A group of islands in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Ceylon. The Maldives came under British protection in 1887 and were attached to the Ceylon colony until 1948. During 1948-64, the islands were closely associated with Great Britain, becoming completely independent in July 1965. In 1968, the 800-year-old sultanate was abolished, and a republic was established. Although the Maldives have issued some 2,000 stamps since independence, the country is not economically developed and is among the world's poorest nations.