Scattered across a vast expanse of water as wide as the continental United States are over twenty-one hundred islands that make up the cultural region known as Micronesia. The area includes three major archipelagoes: the Marshalls, Carolines, and Marianas. (Culturally, Micronesia includes Kiribati and Nauru, but the separate political history of these countries excludes them from the archives discussed here.) Having passed through colonial rule by the Spanish, Germans, and Japanese, the islands of Micronesia became a United States administered United Nations strategic trusteeship following World War II. This new arrangement was named the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI).
Initially under Navy control, the islands were transferred to the U.S. Dept. of the Interior in 1951. Administrative headquarters, originally in Honolulu, moved to Guam, and finally to Saipan. For administrative purpose, the TTPI divided the islands of Micronesia into six districts based on earlier colonial precedent: the Marshalls, Ponape, Truk, Marianas, Yap, and Palau, with the later addition of Kosrae.
Beginning in the 1970s the districts began voting to end the trustee relationship with the US In 1986 the US notified the UN that its obligations were fulfilled. The UN officially dissolved the Trust Territory in 1990. Palau, the last of the Trust Territory districts, voted to end its trustee status in 1994.
Today the Former Trust Territory is comprised of four separate, self-governing districts:
The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas is a United States commonwealth and its residents are U.S. citizens. The other three countries have approved compacts of free association with the United States, which provide for full self-government except for defense, which the countries delegate to the U.S.
Further information is also available in the CIA World Factbook.