The Republic of Congo shares a border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the south and east. Its neighbours to the west are Gabon and Cameroon. Unlike its southern neighbour, it has been fairly stable and rarely grabs the headlines.
The capital, Brazzaville, is across the Congo river from that of the DRC capital Kinshasa. The two countries, however, differ greatly in size with the Republic of Congo covering an area of 342,000 square kilometres while the DRC, usually compared to Western Europe in terms of size, covers 2.34 million square kilometres.
The country gained independence from France in 1960 under the leadership of Fulbert Youlou, but workers unrest forced him to resign. At least three different leaders took office between 1963 and 1979 but with short stints.
The current president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, has been in power since 1979 and is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders. Sassou Nguesso is serving a seven-year term after winning presidential elections in 2009, which were boycotted by the opposition.
He came to power with the aid of the army, and lost the presidency in the country's first multiparty elections in 1992. But he managed to regain power after a civil war in which he was backed by Angolan troops.
The Republic of Congo has a population of 4.1 million, according to the United Nations. Life expectancy is 57 years for men and 59 years for women. French is the main language as well as indegenous African languages.
The country boasts oil reserves and exports timber, sugar, cocoa, coffee and diamonds. But it remains poor with per capita income of $2,150. The UN estimates 70 per cent of the population lives in poverty.
The government owns some media outlets but newspapers sold in Brazzaville are privately owned and even criticise the government.
All five newspapers are published in French. There is one television station which is state owned. Two radio stations are also run by the goverment, but one station is privately owned.