In the 15th century, the Arabs settled on what is now known as the Comoros Islands. The islands were ceded to the French in 1841, and became a French protectorate in 1886, before being formally adopted as colonial possessions in 1912.
The Comoros were then governed as part of Madagascar until 1947, when they became a separate French Overseas Territory.
Internal self-government was granted in 1961, although full independence was not achieved until 1975.
The main reason was the position of Mayotte, one of the original Comoros island group, which insisted upon retaining its links with France. With Mayotte going its own way, the Comoros joined the United Nations as the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros, comprising three islands: Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli.
Ahmed Abdallah was elected as the first president.
Within months Abdallah was overthrown. But in 1978, with the assistance of French mercenaries, Abdallah regained his position, but his success was short-lived: he was assassinated the following year.
Abdallah's successor, Said Mohamed Djohar, managed to hold onto power before the return, in 1995, of Bob Denard, French soldier and mercenary who participated in numerous coups in the Comoros Islands.
Although Denard's latest effort was suppressed a week later by French troops despatched from Réunion, Djohar was killed.
Elections successfully took place in 1996, and the new Government of Abdulkarim Taki was determined to introduce Islamic law to the islands. This was fiercely resisted in many quarters.
President Taki died in 1998, and was replaced by Ben Said Massounde. The new government was overthrown in a military coup led by the Chief of the Army General Staff, Colonel Azzali Assoumani in 1999. During the next two years, the military government laid plans for a new constitution that would maintain the group as a single country, but with much greater autonomy afforded to the individual islands; in December 2001, it was approved in a national referendum.
In May 2002, Assoumani was declared President of the newly entitled Union of Comoros.
Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi won the 2006 presidential election.