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Surabaya is Indonesia's second-largest city, and the capital of the province of East Java. It is located on the northern shore of eastern Java at the mouth of the Mas River and along the edge of the Madura Strait. To Indonesians, it is known as "the city of heroes", due to the importance of the Battle of Surabaya in galvanising Indonesian and international support for Indonesian independence during the Indonesian National Revolution.

Introduction to Surabaya
How the city became what it is today

The main point of East Java is located at the northern coast, in Surabaya: a rising industrial and commercial centre, and the second largest city in Indonesia. With it's three milion residents this factory-, and seaport city has developed into the economical capital of entire Eastern Indonesia. The seaport ( Tanjung Perak'e.g. Cape Silver ) is a crossing of trade between the eastern islands of the archipelago and the seaports in the west, a role which Surabaya filled for centuries already.

Partly as a result of softening rules the industry as well as the service sector grew tremendously. The famous poor sight of the city is disappearing more rapidly, and is being replaced by that of a metropolis. It even looks like if it will get back it's important status of most important center of trade and industry in the entire archipelago; a position it lost to Jakarta after the Second World War.

In contrary to Jakarta, with it's mixture of cultures, Surabaya is an real Javanese city. Other than in Solo and Yogyakarta, the Javanese in Surabaya mainly originate from the pesisir ('the coast, the border area') and they belong on the whole to the santri, a more orthodox stream in the Islam.

Original inhabitants are called Arčk Suroboyo in Javanese. They are free, proud and sometimes a little simpleminded. The city has a faster pace and a more cosmopolitan look on life than the hinterland, cultivated by centuries of contacts with traders from overseas.

People have little interest in the fuss and etiquette of the royal cities; Surabaya's is a commercial center and it's society reasonable egalitarian. Surabaya has little to offer to tourists, but lovers of the sparkling and busy nightlife can enjoy this city, especially when they look beneath the surface. Who really wants to enjoy the city has just to copy the middle class; a small walk to the evening market of the shopping mall. Public happenings are an extremely good moment to meet, at watch, other people.

The story of the shark and the crocodile

The name Surabaya originates from a storey about a fight between sura ( a shark ) and a baya ( a crocodile ). In that fight they united and formed the character S, which can be found at the back of the Monument of the Heroes, on the city arms. Another explanation is saya ing baya, a Javanese proverb; 'brave in the face of fear'. With this the ajčk Suroboyo are meant, which offered strong resistance against the fierce attack of sultan Agung. But just as well this proverb can be used fo the people who fought in the later revolution.

It's not exactly known when Surabaya was founded, but in the seventies the city council declared 31 May 1293 as the big dag. Historically this was the dat at which the Chinese-Mongolian troops were conquered by Raden Wijaya and he founded the empire of Majapahit. The harbor developed from a small village at the banks of a brackish side-rivers of the Brantas. Maybe this is a declaration of it's Chinese name, Sishui, which means 'muddy water'. Chinese sources report that the city was 'the gate to the mighty Brantas, the main route which leads to the hinterlands of Java'.

During the good period of Majapahit in the 14th century Surabaya had a lower position compared with the near seaports of Tuban and Gresik. Until the first half of the 19th century, the seaport of Pasuran even was bigger. The city got more fame when it held strong against the aggression of Mataram, Madura and the V.O.C. threatened to invade Surabaya, in the 17th and 18th century. Leaders of resistance like Trunojoyo (a disloyal prince from Madura), Sawunggaling (a local hero) and Untung Surapati (a rebelling Baltic slave) brought huge losses to the Dutch and Mataram.

Eventually the city was lost to the V.O.C., except of the quarters near the harbor where European, Chinese and other Asian traders lived, it was no more than a Javanese kampung until the turn of the century, houses of wood and bamboo. As many other cities on Java Surabaya got it’s colonial looks only after 1900; big stone buildings besides green and wide lanes, most of the times close to the kampung ('urban areas'), when they didn’t have to disappear. Even now people speak about ‘the people from the wide lanes’ and from ‘the people from the small alleys’.

Last revised on December 04, 2009
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