Afrikaner is term applied to a group of South African people, descended from the original 17th century Dutch and Huguenot settlers. During British colonial rule they were clearly distinguished from the Boers, as none of them participated in the inland migration of the "Boers" from the Cape Colony, but chose to remain in the Cape. In an attempt to free themselves of British rule, small groups of "Boers" left the Cape Colony and headed for the interior, thus opening up the rest of the country, in what is known as the The Great Trek.
The word Boer also gave rise to the term Boer War to describe the two wars fought between the British and Boer forces during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These have subsequently been renamed the South African Wars. Despite an attempt to assimilate the two groups after the Second Boer War, the Boers have remained a separate ethnic group to this day.
Afrikaans is the language spoken by Afrikaners. Most Afrikaners are Christians, but church attendance among them have declined rapidly over the past couple of decades.
The National Party, which came into power in 1948, received a large amount of support from the Afrikaner community, fueled by anti-British sentiments carried over from the legacy of the South African Wars and pro-Nazi sentiment amongst its founders, many of whom were members of the subversive Ossewa-Brandwag (Ox Wagon Torch Guard) during World War 2. It was this party that later formalized the already-existing racial segregation, imposed first by the Dutch and later by the British colonialists, giving it the name apartheid. In a 1992 referendum, however, the overwhelming majority of Afrikaners voted against the continuation of apartheid.
There are some 3 million Afrikaners in South Africa today, and many more thousands living abroad, especially in the UK and Australia.