The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

Achmed Sukarno (1902-1970)

Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, was born in Surabaya, Java. He formed the Indonesia National Party in 1927, and was imprisoned by the colonial Dutch government for his nationalist activities from 1929-1931. After living in exile, Sukarno returned to become the leader of Indonesia from 1942-1945 during the Japanese occupation of the nation during the Second World War. When the Netherlands granted the Federal Republic of Indonesia independence on December 27, 1949, Indonesians chose Sukarno as their first president. President Sukarno united people of differing ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds scattered among the Indonesian islands covering about 3200 miles of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. By 1957, factional problems led Sukarno to replace the country's constitution and create a new form of government, "guided democracy," which allowed him to dissolve the parliamentary system and control trade by 1959. In the early 1960s, Sukarno proclaimed himself president for life and continued to increase his ties to the Peoples Republic of China. An abortive communist coup on September 30, 1965, greatly undermined his power and led to the rise of General Mohamed Suharto, an anti-communist who suppressed the coup. On March 11, 1966, Sukarno signed an executive order that transferred all his power to Suharto. As a result, Suharto suspended relations with China and placed Sukarno under house arrest where he died on June, 21 1970.

Sources: David Crystal, The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia, 5th ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 902; Asa Briggs, ed., Who's Who in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 551-552; "History of Indonesia" Internet on-line. Available From

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Recommended citation: Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and the Election of 1960: A Project of The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, ed. by Allida Black, June Hopkins, John Sears, Christopher Alhambra, Mary Jo Binker, Christopher Brick, John S. Emrich, Eugenia Gusev, Kristen E. Gwinn, and Bryan D. Peery (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2003). Electronic version based on unpublished letters. .

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