South Yemen

South Yemen
People's Democratic Republic of Yemen
جمهورية اليَمَنْ الديمُقراطية الشَعْبِيّة
Jumhūrīyat al-Yaman ad-Dīmuqrāṭīyah ash-Sha'bīyah



Flag Coat of arms
Capital Aden
Language(s) Arabic
Government Socialist Republic
 - 1967–1969 Qahtan al-Shaabi
 - 1969–1978 Salim Rubai Ali
 - 1978 Ali Nasir Muhammad
 - 1978–1980 Abdul Fattah Ismail
 - 1980–1986 Ali Nasir Muhammad
 - 1986–1990 Haidar Abu Bakr al-Attas
Prime Minister
 - 1969 Faysal al-Shaabi
 - 1969–1971 Muhammad Ali Haitham
 - 1971–1985 Ali Nasir Muhammad
 - 1985–1986 Haidar Abu Bakr al-Attas
 - 1986–1990 Yasin Said Numan
Historical era Cold War
 - Independence declared 30 November 1967
 - UN membership 14 December 1967
 - Constitution adopted 31 October 1978
 - Unification 22 May 1990
 - 1990 332,970 km2 (128,560 sq mi)
 - 1990 est. 2,585,484 
     Density 7.8 /km2  (20.1 /sq mi)
Currency South Yemeni dinar
Calling code +969
ISO 3166-1=YD, ISO 3166-3=YDYE

The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen — also referred to as South Yemen, Democratic Yemen or Yemen (Aden) — was a socialist republic in the present-day southern and eastern Provinces of Yemen. It united with the Yemen Arab Republic, commonly known as North Yemen, on May 22, 1990, to form the current Republic of Yemen.



In 1838, Sultan Muhsin bin Fadl of the nearby state of Lahej ceded 194 km² (75 sq. miles) including Aden to the British. On 19 January 1839, the British East India Company landed Royal Marines at Aden to occupy the territory and stop attacks by pirates against British shipping to India. It then became an important trading hub between British India and the Red Sea, and following the opening of the Suez canal in 1869, it became a coaling station for ships en route to India. Aden was ruled as part of British India until 1937, when the city of Aden became the Colony of Aden. The Aden hinterland and Hadhramaut to the east formed the remainder of what would become South Yemen and was not administered directly by Aden but were tied to Britain by treaties of protection with local rulers of traditional polities that, together, became known as the Aden Protectorate. Economic development was largely centred in Aden, and while the city flourished, the states of the Aden Protectorate stagnated.


In 1963, Aden and much of the Protectorate were joined to form the Federation of South Arabia with the remaining states that declined to join, mainly in Hadhramaut, forming the separate Protectorate of South Arabia. Both of these polities were still tied to Britain with promises of total independence in 1968. Two nationalist groups, the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) and the National Liberation Front (NLF), began an armed struggle on 14 October 1963 against British control and, with the temporary closure of the Suez Canal in 1967, the British began to withdraw. Southern Yemen became independent as the People's Republic of South Yemen on 30 November 1967, and the National Liberation Front consolidated its control in the country.

In June 1969, a radical Marxist wing of NLF gained power and on 1 December 1970, reorganized the country into the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. Subsequently, all political parties were amalgamated into the National Liberation Front, renamed the Yemeni Socialist Party, which became the only legal party. The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen established close ties with the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, Cuba, East Germany, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

The major communist powers assisted in the building of the PDRY's armed forces. Strong support from Moscow resulted in Soviet naval forces gaining access to naval facilities in South Yemen.


Unlike East Germany and West Germany or North Korea and South Korea, the northern Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) and the PDRY remained relatively friendly, though relations were often strained. In 1972 a small proxy border conflict was resolved with negotiations, where it was declared unification would eventually occur.

However, these plans were put on hold in 1979, as the PDRY funded Red rebels in the YAR, and war was only prevented by an Arab League intervention. The goal of unity was reaffirmed by the northern and southern heads of state during a summit meeting in Kuwait in March 1979.

In 1980, PDRY president Abdul Fattah Ismail resigned and went into exile in Moscow, having lost the confidence of his sponsors in the USSR.[1] His successor, Ali Nasir Muhammad, took a less interventionist stance toward both North Yemen and neighbouring Oman. On January 13, 1986, a violent struggle began in Aden between Ali Nasir's supporters and supporters of the returned Ismail, who wanted power back. Fighting lasted for more than a month and resulted in thousands of casualties, Ali Nasir's ouster, and Ismail's death. Some 60,000 people, including the deposed Ali Nasir, fled to the YAR. Ali Salim al-Beidh, an ally of Ismail who had succeeded in escaping the attack on pro-Ismail members of the Politburo, then became General Secretary of the Yemeni Socialist Party.[2]

In May 1988, the YAR and PDRY governments came to an understanding that considerably reduced tensions including agreement to renew discussions concerning unification, to establish a joint oil exploration area along their undefined border, to demilitarize the border, and to allow Yemenis unrestricted border passage on the basis of only a national identification card.

Politics and social life

The only recognised political party in South Yemen was the Yemeni Socialist Party, which ran the country and the economy along lines they described as Marxist, modeled on the Soviet Union.[citation needed]

The constitution prescribed universal suffrage.

The Supreme People's Council was appointed by the general command of the National Liberation Front in 1971.

In Aden, there was a structured judicial system, with a supreme court.

Education was paid for through general taxation.

There was no housing crisis in South Yemen. Surplus housing built by the British meant that there were few homeless people in Aden, and people built their own houses out of adobe and mud in the rural areas.

Finally in 1988, the South Yemen Olympic team made its debut in Seoul. Sending only eight athletes, the country won no medals. This was the only time the country went to the Olympics until unification in 1990.


Map of the governorates

Following independence, South Yemen was divided into six governorates (Arabic sg. muhafazah), with roughly natural boundaries, each given a name by numeral. From 1967 to 1978 they were named officially by numerals only, from 1979 to 1990 - by new official names. The islands: Kamaran (until 1972, when it was seized by North Yemen), Perim (Meyun), Socotra, Abd-el-Kuri, Samha (inhabited), Darsah and others uninhabitated from the Socotra archipelago were district (mudiriyah) of the First/Aden Governorate being under Prime-Minister of the state supervision.[3]

Numeral Name Approximate Area (km.²) Capital
I 'Adan 6,980 Aden
II Lahij 12,766 Lahij
III Abyan 21,489 Zinjibar
IV Shabwah 73,908 Ataq
V Hadhramawt 155,376 Al Mukalla
VI al-Mahrah 66,350 Al Ghaydah


There was little industrial output, or mineral wealth exploitation, in South Yemen, until the mid-1980s, following the discovery of significant petroleum reserves in the central regions near Shibam and Mukalla. The main sources of income were agriculture, mostly fruit, cereal crops, cattle and sheep, fishing and later, oil exports.

The national budget was 13.43 million dinars in 1976, and the gross national product was USD $150 million. The total national debt was $52.4 million.


The following airlines had operated from the PDRY:[4]

  • Aden Airways[5] (1949 - 1967). Ceased operations on 30 June 1967 at the time of British withdrawal from the Federation and the Protectorate of South Arabia.
  • Alyemda - Democratic Yemen Airlines (1961 - 1996). Joined Yemenia, the airline of the former YAR
  • Yemen Airways (1989 - 1990)

Statistics as of 1990

See also


  1. ^ Halliday, Fred, Revolution and Foreign Policy: The Case of South Yemen, 1967-1987, Cambridge University Press, 2002, page 35
  2. ^ Katz, Mark, Civil Conflict in South Yemen, Middle East Review, Fall 1986
  3. ^ Ismael, Tareq Y.; Jacqueline S. Ismael (1986). The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen: Politics, Economics, and Society; The Politics of Socialist Transformation. Lynne Rienner Pub. ISBN 0931477964. 
  4. ^ Airlines - South Yemen
  5. ^ Aden Airways - History
  6. ^ Yemen, CIA World Factbook

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

Coordinates: 12°48′N 45°02′E / 12.8°N 45.033°E / 12.8; 45.033

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  • south yemen — ˈyemən, ˈyām adjective Usage: usually capitalized S&Y Etymology: from South Yemen, country in southern Arabian peninsula : of or from the country of South Yemen : of the kind or style prevalent in South Yemen * * * Yemen (def. 3) …   Useful english dictionary

  • South Yemen — South′ Yem′en n. geg People s Democratic Republic of Yemen …   From formal English to slang

  • South Yemen — Yemen (def. 3). * * * …   Universalium

  • South Yemen — /saʊθ ˈjɛmən/ (say sowth yemuhn) noun (formerly) a republic on the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula; formed in 1967 from the British colony of Aden and Protectorate of South Arabia; in 1990 united with North Yemen. Official name, People s… …   Australian-English dictionary

  • South Yemen — geographical name see Yemen • South Yemeni adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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  • South Yemen — noun A country in the Middle East from 1967 until 1990, full name Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen …   Wiktionary

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