Indonesia Banget #13 – The Day We Proclaimed Our Independence

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Today is the most important day in Indonesia history, 66 years ago, the fathers of our nation proclaimed our independence. On August 17, 1945, we were no longer living under other country’s order.

Last year, I started Indonesia Banget monthly post as a way to share Indonesia to anyone who doesn’t know much about Indonesia. I started it with how we celebrate this special day. This year, I want to share a glimpse of the struggle and the fight that our heroes had endured to reach the most historical day in Indonesia.

First, this video shows the moment when Soekarno read the Proclamation of the independence of Indonesia , he was accompanied by Mohammad Hatta. Soekarno and Hatta were our first president and vice president. When the read this, they were not yet the president and vice president.

English Translation:






Now, let’s look back from when the colonial started till the day Soekarna-Hatta read the Proclamation of our Independence.

Before the Colonial Era, Indonesia used to be island upon island under different Kings. Some kingdoms were under Islamic law while others under Buddhism and Hinduism. The remnants of the Kingdoms can still be seen across Indonesia. One of the most famous ones is Candi Borobudur. (picture is borrowed from The Great Destinations)

Things started to changed in the beginning of 16th century, the Portuguese landed on the eastern part of Indonesia. They were the first who introduced Christianity to Indonesian people. Till this day, most eastern part of Indonesia is Christian. The Portuguese era in Indonesia was not something very important, at least we do not mention it much in school history text book.

In the beginning of 17th century, The Dutch arrived and the longest colonial era began. The Dutch East-Hindia Company (VOC) monopolized the trade in Java and exploited the small kingdoms in Java. From then on, they began their land-based colonial empire. It was one of the world’s richest colonial possessions.

VOC forced the people to work according to their order. One of those orders was cultuurstelsel (we call it tanam  paksa – forced planting), it was a policy to force the farmer to plant export plants.

Tuanku Imam Bonjol

During their colonialism, not many (we can even call it so rare) people could use guns. The battle against the Dutch was only using traditional weapons. The battle was not organized as a whole country, each fought for their own land. Tuanku Imam Bonjol fought for West Sumatra, Teuku Umar and Cut Nyak Dien for Aceh, Pangeran Diponegoro for Java, Pattimura for Maluku and many others. I will write about them in the future years.

VOC didn’t give people a chance to study, the opening of western education started on early 19thcentury, 2 centuries after they landed on Indonesia. Even so, the people who had a chance to study didn’t even make a dent in the population. Most people who studied came from wealthy families. A lot of people, including me, believe that the Dutch were purposely letting our people dumb because smart people could lead to aggression. The first movement, Budi Utomo, was established in 1908 by well-educated students. The Dutch were repressive against such movements.

During WWII, Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany and Japanese Empire started their invasion in Southeast Asia. Some Indonesian Area asked for help from Japanese Army. In March 1942, the Dutch was driven away from Indonesia. In July 1942, Soekarno accepted Japanese propaganda in supporting their war. The arriving of Japanese Empire brought both suffering and bliss. The Japanese were much crueler than the Dutch, however they helped our people to use guns and created army of our own. They even helped us creating Indonesian committee on independence (BPUPKI). The cruelty of Japanese army included Romusha (forced labor) and sex slavery.

The bliss of this Japanese Era was when they were bombed by US. Two days after the Japanese Emperor surrendered, which was August 17 1945, in Jln. Pengangsaan Timur No. 56 we proclaimed our independence. On August 18, the Central Indonesian National Committee (KNIP) declared Soekarno and Hatta as president and Vice president. PETA (war time military) and other youth organizations fought to take offices from The Japanese.

Indonesian Independence was denied by the Dutch. With British allied, they tried to return control over Indonesia. The Dutch could capture most of the area but there were many guerrilla activities that killed a lot of Dutch army.  Indonesia was not as easy as they used to be before the independence, people were more nationalist.  Most guerrillas only used Bamboo spears to fight against sophisticated weapons.

After four years of warfare and criticism from UN, the Dutch finally admitted Indonesian Independence under United States of Indonesia (RIS). But on 17 August 1950, Soekarno proclaimed Indonesia as Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia (single unitary Republic of Indonesia).

And up till today, we are still a proud free country.

Even though The Dutch and the Japanese had occupied us for centuries and years, but most Indonesian do not held grudge against them. We are people who do not linger in the past. From what I know (and see), most  Korean still held grudge against Japanese for their  invasion.

This post is by far my most serious and long post…but I enjoy writing it and forever grateful if you enjoy it too. This is just a glimpse of Indonesia long history.

I closed this post with Indonesian National Anthem


Indonesia, my native land
The land where I shed my blood
Right there, I stand
To be the guide of my motherland

Indonesia, my nationality
My nation and my homeland
Let us exclaim
“Indonesia unite!”

Long live my land, long live my state
My nation, my people, entirely
Build its soul, build its body
For Great Indonesia

Great Indonesia, independent & free!
My land, my country which I love
Great Indonesia, independent & free!
Long live Indonesia the Great!

Great Indonesia, independent & free!
My land, my country which I love
Great Indonesia, independent & free!
Long live Indonesia the Great!


  1. Woot, woot! Happy Birthday, my homeland! Nov, I still remember ‘upacara’ every Monday, ahah. Do you guys still do that in grade school?

    Btw, my hubby showed me this last night, not sure who sang it but it’s beautiful!

    1. Haha…the upacara! Yup we still have that. Even though I don’t like it but that activity is actually good, it makes us remember the anthem by heart. Unfortunately, no upacara for this day because of we are in fasting month.

      Thanks for the link, will see it later.

  2. Happy independance day! I like the national anthem, it has pride and joy in its sound. Our text books often mention the Dutch east india company. But they have always glossed over what it was like for the countries they got their trade goods from. So I learned a lot.

    1. Thank you, Sara 🙂
      Our national anthem is one of our pride…it is always thrilling when lots of people sing it together in big arena.

      I didn’t know you also learn about that. Too bad, you don’t the whole picture. We are somewhat like US who could be freed from UK. We are happy to be where we are now.

  3. Thanks so much for this history-in some ways the history of Indonesia is similar to that of the Philippines-both had around 450 years of rule by colonial powers, were taken over by the Japanese during WWII and gained independence about the same time.

    According to our plans for our joint event, I have begun posting for Indonesian Short Story Week-I hope to post on five stories this year. My first post is on an excellent short story “Cik Giok” by Reda Gaudiamo, a well known magazine publisher from Jakarta-here is a link to my post

    everyone is invited to join us for the week-all you need to is to post on one story and leave us a comment here- check the resources page for the event if you need suggestions-

    1. You’re welcome Mel…I have been meaning to ask you but keep forgeting, when is Phillipine Independence Day?
      I know that we aren’t much different, the difference is only in the country that invaded us, Phillipine was ruled by Portuquese right?

      Ah…I forgot to mention the event in the post, will fix it later. I have also reviewed 2 stories, Caroline has one short and JoV has a book review. Will read yours and JoV’s soon after this.
      I will make a round-up post by the end of the month.

  4. Great post Novia.
    I can’t really imagine what it must have been like to live in a colonized country. It’s soo bad.
    Unimaginable really.
    Japanese sex slavery is something that shocked me a lot when i read about it. Or the so-called Comfort Women. I might include a book in next year’s Literature and war redalong.

    1. Thank you, Caroline.
      I can’t imagine either. I am happy to live in this free country though I hate the fact that those people sitting in high places of our government seem to forget the struggle of our heroes.

      Is there a book about sex-slavery? I have never heard such book exist. I watched a documentary film that showed those women, they were already old then, it was sad hearing their stories.

  5. This is a very interesting post, I enjoyed reading.

    My dad fought against the Japanese in the South Pacific. In those days you could bring home souvenirs from war and I inherited his collection of Japanese and South Pacific souvenirs. 🙂

    Long Live Indonesia!

    1. Hi Tezcatlipoca. Thank you so much for reading this post.
      I wonder what you inherited from the war?

      My grandpa fought against both Japanese and Dutch. Funny enough, I am now learning Japanese language 😉

      thanks…Long Live Indonesia!!!

  6. happy Independence day, Novia! Hope you had a nice celebration!
    I’ve never asked you where exactly do you live in Indonesia? Which city, which island?

    1. Thank you Dezzy 🙂
      I live in Java Island, in the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta.
      I hope you know Jakarta because most people only know Bali.

      1. Off course I know Jakarta 🙂 I’d even wanted to ask if you lived in Jakarta, but I thought you might think I’m an ignorant person who’ve heard only about your capital city 🙂
        I do know lots of your cities and islands – Surabaya, Sumatra, Medan, Palembang, Semarang …. 🙂

        1. Yaaiiii…so happy to know that Dezz :hug:
          How do you know those Islands and Cities?

          I once talked to someone (through the net, off course) that I am from Indonesia and he said is it near Bali? I lost my words to answer him.

          1. well, atlas and maps were my favourite toys when I was a kid, so I know all the country and the capitals of the world, and most of the bigger cities, rivers, island, mountains in all of them 🙂

            But I do agree with you that most other people (especially the ones from the West) usually don’t know a thing about map, so I’m not surprised about that Bali confusion 🙂 When I tell them I’m from Serbia, most of those people think I speak Russian and that I’m from Siberia even though it’s a totally different continent 🙂 The sad thing is that both yours and my country have a thousand year long history and rich cultures, so people should really know about us if they have at least some education in their lives.

          2. Hehehe that means you are much better than me. I am terrible with map. What I know about countries in the world is from news, movies or books.

            I thought Serbia is quite famous, especially after the incident with Bosnia …well at least famous in my country. I know Serbia, Kroasia and countries near Yugoslavia because of Basketball and NBA.

            I remember you said you are from somewhere else, the name was quite long (you said it in your blog when I asked you) and I said I never heard of it before. Was it the city that you told me? Because if you said Serbia, I would know right away.

  7. I’m still embarrassed by my country’s occupation and exploitation of Indonesia. 😦 But I also have warm feelings towards your homeland because my father was born there and he loved your country more than his own for as long as he lived. I will surely come and visit your beautiful archipelago someday!

    Wishing you a belated happy Independance Day! 🙂

    1. Having that feeling is a good thing Gnoe because that means you regret such things ever happen 🙂
      I am glad that we (meaning our nations) don’t turn into enemy after the occupation.

      I wish you can come to Indonesia one day and we can finally meet 🙂

      Thank you for the wish.

  8. PS Did you know about the myth relating to your national flag: that it is the Dutch ‘tricolor’ with the lower blue part torn off? Funny story. 😉

    1. Well it’s not 100% myth. The first flag was sewn by Fatmawati…but during the battle to get rid VOC from taking back Indonesia, people often torn the blue part of Dutch flag to make it only red and white.

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