The slave trade came to the coastal region of Guinea with European traders in the 16th century.
Guinea is a predominantly Islamic country, with Muslims representing 85 percent of the population.
Guinea's people belong to twenty-four ethnic groups.
France negotiated Guinea's present boundaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the British for Sierra Leone, the Portuguese for their Guinea colony (now Guinea-Bissau), and Liberia.
Under the French, the country formed the Territory of Guinea within French West Africa, administered by a governor general resident in Dakar.
The country was at the core of the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
Human rights in Guinea remain a controversial issue.
After the fall of the major West African empires, various kingdoms existed in what is now Guinea.
Fulani Muslims migrated to Futa Jallon in Central Guinea and established an Islamic state from 1735 to 1898 with a written constitution and alternate rulers.
The founding of a Fifth Republic was supported by the French people, while French President Charles de Gaulle made it clear on 8 August 1958 that France's colonies were to be given a stark choice between more autonomy in a new French Community or immediate independence in the referendum to be held on 28 September 1958.
The other colonies chose the former but Guinea — under the leadership of Ahmed Sékou Touré whose Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) had won 56 of 60 seats in 1957 territorial elections — voted overwhelmingly for independence.
It stretches north through the forested tropical regions and ends at the Sahel.