Modern Ethiopian History and Geography

Starting with the fascist Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1935, Ethiopian history has been characterized as turbulent. In 1915, as the World War I allies discussed possible land divisions in Africa, Italy focused its attention on the horn of Africa. On October 3, 1935, Italy crossed into Ethiopia and launched a full scale invasion.[1]

Haile Selassie came to power in Ethiopia in 1930. During this time period, Ethiopia became known as the island of independence during an era of European colonization of African lands.  Selassie would stay in power from 1930 to 1974. Selassie introduced Ethiopia’s first written constitution in 1931, which provided a bicameral legislature. The constitution kept power with the nobility, but it also set democratic standards among the nobility. However, human rights under Selassie’s regime were lacking. Adding to the turmoil, a famine ripped through the nation between 1972 and 1974 and killed thousands of Ethiopians. These factors along with economic hardships caused a revolution to take place in 1974 and ended Selassie’s reign as emperor.[2]

The 1974 revolution established a socialist state in Ethiopia. From 1974 to 1991, Ethiopia engaged in a Civil War, also known as the “Red Terror,” causing thousands to die. Many Ethiopians were able to flee to the west and many immigrated to the United States. According to professor Solomon Addis Getabun of the University of Central Michigan, “The majority of the African refugees of the past decade have come from the Horn of Africa, an area that has been in ‘permanent emergence’ for decades.”[3] Ethiopia has accounted for 1,743,800 of these refugees, mostly caused by the misfortune of the “Red Terror.”[4]

[1] Bahru Zewde, A History of Modern Ethiopia: 1855-1991 (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2006), 152-53.
[2] Richard Pankhurst, The Ethiopians (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers), 264-70.
[3] Solomon Addis Getabun, The History of Ethiopian Immigrants and Refugees in America, 1900-2000. (New York: LFB Publishing, 2007), 48.
[4] Ibid.

Citation for Timeline:
[5] British Broadcasting Corporation. “Ethiopia Profile Timeline. accessed November 12, 2016.