An area on the eastern coast of Africa, bordering on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. The northern coastal area was under the influence of the Turks from the 16th century and Egypt during the 19th century. The southern coast was under a vague Arab suzerainty after the mid-18th century. In 1905 the area was constituted as the Italian colony of Somaliland. In 1936, Somaliland was merged with Eritrea and Ethiopia to form Italian East Africa. In 1941, the area was occupied by Great Britain, which held it until 1950, using overprinted British stamps. In 1950, the area was returned to Italy, under a U.N. trusteeship. In 1960, the area became independent, merging with the former British Somaliland Protectorate to form the Republic of Somalia. In 1970, the nation's name was changed to the Somali Democratic Republic. A military coup in 1969 brought an increasingly socialistic regime to power. Relations with the Soviet Union strengthened, and a major Soviet naval base was established at Berbera. Soviet-Somali relations cooled when Moscow switched its support to Ethiopia in the two nations' dispute over the Ogaden, a large eastern region of Ethiopia populated primarily by Somalis. In 1977, Soviet advisers were expelled from Somalia. In 1978, Somali forces were expelled from the Ogaden by Ethiopian and Cuban troops. Over one million Somali refugees from the region fled to Somalia. The government survived this defeat but collapsed in 1991, after which Somalia disintegrated into a chronic anarchy, in which numerous warring clans vied for power. The northern portion of the country, formerly the British territory, separated from the rest of Somalia to form the independent Somaliland Republic.
For period 1936-1941 see Ethiopia, Italian East Africa