East Timor Geography and Population

By | January 8, 2023

OFFICIAL NAME: Timor Lorosae


POPULATION: 1,170,000 (2013)

AREA: 14,609 km²

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE (S): Portuguese and tetum

RELIGION: Catholics 80%, others 20%

COIN: US dollars



GDP PER residents: $ 338 (2007)

LIFE EXPECTANCY: men 54 years, women 56 years (2005)




East Timor, Timor Lorosae, an independent republic that forms the northeastern part of the otherwise Indonesian island of Timor north of Australia. The capital Dili has approximately 60,000 residents (2006). East Timor is one of the youngest countries in the world; it gained full independence from Indonesia in 2002.

  • Countryaah: Do you know how many people there are in East Timor? Check this site to see population pyramid and resident density about this country.

East Timor is dry and mountainous; Tata Mai Lau is 2963 m. The mountains stretch out towards the coast and large areas are difficult to access. Ambeno, which is part of East Timor, is located as an enclave in West Timor. The climate is tropical with a long dry season (March-November) and can only be harvested once a year; maize, sweet potatoes and rice are grown mainly, as well as coffee and copra for export. Large parts of the modest industrial sector, mainly the manufacture of simple consumer goods, were destroyed in 1999 by Indonesian militias, but parts have been rebuilt with international assistance.

Oil has been found in the Timor Sea off the south coast, and exploitation began in 2004; an agreement has been reached with Australia on future oil extraction Tourism has also been severely restricted. The population is made up of a dozen Austronesian groups, the largest of which is tetum. A majority are Christians with strong elements of traditional faith.


Portuguese is the former language of colonization, while Indonesian in the second half of the 1900’s. gained ground as the language of the occupying power. The vast majority of East Timor’s indigenous people speak various West Austronesian languages, including tetum, mambai, and galoki. Especially on the easternmost part of the island, however, small groups have been identified who speak or previously spoke Papua languages, such as Makasai, Fataluku, Kemak and Bunak. For culture and traditions of East Timor, please check animalerts.

National flag

The flag was introduced at the proclamation of independence on 28.11.1975. Black must symbolize 400 years of colonial rule, the yellow arrowhead the struggle for independence. Red stands for the blood that is shed by the people of East Timor. The white star symbolizes hope for the future.


In 1520 the Portuguese arrived on the island, and in 1613 the Dutch followed; they took possession of the western part of Timor, while the Portuguese retained control of the eastern part. The division between the two colonial powers was formalized by an agreement in 1859. The present boundaries were established in 1914.

Timor was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. After the war, the western part was incorporated into Indonesia in 1949, while East Timor remained a Portuguese colony. The Portuguese colonial empire was dissolved in 1975, and on November 28, East Timor declared independence under the leadership of the independence movement Fretilin. Just nine days later, however, Indonesia invaded the new country, which the following year became an Indonesian province under the name Timor Timur. The incorporation was never internationally recognized. Fretilin launched an armed struggle against the Indonesians, and up to 200,000 are believed to have died as a result of the bloody civil war.

Following the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, Indonesia agreed to allow East Timorians to vote on the future status of the region. In the UN-monitored referendum in August 1999, 78.5% voted for independence. Now followed violent riots staged by pro-Indonesian militias, forcing a UN intervention; several hundred thousand East Timorians were then driven into exile. In October 1999, Indonesia recognized East Timor’s independence.

After a transitional period under UN administration, East Timor became completely independent in 2002. Behind it was extensive and well-conducted preparatory work by UN agencies gathered in UNTAET, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor. Former rebel leader Xanana Gusmão was convincingly elected the country’s first president the same year. The last Australian peacekeeping forces left the country in 2005. In the spring of 2006, however, there were widespread unrest. Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri resigned and was succeeded by José Ramos-Horta, who was elected president in 2007 while Xanana Gusmão became prime minister. The appointment of Gusmão sparked widespread unrest. Ramos-Horta was the target of an assassination attempt in 2008 in which he was seriously injured.

East Timor Geography