Nauru, formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, 300 kilometres to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just 21 square kilometres. With 9,378 residents, it is the second least-populated country after Vatican City.
Settled by Micronesian and Polynesian people, Nauru was annexed and claimed as a colony by the German Empire in the late 19th century. After World War I, Nauru became a League of Nations mandate administered by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
During World War II, Nauru was occupied by Japanese troops, who were bypassed by the Allied advance across the Pacific. After the war ended, the country entered into trusteeship again. Nauru gained its independence in 1968.
Nauru is a phosphate rock island with rich deposits near the surface, which allow easy strip mining operations. It has some phosphate reserves which are presently (as of 2011) not economically viable for extraction.
Nauru boasted the highest per-capita income enjoyed by any sovereign state in the world during the late 1960s and early 1970s. When the phosphate reserves were exhausted, and the environment had been seriously harmed by mining, the trust that had been established to manage the island's wealth diminished in value.
To earn income, Nauru briefly became a tax haven and illegal money laundering centre. From 2001 to 2008, it accepted aid from the Australian Government in exchange for housing the Nauru detention centre.
The president of Nauru is Sprent Dabwido, who heads an 18-member unicameral parliament. The country is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Asian Development Bank and the Pacific Islands Forum. Nauru also participates in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. Recently Nauru became member country of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).