At 1,660 km2 (640 sq mi), excluding the contested island of Mayotte, the Comoros is the third-smallest African nation by area. The population, excluding Mayotte, is estimated at 798,000. As a nation formed at a crossroads of different civilizations, the archipelago is noted for its diverse culture and history. The archipelago was first inhabited by Bantu speakers who came from East Africa, supplemented by Arab and Austronesian immigration.
It became part of the French colonial empire in the 19th century before becoming independent in 1975.
The Union of the Comoros has three official languages – Comorian, Arabic and French. The religion of the majority of the population is Islam.
The country consists of three major islands and numerous smaller islands, all in the volcanic Comoros archipelago. The major islands are commonly known by their French names: northwestern-most Grande Comore (Ngazidja); Mohéli (Mwali); and Anjouan (Nzwani). In addition, the country has a claim on a fourth major island, southeastern-most Mayotte (Maore), though Mayotte voted against independence from France in 1974, has never been administered by an independent Comoros government, and continues to be administered by France (currently as an overseas department). France has vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions that would affirm Comorian sovereignty over the island. In addition, Mayotte became an overseas department and a region of France in 2011 following a referendum passed overwhelmingly.
The Comoros is the only state to be a member of the African Union, Francophonie, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League (of which it is the southernmost state, being the only member of the Arab League which is entirely within the Southern Hemisphere) and the Indian Ocean Commission.