Past Cities

Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Loading map...

Balikpapan is a vibrant and historic city located on the eastern coast of the island of Borneo, in the province of East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Balikpapan has a diverse population comprising various ethnic groups, including the indigenous Dayak people, as well as migrants from different parts of Indonesia and neighboring countries. As of the latest available data in 2021, the city had an estimated population of around 828,000 inhabitants. Over the years, the city has experienced significant growth, fueled by its strategic location and its role as a major center of commerce and industry.

The history of Balikpapan can be traced back to the early 19th century when it was a small fishing village inhabited by the indigenous communities. However, the city's trajectory changed dramatically during the colonial era, particularly in the early 20th century. In 1897, the Dutch established a small trading post in Balikpapan, primarily for the timber and mining industries. The discovery of oil in the area in the 1900s marked a turning point in the city's history.

The oil boom in Balikpapan attracted foreign oil companies, particularly the Royal Dutch Shell, which set up oil drilling operations and infrastructure. This development led to rapid urbanization, as the city grew to accommodate the increasing population of workers and their families. The establishment of the Balikpapan Refinery in 1922 further solidified the city's position as a prominent oil hub in the region.

During World War II, Balikpapan became a key battleground. In January 1942, Japanese forces occupied the city, leading to a significant impact on the local population and infrastructure. The Japanese utilized the city's oil resources to support their military operations in the Pacific. However, Balikpapan became a target for Allied forces seeking to disrupt Japanese oil production. In 1945, a major naval and air assault was launched, known as the Battle of Balikpapan, resulting in the liberation of the city.

Following Indonesia's independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1945, Balikpapan played a vital role in the nation's economic development. The government initiated efforts to nationalize the oil industry, leading to the establishment of the state-owned oil company, Pertamina. Balikpapan served as a crucial center for oil production, refining, and exportation, contributing significantly to Indonesia's economic growth.

The political environment and geography of Balikpapan have influenced its historical development. The city's strategic coastal location and rich natural resources, particularly oil, have attracted both local and foreign powers throughout history. Its position on the eastern coast of Borneo has made it an important maritime and trading hub, facilitating connections with neighboring countries.

Additionally, the city's geography, characterized by coastal plains and surrounding hills, has influenced the development of infrastructure and urban planning. Balikpapan's expansion has been driven by the need to accommodate the growing population and industrial activities while considering the natural constraints of the region.

Over the years, Balikpapan has transformed into a modern metropolis, boasting a thriving economy, educational institutions, and a diverse cultural landscape. The city continues to play a significant role in Indonesia's oil and gas industry, and efforts have been made to diversify the economy by promoting sectors such as tourism and manufacturing.