Moluccans are the Austronesian-speaking and Papuan-speaking ethnic groups indigenous to the Maluku Islands, also called the Moluccas, which have been part of Indonesia since 1950. As such, "Moluccans" is used as a blanket term for various ethnic and linguistic groups inhabiting the islands.
A Moluccan wedding with the bride in traditional dress, circa 1960.
|Regions with significant populations|
| Indonesia: 2,203,415 (2010 census)|
(Maluku, Jakarta, East Java, North Sulawesi, West Papua)
|Central–Eastern Malayo-Polynesian languages, North Halmahera languages, North Moluccan Malay, Ambonese Malay, Indonesian|
|Christianity (Protestantism (Moluccan Evangelical Church, Protestant Church of Maluku), Roman Catholicism), Sunni Islam, Hinduism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Austronesians, Melanesians, Papuan people|
The original inhabitants of the Maluku Islands were Melanesian, or Papuan, in origin. However, the migration of the Austronesian people changed the situation drastically. Austronesian peoples displaced and partially assimilated the native Melanesian population around 2000 BCE. Melanesian features are strongest in the island of Halmahera and its surrounding islands, where the majority of the population still speaks West Papuan (non-Austronesian) languages of the North Halmahera branch.
Later added to were some Dutch, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabian and English genes due to colonization and marriage with foreign traders in the Middle Ages or with European soldiers during World War. Small number of German descendants added to Moluccan population especially in Ambon along with arrival of Protestant Missionaries since 15th century.
A small population of Moluccans (~45000) live in the Netherlands. This group mainly consists of the descendants of KNIL soldiers who had originally planned to come the Netherlands only temporarily, but were eventually forced to stay. (See Moluccan diaspora.) The remainder consists of Moluccans serving in the Dutch navy and their descendants, as well as some who came to the Netherlands from western New Guinea after it was handed over to Indonesia. However, the vast majority of Moluccans still live in the Moluccas and the other surrounding regions such as Papua, West Timor, North Sulawesi, Bali and Java.
After the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies during World War II, the Netherlands wanted to restore the old colonial situation. The indigenous Indonesians were against it. However, led by rebels and Sukarno, a struggle for independence broke out between 1945 and 1949. The reconstituted Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) was commissioned by the Dutch government to maintain order and to disarm the rebels. Moluccan professional soldiers formed an important part of this army. The Moluccan community was thus regarded by the Dutch as allies and vice versa. The government of the Netherlands had promised them that they would get their own free state in return for assisting the Netherlands. After international efforts could not support the Netherlands to maintain its colony, the Dutch government could no longer keep its promise to the Moluccans for a free state. The Moluccans, who were seen by the Indonesians as collaborators, had to go to the Netherlands. Moluccans who served in the command of KNIL would reside temporarily in the Netherlands. The Moluccans were then housed in camps in the Netherlands, including the former Westerbork transit camp.
The Dutch Moluccans had repeatedly drawn the attention of the Dutch government to their claim for a free Republic of South Maluku (Republik Maluku Selatan or RMS) state of which the Dutch government had promised earlier. In the 1970s this escalated more and more. One of the methods to gain attention on the matter was through the violent hijackings of 1975 Dutch train hostage crisis in De Punt, Wijster, where hostages were taken, and the train hijackers were killed.
The Moluccans speak over a hundred different languages, with a majority of them belonging to the Central Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. An important exception is the island of Halmahera and its surrounding islands, where the majority of the population speak West Papuan languages (North Halmahera branch). Another exception are the Malay-based creoles such as the Ambonese language (also known as Ambonese Malay), spoken mainly on Ambon and the nearby Ceram; and North Moluccan Malay used in Ternate, Tidore, Halmahera and Sula Islands in North Maluku. Most of the Moluccans in the Netherlands particularly speak Ambonese and Buru.[clarification needed]
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