The BBCs Fiji profile is illuminating.
In 1987 a coup by indigenous Fijians overthrew the elected, Indian-dominated coalition. This triggered a series of adverse events, including the introduction - and subsequent withdrawal - of a constitution enshrining indigenous Fijian political supremacy.
A further coup in 2000, led by businessman George Speight, saw the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister, his cabinet and several MPs held hostage for several weeks.
These events caused great harm to the economy - the tourism industry in particular - and Fiji's international reputation.
Rancour over the 2000 coup persists, with bitter divisions over proposals to amnesty those behind it.
Fiji's population, which resides mostly on the two main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, is divided almost equally between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, the descendents of indentured labourers brought from India.
Mixing between the two groups is minimal, and informal segregation runs deep at almost every level of society.