Brazzaville is the capital and largest city of the Republic of the Congo and is located on the Congo River. As of the 2001 census, it has a population of 1,018,541 in the city proper, and about 1.5 million in total when including the suburbs located in the Pool Region. The populous city of Kinshasa (more than 10 million inhabitants in 2009), capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lies just across the Congo River from Brazzaville. Together with Kinshasa, the combined conurbation of Kinshasa-Brazzaville has thus nearly 12 million inhabitants. Over a third of the population of the Republic of Congo lives in the capital, and it is home to 40% of non-agricultural employment. It is also a financial and administrative capital.
The city was founded on 10 September 1880 on the site of a Bateke village named Nkuna by a Franco-Italian explorer, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, after whom the city was named. The local leader, Makoko of the Téké signed a treaty of protection with de Brazza which subjugated his lands to the French Empire. The city was built four years later in order to become a competitor with Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) which was built by the Belgians on the other side of the river. The site was occupied from October 1880 until May 1882 by a small squad of troops led by Senegalese Sergeant Malamine Camara, who prevented the land from falling into Belgian hands.
French control over the area was made official by the Berlin Conference of 1884. The city became the capital first of the French Congo, and then of French Equatorial Africa, a federation of states which encompassed Gabon, the Central African Republic and Chad. In 1924, the Congo-Océan railway was brought into service which linked Brazzaville with the port of Pointe-Noire.
During World War II Brazzaville, and the rest of French Equatorial Africa, remained beyond the control of Vichy France. In 1944, Brazzaville hosted a meeting of the Free French forces and representatives of France's African colonies. The resulting Brazzaville Declaration was intended to redefine the relationship between France and its African colonies after the war.
Until the 1960s, the city was divided into European (the center of the city) and African sections (Poto-Poto, Bacongo, and Makélékélé). In 1980 it became a "commune" separated from the Pool Region and divided into seven "arrondissements": Makélékélé (1), Bacongo (2), Poto-Poto (3), Moungali (4), Ouenzé (5), Talangaï (6) and Mfilou (7).
The city has frequently been a staging ground for wars, including conflicts between rebel and government forces and between forces of the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola. It was also the scene of bloody civil wars throughout the 1990s which resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and which forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee the city.
Industries present in Brazzaville include: machine shops, textiles, tanning, and manufacturing. As a key port on the Congo River, the city takes deliveries of raw materials, such as: rubber, wood and agricultural products. From here they are generally sent onward to Pointe-Noire for export.