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Surinam - Omitted Country Of South America V.

Published: 30.4.2010

Originally, Surinam inhabitants lived in isolated tribes inside small communities, were engaged with hunting and primitive way of agriculture, the base of which formed maniok-growing. Coastal tribes spoke languages of Aravac families, whereas the Indians from inland spoke Caribbean languages. Surinam coasts were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1498 during his third expedition into New World. However, the Spaniards as well as the Portugueses, did not expressed the interest in colonization of this region. Much more later, at the end of 16th century, the British, French and Dutchmen started to be interested in Guyana, as some news was spreaded that some fictitious Eldorado rich country could be found there. Nevertheless, the Europeans did not found the gold, on the other hand, they established merchant communities along coast of Atlantic Ocean.

First standard community was created along Surinam-river by Dutch merchants in 1551. At the end of 16th century, Surinam was seized by Spaniards, and later, in 1630, by British. They submitted Surinam to the Netherlands (according to peace agreement of 1667), as a substitution for New Amsterdam (actual New York). To the first Surinam colonists belonged many Dutch and Italian Jews, who escaped in front of the inquisition. Till 1794, Surinam remained under supremacy of Dutch West-Indian Company and was Netherland´s colony. The economical base was formed with plantation farming. The slaves from Africa were brought for such kind of work. Sugar cane became main product of this area. Apart of this, cocoa-trees and coffee-trees, or indigo, cottonplants and cereals were grown there.

Plantation farming increased hardly till 1785. At that time period, more than 590 plantations existed in Surinam territory, and at least 452 sugar cane and other commodities were planted. The products for internal consumption were grown on remaining surface. However, at the end of 18th century, the colony went through decline. In 1860, only 87 sugar cane  plantations remained, and later, in 1940, four plantations only.

In Surinam, similarly as in other colonies, producing sugar and using the work of slaves, occured striking society separation. On the highest stages of such social hierarchy, small number of Europeans, mostly colonial officers, entrepreneurs and planters was to be found. Among European inhabitants, the Dutchmen, but also the Germans, French or British dominated. The other social group (elite) was formed with independent Creoles, including descendants of Europeans and slaves, who got or bought their freedom.

Nevertheless, the lowest and most numerous group was formed with slaves. It was to be distiguished between bondmen, imported legally from Africa till 1804, and illegally till 1820, and bondmen who were born in Surinam. However, slave system in Surinam differed from extreme cruelty. The slaves had no rights. Colonial laws were headed for in such direction, in order to give slave-dealers their unlimited power over the slaves and isolated completely the slaves from free inhabitants. As a consequence, the slaves flew away their owners to inland and created the communities in forests (so called „bush negroes“).

Since the beginning of 19th century, a campaign, aimed at slavery liquidation, spreaded. Afterthat, when  the British cancelled the slavery in clolonies in 1833, the French followed them in 1848, and finally, the Dutchmen did the same in 1863.

Nevertheless, colonial government decided to lease the Asiats for plantation works. Within 1853 -1873, more than 2,5 thousands of Chinese arrived to Surinam, followed by 33 thousands of Indonesians. The descendants of these immigrants form a majority of actual Surinam inhabitants.

In 1954, Surinam obtained the autonomy, as a part of Netherland´s Kingdom, and finally, the country got the independence in 1975.


Text: Maxim Kucer

Foto: www.wikipedia.org, w33zz

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