Ethiopia Encyclopedia for Children


An ancient empire on its last legs

Ethiopia is today one of the most populous states in Africa, but also one of the least modernized and poorest in the world. Forced by a tormented history to chase survival, Ethiopia has experienced dramatic situations: famines and wars, ethnic and linguistic divisions, religious and political contrasts, against the backdrop of the ancient glorious history of an empire that was believed to be invincible


Mountains in the tropics

Halfway between the Equator and the Tropic, the Ethiopian territory is a plateau, with short chains and massifs often of volcanic origin (Ras Dascian, 4620 m); there are valleys of rivers (Blue Nile and its tributaries, Auasc, Uebi Scebeli), lakes and rift valleys. High in the west and in the center, the plateau lowers to the east in the Danakil Depression (-116 m from the sea) and Ogaden.

Above 2,000 m, the climate is temperate, humid and favorable to human presence and agriculture; at low altitudes it is hot and not very rainy. Spontaneous vegetation and wildlife have been greatly reduced by human intervention. For Ethiopia 2012, please check

The population is growing very rapidly. Except for the capital, Addis Ababa, the cities are small and almost all of the residents live in agricultural villages scattered over the plateau. Economic resources have by no means grown as much as the population and are traditional ones (agriculture for local consumption, and coffee for export); there is almost no modern economy: the country survives thanks to international aid.

A long story

Populated already in prehistoric times, the territory of present-day Ethiopia was the seat, from the 1st century AD, of the flourishing kingdom of Axum, which adopted Coptic Christianity in the 4th century. Threatened by Arab expansion from the 7th century onwards, the kingdom of Axum collapsed around 970. Since then, tremendous Islamic pressure, the constant infiltration of nomadic populations and the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century have characterized the country’s history., which from the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries entered a phase of profound decadence and fragmentation.

The political and territorial unity of Ethiopia was re-established, between the 19th and the 20th century, first by the emperor Theodore II and later above all by Menelik II and by Hailé Selassié, who was crowned king in 1928 and then emperor in 1930. Shortly after the death of Theodore II, the Italian penetration into the region began, which suffered a heavy setback with the defeat of Adua in 1896. The Italian offensive resumed in the Fascist era, with the Ethiopian war of 1935- 36. This resulted in the annexation of the country to the Italian colonial empire, which however ended in 1941-42 with the defeat of the Italian-German troops in Africa during the Second World War. Until 1974 Ethiopia remained under the government of Haile Selassié. In 1977 Colonel Hayla M. Menghistu who imposed a military regime of a socialist character which lasted until 1991. In 1995 he became head of the Meles Zenawi government. Since the beginning of the 1950s, a serious source of crisis was the question of Eritrea, first federated with Ethiopia (1952) and then annexed as a simple province (1962). The resistance of the nationalists led to the independence of Eritrea in 1993, in the context of serious tensions between the two states that lasted until the beginning of the 21st century.

Ethiopia Encyclopedia for Children

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