The fortunes of Zimbabwe have for almost three decades been tied to President Robert Mugabe, the pro-independence campaigner who wrested control from a small white community and became the country's first black leader.
Until the 2008 parliamentary elections, Zimbabwe was effectively a one-party state, ruled over by Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF. A power-sharing deal has raised hopes that Mr Mugabe might be prepared to relinquish some of his powers, but in the meantime he presides over a nation whose economy is in tatters, where poverty and unemployment are endemic and political strife and repression commonplace.
Zimbabwe is home to the Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, the stone enclosures of Great Zimbabwe - remnants of a past empire - and to herds of elephant and other game roaming vast stretches of wilderness.
For years it was a major tobacco producer and a potential bread basket for surrounding countries.
But the forced seizure of almost all white-owned commercial farms, with the stated aim of benefiting landless black Zimbabweans, led to sharp falls in production and precipitated the collapse of the agriculture-based economy. The country has endured rampant inflation and critical food and fuel shortages.
Many Zimbabweans survive on grain handouts. Others have voted with their feet; hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, including much-needed professionals, have emigrated.
Aid agencies and critics partly blame food shortages on the land reform programme. The government blames a long-running drought, and Mr Mugabe has accused Britain and its allies of sabotaging the economy in revenge for the redistribution programme.
The government's urban slum demolition drive in 2005 drew more international condemnation. The president said it was an effort to boost law and order and development; critics accused him of destroying slums housing opposition supporters.
The former Rhodesia has a history of conflict, with white settlers dispossessing the resident population, guerrilla armies forcing the white government to submit to elections, and the post-independence leadership committing atrocities in southern areas where it lacked the support of the Matabele people.
Zimbabwe has had a rocky relationship with the Commonwealth - it was suspended after President Mugabe's controversial re-election in 2002 and later announced that it was pulling out for good.BBC
My very strong feelings about what has happened to the country is in no way reflected in this short article. I perfectly understand that anyone not having any connection to Rhodesia/Zimbabwe would feel that the article is quite critical but many white and black Rhodesian/Zimbabweans would read the article and think that reality has been toned down massively.
For instance, it says that (evil) 'White Settlers' dispossessed the locals of their land. First, in a country nearly twice the size of the UK, when white British people moved there, the black people living there numbered far less than just ONE million.
Imagine if there where fewer than one million people in the UK, you would go days without seeing anyone if you travelled around. Also, the true local people of Southern Africa were the Bushmen who were pushed out by black people who were coming from the North.
I know that many would think I am reciting evil white settler nonsense but having lived there I have seen with my own eyes all the bushmen paintings in the caves and spoken to African headmen who revered and respected the paintings created by the former occupants of the country.Robin D W Norton