In 1960, the country gained independence and managed to keep a democratic government for at least 12 years. However, in 1972, a coup detat saw the rise of a (supposedly) Marxist-Leninist government. They also changed the name of the country to a name (supposedly) more neutral, the Peoples Republic of Benin; the new name was taken from the Bight of Benin which, incidentally, was taken from the Benin Empire (which wasnt in modern Benin but rather in modern Nigeria).
The communist government eventually had an economic collapse and in 1991 the country had elections once again. Nowadays its considered an example of democracy in Africa, but it must be stressed that it hasnt had much time to show it off.
Sadly, as a matter of contrast, the literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world (less than 35%). Also, a lot of people live under the poverty line.
Its also known for the Vodun, the official religion of the country (even though a great part of the population has adapted Christianity as well), from where it migrated to other parts of Africa and the Americas where it eventually transformed into Voudou, or Voodoo if you prefer.
Actor Djimon Hounsou and singer Angélique Kidjo were born here. And yes, it's the same Benin from Gabriel Knight Sins of the Fathers.
The Beninese flag