A republic in northeast Africa. Ethiopia was an ancient empire, isolated from the rest of the Christian world after the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. Although Ethiopia subsequently broke up into several petty states, it maintained its unique culture and its political independence for centuries, as surrounding nations were conquered, first by the Arabs, Turks and Egyptians, later by the various European imperial powers. During the 19th century, the country was again united. An Italian invasion was crushed in 1896, but many outlying areas were gradually lost to the British, French and Italians. In 1935-36, Ethiopia was defeated by Italy, and in 1936, with Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, it was organized into the colony of Italian East Africa. Italy's East African empire was short-lived, and in 1941, Ethiopia was liberated with the help of British forces, and independence was restored.
In 1974, Emperor Haile Selassie I, who had reigned since 1922, was deposed, and a socialist military regime assumed power. The new government abolished the monarchy, curbed the powers of the ancient Coptic Church, launched radical land reforms and violently suppressed political opposition. In 1978 Soviet advisers and 20,000 Cuban troops helped Ethiopia defeat Somalia in a border war in the Ogaden. By the early 1980's, chronic civil war, the upheaval caused by the displacement of farmers in collectivization programs, and a disastrous drought created a devastating famine in the country. The death of as many as a million Ethiopians brought a massive international relief effort, beginning in 1984. In 1991, a coalition of rebel armies overthrew the socialist military regime and created a transitional government. In 1994, a new constitution was adopted, and in 1995 Ethiopia's first multiparty national elections were held.
ITALIAN EAST AFRICA