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CIA world factbook

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CIA world factbook

The World Factbook
Cover of the latest government print edition of The World Factbook (2013-14 edition)
Author Central Intelligence Agency
Country  United States
Language English
Genre Almanac about the countries of the world
Publisher Directorate of Intelligence[1]
Publication date See frequency of updates and availability, no longer published in paper book form by the CIA

The World Factbook (U.S.-recognized countries, dependencies, and other areas in the world.

The World Factbook is prepared by the CIA for the use of U.S. government officials, and its style, format, coverage, and content are primarily designed to meet their requirements.[4] However, it is frequently used as a resource for academic research papers.[5] As a work of the U.S. government, it is in the public domain in the United States.[6]

Factbook sources

In researching the Factbook, the CIA uses the sources listed below. Other public and private sources are also consulted.[4]


Because the Factbook is in the § 403m).

Frequency of updates and availability

Before November 2001 The World Factbook website was updated yearly;[7] from 2004 to 2010 it was updated every two weeks;[7] since 2010 it has been updated weekly.[8] Generally, information currently available as of January 1 of the current year[9] is used in preparing the Factbook.

Government edition of the Factbook

The first, classified, edition of Factbook was published in August 1962, and the first unclassified version in June 1971.[10] The World Factbook was first available to the public in print in 1975.[10] In 2008 the CIA discontinued printing the Factbook themselves, instead turning printing responsibilities over to the Government Printing Office.[11] This happened due to a CIA decision to "focus Factbook resources" on the online edition.[12] The Factbook has been on the World Wide Web since October 1994.[13] The Web version gets an average of 6 million visits per month;[5] it can also be downloaded.[14] The official printed version is sold[15] by the Government Printing Office and National Technical Information Service. In past years, the Factbook was available on CD-ROM,[16] microfiche,[17] magnetic tape,[17] and floppy disk.[17]

Reprints and older editions online

Many Internet sites use information and images from the CIA World Factbook.[18] Several publishers, including Grand River Books,[19] Potomac Books (formerly known as Brassey's Inc.),[20] and Skyhorse Publishing[21] have re-published the Factbook in recent years.

Entities listed

As of July 2011, The World Factbook consists of 267 entities.[3] These entities can be divided into categories.[22] They are:

Independent countries
This category has independent countries, which the CIA defines as people "politically organized into a sovereign state with a definite territory".[22] In this category, there are 195 entities.
The Other category is a list of other places set apart from the list of independent countries. Currently there are two: Taiwan and the European Union.
Dependencies and Areas of Special Sovereignty
This category is a list of places affiliated with another country. They may be subdivided into categories using the country they are affiliated with:
This category is for Antarctica and places in dispute. There are six entities.
Other entities
This category is for the World and the oceans. There are five oceans and the World (the World entry is intended as a summary of the other entries).[5]

Territorial issues and controversies


Areas not covered
Specific regions within a country or areas in dispute among countries, such as Kashmir, are not covered,[23] but other areas of the world whose status is disputed, such as the Spratly Islands, have entries.[23][24] Subnational areas of countries (such as US States or the Canadian provinces and territories) are not included in the Factbook. Instead, users looking for information about subnational areas are referred to "a comprehensive encyclopedia" for their reference needs.[25] This criterion was invoked in the 2007[26] and 2011[27] editions with the decision to drop the entries for French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Reunion. They were dropped because besides being overseas departments, they were now overseas regions, and an integral part of France.[26][27]
Maps depicting Kashmir have the India–Pakistan border drawn at the Line of Control, but the region of Kashmir administered by China drawn in hash marks.[28]
Northern Cyprus
Northern Cyprus, which the U.S. considers part of the Republic of Cyprus, is not given a separate entry because "territorial occupations/annexations not recognized by the United States Government are not shown on U.S. Government maps."[29]
Taiwan/Republic of China
The name "Republic of China" is not listed as Taiwan's official name under the "Government" section,[30] due to U.S. acknowledgement of Beijing's One-China policy according to which there is one China and Taiwan is a part of it.[31] The name "Republic of China" was briefly added on January 27, 2005,[32] but has since been changed back to "none".[30] Of the Factbook's two maps of China, one highlights the island of Taiwan highlighted as part of the country[28] whilst the other does not.[33] (See also: Political status of Taiwan, Legal status of Taiwan)
Disputed South China Sea Islands
The Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands, subjects of territorial disputes, have entries in the Factbook where they are not listed as the territory of any one nation. The disputed claims to the islands are discussed in the entries.[34][35]
The U.S. does not recognize the renaming of Burma by its ruling military junta to Myanmar and thus keeps its entry for the country under "Burma". This is done because the name change "was not approved by any sitting legislature in Burma". As a result, the US government has never adopted the name Myanmar.[36]
FYROM/Republic of Macedonia
The Republic of Macedonia is entered as Macedonia,[37] the name used in its first entry in the Factbook upon independence in 1992.[38] In the 1994 edition, the name of the entry was changed to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as it is officially recognised by the United Nations (awaiting for the resolution of the Macedonia naming dispute).[39][40] For the next decade, this was the name the nation was listed under. Finally, in the 2004 edition of the Factbook, the name of the entry was changed back to Macedonia, following a November 2004 US decision to refer to the country using this name,[41][42] even though the official appelation of the republic within the UN remains FYROM.
European Union
On December 16, 2004, the CIA added an entry for the European Union (EU).[43] (Before this date, the EU was excluded from the Factbook.[44]) According to the CIA, the European Union was added because the EU "continues to accrue more nation-like characteristics for itself".[31]
United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges and Iles Eparses
In the 2006 edition of The World Factbook, the entries for Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Kingman Reef, Johnston Atoll, Palmyra Atoll and the Midway Islands were merged into a new United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges entry.[45] The old entries for each individual insular area remain as redirects on the Factbook website.[46] On September 7, 2006, the CIA also merged the entries for Bassas da India, Europa Island, the Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, and Tromelin Island into a new Iles Eparses entry.[47] As with the new United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges entry, the old entries for these five islands remained as redirects on the website.[48] On July 19, 2007, the Iles Eparses entry and redirects for each island were dropped due to the group becoming a district of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands in February.[49]
Serbia and Montenegro/Yugoslavia
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) broke apart in 1991. The following year, it was replaced in the Factbook with entries for each of its former constituent republics.[38] In doing this, the CIA listed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), proclaimed in 1992, as Serbia and Montenegro, as the U.S. did not recognize the union between the two republics.[50][51] This was done in accordance with a May 21, 1992, decision[52] by the U.S. not to recognize any of the former Yugoslav republics[53] as successor states to the recently dissolved SFRY.
These views were made clear in a disclaimer printed in the Factbook: "Serbia and Montenegro have asserted the formation of a joint independent state, but this entity has not been recognized as a state by the United States."[55] Montenegro and Serbia were treated separately in the Factbook data, as can be seen on the map.[56] In October 2000, Slobodan Milošević was forced out of office after a disputed election.[57] This event led to democratic elections and US diplomatic recognition. The 2001 edition of the Factbook thus referred to the state as Yugoslavia.[58] On March 14, 2002, an agreement was signed to transform the FRY into a loose state union called Serbia and Montenegro;[59] it took effect on February 4, 2003.[60] The name of the Yugoslavia entity was altered in the Factbook the month after the change.[61]
On February 28, 2008, the CIA added an entry for Kosovo;[62] before this, Kosovo was excluded in the Factbook.[23] Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been out of United Nations member states, including the US.[63]
East Timor/Timor-Leste
On July 19, 2007, the entry for East Timor was renamed Timor-Leste following a decision of the US Board on Geographic Names (BGN).[64]


In June 2009, the US National Public Radio (NPR), relying on information obtained from the CIA World Factbook, put the number of Israeli Jews living in settlements in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem at 250,000. However, a better estimate, based on State Department and Israeli sources put the figure at about 500,000. NPR then issued a correction. Chuck Holmes, foreign editor for NPR Digital, said, “I’m surprised and displeased, and it makes me wonder what other information is out-of-date or incorrect in the CIA World Factbook.”[65]

Geographical information about countries in the CIA Factbook may not quite tally with information from government sources in those countries. For example, the Factbook gives the land area of Australia as 7,682,300 km2[66] while Geoscience Australia gives the area as 7,692,024 km2,[67] a difference of 9,724 km2. A Fiji government website gives the land area of the Fiji Islands as 18,333 km2[68] while the CIA Factbook gives the area as 18,274 km2,[69] a difference of 59 km2.

Various demographic information is full of usually minor errors, inaccuracies, and out-of-date information, which are often repeated elsewhere due to the Factbook's widespread use as a reference. For example, Albania is described in the CIA Factbook as 70% Muslim, 20% Eastern Orthodox, and 10% Roman Catholic, which was based on a survey conducted in 1939, before World War II; numerous surveys conducted since the fall of the Communist regime since 1990 have given quite different figures. Another example is Singapore, which the Factbook states has a total fertility rate of 0.78 children per woman, despite figures in Statistics Singapore which state that the rate has been about 1.2-1.3 children per woman for at least the past several years, and it is unclear when, or even whether, it ever dropped as low as 0.78.[70] This extremely low and inaccurate value then gets cited in news articles which state that Singapore has the world's lowest fertility, or at least use the figure for its shock value.[71]

Before 1998, the United Kingdom profile contained a sentence that asserted the UK had gained independence on 1 January 1801.[72] This description in reference to the Act of Union 1801 which expanded the United Kingdom of Great Britain to include Ireland, has since been greatly expanded,[73] although the primary date of UK Independence is now given as 1927. This has been argued by some as misleading, and refers to the date the entity adopted its current name under the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act, of that year. Indeed it can be argued the country has no one year in which independence was achieved, since there is an arguable legitimate succession of states, systems and entities from the Norman Conquest, 1066.

See also

Alternative publications


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.

External links

  • Current CIA World Factbook
  • The World Factbook Change Log Detailed changes within the CIA's World Factbook
  • CIA World Factbook as XML
  • The World Factbook for Google Earth—The Factbook as Google Earth placemarks
  • On—The CIA World Factbook accessible by location and date range; covers the years 2001—2007. All Factbook entries are tagged with "cia". Requires graphical browser with javascript.
  • The current CIA World Fact Book in Excel spreadsheet format

Mobile versions of the Factbook

  • Mobile Edition of the CIA World Factbook, last updated 10 June 2008
  • World Factbook for Android—optimized CIA World Factbook version for Android Devices
  • Mobile World Factbook—Mobile version of World Factbook for Android and J2ME

The Factbook by year

  • 1991 CIA World Factbook
  • 1990 CIA World Factbook
  • 1989 CIA World Factbook
  • 1987 CIA World Factbook
  • 1986 CIA World Factbook
  • 1985 CIA World Factbook
  • 1984 CIA World Factbook
  • 1982 CIA World Factbook
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