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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.

Molukker / Molucano / Orang Maluku
Moluccan marriage, bride in traditional dress, Wedding Ceremonials, p62.jpg
A Moluccan wedding with the bride in traditional dress, circa 1960.
Total population
2.5 million
Regions with significant populations
 Indonesia: 2,203,415 (2010 census)[1]
(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.[2] However, the migration of the Austronesian people changed the situation drastically.[3] Austronesian peoples displaced and partially assimilated the native Melanesian population around 2000 BCE.[4] Melanesian features are strongest in the island of Halmahera and its surrounding islands,[citation needed] 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[citation needed] especially in Ambon along with arrival of Protestant Missionaries since 15th century.[5]

A small population of Moluccans (~45000[6]) 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.[6] 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.


Sukarno dancing with Moluccan people, 1958.

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.[7] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[7] The Moluccans were then housed in camps in the Netherlands, including the former Westerbork transit camp.[9]

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.[10]


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,[11] Halmahera and Sula Islands in North Maluku.[12] Most of the Moluccans in the Netherlands particularly speak Ambonese and Buru.[clarification needed]


The Moluccans in the northern Moluccas (present province of North Maluku) are mainly Muslim.[13] and the Moluccans in the central and southern Moluccas (present day Maluku) are mainly Christians.[14]

The religions that are most often espoused by Moluccans in the Netherlands are the Protestant faith and, to a lesser extent, Islam.

There are significant number of native Hindu followers in Kei Islands although the region is predominately Catholic.

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ "Kewarganegaraan, Suku Bangsa, Agama, Dan Bahasa Sehari-Hari Penduduk Indonesia". Badan Pusat Statistik. 2010. Retrieved 2017-07-18.
  2. ^ "Irian Jaya – Anthropological and Historical Perspective". Archived from the original on 1999-10-09.
  3. ^ Witton, Patrick (2003). Indonesia. Melbourne: Lonely Planet. p. 818. ISBN 1-74059-154-2.
  4. ^ Taylor, Jean Gelman (2003). Indonesia: Peoples and Histories. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 5–7. ISBN 0-300-10518-5.
  5. ^ Robert Benjamin (2009). Unknown Creatures. ISBN 06-152-6095-0.
  6. ^ a b Beets et al., Demografische ontwikkeling van de Molukse bevolkingsgroep in Nederland
  7. ^ a b c Marianne Hulsbosch (2014). Pointy Shoes and Pith Helmets: Dress and Identity Construction in Ambon from 1850 to 1942. BRILL. p. 31. ISBN 90-042-6081-1.
  8. ^ Marjo Buitelaar & Hetty Zock, ed. (2013). Religious Voices in Self-Narratives: Making Sense of Life in Times of Transition. Walter de Gruyter. p. 194. ISBN 16-145-1170-5.
  9. ^ Josh Varlin (11 May 2015). "The Westerbork transit camp and the destruction of Dutch Jewry". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  10. ^ "Dutch State Sued Over 'Excessive Force' Against 1977 Moluccan Train Hijackers". Jakarta Globe. 5 November 2014. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  11. ^ Louis Boumans, ed. (1998). The Syntax of Codeswitching: Analysing Moroccan Arabic/Dutch Conversations. Tilburg University Press. p. 95. ISBN 90-361-9998-0.
  12. ^ William Frawley, ed. (2003). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: 4-Volume Set. Oxford University Press. pp. 351–352. ISBN 01-951-3977-1.
  13. ^ Huibert van Beek, ed. (2006). A Handbook of Churches and Councils: Profiles of Ecumenical Relationships. World Council of Churches. p. 266. ISBN 28-254-1480-8.
  14. ^ Noelle Higgins (2009). Regulating the Use of Force in Wars of National Liberation: The Need for a New Regime: A Study of the South Moluccas and Aceh. BRILL. p. 175. ISBN 90-474-2634-7.