Maldives country profile
The Maldives is an Islamic republic which lies off the Indian sub-continent. It is made up of a chain of nearly 1,200 islands, most of them uninhabited.
None of the coral islands measures more than 1.8 metres (six feet) above sea level, making the country vulnerable to a rise in sea levels associated with global warming.
With its abundant sea life and sandy beaches, The Maldives is portrayed by travel companies as a tropical paradise.
The economy revolves around tourism, and scores of islands have been developed for the top end of the tourist market.
President: Abdulla Yameen
Abdulla Yameen won the presidential election run-off in November 2013, narrowly defeating the favourite Mohamed Nasheed in a ballot which voters hoped would end nearly two years of political turmoil.
The crisis occasionally spilled over into violent protests after Mr Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically-elected president in 2008, was forced to resign in 2012 in what he said was a coup.
Three attempts to hold the election were annulled or delayed in as many months.
Mr Yameen is a half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whose autocratic rule lasted 30 years until 2008, and the new president has taken steps to restrict opposition protests against his government.
Parliament passed a law criminalising defamation in August 2016 despite international concern that it risked undermining freedom of speech.
The law prescribes hefty fines and prison terms for violators found guilty of publishing defamatory material including gestures deemed to be against "any tenet of Islam". Newspapers and websites also risk having their licences revoked.
Independent media institutions have voiced fears that the new law could be used to stifle freedom of speech and lead media outlets to self-censor.
12th century - Islam introduced.
1558-1573 - Portuguese occupation, which ends after expulsion by locals.
17th century - Islands become a protectorate first of the Dutch rulers of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and later of the British who take control of Ceylon in 1796.
1887 - Status formalised as internally self-governing British protectorate.
1965 - Full independence as a sultanate outside Commonwealth.
1968 - Sultan deposed after referendum, Ibrahim Nasir becomes president.
1978 - Nasir retires, replaced by Maumoon Abd al-Gayoom.
1980s - Development of tourist industry fuels economic growth.
1982 - Rejoins Commonwealth.
2008 - Opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed defeats President Gayoom in elections.
2012 - President Mohamed Nasheed is ousted in a coup.