A republic in northeastern Africa, south of Egypt. Home of the ancient Kingdom of Dongola, the Sudan converted to Christianity and resisted Muslim pressure until the 14th century. Thereafter, it was divided into numerous petty states and was in Egyptian control from 1820 to 1885. The Sudan became united and independent after the Mahdi, a local religious leader, led a jihad against foreigners from 1881 to 1885. In 1898, the area was conquered by the British, and an Anglo-Egyptian condominium was established. In 1954, the Sudan became self-governing and, on Jan. 1, 1956, became an independent republic. Since its independence, Sudan has fought a prolonged civil war in the southern third of the country, where the predominantly black, pagan population seeks independence from the Arab, Moslem north. In 1969, a military coup brought a socialist regime to power, and in 1970, the government nationalized a number of businesses. In 1971, an abortive communist coup brought a temporary break in relations between the Sudan and the Soviet Union. Relations later improved, but after 1975 the Sudan moved away from the Soviet Union and strengthened ties with the United States. In 1992 the government imposed militant Islam throughout the nation, and the Sudan has since become a haven for Arab terrorists. Sudan is one of the few countries where legal slavery continues to exist.