The National Movement: A Pivotal Chapter in Indonesia’s History


The national movement represents a significant era in Indonesia’s historical journey. This phase is marked not only by the crystallizing ideas of its leaders that eventually led to independence but also by the presence of physical monuments that serve as enduring reminders of this struggle. Among these are the Tugu Lilin Surakarta and the Tugu Jong Sumatranen Bond, both of which remain well-preserved today.

Before Indonesia gained independence, the founding day of Budi Utomo, recognized as the precursor of the national movement, was already being commemorated. Evidence of this early recognition is found in an inscription on a candle-shaped monument located in the Penumping area of Laweyan, Surakarta. This monument bears the inscription: “National Awakening Monument. Commemoration of the Indonesian National Movement, 25 Years, May 20, 1908–1933.” Locally known as Tugu Lilin, the monument’s design resembles a candle with a flame at its top, symbolizing the light guiding the nation.

The establishment of this monument is closely linked to the Indonesian Political Associations Alliance (PPPKI), founded in 1927 as a coalition of several political organizations. Sukarno, a key figure in Indonesia’s independence movement, formed the PPPKI with the aim of uniting various youth associations. During a 1933 meeting in Surakarta, the idea to create a marker commemorating the inception of the national movement, marked by the founding of Budi Utomo, was proposed and positively received by PPPKI members.

Ir. Soetedjo’s candle-shaped design was chosen for the monument, symbolizing strength and enlightenment. Despite numerous obstacles, including opposition from the Dutch East Indies government and delays, the construction of the monument was completed in October 1934. Initially named “Monument of the National Movement 1908–1933,” it was later renamed “Monument of People’s Progress 1908–1933” following further negotiations. Eventually, it became known as the National Awakening Monument and, in 1953, was adopted as the emblem of Surakarta.

The era of the national movement saw the emergence of various organizations, including youth groups like the Jong Sumatranen Bond. Founded on December 9, 1917, by Sumatra’s youths and students in Batavia, this organization aimed to strengthen relationships among Sumatran students, instill leadership awareness, and promote Sumatra’s cultural heritage.

The founders, Muhammad Anas, Tengku Mansur, and Alinudin, established branches across multiple cities, significantly increasing membership. By leveraging active members to spread the word in their hometowns, Jong Sumatranen Bond grew rapidly, boasting nine branches within a year of its inception.

In July 1919, Jong Sumatranen Bond held its first congress in Padang, discussing organizational and youth issues. The congress concluded with the establishment of a memorial monument, marking a significant event in the youth movement. This obelisk-shaped monument, topped with a ball, features inscriptions commemorating the congress and the founding and dissolution years of the organization (1917 and 1930, respectively). Today, this monument is known as the Jong Sumatranen Bond Monument or Youth Monument.

The national movement period, highlighted by the efforts of organizations like Budi Utomo and Jong Sumatranen Bond, laid the foundation for Indonesia’s eventual independence. The monuments from this era, such as the Tugu Lilin and the Jong Sumatranen Bond Monument, stand as testaments to the enduring spirit and unity of the Indonesian people in their struggle for freedom and progress.