The history of the Northern African country of Algeria was one borne out of immense violence and conflicts. Beginning around the early 1950s, Algeria fought against European powerhouse France in order to gain its independence. The Algerian War of Independence would go on to claim hundreds of thousands of lives. Algerians reason that more than one million laid down their lives during the war.
Population: 43 million (according to a 2020 estimate)
Official languages: Berber and Arabic
Lingua Franca: French
Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber
Land area: 919,595 sq miles (2.4 million sq km)
Dominant religion: Islam (predominantly Sunni)
Country’s life expectancy: 77 years (for women), 75 years (for men)
Once independence was attained in 1962, Algeria had to grapple with an increase spate of Islamist activities. Ben Bella was elected as the first president of Algeria.
The article below contains a brief timeline and major facts about Algeria.
A chronological look into the major events in Algeria’s history:
1830: Control of Algiers moves from the dwindling Ottoman Empire to France. Prior to 1830, Algeria had spent more than three centuries under the rule of the Ottoman Emperor.
1939 – 1945: World War II rips through Europe causing France to lose significant economic and political power across the world. Americans begin to play a significant role in North Africa, including Algeria.
1945: Residents of Setif in eastern Algeria capitalize on the end of WWII and begin to demand self-governance. France’s response is quick and brutal in suppressing the uprisings. Thousands of lives are lost in the process.
1954–1962: The brutal eight-year war of independence tears apart Algeria. Close to a million Algerians die during the war. The war comes to a close in 1962 as the two sides – France and the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) – sign the Évian Accors of March 1962.
July 3, 1962: Algeria attains independence and moves quickly to expel all remnants of French colonial power.
1963: Independence fighter Ahmed Ben Bella is sworn in as Algeria’s first president. Ben Bella’s regime was one slightly of socialist/Marxist undertones.
1963–1965: President Ben Bella nationalizes virtually all economic assets that were held by France in Algeria. Algeria edges closer to a one-party state, towing a fine line between the West and the East.
1965: Slightly frustrated by the suppression that characterized Ben Bella’s regime, defense minister Col Houari Boumédiène overthrow’s Bella from power. The ousted president is placed under house arrest until 1979.
1976: Algerians get a new constitution sponsored by military ruler and socialist Col Houari Boumédiène. The National Liberation Front (FLN) is declared the only political party of Algeria.
1972: Algeria and its North-western neighbor briefly engage in a bitter skirmish over the fate of Western Sahara.
1976: In what is largely a rubber-stamp election, Algerians elect Col Houari Boumédiène president of the country. The country begins to immense industrial growth.
1978: Long-time military ruler dies in office and is replaced by Colonel Chadli Bendjedid. Buoyed on by the gains from its oil industry, Chadli continues with similar economic and social policies of the previous regime.
1986–1988: Falling oil and gas prices deliver a huge blow to the Algerian economy. Unbearable spike in inflation and unemployment lead to a wave of violent protests across the nation.
1989: The country does away with the one-party state that was instituted by previous military regimes.
The ban on multiparty democracy is lifted by the National People’s Assembly. More than 15 political parties secure licenses, including the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).
After more than three decades of socialism, Algeria adopts free market systems, opening the country up to foreign investors.
1991–1999: The Algerian government and Islamists lock horns in a bitter civil war that washes away all the progress made in the last decade.
1990: Algerians rally behind the FIS, helping them secure about 55% of the votes in the local elections.
1991: The first round of the 1991 general election sees the FIS secure 188 seats in the legislative assembly.
1992: Tensions erupt after Army Colonel Chadli dissolves the Algerian Parliament. Chadli submits his resignation and the Higher State Council, which is chaired by Mohamed Boudiaf, takes control of the country.
In June, 1992, an Islamist-affiliated group assassinates Council Chair Mohamed Boudiaf. The ensuing chaos results in a spike of violence across the nation. Boudiaf’s death also allows the growth of several armed Islamic groups.
1994: The Higher State Council swears in Liamine Zeroual as its chair and head of state.
1995: Algerians vote in a general election and elect Zeroul as president of the nation.
1996: Changes in the constitution get the thumbs in a referendum.
1997: The Democratic National Rally wins big during the parliamentary elections.
1999: Peace is restored after Algerians elect Abdelaziz Bouteflika as president. The new government rolls out initiatives that help the country heal from the devastating civil war of the ‘90s.
2001: The Berber party (the Rally for Culture and Democracy) cuts ties with the government over what it termed as the poor handling of protests in Kabylie Berber.
2002: Bouteflika recognizes Tamazight as a national language.
2003: Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj, both leaders of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), prison sentences come to an end.
2004: President Bouteflika gets re-elected for a second time.
2005: The head of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) Nourredine Boudiafi is apprehended by the government.
2006–2010: The rise of al-Qaeda affiliated groups is a troubling. In 2007, for example, al-Qaeda claims responsibility of two bomb blasts, which caused the deaths of 33 people, in the capital Algiers. That same year, a dozen lives are lost as fights between the military and armed groups intensify.
2008: President Bouteflika is allowed by Parliament to run for a third term.
2009: Boutfelika strolls into his third term after winning the election in April, 2009.
2010: Three countries – Mauritania, Mali, and Niger – collaborate with Algeria to eliminate terrorist groups in the region.
2011: Hikes in food prices and unemployment among the youth result in massive protests across the nation. Hundreds of protesters are injured with two deaths.
In February, 2011, the close-to-two decade state of emergency is lifted.
2012: The FLN and the allied National Democratic Rally win big in the parliamentary election.
October, 2012: In an operation near Tizi Ouzou, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Boualem Bekai is killed by the Algerian military.
December, 2012: France takes steps to atone for the ills caused during France’s colonization of Algeria. However, France’s Francios Hollande fails to apologize.
2014: The government lifts the controls on private media houses, allowing them to operate within Algeria.
April, 2014: President Bouteflika, who had suffered a stroke a year prior, wins a fourth term.
September, 2015: Top intelligence officer Mohamed Mediene gets the sack from President Bouteflika.
February, 2016: Algeria Parliament gives the thumbs up to a constitutional reform that limits presidents to two terms. Parliament also shores itself up with expanded power.
2019: After months of street protests and unrest, long-serving and ailing President Bouteflika caves in and unceremoniously resigns from office.
2020: Covid-19 sweeps through the nation, killing more than a thousand people in the first half of the year.
July, 2020: Algerian ex-minister Moussa Benhamadi, 67, who was detained on the charges of corruption, dies of Covid-19.
Other Interesting Facts about Algeria
- It has been estimated that Algeria, bordered by six countries (Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya, and Tunisia), eats into about 25% of the Sahara desert. At that size, Algeria is the undisputed king in terms of land area in Africa. It comes in at number ten on list of the world’s largest countries by size.
- Algeria first discovered its vast oil resources in the 1950s. Ever since, oil has contributed immensely to the socio-economic growth of the country.
- Compared to other African countries, the media in Algeria is relatively independent. The state news agencies do however try as much as possible to avoid bashing the government in power.
- As of 2020, the three largest provinces in Algeria are: Algiers, Oran and Constantine.