Budi Utomo

Budi Utomo (Dutch: Boedi Oetomo), meaning "Prime Philosophy", was the first native political society in the Dutch East Indies.[2] The political society is considered instrumental on the beginning of the Indonesian National Awakening.

Budi Utomo
Dutch: Boedi Oetomo
Formation20 May 1908
TypeNationalist organization
10,000 (end 1909)[1]


Budi Utomo was founded on 20 May, 1908, and was the first native political society in the Dutch East Indies. The founder of Budi Utomo was a pensioned government doctor who felt that native intellectuals should improve education and culture among the public.[3] The society held its first congress in May 1908.[4] The congress was a gathering of students in Batavia. The first leader was Dr. Wahidin Soedirohoesodo, but by the organization's first major gathering in Yogyakarta in October 1908, he stepped aside for younger organizers.

The Dutch were tolerant of the rise and development of Indonesian nationalism. Budi Utomo did not have mass appeal and they regarded the nationalist activities in the first decade of the 20th century as a natural outcome of the Ethical Policy, which emphasised the importance of looking after the welfare of the people.

The membership was an upper class elite of natives, government officials and intellectuals, confined very largely in Java and the Javanese. The furtherance of popular education became the main activity. Few branches expanded the activity into native commerce and industry. Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo, who would later found the more radical Indische Party, expanded the scope of the society to include more working classes, and also the rest of the Indïes outside of Java.[5] The organization enjoyed a rapid growth; in 1910 the society had 10,000 members enrolled in 40 branches.[4] At the same time, it received official recognition from the colonial government.

Budi Utomo's primary aim was first not political. However, it gradually shifted toward political aims with representatives in the conservative Volksraad (the People's Council) and in the provincial councils in Java. Budi Utomo officially dissolved in 1935, but it has marked the first nationalist movement in the early twentieth century. After dissolution, some of the members joined the largest political party of the time, the moderate Greater Indonesian Party (Parindra). In keeping with the outlook of Budi Utomo, former members—whether in the Volksraad or Parindra—insisted on the Indonesian language for all public statements.[6]

The use of Budi Utomo to mark the inception of modern nationalism in Indonesia is not without controversy. Although many scholars agree that Budi Utomo was likely the first modern indigenous political organization,[7] others question its value as an index of Indonesian nationality. For example, in his novels, Pramoedya Ananta Toer pointed to the exclusively aristocratic and male composition of Budi Utomo.[8] Ariel Heryanto[9] questions the nationalism of Budi Utomo, given that its existence was permitted by the Dutch regime: "Because of [Budi Utomo's] remarkably conservative character, the Dutch colonial administration tolerated [it]."[8] Heryanto points to a "more populist and egalitarian" Muslim association (Sarekat Dagang Islamiyah), born a few years prior, as a more genuinely nationalist organization: one which was banned by the Dutch.[8] In enshrining Budi Utomo as the first nationalist organization, the current government reiterates the colonial version of history.[8]


The birth of Budi Utomo on May 20, 1908, has been officially commemorated as the Day of National Awakening in Indonesia since 1948.[10]

The Museum of National Awakening in Jakarta was dedicated to the Indonesian National Awakening, particularly because the building was a former STOVIA institution which is considered related with the birth of Budi Utomo. The building was initially made into four museums: Budi Utomo Museum, Museum of Women, Museum of Pers, and Museum of Health and Medicine. On February 7, 1984, the four museums were converged into the Museum of National Awakening.[11]


  1. Pringgodigdo 1991, p. 2.
  2. Suhartono (1994). Sejarah Pergerakan Nasional dari Budi Utomo sampai Proklamasi 1908-1945. Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar. p. 32. ISBN 9789798581083.
  3. Vickers, Adrian. 2005. A History of Modern Indonesia, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, p. 73
  4. cf. Vandenbosch (1931).
  5. Indïes was the popular term coined by the Dutch East Indies government to indicate the inhabitants of the Netherlands East Indïes.
  6. Mrazek, Rudolf. 2002. Engineers of Happy Land: Technology and Nationalism in a Colony, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 33
  7. cf. Mrazek, p. 89
  8. Heryanto, Ariel. 2008. "Questioning the relevance of national awakening today," The Jakarta Post, May 21, 2008. Archived at "Ariel Heryanto\'s Blog » on "national awakening"". Archived from the original on July 21, 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2008.
  9. Convenor, Indonesia Studies, University of Melbourne
  10. Abdullah, Taufik (2009). Indonesia: Towards Democracy. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 18. ISBN 9789812303660. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  11. Egidius Patnistik (July 17, 2008). "Menelusuri Jejak Boedi Oetomo di Museum Kebangkitan Nasional". KOMPAS (in Indonesian). Retrieved February 12, 2013.


  • Kahin, George McTurnan (1952). Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-9108-8.
  • Pringgodigdo, A. K. (1991). Sejarah Pergerakan Rakyat Indonesia [A History of Indonesian Popular Movements] (in Indonesian). Dian Rakyat. ISBN 979-523-041-7.
  • Vandenbosch, Amry (1931). "Nationalism in Netherlands East India". Pacific Affairs. Pacific Affairs, Vol. 4, No. 12. 4 (12): 1051–1069. doi:10.2307/2750579. JSTOR 2750579.
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