Status: Parliamentary Republic
Population: 11,000 (2019 estimate)
Area: 8.1 sq miles
Currency: Australian Dollar (100 cents = A$1) A$1 = 77 US cents
Map of the island
Nauru is the world’s smallest republic – an island in the western Pacific about 35 miles south of the equator. It was discovered in 1798 by John Fearn, a British whaler, who named it “Pleasant Island.” Its smooth circular coastline and encircling reef offered no usable harbor and limited possibilities for agriculture. In 1886, when the Germans sought control over the island to strengthen the defense of its new Marshall Islands protectorate, the British agreed, in exchange for concessions in the Gilbert Islands.
Nauru Scott 46
On April 16, 1888, the Germans landed on Nauru. Their first task was to suppress a ten-year-old clan war which had killed more than a third of the island’s population. Six months later, they attached Nauru to the Marshall Islands. Administration was left largely to the German trading corporation, Jaluit Gesellschaft. High quality phosphate was discovered on Nauru in 1899 and development accelerated. The Germans opened a post office on the island July 14, 1908, using Marshall Islands stamps.
Northwest Pacific Islands Scott 42 and Nauru Scott 14
With the outbreak of World War I, the island surrendered to the Australians on November 9, 1914. The post office was closed. The supply of Marshall Islands stamps were taken to Rabaul (in today’s Papua New Guinea) where they were overprinted for use elsewhere. During the early stages of occupation, some Australian stamps overprinted “N. W. Pacific Islands” were used for postage. On September 2, 1916, Nauru’s first stamps, twelve overprinted British definitives, were placed on sale. In 1920 the League of Nations granted Nauru jointly to Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand as a Class C Mandate, with Australia as the administering authority. Its first pictorial definitives appeared in 1924.
Nauru Scott 2 and 20
World War II took a severe toll on Nauru. Soon after Pearl Harbor most of the foreigners, including phosphate company employees, were evacuated. The Japanese landed in August 1942 and workers were brought in to construct the island’s first airport. Nauru was to be an airbase to support Japanese troops in the Gilbert Islands and to disrupt Australian sea routes to America. The airport was completed in January 1943. Two months later the first American air raid damaged the air strip and destroyed 15 Japanese planes. Allied bombing intensified as the war progressed. Supplying the island became difficult. There was a desperate shortage of food. 1,200 Nauruans were forcibly deported to Truk Atoll. Only 737 returned after the war. On September 13, 1945, the Japanese garrison surrendered to the Australians. Nauru was made a U.N. Trust Territory under Australian administration. Use of the stamp issue of 1924 resumed until new definitive pictorials replaced them in 1954.
Nauru Scott 75 and 172
Nauru Scott 33
Anticipating the exhaustion of the phosphate deposits, Australia proposed relocating Nauru’s inhabitants. They rejected these proposals. After lengthy negotiations, Nauru became an independent republic on January 31, 1968. (The exhaustion of the phosphate deposits did not occur until the 1990s.) To mark the occasion, fourteen definitives were overprinted “Republic of Nauru.” That inscription appeared on all the country’s stamps until 1977, when the inscription became simply “Nauru.” Since independence Nauru has followed a relatively conservative stamp issuing policy.
Nauru Scott 42