The former British colony of St Kitts and Nevis is inhabited mostly by the descendants of West African slaves.
Its beaches, scenery and a warm, sunny climate give it great tourist potential. It is also vulnerable to hurricanes.
The islands of St Kitts - also known as St Christopher - and Nevis have been in an uneasy federation since independence from Britain in 1983, with some politicians in Nevis saying the federal government in St Kitts - home to a majority of the population - had ignored the needs of Nevisians.
St Kitts and Nevis has produced some top cricketers
But a referendum on secession held in Nevis in 1998 failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed to break away.
Tourism, offshore finance and service industries are important sources of income - more so since a centuries-old but loss-making sugar industry was wound down in 2005 with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
By 2003, Nevis was home to around 17,000 offshore businesses operating under strict secrecy laws, making the islands a target for drugs traffickers and money launderers. Laws have been introduced to crack down on the problem.
- Full name: Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis
- Population: 39,000 (UN, 2005)
- Capital: Basseterre
- Area: 269 sq km (104 sq miles)
- Major language: English
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 71 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 East Caribbean dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Foodstuffs, electronics, beverages, tobacco
- GNI per capita: US $12,480 (World Bank, 2011)
- International dialling code: +869
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General
Prime minister: Denzil Douglas
Denzil Douglas, who became prime minister in 1995, won a fourth consecutive term in office in January 2010.
Denzil Douglas is serving his fourth term
Douglas, a physician, called the elections early and led a campaign touting efforts to boost the islands' small economy, build roads and hospitals and continue paying the national debt despite the global economic crisis.
His St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) won six of the 11 seats in the National Assembly.
Mr Douglas has been credited with promoting tourism and combating crime, but his government failed to rejuvenate the ailing sugar industry, which the government decided to shut down in 2005.
The prime minister has said any differences between Nevis and St Kitts should be tackled by constitutional reform, rather than by a referendum on secession.
Born in 1953, he became leader of the St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party in 1989. A Labour Party activist since his youth, he led the party to victory in the 1995 elections.
The government operates national television and radio networks. There are several private radio stations.
The main political parties publish weekly or fortnightly newspapers and the opposition press is free to criticise the government.
Multichannel cable TV carries local and international TV stations.
There were 22,140 internet users by June 2011 (via Internetworldstats.com).