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The Republic of Benin is the former Republic of Dahomey. Dahomey was called after the historic kingdom of Dahomey or Abomey, conquered by the French in 1892-1894. Benin became a self governing republic within the French Community in December 1958 and an independent state on 1 August 1960. Political life in the republic has been extremely unstable following independence, as regionally based interests contended for power.
The major ethnic groups in the country are the Fon, Yoruba, Adja, Bariba, Aizo, Somba, and Fulani. Roughly forty percent of the population are Fon. Some sixty-five percent of the population follow traditional animist beliefs. In 1997 there were 1,240,000 Roman Catholics in Benin and 700,000 Muslims, and 6% other.
In 1975 the country was renamed the People’s Republic of Benin. Marxism-Leninism was the national ideology, and banking, insurance and the principal industrial sectors were nationalized. By the early 1980's, however, a more pragmatic approach to Benin’s economic needs began to supplant the government’s socialist philosophy. Western private investment was encouraged. Closer ties with France developed replacing dependence upon the USSR.
The population was 4,915,555 in the census of February 1992, rising to 6,101,000 at mid-1998. The population of Cotonou, the political capital and major port, was listed at 536,827 in the 1992 census, and that of Porto-Novo, the official capital, was 179,138.
The official language of Benin is French. However, indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are commonly spoken. The largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Islam, Vodun and Protestantism.
1892 - French took over the area
1899 - The French included the land called French Dahomey within the larger French West Africa colonial region
1958 - France granted autonomy to the Republic of Dahomey and full independence on 1 August 1960
1974 -The country was officially Marxist, under control of the Military Council of the Revolution
1989 - Marxism–Leninism was abolished as the nation's form of government
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