Childhood & Early Life
Sukarno was born as Kusno Sosrodihardjo on 6 June 1901, in Surabaya, East Java, Dutch East Indies. His father was Raden Soekemi Sosrodihardjo, a primary school teacher. His mother Ida Ayu Nyoman Rai was a Hindu Balinese woman from a Brahmin family.
Sukarno graduated from a primary school in 1912. He then attended Europeesche Lagere School and later enrolled in Hogere Burgerschool where he met nationalist Tjokroaminoto.
In 1921, he joined the Technische Hoogeschool te Bandoeng (now Bandoeng Institute of Technology) to study civil engineering and graduated with an “Ingenieur” degree in 1926.
Following graduation, Sukarno established an architectural company alongside his university friend Anwari, called ‘Sukarno & Anwari’. Set in Bandung, the firm offered planning and contractor services and designed several private houses and popular monuments, including the Youth Monument in Semarang.
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Entry Into Politics & Fight for Independence
On 4 July 1927, Sukarno alongside some of his friends established a pro-independence party called the Indonesian National Party (PNI), of which he was elected the first leader.
PNI moved forward with its goal to establish a united Indonesia while opposing capitalism and advocating secularism amongst different ethnicities. It soon garnered the attention of the colonial government during a series of raids throughout Java, eventually leading to Sukarno's arrest along with other PNI leaders.
By December 1931, Sukarno had become a hero widely known throughout Indonesia. During his imprisonment, his party PNI was disbanded by the Dutch government and its former members created two different parties: the Indonesian Nationalist Education and the Indonesia Party.
After coming out of jail, Sukarno attempted to reconcile these two parties and was chosen the head of Partindo in July 1932.
In mid-1933, he published a series of writings under the name “Mentjapai Indonesia Merdeka” which eventually led to his arrest by Dutch police on 1 August 1933. He was later sent to Bencoolen (now Bengkulu) where he met the local head of Muhammadiyah organisation, Hassan Din, who gave him a teaching job in his school.
World War II and the Japanese Occupation of Indonesia
In early 1929, Sukarno and fellow nationalist leader Mohammad Hatta first foresaw a Pacific War. They also realized that a Japanese advance on Indonesia might present an opportunity for the Indonesian independence cause.
In February 1942, he was transported by Imperial Japan from Bengkulu to Padang after it invaded the Dutch East Indies. In July that year, Sukarno was sent to Jakarta where Commander General Hitoshi Imamura asked him to encourage Indonesians to aid the Japanese war effort.
As a result, millions were recruited to be forced laborers or "romusha" and were compelled to build railways and other facilities under Japanese rule in Indonesia.
Sukarno was made the leader of Tiga-A mass organisation movement. In 1943, a new organisation under Sukarno called Poesat Tenaga Rakjat was formed to galvanise support from Indonesian population.
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Between 1944 and 1945, over a million people were killed in Java as a result of food requisitioning by the Japanese.
On 29 April 1945, Investigating Committee for Preparatory Work for Independence aka BPUPK was formed. It consisted of 67 representatives with Sukarno as its head.
In June 1945, he introduced pancasila, a set of five principles, including nationalism, internationalism, democracy, social justice, and belief in God. However, the final “Sila” that was put into effect in August excluded the first principle for the sake of national unity.
On 15 August 1945, the Japanese unconditionally surrendered to the Allies after declaring their acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration terms. Two days later, Sukarno declared Indonesia an independent republic.
Role as a War Leader
On 18 August 1945, the basic governmental structure for the Republic of Indonesia was proposed. Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta were elected president and vice-president, respectively.
The disbanded PETA and Heiho formed during the Japanese occupation were asked to join Badan Keamanan Rakjat (BKR) to assist war victims. BKR was later reformed into Tentara Keamanan Rakjat (TKR) in October 1945.
In October 1945, British forces started occupying major Indonesian cities. In November, a full-scale war broke out in Surabaya between the Indonesian population and the British Indian 49th Infantry Brigade.
Throughout 1946, Dutch forces were infused into the country by the British and they soon occupied Java, Sumatra and Madura. A year later, the Dutch launched a massive military invasion called Operatie Product to take hold of Republican-held territories. Later in 1948, they forced the Indonesian government to sign the Renville Agreement.
TNI continued to fight against the Dutch which eventually led the latter to sign the Roem-van Roijen Agreement in May 1949 and release the Republican leadership.
Figurehead President & Guided Democracy
In August 1950, Sukarno declared a Unitary Republic of Indonesia. He devised an autocratic system of "guided democracy” and demanded the creation of functional groups that would together form a National Council and exert presidential guidance.
The guided democracy was strongly opposed by Vice President Mohammad Hatta and he eventually resigned in 1956. A year later, Sukarno appointed Djuanda Kartawidjaja as a non-partisan prime minister. He nationalised 246 Dutch companies and expelled 40,000 Dutch citizens out of the country.
On 5 July 1959, he reinstated the 1945 constitution and established a presidential system called Manifesto Politik to implement the principles of guided democracy. The following year, he replaced the parliament with a new one where half the members were appointed by the president.
In September 1960, Sukarno established Provisional People's Consultative Assembly, also called Madjelis Permusjawaratan Rakjat Sementara (MPRS), as the highest legislative authority. He declared the government to be based on the three principles of Nasakom, namely nationalism, religion, and communism.
In 1963, he was made president for life by the MPRS. He was deposed in 1966 and put under house arrest in the Bogor Palace. Suharto succeeded him as the president.
Family & Personal Life
Sukarno married his first wife Siti Oetari, daughter of Tjokroaminoto, in 1920. Three years later, he divorced her to marry Inggit Garnasih, the former wife of the owner of the boarding house where he lived as a student.
In 1942, he divorced Garnasih and married Fatmawati with whom he had five kids, including Megawati Sukarnoputri and Guruh Sukarnoputra. In the ensuing years, he would divorce and marry a few other times. His spouses included Hartini, Kartini Manoppo, Naoko Nemoto, Haryati, Yurike Sanger, and Heldy Djafar. He had many other children in addition to the five he had with Fatmawati.
On 21 June 1970, he died of kidney failure, at the age of 69.