Named Pleasant Island by its first European visitors, the former British colony of Nauru is the world's smallest republic.
The tiny Pacific island once generated a per capita income out of proportion to its size. But the source of this wealth - phosphates - is nearing exhaustion, leaving the islanders facing an uncertain future.
While the mining of 1,000 years' worth of fossilised bird droppings has been lucrative, Nauru relies on imports for almost everything - from food and water to fuel.
Moreover, recent financial crises have precipitated a slide into bankruptcy and a dependence on aid. The country had to sell off its assets in Australia to pay off a multi-million dollar debt to a US corporation.
Nauru's government has tried to develop alternative industries, including tourism and offshore banking. A world body, set up to fight money-laundering, removed Nauru from its list of uncooperative states in late 2005.
In 2001 Nauru signed an agreement with Australia to accommodate asylum seekers on the island, in return for millions of dollars in aid. However, Australia ended its controversial "Pacific Solution" of detaining asylum seekers on islands in 2008.
Australia has sent financial experts to Nauru to help it overcome its problems.
* Full name: Republic of Nauru
* Population: 10,000 (UN, 2010)
* Capital: None, administrative centre is Yaren
* Area: 21 sq km (8 sq miles)
* Major languages: Nauruan, English
* Major religion: Christianity
* Life expectancy: 55 years (men), 57 years (women) (UN)
* Monetary unit: 1 Australian dollar = 100 cents
* Main export: Phosphates
* GNI per capita: n/a
* Internet domain: .nr
* International dialling code: +674
President: Sprent Dabwido
Sprent Dabwido became Nauru's third president in less than a week on 15 November 2011 when his predecessor, Freddy Pitcher, lost a no-confidence vote.
The Pacific island's 18-member single-chamber parliament voted to remove Mr Pitcher by nine votes to eight and elected Mr Dawido, a minister in Mr Pitcher's government who defected to join the opposition, in his stead.
Mr Pitcher had only been in office six days after succeeding the president since 2007, Marcus Stephen, who resigned amid corruption allegations.
The MP who tabled the no-confidence motion said Mr Pitcher's "personal agenda" did "not sit well" with MPs.
Mr Dabwido's elevation to the presidency completed a rapid rise to power. Born in 1972, Mr Dabwido was elected to parliament in 2004 and in 2009 became telecommunications minister in Mr Stephen's government. In the office, he presided over the introduction of mobile phones to Nauru.
The period of turmoil that propelled him to the presidency came after a brief period of stability in Nauru's fluid politics. Marcus Stephen himself came to power when his predecessor, Ludwig Scotty, lost a no-confidence vote in December 2007.
Soon after, with parliament deadlocked over his budget, Mr Stephen declared a state of emergency and dissolved the legislature, going on to to win snap elections in April 2008.
He was re-elected for a second term by parliament in November 2010, after another protracted phase of political deadlock that two inconclusive general elections, in April and June, had failed to resolve.
The government continued to govern under a state of emergency until both sides agreed to form a coalition. Under the deal, former President Ludwig Scotty became speaker of parliament.
Under Nauru's constitution, the president is both head of state and head of government.
From : BBC News