French Polynesia

French Polynesia (French Polynésie française, hidden Pōrīnetia farāni) is an overseas community and a constituent country of France, located in the center of the South Pacific Ocean. It borders in the west with the waters of the Cook Islands, in the northwest - with the Republic of Kiribati, in the north, east and south - with neutral Pacific waters, in the southeast - with the waters of Pitcairn.

Includes archipelagos: Society Islands, Tuamotu Islands, Marquesas Islands, Tubuai Islands, separate Gambier Islands, which are located near Tuamotu, in fact, being a separate part of Tuamotu. Total area - 4167 km², population - 295,121 people (2020 estimate). The political and administrative center is the city of Papeete on the island of Tahiti (the largest island in French Polynesia, 1 thousand km²).

Managed by the French High Commissioner. The local authorities are the Council of Ministers and the Territorial Assembly.



The first word of the overseas community denotes belonging to France. The second word comes from the Pacific region of Polynesia, half of which it occupies. The name "Polynesia" (literally - "multi-island") was artificially formed in the 16th century from the ancient Greek words πολύς - "many" and νῆσος - "island"; the ending -iya is usually for names of countries and territories. The modern name of the territory appeared around the second half or at the end of the 19th century, when the territory became part of France.


General geography and natural conditions

There are approximately 130 islands in French Polynesia, which are part of five archipelagos: the Society Islands, the Tuamotu, the Marquesas Islands, Tubuai, and the Gambier Islands.

total area
4167 km²
Land: 3660 km²
Water: 507 km²
Marine area: 4.8 million km²

Land borders
0 km
2525 km
Maritime requirements
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles
Territorial sea: 12 nautical miles

extreme points
Lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Mount Orohena (Tahiti) 2241 m

Natural resources
Timber, fish, cobalt, hydroelectricity

land use
Arable land: 1%
Permanent crops: 6%
Permanent pastures: 5%
Forests and woodlands: 31%
Other: 57% (1993 est.)



The islands of French Polynesia are either volcanic or coral in origin. Most of the Society Islands and Tubuai, the Gambier and Marquesas Islands are volcanic; coral atolls form the Tuamotu archipelago and are part of some other island groups.

The volcanic islands are mountainous. The highest point of Tahiti (and the whole of French Polynesia) - Mount Orohena - rises to 2241 m above sea level. Coral islands usually rise above sea level by only a few meters, surrounded by reefs.



The climate in most of French Polynesia, mainly in the center, is tropical, trade winds. In the north (Marquesas Islands) - subequatorial. In the southern part, there are noticeable differences between warm winters and hot summers. The southern islands of Tubuai have a subtropical humid climate. The hottest and wettest season is from November to May, when northwest winds often blow. In the hottest months, the temperature is usually 27 - 32 ° C and the humidity is very high (about 92%) and precipitation falls up to 1700 mm (75% of the annual norm). Precipitation at this time falls mainly in the form of powerful, but short-lived evening showers, or prolonged drizzling rains lasting up to several days.

During the same period, tropical hurricanes and powerful storms are not uncommon. The islands of Tahiti, Tuamotu, Tubuai are subject to them.

The dry season (June to October) is dominated by the southeast trade winds. The lowest temperature falls in July-August (in the south - up to 18 - 21 ° C).

The average annual temperatures are mainly on most of the islands from 22 to 26 °C, with slight monthly fluctuations. The trade winds and the exposure of the island (slope) determine the climatic conditions and weather on the islands of Polynesia. Precipitation - 1500 - 3500 mm. There are also hurricanes.

The islands of French Polynesia are subject to the invasion of tropical cyclones, sometimes of a devastating nature, mainly in January.

Soils and hydrology
Volcanic islands have volcanic soils. The atolls are sandy.

The river network is developed only on islands of volcanic origin. The rivers there flow in narrow and deep valleys, abound with waterfalls. There are small lakes on the islands of Tahiti and Huahine. There are no rivers on coral islands.



Islands of volcanic origin differ sharply from coral atolls in their vegetation. On the windward slopes of the volcanic islands, dense tropical forests rise from coast to mountain tops, consisting of evergreen tree species, interspersed with plantations of coconut palms, bananas and other crops. Herbaceous vegetation dominates on the leeward slopes. Coral islands are covered with thickets of coconut palms.



Due to significant geographical isolation, both flora and fauna are endemic. There are practically no mammals. Several species of lizards, terns, birds, insects. In general, the fauna of French Polynesia is poor.



Polynesians began to settle on the islands of what is now French Polynesia in the first centuries AD. e. Presumably, the migration occurred from the islands of Samoa. The Marquesas Islands and the Society Islands were settled first. From the Society Islands, the Polynesians at the end of the 1st or at the beginning of the 2nd millennium AD. e. migrated to the Tuamotu and Tubuai islands.

By the time Europeans appeared on the islands, among the population of present-day French Polynesia, the most developed in socio-economic terms was the people who inhabited the island of Tahiti - early class states arose there in the second half of the 18th century, and since 1797, one of them, the kingdom, headed by the Pomare dynasty, began to unite under its authority the local state formations of Tahiti, and then - to extend its authority to other islands of French Polynesia.

The first island discovered by Europeans was Puka Puka in the Tuamotu archipelago (Magellan, 1521). The Marquesas Islands were discovered in 1595 by Mendanya, Tahiti in 1606 by Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, Tubuai in 1777 by James Cook, Gambier in 1797 by Wilson.

In 1842, France took under its protectorate Tahiti, the Society Islands, the Tuamotu archipelago, the Tubuai Islands and the Marquesas Islands.

Since 1880, the status of protectorates was abolished, colonial status was introduced. The power of the Pomare dynasty was destroyed. The first official name of the colony was Établissements de l'Océanie (Settlements in Oceania). In 1903, after the unification of Tahiti, the Society Islands, the Austral Islands, the Marquesas Islands and the Tuamotu archipelago, the territory received the name French possessions in Oceania (Établissements Français de l'Océanie).

In 1946, French Polynesia became a French overseas territory. All natives of the islands became citizens of France.

Since 2004, it has received the status of an overseas community.



Population: 295 thousand people (as of 2020).
Annual increase - 0.79%
Birth rate - 14 per 1000 (fertility - 1.83 births per woman)
Mortality - 5.5 per 1000
Immigration - 2.7 per 1000
Infant mortality - 4.5 per 1000
Average life expectancy - 75.6 years for men; 80.4 years for women.
Literacy - 98%.
Ethnic composition: Polynesians 78%, Chinese 12%, French-Polynesian mestizos - Demis 6%, French (from the metropolis) 4%.
The official languages ​​are French (70%) and Tahitian (28.2%) according to the 2012 census.

Religions: Protestant 54%, Catholic 30%, other 10%, atheist 6%. Protestants are represented by the Protestant Evangelical Church, Assemblies of God, Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and Anglicans.

The population is unevenly distributed. The most populated is the city of Papeete (26,017 people or 7.5% of the population of French Polynesia) and the capital archipelago of the Society Islands - 228,073 or 87%, the Tuamotu Islands - 15,510 inhabitants or 5.8%, the Gambier Islands - 1337 inhabitants or 0, 52%, the Marquesas Islands - 8658 people (3.33%) and Tubuai - 6304 or 2.42%.


Administrative division

French Polynesia is divided into 5 administrative divisions: Windward Islands, Leeward Islands (both on the Society Islands), Tuamotu-Gambier, Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands (Tubuai) and 48 communes.


Political structure

The power of France is represented by a high commissioner appointed by the President of France. The executive branch is the council of ministers of the territory. The local parliament - the Assembly of the territory - consists of 57 deputies, elected every five years. The inhabitants of the territory also elect one French Senator and two members of the French Parliament.

Political parties (according to the results of the elections in January-February 2008):
Alliance "Our House" (8 parties, 6 of which are left) - 27 seats in the assembly
Union for Democracy (3 parties, for secession from France) - 20 seats
People's Assembly (right) - 10 seats
In addition, parties not represented in parliament:

Alliance for a New Democracy
Independent Front for the Liberation of Polynesia
Party "New Fatherland"
The French constitution applies throughout the community. Residents of French Polynesia are citizens of France.



The main branch of the economy is tourist services (about a quarter of GDP). Pearl mining and fishing are also developed.

GDP per capita in 2004 - 18 thousand dollars (68th place in the world).

The service sector employs 68% of employees.

In agriculture (13% of workers), coconuts, vanilla, vegetables, fruits, and coffee are cultivated. Chickens are bred, there is meat and dairy farming (on the Tuamotu Islands, dogs are also traditionally bred for meat).

In the industrial sector (19% of employees) - mainly the processing of agricultural products and the production of souvenirs.

Export goods ($1.245 billion in 2014) - pearls, coconuts, vanilla, shark meat, souvenirs.

Partner countries: Japan (23.1%); Hong Kong (21.5%); Kyrgyzstan (15.9%); USA (15.9%); France (12.4%).

Imported ($2.235 billion in 2014) - fuel, food, manufactured goods, machinery and equipment.

Partner countries: France (27.9%); South Korea (12.1%); USA (10.1%); China (7.3%); New Zealand (6.7%); Singapore (4.2%).

Of great importance is the financial subsidies from France, aimed at creating new industries after the closure of military facilities, and the development of social services.



There are two air carriers in the country: Air Tahiti Nui and Air Tahiti.

Faaa Airport is the only one accepting international flights. In total, there are 54 airports on the islands.

International telephone connections are provided by the Intelsat satellite earth station (Pacific Ocean). The number of telephone lines is 90,278 (in 2018). Cellular communication of the GSM 900 standard is well developed on the islands. The main islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Tahaa, Raiatea, Hua Hin and Rangiroa) are fully covered, small islands are often out of coverage, but even there the connection is relatively stable thanks to powerful central repeaters. Roaming with the local network of Tikiphone SA (VINI - is available to subscribers of the largest Russian operators. Local SIM cards can be purchased at Tikiphone SA offices, but it is recommended that you check the card directly in your phone before purchasing, as some GSM phones are not supported by local operators. Operators - Tikiphone, in 2008 Mara Telesom appeared. Radio stations: 2 stations AM, 14 FM, 2 shortwave (in 1998).



The culture of French Polynesia has largely lost its identity. The most Europeanized island is Tahiti, especially the capital Papeete. The houses in this city are predominantly of European style, the clothes of the townspeople are also of European type.

The tradition in the construction of dwellings on the Tuamotu archipelago and other islands on the periphery of French Polynesia is more preserved - there you can still find huts, the walls and roofs of which are made of palm leaves. However, traditional clothes are no longer worn there.

Traditions are more firmly held in the ways of cooking. In particular, the natives still eat raw fish and shrimp (however, they are pre-soaked in lemon juice). Roast meat is still stewed by many islanders in earthen ovens, where hot stones create heat.

Preserved in French Polynesia and aboriginal music and dances. The instruments are mainly wind and percussion. However, the influence of European-American culture is becoming increasingly noticeable in this area as well.


Social sphere

Primary education is compulsory and free. Most elementary schools are public. Private schools are mostly Catholic. There are 18 secondary and vocational education schools (public and private). A special place is occupied by the state Lyceum Paul Gauguin (Papeete and branches on other islands) and the Higher Technical School. The French Pacific University has been operating since 1987.

Visa to French Polynesia
A visa to French Polynesia is issued at the French Embassy, ​​in the Department of Overseas Territories of France. The usual French Schengen visa for travel to French Polynesia is not valid.

Strong structure
French Polynesia, as part of France, does not have its own armed forces, so the French Armed Forces are responsible for military security. The police are represented by one branch in Papeete and several more in other communes in Tahiti and other relatively large islands. French Polynesia also lacks its own special services. The only prison in the Faaa airport area combines the functions of a pre-trial detention center with the functions of a labor camp for those who have already been sentenced.



Many islands of French Polynesia have second, Russian, names: Rurik, Lazarev, Raevsky and others. The Tuamotu archipelago itself has a second name - the Russian Islands. These islands were discovered and described by Russian navigators - F. F. Bellingshausen, M. P. Lazarev, O. E. Kotzebue.
The descendants of the Russian general Maxim Nikolaevich Leontiev played a great role in the fate of French Polynesia. His grandson Alexander Leontiev was elected from Polynesia to the French Parliament, where he helped to gain internal self-government for Polynesia, and later became chairman of the government of French Polynesia (1987-1991). The second grandson, Boris, founded the New Star party, which advocated the expansion of the rights of indigenous Polynesians. The third grandson, Igor, became the multiple champion of Tahiti in bodybuilding and the eight-time holder of the title "Mr. Polynesia".