhere in North Africa, Algeria has experienced a dislocating clash between traditional and mass global culture, with Hollywood films and Western popular music commanding the attention of the young at the expense of indigenous forms of artistic and cultural expression. This clash is the subject of much fiery commentary from conservative Muslim clergymen, whose influence has grown with the rise of Islamic extremism. Extremists have opposed secular values in art and culture and have targeted prominent Algerian authors, playwrights, musicians, and artists—including the director of the National Museum, who was assassinated in 1995; novelist Tahar Djaout, who was murdered in 1993; and the well-known Amazigh musician Lounès Matoub, who was assassinated in 1998. As a result, much of the country’s cultural elite has left the country to work abroad, mostly in France.


Daily life and social customs
Despite efforts to modernize Algerian society, the pull of traditional values remains strong. Whether in the city or countryside, the daily life of the average Algerian is permeated with the atmosphere of Islam, which has become identified with the concept of an autonomous Algerian people and of resistance to what many Algerians perceive as a continued Western imperialism. Practiced largely as a set of social prescriptions and ethical attitudes, Islam in Algeria has more characteristically been identified with supporting traditional values than serving a revolutionary ideology.

In particular, the influential Muslim clergy has opposed the emancipation of women. Algerians traditionally consider the family—headed by the husband—to be the basic unit of society, and women are expected to be obedient and provide support to their husbands. As in most parts of the Arab world, men and women in Algeria generally have constituted two separate societies, each with its own attitudes and values. Daily activities and social interaction normally take place only between members of the same gender. Marriage in this milieu is generally considered a family affair rather than a matter of personal preference, and parents typically arrange marriages for their children, although this custom is declining as Algerian women take on a greater role in political and economic life. Some women continue to wear veils in public because traditionally minded Algerian Muslims consider it improper for a woman to be seen by men to whom she is not related. The practice of veiling, in fact, has increased since independence, especially in urban areas, where there is a greater chance of contact with nonrelatives.

Algerian cuisine, like that of most North African countries, is heavily influenced by Arab, Amazigh, Turkish, and French culinary traditions. Couscous, a semolina-based pasta customarily served with a meat and vegetable stew, is the traditional staple. Although Western-style dishes, such as pizza and other fast foods, are popular and Algeria imports large quantities of foodstuffs, traditional products of Algerian agriculture remain the country’s best-liked. Mutton, lamb, and poultry are still the meat dishes of choice; favourite desserts rely heavily on native-grown figs, dates, and almonds and locally produced honey; and couscous and unleavened breads accompany virtually every meal. Brik (a meat pastry), merguez (beef sausage), and lamb or chicken stew are among the many local dishes served in homes and restaurants. As is the case in the Middle East, strong, sweet Turkish-style coffee is the beverage of choice at social gatherings, and mint tea is a favourite.

Algeria observes several religious and secular holidays, including the important Islamic festivals and commemorations such as Ramadan, the two ʿīds (festivals), ʿĪd al-Fiṭr and ʿĪd al-Aḍḥā, and mawlid (the Prophet’s birthday), as well as national holidays such as Independence Day (July 5).


The arts
Various types of music are native to Algeria. One of the most popular, originating in the western part of the country, is raï (from Arabic raʾy, meaning “opinion” or “view”), which combines varying instrumentation with simple poetic lyrics. Both men and women are free to express themselves in this style. One especially popular Algerian singer of raï, Khaled, has exported this music to Europe and the United States, but he and other popular musicians such as Cheb Mami have been targets of Islamic extremists. Wahrani (the music of Oran), another style, blends raï with classical Algerian music of the Arab-Andalusian tradition.

Algeria has produced many important writers. Some, such as the Noble Prize winner Albert Camus and his contemporary Jean Sénac, were French, although their work was influenced by the many years they spent in Algeria. The writing of Henri Kréa reflects the two worlds he inhabited as the son of a French father and an Algerian mother. ʿAbd al-Hamid Benhadugah is the father of modern Arabic literature in Algeria, while Jean Amrouche is considered the foremost poet of the first generation of North African writers who wrote in French; his younger sister Marguerite Taos Amrouche was a noted singer and writer. The work of Mouloud Feraoun reflects Amazigh life. Mohammed Dib, Malek Haddad, Tahar Djaout, Mourad Bourboune, Rachid Boudjedra, and Assia Djebar have all written about contemporary life in Algeria, with Djebar reflecting on this from a woman’s perspective.

Algeria has maintained a lively film industry, although filmmakers frequently have endured bouts with government pressure and, more recently, have been subjected to intimidation by Islamic extremists. The first major postcolonial production was the celebrated film La battaglia di Algeri (1965; The Battle of Algiers). Though written and directed by an Italian, Gillo Pontecorvo, the work—a stark, factual retelling of urban warfare during the revolution—was supported by the Algerian government and was cast with numerous nonactors, including many residents of Algiers who participated in the actual events. The following year Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina directed Rīḥ al-Awras (1966; The Winds of the Aures), the first work by an Algerian to win international acclaim. His Chronique des annees de braise (1975; Chronicle of the Year of Embers), another gritty tale of the revolution, was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival nearly a decade later. Several films by the celebrated director Merzak Allouache, including Omar Gatlato (1976) and Bāb al-wād al-ḥawmah (1994; Bab El-Oued City), which deal with the complexity of daily life in urban Algeria, have received international recognition. More recently, director Bourlem Guerdjou examined the difficulties of the Algerian diaspora in France in his award-winning Vivre au paradis (1997; Living in Paradise).


Cultural institutions
Algeria has a number of fine museums, most of which are located in the capital and are administered by the Office of Cultural Heritage (1901). The National Museum of Antiquities (1897) displays artifacts dating from the Roman and Islamic periods. The National Fine Arts Museum of Algiers (1930) houses statues and paintings, including some lesser works of well-known European masters, and the Bardo Museum (1930) specializes in history and ethnography. Most other cultural institutions also are found in Algiers, including the National Archives of Algeria (1971), the National Library (1835), and the Algerian Historical Society (1963).


Sports and recreation
Algerians enjoy football (soccer), handball, volleyball, and athletics. Algerian athletes have participated in the Olympic Games since 1964. They have won medals in boxing, but their major success has been in the area of long-distance running. Noureddine Morceli won the men’s 1,500-metre event at the 1996 Summer Games and has held numerous world running records. Another runner, Hassiba Boulmerka, won several world championships and a gold medal in the women’s 1,500-metre run at the 1992 Barcelona Games, becoming the first African or Arab woman to win an Olympic track-and-field event.


Media and publishing
Despite pressure from the government and threats and intimidation by Islamic militants, Algeria has one of the most vigorous presses in the Arab world. Daily newspapers are published in both Arabic and French in Algiers, Oran, and Constantine. Several weeklies and a host of magazines are also published in the country. The number and range of newspapers increased during the 1990s, despite frequent violent attacks directed against journalists by Islamic extremists. Radiodiffusion Télévision Algérienne operates as a broadcasting institution under the Ministry of Information and Culture. Its three radio channels offer programming in Arabic, Kabyle, and, on its international channel, a mixture of French, English, and Spanish. The television network—with two channels—transmits to most of the country. The number of satellite dishes has increased, and many Algerians are now able to receive European stations.

Abdel Kader Chanderli
Keith Sutton


History
This discussion focuses on Algeria from the 19th century onward. For a treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see North Africa.

From a geographic standpoint, Algeria has been a difficult country to rule. The Tell and Saharan Atlas mountain chains impede easy north-south communication, and the few good natural harbours provide only limited access to the hinterlands. This has meant that, before Ottoman rule, the western part of the country was associated more closely with Morocco while the eastern part had closer ties with Tunisia. A further impediment to unifying the country was that a significant minority of the population were native Tamazight speakers and were thus more resistant to Arabization as compared with North African countries to the east. Therefore, Ottoman Algeria, which contained few extensive, original, or long-lived Muslim dynasties, was not nearly as predisposed to developing political nationalism as was Tunisia during the first decades of the 19th century.


French Algeria
The conquest of Algeria
Modern Algeria can be understood only by examining the period—nearly a century and a half—that the country was under French colonial rule. The customary beginning date is in April 1827, when Ḥusayn, the last Ottoman provincial ruler, or dey, of Algiers, angrily struck the French consul with a fly whisk. This incident was a manifest sign of the dey’s anger toward the French consul, a culmination of what had soured Franco-Algerian relations in the preceding years: France’s large and unpaid debt. That same year the French minister of war had written that the conquest of Algeria would be an effective and useful means of providing employment for veterans of the Napoleonic wars.

The conquest of Algeria began three years later. The government of the dey proved no match for the French army that landed on July 5, 1830, near Algiers. Ḥusayn accepted the French offer of exile after a brief military encounter. After his departure, and in violation of agreements that had been made, the French seized private and religious buildings, looted possessions mainly in and around Algiers, and seized a vast portion of the country’s arable land. The three-century-long period of Algerian history as an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire had ended.

The French government thought that a quick victory abroad might create enough popularity at home to enable it to win the upcoming elections. Instead, only days after the French victory in Algeria, the July Revolution forced King Charles X from the throne in favour of Louis-Philippe. Although those who led the July Revolution in France had cynically dismissed the campaign in Algeria as foreign adventurism to cover up oppression at home, they were reluctant to simply withdraw. Various alternatives were considered, including an early ill-fated plan to establish Tunisian princes in parts of Algeria as rulers under French patronage. The French general, Bertrand Clauzel, signed two treaties with the bey of Tunis, one of which offered him the right to keep territories conceded to him in exchange for annual payments. Because the treaty was not communicated officially to the government in Paris, however, the bey considered this proof of French duplicity and refused the offer.

The first few years of colonial rule were characterized by numerous changes in the French command, and the military campaign began to prove extremely arduous and costly. The towns of the Mitidja Plain—just outside Algiers—and neighbouring cities fell first to the French. General Camille Trézel captured Bejaïa in the east in 1833 after a naval bombardment. The French took Mers el-Kebir in 1830 and entered Oran in 1831, but they faced stiffer opposition from the Sufi brotherhood leader, Emir Abdelkader (ʿAbd al-Qādir ibn Muḥyī al-Dīn), in the west. Because towns and cities were plundered and massacres of civilian populations were widespread, the French government sent a royal commission to the colony to examine the situation.

During their campaign against Abdelkader, the French agreed to a truce and signed two agreements with him. The treaty signed between General Louis-Alexis Desmichels and Abdelkader in 1834 included two versions, one of which made major concessions to Abdelkader again without the consent or knowledge of the French government. This miscommunication led to a breach of the agreement when the French moved through territory belonging to the emir. Abdelkader responded with a counterattack in 1839 and drove the French back to Algiers and the coast.

France decided at that point to wage an all-out war. Led by General (later Marshal) Thomas-Robert Bugeaud, the campaign of conquest eventually brought one-third of the total French army strength (more than 100,000 troops) to Algeria. The new military campaign and the initial onslaught caused widespread devastation to the Algerians and to their crops and livestock. Abdelkader’s hit-and-run tactics failed, and he was forced to surrender in 1847. He was exiled to France but later was permitted to settle with his family in Damascus, Syria, where he and his followers saved the lives of many Christians during the 1860 massacres. Respected even by his opponents as the founder of the modern Algerian state, Abdelkader became, and has remained, the personification of Algerian national resistance to foreign domination.

Abdelkader’s defeat marked the end of what might be called resistance on a national scale, but smaller French operations continued, such as the occupation of the Saharan oases (Zaatcha in 1849, Nara in 1850, and Ouargla in 1852). The eastern Kabylia region was subdued only in 1857, while the final major Kabylia uprising of Muḥammad al-Muqrānī was suppressed in 1871. The Saharan regions of Touat and Gourara, which were at that time Moroccan spheres of influence, were occupied in 1900; the Tindouf area, previously regarded as Moroccan rather than Algerian, became part of Algeria only after the French occupation of the Anti-Atlas in 1934.


Colonial rule
The manner in which French rule was established in Algeria during the years 1830–47 laid the groundwork for a pattern of rule that French Algeria would maintain until independence. It was characterized by a tradition of violence and mutual incomprehension between the rulers and the ruled; the French politician and historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that colonization had made Muslim society more barbaric than it was before the French arrived. There was a relative absence of well-established native mediators between the French rulers and the mass population, and an ever-growing French settler population (the colons, also known as pieds noirs) demanded the privileges of a ruling minority in the name of French democracy. When Algeria eventually became a part of France juridically, that only added to the power of the colons, who sent delegates to the French parliament. They accounted for roughly one-tenth of the total population from the late 19th century until the end of French rule.

Settler domination of Algeria was not secured, however, until the fall of Napoleon III in 1870 and the rise of the Third Republic in France. Until then Algeria remained largely under military administration, and the governor-general of Algeria was almost invariably a military officer until the 1880s. Most Algerians—excluding the colons—were subject to rule by military officers organized into Arab Bureaus, whose members were officers with an intimate knowledge of local affairs and of the language of the people but with no direct financial interest in the colony. The officers, therefore, often sympathized with the outlook of the people they administered rather than with the demands of the European colonists. The paradox of French Algeria was that despotic and military rule offered the native Algerians a better situation than did civilian and democratic government.

A large-scale program of confiscating cultivable land, after resistance had been crushed, made colonization possible. Settler colonization was of mixed European origin—mainly Spanish in and around Oran and French, Italian, and Maltese in the centre and east. The presence of the non-French settlers was officially regarded with alarm for quite a while, but the influence of French education, the Muslim environment, and the Algerian climate eventually created in the non-French a European-Algerian subnational sentiment. This would probably have resulted, in time, in a movement to create an independent state if Algeria had been situated farther away from Paris and if the settlers had not feared the potential strength of the Muslim majority.

After the overthrow of Louis-Philippe’s regime in 1848, the settlers succeeded in having the territory declared French; the former Turkish provinces were converted into departments on the French model, while colonization progressed with renewed energy. With the establishment of the French Second Empire in 1852, responsibility for Algeria was transferred from Algiers to a minister in Paris, but the emperor, Napoleon III, soon reversed this disposition. While expressing the hope that an increased number of settlers would forever keep Algeria French, he also declared that France’s first duty was to the three million Arabs. He declared, with considerable accuracy, that Algeria was “not a French province but an Arab country, a European colony, and a French camp.” This attitude aroused certain hopes among Algerians, but they were destroyed by the emperor’s downfall in 1870. After France’s defeat in the Franco-German War, settlers felt they could finally gain more land. Spurred on by this and by years of droughts and famines, Algerians united in 1871 under Muḥammad al-Muqrānī in the last major Kabylia uprising. Its brutal suppression by French forces was followed by the appropriation of another large segment of territory, which provided land for European refugees from Alsace. Much land was also acquired by the French through loopholes in laws originally designed to protect tribal property. Notable among these is the sénatus-consulte of 1863, which broke up tribal lands and allowed settlers to acquire vast areas formerly secured under tribal law. Following the loss of this territory, Algerian peasants moved to marginal lands and in the vicinity of forests; their presence in these areas set in motion the widespread environmental degradation that has affected Algeria since then.

It is difficult to gauge in human terms the losses suffered by Algerians during the early years of the French occupation. Estimates of the number of those dead from disease and starvation and as a direct result of warfare during the early years of colonization vary considerably, but the most reliable ones indicate that the native population of Algeria fell by nearly one-third in the years between the French invasion and the end of fighting in the mid-1870s.

Gradually the European population established nearly total political, economic, and social domination over the country and its native inhabitants. At the same time, new lines of communication, hospitals and medical services, and educational facilities became more widely available to Europeans, though they were dispensed to a limited extent—and in the French language—to Algerians. Settlers owned most Western dwellings, Western-style farms, businesses, and workshops. Only primary education was available to Algerians, and only in towns and cities, and there were limited prospects for higher education. Because employment was concentrated mainly in urban settlements, underemployment and chronic unemployment disproportionately affected Muslims, who lived mostly in rural and semirural areas.

For the Algerians service in the French army and in French factories during World War I was an eye-opening experience. Some 200,000 fought for France during the war, and more than one-third of the male Algerians between the ages of 20 and 40 resided in France during that time. When peace returned, some 70,000 Algerians remained in France and, by living frugally, were able to support many thousands of their relatives in Algeria.


Nationalist movements
Algerian nationalism developed out of the efforts of three different groups. The first consisted of Algerians who had gained access to French education and earned their living in the French sector. Often called assimilationists, they pursued gradualist, reformist tactics, shunned illegal actions, and were prepared to consider permanent union with France if the rights of Frenchmen could be extended to native Algerians. This group, originating from the period before World War I, was loosely organized under the name Young Algerians and included (in the 1920s) Khaled Ben Hachemi (“Emir Khaled”), who was the grandson of Abdelkader, and (in the 1930s) Ferhat Abbas, who later became the first premier of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic.

The second group consisted of Muslim reformers who were inspired by the religious Salafī movement founded in the late 19th century in Egypt by Sheikh Muḥammad ʿAbduh. The Association of Algerian Muslim ʿUlamāʾ (Association des Uléma Musulmans Algériens; AUMA) was organized in 1931 under the leadership of Sheikh ʿAbd al-Hamid Ben Badis. This group was not a political party, but it fostered a strong sense of Muslim Algerian nationality among the Algerian masses.

The third group was more proletarian and radical. It was organized among Algerian workers in France in the 1920s under the leadership of Ahmed Messali Hadj and later gained wide support in Algeria. Preaching a nationalism without nuance, Messali Hadj was bound to appeal to Algerians, who fully recognized their deprivation. Messali Hadj’s strongly nationalistic stance, or even the more muted position of Ben Badis, could have been checked by such gradualist reformers as Ferhat Abbas if only they had been able to show that step-by-step decolonization was possible. Several efforts to liberalize the treatment of native Algerians, promoted by French reformist groups in collaboration with Algerian reformists in the first half of the 20th century, came too late to stem the radical tide.

One such effort, the Blum-Viollette proposal (named for the French premier and the former governor-general of Algeria), was introduced during the Popular Front government in France (1936–37). It would have allowed a very small number of Algerians to obtain full French citizenship without forcing them to relinquish their right to be judged by Muslim law on matters of personal status (e.g., marriage, inheritance, divorce, and child custody). The proposal was, therefore, a potential breakthrough because this issue had been shrewdly exploited by the settler population, who understood that most Algerians did not want to abandon this right. The small number of Algerians who would have received full French citizenship—the educated, veterans of French military service, and other narrowly defined groups—could then have been gradually increased in later years. Settler opposition to the measure was so fierce, however, that the project was never even brought to a vote in the French Chamber of Deputies. Many Algerians began to feel that organized violence was the only option, since all peaceful means for resolving the problems of colonial rule for the majority of the population had been denied. The group that inherited this mission, the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale; FLN), grew out of Messali Hadj’s organization, later absorbing many adherents of the other two nationalist groups.


World War II and the movement for independence
World War II brought with it the collapse of France and, in 1942, the Anglo-American occupation of North Africa. The occupation forces were to some extent automatically agents of emancipation; both Allied and Axis radio stations began to broadcast in Arabic, promising a new world for formerly subject peoples. The effect was further heightened by the June 1941 promise of emancipation for both Syria and Lebanon, given by the Free French and backed by the British authorities in the Middle East.

Ferhat Abbas drafted an Algerian Manifesto in December 1942 for presentation to Allied as well as French authorities; it sought recognition of political autonomy for Algeria. General Charles de Gaulle declared a year later that France was under an obligation to the Muslims of North Africa because of the loyalty they had shown. French citizenship was extended to certain categories of Muslims three months later, but this did not go far enough to satisfy Algerian opinion. A display of Algerian nationalist flags at Sétif in May 1945 prompted French authorities to fire on demonstrators. An unorganized uprising ensued, in which 84 European settlers were massacred. The violence and suppression that followed resulted in the death of about 8,000 Muslims (according to French sources) or as many as 45,000 (according to Algerian sources). The main outcome of the massacres, however, went far beyond the human losses. They became the foundation for the Algerian War of Independence, which began nearly a decade later. The demonstrations were the last peaceful attempts by Algerians to seek their independence.

The French National Assembly voted for a statute on Algeria on September 20, 1947, in which the country was defined as “a group of departments endowed with a civic personality, financial autonomy, and a special organization.” The statute created an Algerian assembly with two separate colleges of 60 members each, one representing some 1.5 million Europeans and the other Algeria’s 9 million Muslims. After lengthy debates the statute was passed by a small majority. Muslims were finally considered full French citizens with the right to keep their personal Qurʾānic status and were granted the right to work in France without further formalities. Military territories in the south would be abolished, and Arabic would become the language of educational instruction at all levels.

The law was poorly implemented, however, and the subsequent elections were widely held to have been manipulated to favour the French. Most of the reforms laid down by the statute were never enforced. In spite of this, Algeria remained quiet. The principal change had been the fact that some 350,000 Algerian workers—five times as many as in the post-World War I period—were able to establish themselves in France and remit money to Algeria.


The Algerian War of Independence
Nationalist parties had existed for many years, but they became increasingly radical as they realized that their goals were not going to be achieved through peaceful means. Prior to World War II the Party of the Algerian People (Parti du Peuple Algérien) had been founded by Messali Hadj. The party was banned in the late 1930s and replaced in the mid-1940s by the Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties (Mouvement pour le Triomphe des Libertés Démocratiques; MTLD). A more radical paramilitary group, the Special Organization (Organization Spéciale; OS), was formed about the same time, but it was discovered by the colonial police in 1950, and many of its leaders were imprisoned. In 1954 a group of former OS members split from the MTLD and formed the Revolutionary Committee of Unity and Action (Comité Révolutionaire d’Unité et d’Action; CRUA). This organization, later to become the FLN, prepared for military action. The leading members of the CRUA became the so-called chefs historiques (“historical leaders”) of the Algerian War of Independence: Hocine Aït-Ahmed, Larbi Ben M’Hidi, Moustapha Ben Boulaid, Mohamed Boudiaf, Mourad Didouche, Belkacem Krim, Mohamed Khider, Rabah Bitat, and Ahmed Ben Bella. They organized and led several hundred men in the first armed confrontations.

The war began on the night of October 31, 1954. The movement, led by the newly formed FLN, issued a leaflet stating that its aim was to restore a sovereign Algerian state. It advocated social democracy within an Islamic framework and equal citizenship for any resident in Algeria. A preamble recognized that Algeria had fallen behind other Arab states in social and national emancipation but claimed this could be remedied by a difficult and prolonged struggle. Two weapons would be used: guerrilla warfare at home and diplomatic activity abroad, particularly at the United Nations (UN).

Though the first armed assault—which occurred in the region of Batna and the Aurès—was ineffective militarily, it led to the arrest of some 2,000 members of the MTLD who had not been supporters of the rebellion. The armed uprising soon intensified and spread, gradually affecting larger parts of the country, and some regions—notably the northeastern parts of Little Kabylia and parts of the Aurès Mountains—became guerrilla strongholds that were beyond French control. France became more involved in the conflict, drafting some two million conscripts over the course of the war. To counter the spread of the uprising, the French National Assembly declared a state of emergency, first over the affected provinces and later that year over the entire country. Jacques Soustelle arrived in Algiers as the new governor-general in February 1955, but the new plan he announced four months later once again proved to be ineffective.

A decisive turn in the war took place in August 1955 when a widespread armed outbreak in Skikda, north of the Constantine region, led to the killing of nearly 100 Europeans and Muslim officials. Countermeasures by both the French army and settlers claimed the lives of somewhere between 1,200 (according to French sources) and 12,000 (according to Algerian sources) Algerians.

The electoral victory in January 1956 of the Republican Front in France and the premiership of Guy Mollet led to the appointment of the moderate and experienced General Georges Catroux as governor-general. When Mollet personally visited Algiers to prepare the way for the new governor-general, Europeans bombarded him with tomatoes. Yielding to this pressure, he allowed Catroux to withdraw and named in his place the pugnacious socialist Robert Lacoste as resident minister. Lacoste’s policy was to rule Algeria through decree, and he gave the military exceptional powers. At the same time, he wanted to give the country a decentralized administrative structure that allowed some autonomy.

A French army of 500,000 troops was sent to Algeria to counter the rebel strongholds in the more distant portions of the country, while the rebels collected money for their cause and took reprisals against fellow Muslims who would not cooperate with them. By the spring of 1956 a majority of previously noncommitted political leaders, such as Ferhat Abbas and Tawfiq al-Madani of the AUMA, had joined FLN leaders in Cairo, where the group had its headquarters.

The first FLN congress took place in August–September 1956 in the Soummam valley between Great and Little Kabylia and brought together the FLN leadership in an appraisal of the war and its objectives. Algeria was divided into six autonomous zones (wilāyāt), each led by guerrilla commanders who later played key roles in the affairs of the country. The congress also produced a written platform on the aims and objectives of the war and set up the National Council for the Algerian Revolution (Conseil National de la Révolution Algérienne) and the Committee of Coordination and Enforcement (Comité de Coordination et d’Exécution), the latter acting as the executive branch of the FLN.

Externally, the major event of 1956 was the French decision to grant full independence to Morocco and Tunisia and to concentrate on retaining “French Algeria.” The Moroccan sultan and Premier Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, hoping to find an acceptable solution to the Algerian problem, prepared to hold a meeting in Tunis with some important Algerian leaders (including Ben Bella, Boudiaf, Khider, and Aït-Ahmed) who had been guests of the sultan in Rabat. French intelligence officers, however, forced the plane that had been chartered by the Moroccan government to land in Oran instead of Tunis. The Algerian leaders were then arrested and confined in prison in France for the rest of the war. This act hardened the resolve of the rest of the Algerian leadership to keep fighting and provoked an attack on Meknès, Morocco, that cost the lives of 40 French settlers before the Moroccan government could restore order.

Beginning in 1956 and continuing until the summer of the following year, the FLN attempted to paralyze the administration of Algiers through what has come to be known as the Battle of Algiers. Attacks by the FLN against both military and civilian European targets were countered by paratroopers led by General Jacques Massu. To stem the tide of FLN attacks, the French military resorted to the torture and summary execution of hundreds of suspects. The entire leadership of the FLN was eventually eliminated or forced to flee.

The French also cut Algeria off from independent Tunisia and Morocco by erecting barbed-wire fences that were illuminated at night by searchlights. This separated the Algerian resistance bands within the country from some 30,000 armed Algerians who occupied positions between the fortified fences and the actual frontiers of Tunisia and Morocco, from which they drew supplies. These troops had the advantage, however, of a friendly people and sympathetic government as a base; and, though they could not penetrate into Algeria proper, they could harass the French line.

Provoked by these assaults, in February 1958 the French air force bombed the Tunisian frontier village of Sāqiyat Sīdī Yūsuf; a number of civilians were killed, including children from the local school. This led to an Anglo-American mediation mission, which negotiated the withdrawal of French troops from various districts of Tunisia and their sequestration at a naval base in the Tunisian town of Bizerte.

The Maghrib Unity Congress was held at Tangier in April under the auspices of the Moroccan and Tunisian nationalist parties and the Algerian FLN, and it recommended the establishment of an Algerian government-in-exile and a permanent secretariat to promote Maghrib unity. Five months later the FLN formed the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (Gouvernement Provisionel de la République Algérienne; GPRA), initially headed by Ferhat Abbas.

By then, however, conditions had been radically changed by events in May 1958; these began as a typical settler uprising—thousands of them attacked the offices of the governor-general and, with the tacit approval of the army officers, called for the integration of Algeria with France and for the return of de Gaulle to power. The following month de Gaulle, in his capacity as prime minister, visited Algiers amid scenes of great enthusiasm. He granted all Muslims the full rights of French citizenship, and on October 30, while in Constantine, he announced a plan to provide adequate schools and medical services for the Algerian population, to create employment for them, and to introduce them into the higher ranks of the public services.

He went even farther the following September when, in anticipation of the opening of the UN General Assembly, he publicly declared that the Algerians had the right to determine their own future. The settler population responded by staging a fresh uprising in January 1960, but it collapsed after nine days from lack of military support. A year later, however, as the prospect of negotiations with the GPRA became more probable, there was another uprising, this time organized by four generals, of whom two—Raoul Salan and Maurice Challe—had previously been commanders in chief in Algeria. De Gaulle remained unshaken, and the rising, lacking support from the army, collapsed after only three days.

Negotiations were opened in France with representatives of the GPRA in May 1961. This body had long been recognized by the Arab and communist states, from which it received aid, though it had never been able to establish itself on Algerian soil. Negotiations were broken off in July, after which Abbas was replaced as premier by the much younger Benyoussef Ben Khedda. Settler opposition was meanwhile coalesced around a body calling itself the Secret Army Organization (Organisation de l’Armée Secrète; OAS), which began to employ random acts of terror in an effort to disrupt peace negotiations.

Negotiations resumed the following March, and an agreement was finally reached. Algeria would become independent, provided only that a referendum, to be held in Algeria by a provisional government, confirmed the desire for it. If approved, French aid would continue, and Europeans could depart, remain as foreigners, or take Algerian citizenship. This announcement produced a violent outburst of terrorism, but in May it subsided as it became obvious that such actions were futile. A referendum held in Algeria in July 1962 recorded some 6,000,000 votes in favour of independence and only 16,000 against. After three days of continuous Algerian rejoicing, the GPRA entered Algiers in triumph as many Europeans prepared to depart.


Independent Algeria
From Ben Bella to Boumedienne
The human cost of the war remains unknown, particularly on the Algerian side. Some estimates put French military losses at 27,000 killed and civilian losses at 5,000 to 6,000. French sources suggest that casualties among Algerians totaled between 300,000 and 500,000, while Algerian sources claim as many as 1,500,000.

Scores of villages were destroyed; forests were widely damaged; and some 2,000,000 inhabitants were moved to new settlements. The Europeans who left Algeria at the time of independence constituted the great majority of senior administrators and managerial and technical experts, yet many public services remained functional; only some 10,000 French teachers remained, often in isolated posts. With the loss of management on farms and in factories, however, production fell, while unemployment and underemployment reached extreme levels. The mass exodus of the French left the new government with vast abandoned lands. These and the remaining French estates (all French land had been nationalized by 1963) were turned into state farms run by worker committees, which began to produce export crops, notably wine.

Political life was particularly contentious following independence. The leadership of Ben Khedda, the president of the GPRA, was upset by the release from French custody of five GPRA leaders, including Ben Bella. Soon the heads of the provisional government—and, more decisively, the army commanders—split. Houari Boumedienne and his powerful frontier army sided with Ben Bella, who had formed the Political Bureau to challenge the power of the GPRA. Other dominant figures sided with Ben Khedda, while the commanders of the internal guerrillas, who had led the war, opposed all external factions, both military and civilian. Mounting tension and localized military clashes threatened an all-out civil war. The spontaneous demonstrations of a population weary of nearly eight years of war with France interceded between the military factions and saved the country from sliding into more warfare. Through delicate political maneuvering, Ben Bella and the Political Bureau were able to draw up the list of candidates for the National People’s Assembly, which was ratified in September 1962 by an overwhelming majority of the electorate. The new assembly asked Ben Bella to form the nation’s first government.

With the military support of Boumedienne, Ben Bella asserted his power, fighting a localized armed rebellion led by fellow rebel leader Aït-Ahmed and Colonel Mohand ou el-Hadj in Great Kabylia. Because Ben Bella’s personal style of government and his reckless promises of support for revolutionary movements were not conducive to orderly administration, there were also serious divisions within the ruling group. Following vicious political infighting in April 1963, Political Bureau member and FLN secretary-general Khider left the country, taking a large amount of party funds with him. He was assassinated in Madrid several years later. Other dissident leaders were also gradually eliminated, and this left control securely in the hands of Ben Bella and the army commander Boumedienne. Ben Bella’s apparent plan to remove Boumedienne and his supporters was foiled in June 1965 when Boumedienne and the army moved first. Ben Bella’s erratic political style and poor administrative record made his removal acceptable to Algerians, but the Boumedienne regime began with little popular support.

In the following years Boumedienne moved undramatically but effectively to consolidate his power, with army loyalty remaining the basic element. Efforts to reorganize the FLN met with some success. Boumedienne’s cautious and deliberate approach was apparent in constitutional developments as communal elections were held in 1967 and provincial elections in 1969. Elections for the National People’s Assembly, however, did not first take place until 1977.

Socialism was pursued diligently under Boumedienne, who launched an agrarian reform in 1971 aimed at breaking up large privately owned farms and redistributing state-held lands to landless peasants organized in cooperatives. The agrarian reform also aimed at grouping peasants in “socialist villages,” where they could benefit from modern amenities. The state also exerted complete control over the economy and the country’s resources. French petroleum and natural gas interests were nationalized in 1971, and the vast revenues derived from oil sales abroad, especially after the rise in prices in 1973 and thereafter, financed an ambitious industrialization program. Each branch of industry was placed under the control of a state corporation; Société Nationale de Transport et de Commercialisation des Hydrocarbures (Sonatrach), the oil corporation, was the most powerful. Boumedienne’s regime hid serious weaknesses, however, notably a one-party system dominated by the FLN that tolerated no dissent.


Bendjedid’s move toward democracy
Following Boumedienne’s death in December 1978, there was a short period of indecisiveness about who should succeed him. The army and the FLN both supported Colonel Chadli Bendjedid, another former guerrilla officer, who was confirmed as his replacement in a referendum in February 1979.

Government control of the economy loosened under Bendjedid. State corporations were restructured into smaller companies, and private enterprise was promoted through a series of new regulations and financial incentives. Power was decentralized and gradually passed to elected local assemblies. The press received greater freedom, and restrictions on Algerians traveling abroad were also relaxed. The main foundations of the socialist ideology were increasingly challenged, and by the mid-1980s the state-controlled press was even being encouraged to refute the socialist line.

Bendjedid’s rule, however, was marked by serious setbacks. The revolution in Iran in 1979 triggered a continued rise in Islamic militancy, which sometimes broke out as rioting, and the war in Afghanistan spurred greater militant mobilization and direct action. In Algeria the breakdown of the socialist system contributed even further to the rise of Islamists. A sharp fall in petroleum prices in the mid-1980s seriously affected the country’s financial capabilities and opened questions regarding the petroleum-based industrialization program conducted under Boumedienne. The regime found itself without the resources it had relied on to pay the wages of its labour force. Basic foods became difficult to find, and social needs—housing in particular—could no longer be fulfilled.

Foreign debt rose tremendously in 1988, and riots continued. Unemployment rates exceeded one-fifth; unofficial figures reported much-higher numbers. Agriculture, already crippled by heavy state interference and bureaucracy, was hit by one of the worst droughts in the country’s history. Water shortages were frequent and crippled urban life and industry. This was further compounded by high rates of population growth, which created more demand for social services and food. Public resentment rose, as did awareness of the corruption that existed at all levels in the government.

Late in the year, serious riots broke out in Algiers, Annaba, and Oran. Bendjedid, taking advantage of the discontent, moved to liberalize the system and challenge the FLN political monopoly. A new constitution, approved in February 1989, dropped all references to socialism, removed the one-party state, and initiated political plurality. The emergence of a myriad of parties mainly benefited the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut; FIS). The FIS built on the population’s resentment of the incompetence and corruption of the regime and captured clear majorities in the provincial and municipal councils in 1990. Other less-radical Islamic parties never matched the popularity of the FIS.


Civil war: the Islamists versus the army
Relations between the Islamists and the army remained strained. The first round of balloting for the National People’s Assembly, held in December 1991, produced a striking victory for the FIS, which won 188 seats, just 28 short of a simple majority and 99 short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution. There seemed little doubt that the FIS would achieve a majority in the second ballot round, scheduled for January 1992. Instead Bendjedid resigned, and the next day the army intervened to cancel the elections. Mohamed Boudiaf, another former chef historique, was sworn in as president of a ruling Supreme State Council. Boudiaf, who was assassinated in June in Annaba, was succeeded by Ali Kafi. He presided over a country descending into civil war, where murder had already claimed some 1,000 lives, generally civilians but also journalists and past figures of the regime.

Retired general Liamine Zeroual succeeded Kafi in January 1994, but few improvements occurred, and countless more civilians were slaughtered. Those initially implicated in the violence included illegal Islamic groups such as the Armed Islamic Group (Groupe Islamique Armé; GIA) and the Islamic Salvation Army (Armée Islamique du Salut; AIS), but subsequent evidence indicated that much of the violence had been at the hands of elements within the state’s security services. Zeroual attempted to legitimize his position by holding presidential elections in November 1995. The elections were to include candidates from all legalized parties, but several of them boycotted the proceedings. Because the FIS had been banned, the results gave Zeroual more than three-fifths of the vote, followed by Mahfoud Nahnah, the moderate Islamist leader of Ḥamās (not connected with the Palestinian organization of the same name), with about one-fourth. The new prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, soon reaffirmed his government’s commitment to further privatization and liberalization of the economy.

A referendum was held in November 1996 to amend the 1989 constitution. The new document was approved by a majority of the voters, although claims of manipulation were made by the opposition parties. The main change, however, took place in early 1997 when a new government party, the National Democratic Rally (Rassemblement National et Démocratique; RND), was formed. Benefiting from unlimited government support, including the use of official buildings and funds, the RND quickly gained power. In the June elections for the National People’s Assembly, the RND won 156 out of 380 seats, and it continued its success in regional and municipal elections, where it won more than half the seats. In December elections for seats in the Council of the Nation, the new upper chamber, the RND again won the majority.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the former foreign minister under Boumedienne, ran for president unopposed in the elections of April 1999, as opposition candidates withdrew after hearing rumours that the elections were rigged. Bouteflika assured the international community that the elections were legitimate and vowed to work with other political parties. Violence ensued, however, and the number of killed, missing, and injured continued to rise. From the mid-1990s several discussions were held between the government and Ḥamās, the FIS, the GIA, and the AIS, among other parties, in order to clear up differences between the groups. In spite of a 1999 peace initiative, at the outset of the 21st century the situation remained unresolved, and violence continued. By that time the civil war, which had begun in 1992, had claimed the lives of some 100,000 civilians and numerous political figures.

In 2004 Bouteflika was reelected by an overwhelming margin; the election was considered by international observers to be generally free from manipulation. The following year Bouteflika put forth the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, which was endorsed by referendum in late September. In February 2006 a presidential decree concerning its implementation was approved by the council of ministers. Among those measures were compensation for the families of the “disappeared,” an amnesty for state security forces and militias, and restraints on debate and criticism of those forces’ conduct during the armed conflict. Islamist groups that surrendered voluntarily would be pardoned, along with those already held or sought—so long as none were implicated in massacres, rapes, or bombings. The measures were opposed not only by victims’ families but also by a number of international human rights groups, which jointly stated that the provisions denied justice to victims and their families and violated international law. Although a number of militants took the amnesty as an opportunity to resign their weapons, it was estimated that some 800 militants remained in operation following its expiration in late August. In spite of a general decline in the level of conflict, periodic violence continued.

In November 2008 the Algerian parliament approved a constitutional amendment abolishing presidential term limits. The arrangement permitted Bouteflika the opportunity to run for his third consecutive term, which he easily won in April 2009.


Foreign relations
Since independence Algeria’s foreign policy has been revolutionary in word but pragmatic in deed. The country was a haven for Third World guerrilla and revolutionary movements in its early years, and, while some militancy persists, Bendjedid and subsequent leaders have moved away from that stance. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s Algeria supported North Vietnam, and from 1975 it supported Vietnam, decolonization in Africa, and the abolition of apartheid in South Africa. The question of Palestine remained a central preoccupation, equal after 1975 with the Western Sahara issue. Yet, while Algeria continued to support the Palestine Liberation Organization, it also took a decisive role in mediating the release of U.S. hostages in Iran in 1981. Throughout the Cold War, Algeria sought to play the leading role in establishing a Third World alternative that was not aligned to the Eastern or Western bloc. The country also tried to obtain high prices for its petroleum within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which it joined in 1969, but more often found itself at odds with other members.

Relations with neighbouring Morocco have often been strained. A short border war that broke out in the fall of 1963 (the area in dispute being rich in deposits of iron ore) was resolved through the intervention of the Organization of African Unity. A rapprochement achieved in 1969–70 broke down over Morocco’s efforts to absorb Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara), as Algeria supported the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario) in resisting Morocco. The strained relations, which kept the two countries on the brink of an all-out war, were connected in part to the somewhat revolutionary leanings of Boumedienne and his antipathy for the Moroccan monarchy. Support for the Polisario continued under Bendjedid, but problems between the two countries gradually eased. Bendjedid and King Hassan II of Morocco met to discuss a possible resolution for the Western Sahara issue in May 1987, and diplomatic relations were restored the following year. Friction reemerged, however, notably in 1993 when Hassan stated that it would have been better if the FIS had been allowed to gain power in Algeria. Tensions over the Western Sahara intensified in the mid-1990s and remained an unresolved issue at the start of the 21st century.

The Arab Maghrib Union (AMU), established in 1989, not only improved relations between the Maghrib states—Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia—but also underscored the need for concerted policies. The AMU sought to bring the countries closer together by creating projects of shared interests. Initially there was some sense of enthusiasm regarding a project that included road and railway networks between these states. Tensions between member states, however, have substantially increased, and shared interest in carrying out joint projects has faltered.

Relations with France have frequently been contentious. Disputes developed soon after independence over the Algerian expropriation of abandoned French property (1963) and its nationalization of French petroleum interests (1971). There were also problems with the Algerian migrants living and working in France, who consistently remained at the bottom of the economic scale and were subject to ethnic prejudice. After Algerian independence France banned the importation of Algerian wine, deeming it competitive with its own production. In response Boumedienne uprooted and removed grapevines on large stretches of land. Throughout the 1980s the renegotiation of natural gas prices constituted another source of disagreement between the two countries, although Algeria obtained some concessions. In the 1990s the volatile political situation and violence in Algeria greatly affected the French, who suffered more casualties than any other nationality in the country. This terror reached Paris in the mid-1990s when Algerians set off a number of bombs in the city. Economic ties, however, have remained basically intact and include reciprocal investment agreements. Trade between Algeria and other Western and Southeast Asian countries has grown substantially and has reduced France’s importance as a trading partner.

As the role of the European Union (EU) widens, so does the link between Algeria and the member states in that organization. The Barcelona Conference initiative in November 1995 established a Euro-Mediterranean partnership, bringing together the EU and the countries bordering the Mediterranean in North Africa (excluding Libya). The partnership sought to achieve political stability in the region, create a zone of shared prosperity through economic and financial cooperation, and establish a free-trade zone early in the 21st century. There have also been specific European financial efforts directed toward Algeria to fund industrial restructuring and privatization.

Algeria initially was reluctant to accept the intervention of the UN in 1997 to help deal with the civilian massacres. But eventually a high-level UN delegation was sent to Algeria in July 1998 to meet with various parties in an effort to put a halt to the violence, which had declined enough by mid-2000 that Algeria’s borders with Tunisia and Morocco could be reopened.

L. Carl Brown
Salah Zaimeche
Ed.

 

 

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