Sri Lanka (Sinhala ශ්රී ලංකා, Sri Lamka, [ˌɕriːlaŋkaː]; Tamil: இலங்கை, Ilankai) until 1972 Ceylon (since then Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka), is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, 237 km (west coast) east of the southern tip the Indian subcontinent, and counts 20.3 million inhabitants. The shortest distance between India (Kodiyakkarai) and Sri Lanka (Munasal) is 54.8 kilometers. Thanks to its location, the island was formed from ancient to modern times a strategic hub for navigation between the front and Southeast Asia. The south and the areas around Anuradhapura were centers of ancient Buddhism, whereas the north and east there were Hindu temple complexes. Today, the country is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation in which are major religions besides Buddhism and Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. The Sinhalese make up the largest part of the population. The Tamils are the largest minority. Other ethnic minorities are the Moors, Malays, Burghers and the Sri Lankan natives, the Vedas. Sri Lanka is famous for the production and export of tea (Ceylon), coffee, rubber and coconuts. The island is due to its scenic beauty and its rich cultural heritage (such as Ayurveda, a traditional healing art) is a popular tourist destination. Sri Lanka was ruled for two millennia by various local kingdoms until the 16th century, large parts of the island were then colonized by the Portuguese and the Dutch. Only the Kingdom of Kandy in the highlands of the island held its own against the colonizers. 1815 but eventually the whole country became part of the British Empire. During World War II Sri Lanka served the Allies as a strategic base in the fight against the Japanese Empire. Since the beginning of the 20th century there were ever-increasing independence. In 1948, Sri Lanka became independent after peaceful negotiations by the British. Unlike most Third World countries a stable, democratic system, however, was burdened by the contradictions between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority and is still there since independence. Between 1983 and 2009 there was an open civil war between Tamil separatists and the Sinhalese-dominated central government, the number of fatalities, demanded mainly from the civilian population. The human rights crimes of the civil war are not independent worked up until now. Between 2004 and 2015, Mahinda Rajapaksa was president of the country and ruled the country with an authoritarian gesture. Since January 2015 Maithripala Sirisena's president, who has promised a move away from authoritarianism.
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