Argentina stretches 4,000 km from its sub-tropical north to the sub-antarctic south.
Its terrain includes part of the Andes mountain range, swamps, the plains of the Pampas and a long coastline. Its people have had to struggle with military dictatorship, a lost war over the Falkland Islands, and severe economic difficulties.
Argentina is rich in resources, has a well-educated workforce and is one of South America's largest economies. But it has also fallen prey to a boom and bust cycle.
A deep recession foreshadowed economic collapse in 2001. This left more than half the population living in poverty and triggered unrest. The country struggled with record debt defaults and currency devaluation.
At a glance
- Politics: President Cristina Fernandez is the widow of former president Nestor Kirchner
- Economy: The economy is still struggling after hitting rock bottom in 2001
- International: Argentina claims sovereignty over the Falklands, a UK overseas territory
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
By 2003 a recovery was under way, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a vital new loan. Since then, Argentina has restructured its massive debt, offering creditors new bonds for the defaulted ones, and has repaid its debt to the IMF. But with poverty rife and unemployment high, many Argentines still await the benefits of the economic upturn.
Argentina remains locked in a territorial dispute with Britain over the Falklands Islands, which are governed as a British overseas territory, but have been claimed by Buenos Aires since the 1830s.
The issue led to war in 1982, when the islands fell to an invasion launched by Argentina's military junta, but were re-conquered by Britain in a conflict that caused hundreds of deaths on both sides.
The defeat led to the fall of the military dictatorship, but the junta's legacy is still an open wound. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the seven-year "dirty war". The bodies of many abductees - known as the "disappeared" - have never been found, although forensic work continues to recover them.
Amnesties which protected former junta members from prosecution were repealed in 2003 and the pardons granted to military leaders overturned.