The state of Algeria is a relatively modern creation. It has a long history that connects the Ottoman Turks and the French empire.
In this article, we cover the years of diplomatic challenges and struggles Algeria and its citizens faced.
History of Algeria
Neolithic civilization with domestic animals and agriculture developed in the Saharan and Mediterranean Maghrib between 6000 and 2000 B.C. There are cave paintings in South-eastern Algeria depicting their prosperous economy. In ancient times, Algeria was known as Numidia.
The people of North Africa coalesced to become natives known as Berbers. The Berbers lacked a written language but did have a unique culture and oral traditions. The Phoenician traders arrived on the coast around 900 B.C.
Trade links grew between Carthage and Berbers, which helped build their land. Still, it also brought about enslavement and the military recruitment of Berbers. The Carthaginian state declined after being defeated by the Romans in the Punic Wars. In 146 B.C., the city of Carthage was destroyed. As Carthaginian powers declined, Berbers grew.
In 24 A.D., the Roman Empire annexed the Berbers’ territory. Rifts formed between the Romans and the Berbers as urbanization grew and agriculture declined. By the end of the 4th century, many settled areas had become Christian, with Berber tribes converting en masse.
By 642 A.D. and 669 A.D., the first Arab military expansion happened. By 711 A.D., the Umayyad dynasty has converted the Berbers to Islam and helped conquer much of North Africa. In 750 A.D., the Abbasid dynasty succeeded the Umayyads as Muslim rulers.
Under the Abbasids, the Rustumid imamate in the area thrived. They were famed for their justice, holiness, and support of scholarships. However, their leadership failed because of their inability to organize a reliable standing army. This failure allowed the infiltration by the Fatimid dynasty, who were more interested in Egypt. As a result, this left Algeria to be ruled by the Zirids between 972 A.D. and 1148.
Under the Zirids, whose power centered on Algeria for the first time, there was political instability and economic decline. In this area, thanks to the large incursion of Arab Bedouins from Egypt, Algeria became Arabized.
The Almoravid movement started in the early 11th century among the Sanhaja Berbers of the western Sahara. The movement was motivated by religion, as the tribal leader attempted to impose Islamic morals and principles onto its followers. By 1054, the Almoravid movement had moved to the military, later conquering Morocco, east Algiers, and parts of Spain.
The unitarian Almohad took control of Morocco in 1146, Algiers in 1151, and the Maghrib region by 1160. Their wars in Spain overtaxed their resources. Algeria as a country and its position in Africa was soon compromised.
This led to the Zayanids founding a dynasty at Tlemcen in Algeria. For more than 300 years, until the region came under the Ottoman ruling in the 16th century. The Zayanids did manage to keep a tenuous hold of the central Maghrib. In the 16th century, Algeria became a privateering city-state. Two privateer brothers (Barbarossa or Red Beard) helped extend Ottoman influence in Algeria. Often known as pirates to Europeans, these brothers moved the base of operations to Algiers from Tunisia.
Thanks to their work as military commanders, Algiers became the center of Ottoman authority, and the Turkish became their primary language. Governors known as pashas started to rule, although Arabs and Berbers were excluded from any government posts. In 1961, leaders adopted the title dey, replacing pashas.
After the restoration of peace in Europe in 1815, Algiers found itself at war with Spain, the Netherlands, Prussia (now Germany), Russia, Denmark, Russia, and Italy after the Napoleonic war. In March of that year, the U.S. Congress also authorized naval action against the so-called Barbary States.
Where is Algeria?
Algeria is in North Africa and on the Mediterranean coast. Algeria extends southwest into the heart of the Sahara Desert, which makes up more than four-fifths of the country’s area.
What is the Capital of Algeria?
Algiers is the capital and chief seaport of Algeria. It is the political, economic, and cultural center of Algeria. The city takes its name from several small islands that formerly sat in the bay, but one has disappeared or connected to the shore.
You will find Algiers on the slopes of the Sahel Hills. It was founded in the 4th century as a Phoenician counter in Berber country. The geography of Algeria and the modern area of Algiers stand on a plateau at sea level. Above it sits the ancient Casbah, which looks over the different communities of this diverse city. It’s known as Alger La Blanche (Algiers the White) due to its dazzling white buildings.
The climate of Algeria, especially its northern parts, has a similarly temperate climate to other Mediterranean countries. The coastal region has a pleasant environment with winter temperatures averaging from 10° to 12° C (50° to 54° F) and summer temperatures averaging from 24° to 26° C (75° to 79° F).
We can safely say that the Algerian location is prime. In eastern Algeria, rainfall is abundant. It is dry in the area around Oran, where mountains form a barrier against rain-carrying winds. When it does rain in Algeria, it can flood large areas, but it does evaporate quickly.
Inland the climate does get colder, with frost and snow quite common. In this region, prevailing winds are westerly and northerly in winter and easterly and north-easterly in summer. This results in a general increase in precipitation during the winter months. There is little to no rainfall in the summer months.
In the Sahara Desert, temperatures range from –10° to 34° C (14° to 93° F), with extreme highs of 49° C (120° F). The weather can vary 44° C (80° F) in just one day. Winds are frequently and often very violent.
Algeria’s neighboring countries are Tunisia and Libya to the east. Niger, Mali, and Mauritania to the South. Morocco is to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea entirely takes up the north.
Algeria Under French Power?
For a significant period in history, Algeria as a country was under French rule. It started when France felt insulted by the dey in 1827. France blockaded Algiers for three years. When the blockade failed, the French used it as an excuse for military expeditions against Algiers in 1830.
By 1848, nearly all northern Algeria was under French control. The new government of the Second Republic declared the occupied lands as part of France. Algiers, Oran, and Constantine were administratively organized as French departments under a civilian government. Colonists known as pieds noirs (also called colons) dominated and controlled the bulk of Algeria’s wealth.
Social, political, and economic crises in the 1930s led to several acts of political protest. The government responded with restrictive laws governing public order and security. Algerian Muslims rallied to the French defense during World War I and World War II. The colons were generally more sympathetic to the Vichy regime.
Tensions between Muslim and colon communities exploded on V-E Day in 1945 when a Muslim march was met with violence. Over 1,500 Muslims died due to the army and police violence, although some data show that 45,000 people were killed.
In August 1947, the French National Assembly approved the government-proposed Organic Statute of Algeria. This law called for creating an Algerian Assembly with one house representing Europeans and “meritorious” Muslims and the other representing the remaining Muslims.
When Did Algeria Gain Independence?
Algeria gained independence on July 5, 1962. In the early hours of November 1, 1954, the National Liberation Front (FLN) launched attacks throughout Algeria. In August 1955, the movement massacred civilians near the town of Philippeville. This massacre was a crucial moment for the movement. According to the FLN, the government claimed it killed 1,273 guerrillas in retaliation; 12,000 Muslims perished in the bloodshed.
By 1957, the FLN has a military wing with nearly 40,000 disciplined fighters, which successfully applied guerrilla warfare tactics. France responded by sending 400,00 troops to Algeria. Although France had military control of Algeria, international pressure was building on France to grant Algeria independence.
When Charles De Gaulle became France’s premiere in June 1958, he was given free rein to deal with Algeria. De Gaulle appointed a committee to draft a new constitution for France’s Fifth Republic, with which Algeria would be associated. A vast majority approved this constitution, and De Gaulle was elected president of the new Fifth Republic.
The colons soon turned on De Gaulle, believing him to have betrayed them. Back by an army, they staged an insurrection in Algiers in 1960. The French military joined in an unsuccessful insurrection intended to seize control of Algeria and topple the de Gaulle regime. This coup marked a significant turning point in the official attitude toward the Algerian war.
On July 1, 1962, some 6 million Algerians cast their ballots in the independence referendum. This election led to the creation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria was formally proclaimed on September 25, 1962. The following day, Ahmed Ben Bella was named premier. He formed a cabinet that linked the army, the party, and the government.
What Are Some Interesting Facts About Algeria?
Here are some of our favorite facts about Algeria:
- Algeria’s national animal is the fennec fox.
- Algeria is home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The most famous of which is Timgad.
- The U.S. army used to import camels from Algeria until the 1870s.
- The country’s petroleum, natural gas, and ammonia shipping account for over 95percent of its exports.
- They have a private press, but the state broadcaster avoids criticism of the government.
- Abdelmadjid Tebboune won the December 2019 presidential election.
Algeria has a diverse geography and is the largest country in Africa, 10th largest in the world. Algeria has a 998km long coastline line.
The absolute location of Algeria is 19° and 37°N latitudes and 9°W and 12°E longitudes. The capital and the largest city of Algeria, Algiers, is in the north of the country.
South of Algiers sits the Tell Atlas mountain range with its impressive peaks and beautiful valleys. This mountain range extends into the High Plateaus, a massive area of mostly barren plains. The next landscape band comprises different mountain ranges that are part of Algeria’s Saharan Atlas range. 80percent of the country is covered by the Sahara Desert, which presents stunning, if not extreme, scenery.
Algeria is divided into two distinct geographic regions.
- The northernmost, known as the Tell, is influenced by the Mediterranean and consists mostly of the Atlas Mountains. This mountain range separates the coastal plains from the southern region.
2. This southern region is almost entirely desert and forms most of the country’s territory. The area is situated in the western portion of the Sahara, which stretches across North Africa.
How Big is Algeria?
Algeria is Africa’s biggest country. It covers nearly 2.4 million km². This makes it about four times bigger than France. The majority of the population lives in a small coastal area. It is because the Sahara covers the southern part of the country.
Population Size and Demography
Algeria has a population of around 41 million people. 90percent of these people live in the Northern Coastal area. The official language is Arabic, but the elite still speak French, and indigenous Berbers speak the Tamazight.
Algeria’s citizens are mostly Algerian Arabs, but there is also a significant Berber population. Algerian law forbids any census on an ethnic basis. Hence, no official data exists to confirm the ethnicity of its citizens. Berbers are subdivided into groups depending on where they live.
Most French Algerians fled after the country gained independence, moving back to France. However, a few thousand do still reside there. Sub-Saharan Africans also live in the country, although in a small number.
When Did Islam Come to Algeria?
Islam was first brought to Algeria by the Umayyad dynasty following Uqba ibn Nafi’s invasion, from 670 to 711.
During the French colonization, they set about undermining traditional Muslim Algerian culture. By French law, Muslims could not hold public meetings, carry firearms, or even leave their local area without permission. To become French citizens, they had to renounce Islamic law.
Once Algeria gained independence, the government asserted state control over religious activities. Islam became the religion of the state and the country’s leaders. They also opened up the French’s religious property, providing religious education and training for Muslims. Islamic laws were introduced back into family law while abstaining from the legal code.
In modern-day Algeria, the majority of the population follows Islam. Most citizens are Sunni Muslims, who belong to the Maliki school of jurisprudence. A minority, who mainly live in the M’zab Valley region, is Ibadi.
Algeria has a green, red and white flag. They adopted this flag on July 3, 1962. The red on the flag symbolizes the bloodshed by those fighting for independence. Green represents nature and white peace. The red star and crescent symbol in the center represent the Islamic religion.
Oil counts for 60 percent of Algeria’s budget. Algeria has the 14th highest world oil reserve, with at least 12 billion barrels proven. The 2000 and 2001 oil price increase also benefited the country, as did tight fiscal policy. This reduced the country’s foreign debt, increased trade surplus, and led to record-high foreign exchange reserves.
The Algerian agricultural sector employs around 25 percent of its citizens. In the South, small amounts of cotton are grown. Also, the dwarf palm is cultivated in large quantities for its leaves and horsehair-like fibers. Tobacco and olives also grow well on the land.
Cereal grains (mostly wheat, oat, and barley) are produced on more than 30,000 square kilometers of land, primarily in the Tell Atlas. Algeria is also Africa’s largest oat market.
Fruit is also exported, including many citrus fruits and related products and other crops such as figs, dates, esparto grass, and cork.
Algeria has had an exciting and sometimes violent historical past.
Let us recap Algeria and its history:
- There is a cave painting that shows there was life in Algeria between 6000 and 2000 B.C.
- The people of North Africa coalesced to become natives known as Berbers.
- Due to its extensive coastline, Algeria gained power through trading on the coast.
- Algeria was under French control for many years, causing many years of violence.
- Algeria gain independence from France in 1962.
- Algiers is the capital and chief seaport of Algeria.
- Algeria’s economy revolves around the oil industry.
- Algeria is predominately Islam, and the official language is Arabic.
- The country is divided into two distinct geographic regions.
Algeria’s documented history reaches far back into the Neolithic period.
The modern state we now know as Algeria was named by the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century when Algiers’ regency controlled the territory. After a long and turbulent time at the French’s hands, the country thrived after its independence in 1962.