The Republic of Indonesia will soon turn 71 years old, and during those long years, memories start to fade into confusion or obscurity. Not only that, there are different historical points of view depending on the storyteller or purposes behind the telling. So muse upon these 5 interesting stories surrounding Indonesia's path to independence. 


Did you know?

That Indonesia's independence after so many battles and diplomatic meetings resulted in different versions of the exact date it happened? Indonesia and most countries acknowledge August 17, 1945, as the day when “Netherlands Indies” ceased to exist. However, the Dutch only just acknowledged this date in 2005 even though sovereignty transfer happened on December 27, 1949, after three meetings between the Netherlands and Indonesia. And, according to the United Nations, who brokered the transfer in Den Haag, 1949 is the year when “Indonesia” started.

Soul-stirring Song

Most people know that Wage Rudolf Supratman was the composer to the music and lyrics of Indonesia Raya. He died on August 17, 1938, while hoping that the song would become the national anthem, before the constitution stated so in 1945. He first wrote the song with Indonesia as the title for the first Indonesian Youth Congress and played it on the violin. The name change happened after another congress the next year and the text was widely published before being banned. The Netherlands then sent Jozef Cleber in 1953 to help Indonesia's music development and President Soekarno requested a symphonic rendition for the anthem's first stanza instead of all three, as regulated later on in 1958.

Coping with a Coup

Aside from the Indonesian Communist Party's twice-thwarted coup attempts in 1948 and 1965, there was another one in 1946 led by Tan Malaka's Union of Struggle (Persatuan Perjuangan) group. Then-prime minister Soetan Sjahrir and his second cabinet were deemed unsatisfactory in their diplomatic attempts to gain Indonesia's whole sovereignty. After kidnapping Sjahrir and several cabinet members in March, Soekarno declared state of emergency and ordered release, which happened in June. Major General R.P. Sudarsono next presented four deals for Soekarno to sign on July 3. This was denied and 14 suspects were caught following after in which the coup then ended.

Helping Hands

Some might've heard about Rear Admiral Tadashi Maeda and even visited his former residence, which now is the Proclamation Text Drafting Museum in the Menteng area. His sympathy, though, was little known beyond the fact that Maeda went against his own country, lent his house and ensured safety for those involved on that decisive day. It all started in the 1930s when he was on duty in Netherlands and Germany, after which he started corresponding with Indonesian students who played different roles during the revolution. Two years after he came to Indonesia in 1942, Maeda started a political institution, the Independent Indonesia Dormitory (Asrama Indonesia Merdeka), in which many nationalist figures such as Soekarno, Hatta and Soetan Sjahrir taught.

Who took that photo?

There are three iconic images that recorded the birth of Indonesia: one frame when Soekarno was reading the Proclamation Text with Hatta at his side, and two frames showing the subsequent flag-raising. Countless times these pictures have been published without really crediting the photographers present: Alex and Frans Mendur. These brothers of Minahasan descent managed to capture the momentous morning, but unfortunately Alex was caught and the Japanese destroyed his works, while Frans lied his way out and buried his under a tree. Not until February 20, 1946, did the photos made it to the Harian Merdeka (Independent Daily).

Tags: Indonesia, History, Fun Facts, Soekarno, 17 August, Independence Day