Buru is one of the South Maluku (Moluccas) islands, a remote location largely untouched by western influence.
Ingenuity and determination are required in order to visit Buru, as ethnic violence, spectacularly unreliable transport and government travel restrictions make travel to this island both difficult and dangerous.
Like some other Maluku islands, Buru traditionally grew cloves, and this lucrative crop was also a source of trouble for Buru, as it was fought over by the Makassarese and Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, and when the Dutch East India Company won, they oppressed the locals, including forcibly relocating thousands of them. Direct rule by the Dutch government, which started in the early 1700s, was not as repressive as the Dutch East India Company had been.
The Japanese occupied the island during World War II, and it was subjected to Allied bombing. Following the war, Buru remained under Dutch influence and then was part of the Republic of South Moluccas, which was not recognized and considered secessionist by the Indonesian authorities, who considered all of the former Dutch East Indies to rightly belong to the newly independent country of Indonesia. It took six months before the Indonesian Army emerged victorious, and Buru was integrated into Indonesia in 1950.
General Sukarno worked to develop Buru, but after General Suharto took power in 1967, Buru was used as a penal colony by the Suharto dictatorship for many years, with thousands of political prisoners sent there without trial, such that the name "Buru" became synonymous with political repression in Indonesia during the 1960s and 1970s. However, at the same time that it served as the Indonesian equivalent of the Gulag, the native people of Buru continued to live there.
Buru today no longer has penal colonies, and the economy remains primarily based on agriculture.