Useful country information
Total area: 70 sq mi (181 sq km), includes the atolls of Bikini, Eniwetok, and Kwajalein
Population (2014 est.): 70,983 (growth rate: 1.72%); birth rate: 26.36/1000; infant mortality rate: 21.39/1000; life expectancy: 72.58
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Majuro, 31,000
Monetary unit: U.S. Dollar
Languages: Marshallese (official) 98.2%, other languages 1.8% (1999 census) note: English (official), widely spoken as a second language
Ethnicity/race: Marshallese 92.1%, mixed Marshallese 5.9%, other 2% (2006)
Religions: Protestant 54.8%, Assembly of God 25.8%, Roman Catholic 8.4%, Bukot nan Jesus 2.8%, Mormon 2.1%, other Christian 3.6%, other 1%, none 1.5% (1999 census)
National Holiday: Constitution Day, May 1
Literacy rate: 93.7% (1999)
The Marshall Islands consists of 29 atolls and 5 individual islands totaling about 1,225 islands and 870 reef systems scattered over 750,000 square miles of the Central Pacific.
Micronesian peoples were the first inhabitants of the archipelago. The islands were explored by the Spanish in the 16th century and were named for a British captain in 1788. Germany unsuccessfully attempted to colonize the islands in 1885. Japan claimed them in 1914, but after several battles during World War II, the U.S. seized them from the Japanese.
After almost four decades under US administration as the easternmost part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association.
Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the islands between 1947 and 1962.
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