By Bad Seed
Sukarno (June 6, 1901 June 21, 1970) was the first President of Indonesia. He helped the country win its independence from the Netherlands and was President from 1945 to 1967, presiding with mixed success over the country's turbulent transition to independence. Sukarno was forced down from power by one of his generals.
The son of a Javanese school teacher and his Balinese wife from Buleleng regency, Sukarno was born in Blitar, East Java in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). He was admitted into a Dutch-run school as a child. When his father sent him to Surabaya in 1916 to attend a secondary school, he met Tjokroaminoto, a future nationalist. In 1921 he began to study at the Technische Hogeschool (Technical Institute) in Bandung. He studied civil engineering and focused on architecture.
Atypically, even among the colony's small educated elite, Sukarno was fluent in several languages. In addition to the Javanese language of his childhood, he was a master of Sundanese and of Indonesian, and especially strong in Dutch. He was also quite comfortable in German, English, and French. Sukarno once remarked that when he was studying in Surabaya, he often sat behind the screen in movie theaters reading the Dutch subtitles in reverse because the front seats were only for elite Dutch people.
In his studies, Sukarno was "intensely modern," both in architecture and in politics. Sukarno interpreted these ideas in his dress, in his urban planning for the capital (eventually Jakarta), and in his socialist politics. For Sukarno, modernity was blind to race, neat and Western in style, and anti-imperialist.