Every 31 January is Independence Day on Nauru. Independence Day marks the day in 1968 when the island became fully independent, making it the tiniest republic on the face of the Earth.
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Micronesian and Polynesian peoples have lived on Nauru for thousands of years. It was only in 1798 that the island was discovered by a European whaler and named “Pleasant Island”. By the 1830’s, Nauru had regular contact with European whalers and traders.
From 1878 to 1888, a civil war raged among the island’s traditional 12 tribes. The war was particularly fierce due to the acquisition of firearms from foreign traders. In 1888, however, Germany took control of Nauru, and the civil war was put to an end.
During World War I, in 1914, Australian forces seized Nauru from Germany. In 1919, an agreement was set up that put the island under joint British-Australian-New Zealand rule. But Australia was always “really” in control. Finally, Nauru was granted self-rule in 1966 and full independence in 1968.
On Independence Day, islanders raise their country’s flag, sing its national anthem, and listen to patriotic speeches. They also take part in fishing, wrestling, and tug-o-war contests and spend time cleaning up their homeland in a district-by-district clean up competition.