People's Democratic Republic of Yemen

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(Redirected from South Yemen)
جمهورية اليَمَنْ الديمُقراطية الشَعْبِيّة
Juhmūrīyat al-Yaman ad-Dīmuqrāţīyah ash-Sha'bīyah
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Flag of the (former) People's Democratic Republic of Yemen

Missing image
Coat of arms of the (former) People's Democratic Republic of Yemen

(Flag of South Yemen) (Coat of arms of South Yemen)
National motto: There's more than one way to skin a cat
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Official language Arabic
Capital Aden
Area 287,680 km

 - Total (1973)

 - Density


Currency 1 Yemeni dinar =
100 fils
Time zone UTC +3
National anthem United Republic
Calling Code+969
ISO 3166-1YD (obsolete)
ISO 3166-3YDYE (obsolete)

The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, South Yemen or Yemen (Aden) was a country in present-day southern Yemen. It united with the Yemen Arab Republic on May 22, 1990 to form the modern country.

It was the only Communist state to ever exist in the Middle East.



Main articles: Hadhramaut, History of Yemen

British interests in the area known as Hadhramaut, which would later become South Yemen, began to grow when in 1832, British East India Company forces captured the port of Aden, to provide a coaling station for ships en route to India.

The colony gained much political and strategic importance after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

The area was ruled as part of British India until 1937, when the city Aden became a crown colony in its own right, and the land either side of the city became West and East Aden respectively. However, economic development was largely centred in Aden, and while the city flourished, the rest of the British territories in the area stagnated.

The colonies boomed after the discovery of crude oil on the Arabian Peninsula in the 1930s.

During the 1960s, the British sought to incorporate their Middle Eastern territories into the Federation of South Arabia, and by 1962 just about all the tribal states of the Hadhramaut and Aden areas had been incorporated into the Federation.

Two nationalistic groups, the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen and the National Liberation Front, both with the goal of independence from Britain, began to emerge during the 1960s. In 1965, both groups turned to terrorism and violence to achieve their aims.

The temporary closure of the Suez Canal in 1967 effectively negated the last reason that British had kept hold of the colonies in Yemen, and, in the face of uncontrollable violence, they began to withdraw. South Arabia declared independence in June of that year, and the NLF, with the support of the army, took control after defeating the FLOSY in a drawn out campaign of terror.

In June 1969, radical Marxist elements of the NLF gained power, changed the name of the country to the People's Democratic Republic of South Yemen and began to institute a government based on that of the Soviet Union. Close ties were forged with Cuba, the People's Republic of China, Soviet Union and the Palestinians. All political parties were amalgamated to become the Yemeni Socialist Party, which was declared the only legal party.

The major communist powers assisted in the building of South Yemen's armed forces.

Unlike East and West Germany, the two Yemens remained relatively friendly, though relations were often strained. In 1972 it was declared unification would eventually occur.

However, these plans were put on hold in 1979, and war was only prevented by an Arab League intervention. In March of that year, the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to unification.

What the South Yemen government failed to tell the North Yemen government was that it wished to be the dominant power in any unification, and left wing rebels in North Yemen began to receive extensive funding and arms from South Yemen.

In 1980, South Yemeni president Abdul Fattah Ismail resigned and went into exile. His successor, Ali Nasir Muhammad, took a less interventionist stance toward both North Yemen and neighbouring Oman. On January 13, 1986, a violent struggle began in Aden between Ali Nasir's supporters and supporters of the returned Ismail, who wanted power back. Fighting lasted for more than a month and resulted in thousands of casualties, Ali Nasir's ouster, and Ismail's death. Some 60,000 people, including the deposed Ali Nasir, fled to North Yemen.

In May 1988, the two Yemens came to an agreement that considerably reduced tensions between the countries. This agreement included promises to demilitarise the border, new joint oil expeditions, and to allow unrestricted access between the two countries.

In November of the following year, Ali Salim al-Baidh of South Yemen and Ali Abdullah Saleh of the North agreed on a constitution for a united Yemen. On May 22, 1990, the Republic of Yemen was declared.

Saleh became president and al-Baidh vice president. A 30 month transitional period, for the two Yemens to unite both politically and economically, was set.

Politics & Social Life

The only recognised political party in South Yemen was the Yemeni Socialist Party, which ran the country and the economy along lines they described as Marxist, modelled on the Soviet Union.

The constitution proscribed universal suffrage although very few exercised power beyond the elite of the Socialist Party.

The People's Supreme Assembly was appointed by the general command of the National Liberation Front in 1971.

In Aden, there was a structured judicial system, with a supreme court. However, outside of Aden and especially in rural areas, Sharia law was in force, often supplemented by traditional local law.

Education was provided without charge; however, there was almost no secondary education outside of Aden and proper education for girls had only been achieved in that city, though it began to develop.

There was a significant shortage of qualified doctors and staff at hospitals, and this meant that socialised medicine programs were generally poor, although again provided without charge.

Unlike the Soviet Union, there was no housing crisis in South Yemen. Surplus housing built by the British meant that there were few homeless people in Aden, and people built their own houses out of adobe and mud in the rural areas.

Human Rights

There were many hundreds of cases of "disappearances" of opponents of the South Yemen government. Most of these victims were members of the National Democratic Front which waged war against the regime for decades.

Amnesty International found the regime guilty of torture, arbitrary detention and many other human rights abuses.


Following independence, South Yemen was divided into six governates, with roughly natural boundaries, each given a Roman numeral.


There was little industrial output, nor mineral wealth exploitation, in South Yemen. The main sources of income were agriculture, mostly fruit, cereal crops, cattle and sheep, fishing and the selling of crude oil through Aden.

The national budget was 13.43 million dinars in 1976, and the gross national product was USD $150 million. The total national debt was $52.4 million.

As of 1976

List of countries | Middle Eastde:Sdjemen id:Yaman Selatan ja:南イエメン ko:남예멘


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