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Provinces of Indonesia

The province (provinsi or propinsi) is the highest tier of local government subnational entity in Indonesia. Each province has its own local government (Pemerintah Daerah Provinsi), headed by the governor (gubernur); and has its own legislative body (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah). The Governor and member of representatives are elected by popular vote for 5 years term.

the Riau Islands
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This page is a short summary containing more general information about the province of the Riau Islands. Extensive information on the Riau Islands can be found in the directories 'Sumatra' and 'Riau' on this website.

Location map of the Riau Islands.

Riau Islands (Kepulauan Riau (Kepri or Riau Kepulauan) is an Indonesian province. It consists of the Riau Archipelago, Natuna Islands and Anambas Archipelago.

Originally part of the Riau Province, the Riau Archipelago was split off as a separate province in July 2004 with Tanjung Pinang as its capital. The archipelagos of Anambas and Natuna, located between mainland Malaysia and Borneo were attached to the new province. By population, the most important Riau islands are Bintan, Batam and Karimun. Sizewise, however, the sparsely populated Natuna Islands are larger.


The official standard for Malay, as agreed upon by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, is Riau language, the language of the Riau Archipelago, long considered the birthplace of the Malay language.


From Srivijayan times until the 16th century, Riau was a natural part of greater Malay kingdoms or sultanates, in the heart of what is often called the Malay World, which stretches from eastern Sumatra to Borneo. The Malay-related Orang Laut tribes inhabited the islands and formed the backbone of most Malay kingdoms from Srivijaya to the Sultanate of Johor for the control of trade routes going through the straits.

After the fall of Melaka in 1511, the Riau islands became the center of political power of the mighty Sultanate of Johor or Johor-Riau, based on Bintan island, and were for long considered the center of Malay culture.

But history changed the fate of Riau as a political, cultural or economic center when European powers struggled to control the regional trade routes and took advantage of political weaknesses within the sultanate. Singapore island, that had been for centuries part of the same greater Malay kingdoms and sultanates, and under direct control of the Sultan of Johor, came under control of the British.

The creation of a European-controlled territory in the heart of the Johor-Riau natural boundaries broke the sultanate into two parts, destroying the cultural and political unity that had existed for centuries. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 consolidated this separation, with the British controlling all territories north of the Singapore strait and the Dutch controlling territories from Riau to Java.

After the European powers withdrew from the region, the new independent governments had to reorganize and find balance after inheriting 400 years of colonial boundaries. Before finding their current status, the territories of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Borneo struggled and even came into military conflict against each other, and the Riau islands once again found themselves in the middle of a regional struggle.

The strong cultural unity of the region with Riau in the heart of this region never returned, and the line drawn by the British in 1819 remained, devinding the area into three new countries in 1965: Singapore, the Malaysian federation in the north, and Indonesia in the south.

Some level of unity returned in the Riau region for the first time after 150 years with the creation of the Sijori Growth Triangle in 1989. But while bringing back some economical wealth to Riau, the Sijori Growth Triangle somewhat further broke the cultural unity within the islands. With Batam island receiving most of the industrial investments and dramatically developing into a regional industrial center, it attracted hundred of thousands of non-Malay Indonesian migrants, changing forever the demographic balance in the archipelago.

Today the name of Riau merely refers to this administrative region of Indonesia, a free trade zone heavily supported by Indonesian, Singaporean and international investments.

Administrative division

This province is divided into 4 regencies:
  • Karimun (capital: Tanjung Balai Karimun)
  • Bintan Regency (Tanjung Pinang)
  • Lingga (Daik)
  • Natuna (Ranai)

and 2 cities: Batam and Tanjung Pinang

All text in this article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Last revised on March 19, 2010
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