Liberia is Africa's oldest republic, but it became known in the 1990s for its long-running, ruinous civil war and its role in a rebellion in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Although founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, Liberia is mostly inhabited by indigenous Africans, with the slaves' descendants comprising 5% of the population.
Around 250,000 people were killed in Liberia's civil war, and many thousands more fled the fighting.
Big programmes are under way to address the shortage of electricity and running water. Corruption is rife and unemployment and illiteracy are endemic.
Republic of Liberia
Population 4.6 million
Area 99,067 sq km (38,250 sq miles)
Languages English, 29 African languages belonging to the Mande, Kwa or Mel linguistic groups
Major religions Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
Life expectancy 61 years (men), 63 years (women)
Currency Liberian dollar
President: George Weah
Former football start George Weah secured a stunning run-off victory in December 2017 in the country's first democratic transfer of power in decades.
Idolised in Liberia as "Mister George", Mr Weah replaced Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who became president in 2006.
In his first public comments since his victory, Weah told journalists in Monrovia he aimed to "improve the lives" of Liberians.
Weah, 51 at the time of his election, starred in top-flight football at Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in the 1990s and briefly at Chelsea and Manchester City before entering politics in 2002.
Liberia's media scene includes private and state outlets. Radio is the main news source and there is a lively commercial sector.
There is real media freedom, says watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
Some key events in Liberia's history:
1847 - Constitution modelled on that of the US is drawn up, and Liberia becomes independent.
1917 - Liberia declares war on Germany, giving the Allies a base in West Africa.
1926 - Rubber production becomes backbone of Liberia's economy after Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company opens rubber plantation on land granted by government.
1936 - Forced-labour practices abolished.
1943 - William Tubman elected president.
1958 - Racial discrimination outlawed.
1980 - Master Sergeant Samuel Doe carries out military coup ousting and publicly executing President William Tolbert and 13 of his aides.
1985 - Doe wins presidential election one year after his regime allowed return of political parties following pressure from the United States and other creditors.
1989-2003 - Civil war. Up to 250,000 are killed, while thousands more are mutilated and raped, often by armies of drugged child soldiers led by ruthless warlords.
2005 - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becomes the first woman to be elected as an African head of state.
2013-2016 - Outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus sweeps through Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, killing 11,300 people, mainly in Liberia.