Algeria, a gateway between Africa and Europe, has been battered by violence over the past half-century.
More than a million Algerians were killed in the fight for independence from France in 1962, and the country has emerged relatively recently from a brutal internal conflict that followed the scrapped elections which Islamists appeared certain to win in 1992.
A low-level Islamist insurgency has affected Algeria over the past few years.
The Sahara desert covers more than four-fifths of the land. Algeria is the continent’s biggest country, and is the world’s 10th largest.
Oil and gas reserves were discovered there in the 1950s, but most Algerians live along the northern coast.
The country supplies large amounts of natural gas to Europe and energy exports are the backbone of the economy.
People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
Population 36.5 million
Area 2.4 million sq km (919,595 sq miles)
Major languages Arabic, French, Berber
Major religion Islam
Life expectancy 72 years (men), 75 years (women)
President: Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been in power since 1999 and gained his fourth term of office in elections in 2014, despite doing no personal campaigning and rarely appearing in public after having suffered a stroke in 2013.
He first took office when Algeria was still caught up in a savage civil war with Islamist insurgents, and is credited with curbing the conflict and restoring economic stability.
He amended the constitution in 2008 to remove the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively giving himself the option of remaining head of state for life.
Algeria has is a lively private press but journalists and newspaper - especially publicizing opposition views - are subject to intimidation, advocates of press freedom allege.
TV and radio stations broadcasting from Algerian soil are state-controlled, but privately-owned networks transmit from abroad via satellite.
Some key dates in Algeria's history:
1830 - France seizes Algiers, ending Algeria's three centuries as an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire.
1939-1945 - The Collapse of France and the Anglo-American occupation of North Africa during Second World War encourages hopes for independence.
1945 - Pro-independence demonstrations in Setif. Thousands are killed in suppression of ensuing unrest.
1954-1962 - Algerian War of Independence.
1962 - Independence.
1976 - Algerian, Moroccan armies clash over Western Sahara.
1989 - New constitution removes the one-party state and moves country away from socialism to western capitalism.
1991-1999 - Civil war pitting Islamists against the government.
1999 - Abdelaziz Bouteflika becomes president, introduces national reconciliation policy.
BBC News Source Link