Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Erik Esselstrom


This thesis examines the history of Indonesian nationalism over the course of the twentieth century. In this thesis, I argue that the country’s two main political leaders of the twentieth century, Presidents Sukarno (1945-1967) and Suharto (1967-1998) manipulated nationalist ideology to enhance and extend their executive powers. The thesis begins by looking at the ways that the nationalist movement originated during the final years of the Dutch East Indies colonial period. The first section highlights how the nationalist movement was disunified in its attempts to gain political autonomy from Dutch colonial control. It moves on to talk about the impact of the Japanese occupation period (1942-1945) on the nationalist movement, detailing how Sukarno was able to unify the various nationalist groups by presenting his form of Indonesian ideology, Pancasila. The paper briefly touches on the Indonesian Revolutionary War (1945-1949) before discussing the impact of Sukarno’s gradual move towards communist and anti-Western sentiments. The paper examines several speeches given by Sukarno during this period to emphasize the ways by which he directed national ideology in his favor. The narrative continues to explain the Indonesian public’s backlash against communism, briefly detailing the Communist Massacre of 1965-1966 and explaining how Suharto grabbed power in the ensuing chaos. An analysis of Suharto’s early speeches reveals the ways that Suharto was able to appropriate Sukarno’s Pancasila to fit his own political goals. The thesis moves on to discuss the Pancasila indoctrination programs which Suharto enacts during the late 1970s and into the 1980s and how the Suharto regime became associated with repression and state violence. The thesis concludes by examining the similarities and differences between Sukarno’s and Suharto’s manipulation of ideology to enhance their political agendas.



Number of Pages

86 p.