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The Orange Free State (Dutch: Oranje-Vrijstaat) is a breakaway state of South Africa made from the former Free State province. It is one of the few post-South African states to retain the apartheid system.
The nation's name derives partly from the Orange River, which in turn was named in honour of the Dutch ruling royal family, the House of Orange, by the Dutch settlers under Robert Jacob Gordon.
Following the granting of independence to the Transvaal Republic, the British recognized the independence of the Orange River Sovereignty on 17 February 1854 and the country officially became independent as the Orange Free State on 23 February 1854, with the signing of the Orange River Convention. The new republic incorporated both the Orange River Sovereignty and the traditions of the Winburg-Potchefstroom Republic.
Although the Orange Free State developed into a politically and economically successful republic, it experienced chronic conflict with the British until it was finally annexed as the Orange River Colony in 1900. It ceased to exist as an independent Boer republic on 31 May 1902 with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging at the conclusion of the Second Anglo-Boer War. It joined the Union of South Africa in 1910 (which became the Republic of South Africa in 1961) as a province under its former name, along with the Cape Province, Natal, and the Transvaal.
The region of the Orange Free State fared Doomsday relatively well compared to other parts of the nation. Violence in the state was not as high as in other states, but the focus of the government to provide for the whites first and foremost did lead to a lot of rioting within the state. However, the local polices forces were able to control the situation well. The government of the state was able to maintain control through harsh policies and strict control of the food supply in the initial months.
The Orange Free State closest ally in the region was the New Union of South Africa, though they have shown little interest in joining the union. The reason usually given for this was the OFS considered their policies on the treatment of blacks "too soft"; not focused enough on the needs of the whites in the Union.
The Free State has horrible relations with New Britain and has often fought skirmishes with them over the Free State's southern border. The worst fighting came in 2006 when New Britain launched a pre-emptive strike on the Free State during their attack on KwaXhosa. New Britain failed, however, to make any significant gains against the Free State and made peace.
During the Zulu Civil War, the Free State supported the Republican side, which lost the war in 1992. For the past 22 years, the government of KwaZulu has remained unrecognised by the Orange Free State.