Ethiopia is one of the world’s oldest autonomous countries. It has historically served as a crossroads for the civilizations of North Africa, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia was never colonized, and it maintained its independence during the Scramble for Africa, save for five years (1936–41) when it was under Italian military control. During this time, the Italians controlled just a few important towns and vital roads, and they encountered persistent local opposition until they were destroyed during World War II by an Ethiopian-British coalition. Ethiopia has long been a member of international organizations: it joined the League of Nations in 1919, signed the United Nations Declaration in 1942, established the UN headquarters in Africa, was one of the UN’s 51 founding members, and is the headquarters for, and a founding member of, the former Organization of African Unity and the current African Union.
Ethiopia was previously known as Abyssinia, a term linked to Habesha, the indigenous name for the people. In certain nations, Ethiopia is still referred to by names that sound similar to “Abyssinia,” such as Turkish Habesistan, which means “country of the Habesha people.” The English name “Ethiopia” is believed to be derived from the Greek word o (Aithiopia), from (Aithiops) “an Ethiopian,” which is thought to be derived from Greek words meaning “of burned (-) visage ()”. However, this derivation is contested, since the Book of Aksum, a Ge’ez chronicle originally written in the 15th century, says that the name is derived from ‘Ityopp’is, a son (unmentioned in the Bible) of Cush, son of Ham, who built the city of Axum, according to tradition.