Ethiopia: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Ethiopia, the absolute monarchy heldover from the Middle Ages, the Coptic Church influence, the history of the region.



Enter Ethiopia and you enter the Middle Ages-at least until very recently. Known to his subjects as the "Lion of Judah," "King of Kings," and the "Elect of God," its Emperor was one of the world's only living examples of an absolute monarch. Ethiopia's society was a classic feudal state with the royal family, feudal lords, and the Church controlling the land and life of the people. The Amharas, the landowning, aristocratic class, collected 90% of their tenants' harvest. In Hararge, Ethiopia's largest province, 75% of the land was owned by 1% of the people. In March, 1975, the military Government announced the nationalization of all rural land, and banned the use of hired labor.

Haile Selassie tried to lead his subjects to a limited form of democracy and agrarian reform, but it was cosmetic rhetoric. After all, such a move ran against the interests of his own class. Reform came too slowly for the military, students, and professionals, who at 1st struck for higher wages but eventually toppled the monarchy. (Among striking groups were the capital's 50,000 prostitutes. As guardians of the people's "happiness and well-being," they demanded a minimum fee of $10.)

During the spring and summer of 1974, the military jailed some of the biggest landowners, bureaucrats, and imperial aides in a fairly bloodless coup and dragged the "King of Kings" out of his Jubilee Palace in a blue VW police car amid students' shouts of "Thief, thief." He was, evidently, no longer the "Elect of God."

The Coptic Church has kept Christianity alive in a sea of pagan and Muslim hostility for over 1,500 years. The institution has changed little in that time, gathering both power and land. It obliges the people to fast 180 days of the year and commemorates so many saints' days that between feasting and fasting very little work gets done. This is particularly true in the rural areas, where it wields its greatest power.

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