The northwestern region of what constitutes Burkina Faso today was first populated by hunter-gatherers in 14,000 to 5,000 BC. Farming settlements appeared around 3600 to 2600 BC. Powerful Mossi kingdoms, remnants of which remain to this day, emerged in the sixteenth century in the central regions of the country.
These Mossi kingdoms were defeated by French colonial forces and became part of a French protectorate in 1896 and 1897. By 1898, the majority of the territory corresponding to Burkina Faso today was conquered, though not entirely under French control. Beginning in 1919 until 1958, the area was known as French Upper Volta. In 1958, the Republic of Upper Volta was established as a self-governing colony within the French community.
The Republic of Upper Volta achieved autonomy in 1960, and the nation was renamed Burkina Faso (translated variously as “the land of upright people” or “the land of honest people”) in 1984 by then-president Thomas Sankara. The country recently celebrated its 50-year anniversary as an independent nation in 2010.
Burkina Faso has experienced five military coups since gaining independence from France, but has retained relative social and political stability since current president Blaise Compaoré took control during a military coup in 1987.