The Federated States of Micronesia is an island country in Oceania associated with the United States. It consists of four states – from west to east, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae – that are spread across the western Pacific Ocean. Together, the states comprise around 607 islands (a combined land area of approximately 702 km2 or 271 sq mi) that cover a longitudinal distance of almost 2,700 km (1,678 mi) just north of the equator. They lie northeast of New Guinea, south of Guam and the Marianas, west of Nauru and the Marshall Islands, east of Palau and the Philippines, about 2,900 km (1,802 mi) north of eastern Australia, 3,400 km (2,133 mi) southeast of Japan, and some 4,000 km (2,485 mi) southwest of the main islands of Hawaii.
While the FSM’s total land area is quite small, it occupies more than 2,600,000 km2 (1,003,866 sq mi) of the Pacific Ocean, giving the country the 14th-largest exclusive economic zone in the world. The sovereign island nation’s capital is Palikir, located on Pohnpei Island, while the largest city is Weno, located in the Chuuk Atoll.
Each of its four states is centered on one or more main high islands, and all but Kosrae include numerous outlying atolls. The Federated States of Micronesia is spread across part of the Caroline Islands in the wider region of Micronesia, which consists of thousands of small islands divided among several countries. The term Micronesia may refer to the Federated States or to the region as a whole.
The FSM was formerly a part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), a United Nations Trust Territory under U.S. administration, but it formed its own constitutional government on May 10, 1979, becoming a sovereign state after independence was attained on November 3, 1986, under a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Other neighboring island entities, and also former members of the TTPI, formulated their own constitutional governments and became the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the Republic of Palau (ROP). The FSM has a seat in the United Nations and has been a member of the Pacific Community since 1983.
The ancestors of the Micronesians settled over four thousand years ago. A decentralized chieftain-based system eventually evolved into a more centralized economic and religious culture centered on Yap Island.
Nan Madol, a UNESCO World Heritage site, consisting of a series of small artificial islands linked by a network of canals, is often called the Venice of the Pacific. It is located on the eastern periphery of the island of Pohnpei and used to be the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur dynasty that united Pohnpei’s estimated 25,000 people from about AD 500 until 1500, when the centralized system collapsed.
European explorers—first the Portuguese in search of the Spice Islands (Indonesia) and then the Spanish—reached the Carolines in the sixteenth century. The Spanish incorporated the archipelago to the Spanish East Indies through the capital, Manila, and in the 19th century established a number of outposts and missions. In 1887, they founded the town of Santiago de la Ascension in what today is Kolonia on the island of Pohnpei.