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A Brief Rundown of Micro-Nations

Conchrepublic What makes a nation?  What is a country?  Can one simply 'start your own country' on unpopulated land?  There are two legal schools of thought available to us.  The Montevideo Convention asserts a nation need have only:

  1. a defined territory
  2. a permanent population
  3. a government
  4. the capacity to enter into relationships with other nations

An alternate and also acceptable viewpoint is the constitutative theory of statehood.  It claims that a nation is only a nation when others agree.  If no one recognizes you, you don't exist.  But, do you need buy in from everyone or just a few?

Welcome to the world of micro-nations.  Tiny, often with a population of one, these rogue states attempt to assert their independence against the enormous power of existing sovereign nations.  While they are often seen as wacky or frivilous, they cannot always be easily brushed aside. 

Micro-nations of the 20th Century

Rating system: The more coats of arms a micro-nation has the more serious its founders are about being a real nation.  They may have spent huge sums of money or risked life and limb to defend their claims.  Other micro-nations are for amusement, tourism, or indulging the egos of wealthy men of leisure.

Sealand

Principality of Sealand

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SUMMARY: Prince Roy occupied the previously abandoned 10,000 square foot radar platform in 1967 and declared it a sovereign nation.  Approximately 6 miles off the coast of England it had been built during WWII to provide protection from Axis aircraft.  At this time, radio in the United Kingdom prohibited commercial broadcasts.  Prince Roy set up a radio station on the platform sending music, talk, and advertisements to British consumers. 

This quickly drew the ire of the British government who tried to shut down the operation.  However British courts held that Sealand was located in international waters and therefore was outside government jurisdiction.  This legal victory was heralded as a great success and, to Prince Roy, confirmed that he was free to operate his own "nation".   

In 1978, a number of Dutch and German men came to Sealand on business. Shortly after their arrival, these men kidnapped Prince Roy's son Michael and took Sealand by force. When he returned from travel abroad, Prince Roy recaptured the island with a group of his own men and held the attackers as prisoners of war. In what Prince Roy considered an act of de facto recognition of his nation's sovereignty, Germany sent a diplomat directly to Sealand to negotiate for the release of their citizen.

Today Sealand hosts internet services for those who want their online activities to be beyond the reach of any national government.  Due to the high security requirements of this operation, visitors are not permitted to approach Sealand.

Update (July 1 2006): On June 24th, 2006 a devastating fire ripped through Sealand destroying its internet services area and heavily damaging its living space.  The sole man onboard Sealand at the time was injured and evacuated.  Currently Sealand is unoccupied and though Prince Roy vows to rebuild, Sealand is now unoccupied, with no industry, and not surprisingly, without fire insurance.


Conch

The Conch Republic

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SUMMARY: The Conch Republic was established on April 23, 1982 in response to a United States Border Patrol blockade of the Florida Keys. All traffic, including that of US Citizens was required to pass through customs to reach the Florida mainland.  Many people living on Key West were of the opinion that if the United States wanted to treat the Keys like a foreign country, Key West would become a foreign country. 

Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow issued paperwork seceding from the Union.  They declared war on Washington, immediately surrendered, and requested foreign aid. The US Government never reacted to the secession.  In the opinion of many natives this established sovereignty for the Conch Republic.

Although the Conch Republic enjoys a modest dose of self deprecating humor, those in its government are dead serious about their sovereignty.  Conch Republic passports continue to be accepted at border crossings in over twenty nations.  Government representatives from the Conch Republic attended the Summit of the Americas meeting in Miami. 

The Conch Republic operates various government offices, embassies and consulates around the globe, a tourist shop, and an independence day celebration.

Despite this effort and independence claims, Key West continues to receive funding from the State of Florida and the federal government in Washington, DC.  Its citizens vote in US elections and enjoy representation in the US Congress.

Like Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a major portion of The Conch Republic houses an operating US Naval Base.


Seborga

Principality of Seborga

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SUMMARY: The Principality of Seborga consists of approximately 14 square kilometers on the Italian Riviera near the French border. It has a population of about 362 citizens and 2000 other persons. Historically, its chief industry has been raising flowers.

It became a Principality in 1079.  In 1729 it was sold to the King of Sardinia. Failure to mention the principality in registration documents for the Republic of Genoa, the Viennese Congress of 1815, the Italian Act of Unification of 1861, or the paperwork forming the Italian Republic following World War II are the foundation of its claims to sovereignty. 

As tourism to the region has increased, so have efforts by the citizenry to increase recognition of their sovereign status.  Its citizens strongly consider themselves independent even if this independence is not recognized by its neighbors. Seborga has its own flag, coins, stamps, passports, and automobile license plates.


Grandduchy

The Grand Duchy of Avram

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SUMMARY: His Grace, Prince John, (formerly known as John Charlton), The Grand Duke of Avram, Most Honorable Marquis of Martha, the Right Honorable Earl of Enoch, the Viscount Ulom, and possessor of too many noble titles to mention, got frustrated with the Australian banking and taxation system in 1980. As a man of noble title, he issued a Royal Charter and created the Royal Bank of Avram. Naturally the bank needed its own coins and currency. The coins, denominated in Ducals, feature multi-color enameled coat-of-arms. The paper currency features stunning portraitry of Prince John in his younger days. 

As might be expected, the Australian authorities did not care much for this new bank and its special currency and they took him to court.  After spending millions of dollars, Prince John was victorious.  To the prosecution's surprise Australia did not have any law against issuing one's own coins in one's own currency. 

In sense, it is a moot point.  The currency does not seem to have gained much acceptance beyond the confines of the bank, which is also a tourist shop in the small town of Sorell in Tasmania, Australia.  While Prince John was working to administer the Grand Duchy, he did find time to serve in the Tasmanian Provincial Parliament as an elected representative.  It seems rare that sovereign royalty would serve as a public servant inside an different country.

The Grand Duchy of Avram has a healthy interest in peerages, titles, heraldry, chivalry and a bizarre collusion of Christianity, the Kabbalah, and ancient Egyptian religion.


Huttriver

Hutt River Province Principality

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SUMMARY: Born in 1970 during an argument between farmers and the Australian government over wheat quotas, this micro-nation is run by Prince Leonard.  Before becoming prince, Leonard George Casley adeptly maneuvered his newborn province through the legal system of British commonwealth nations.  Through error, ignorance, or oversight, the province was recognized as independent inside the commonwealth by the Queen of England.  Once this occurred, Mr. Casley had himself named prince by the citizenry.  Commonwealth laws applying to royalty thus protected the Hutt River Principality's provincial status.

As one of his first acts as prince, he renamed parts of the surrounding geography: Lake Beginning, Mount Succession, etc.  Between 1980 and 1995, the province participated in high profile recruitment of new citizens, fundraisers, sale of peerages, extensive production of coins and stamps, as well as plans to move the entire province to an uninhabited island in the South Pacific.  In 1995, the sudden death of Kevin Gale, a notable Hutt River citizen, put an end to most of these activities.

Over time, the industry has shifted from the farming of flowers to tourism.  The principality issues its own stamps, coins, passports, and peerages.  Recently the Hutt River has allowed the registration of corporations within its boundaries.  Whether the principality will be successful in the 'offshore corporation' business remains to be seen.

Despite legal arguments nullifying the Hutt River Province's claims of independence, with its 35th anniversary approaching, it stands firmly as an accepted (though unrecognized) micro-nation.


Minerva

Principality of Minerva

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SUMMARY: The brainchild of Nevada businessman and millionaire Michael Oliver. In the early 1970s he announced plans to reclaim land from the Minervan Reefs in the South Pacific.  Located approximately 400 miles south of Fiji, the area was named for a whaling ship, Minerva, which had wrecked there in 1829.

In early 1971 barges laden with sand from Australia began to arrive along with construction crews tasked to develop island.   A declaration of independence was issued to neighboring nations and monetary currency was issued.  A year later, in 1972, Morris C. Davis was elected as Provisional President.

Michael Oliver's stated goal was a libertarian-inspired city-state capable of sustaining a population of 30,000 persons.  There were extensive plans for a variety of light industries: fishing, tourism, and banking. 

Unlike most micro-nations which fail to gain recognition from any recognized state, the Principality of Minerva was recognized by the island nation of Tonga.  As its closest neighbor, Tonga did not appreciate the nascent nation taking root so close to its borders.  It sent a naval gunboat to clear the island.  On June 21, 1972, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga arrived via row-boat to replace the Minervan flag with his own.  The king then formally annexed the Minervan islands.

With their nation annexed, the Principality of Minerva's plans fell into confusion and it took ten years for Oliver and Davis to mount a response.  In 1982, they attempted to retake the reefs only to be removed by Tongan troops three weeks later.  Perhaps Michael Oliver's access to capital (to pay for mercenaries) was not as great as Prince Roy's (of Sealand) had been. 

The Principality of Minerva continues to operate as a government in exile.  Its offices are in South Carolina, USA.


Rose_island_x250

Republic of Rose Island

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SUMMARY: A short-lived new country project, Rose Island was a man-made platform in the Adriatic Sea four miles off the coast of Rimini, Italy. Constructed in 1967 by Italian engineer Giorgio Rosa, for whom the island was named, it was furnished with a restaurant, bar, nightclub, souvenir shop, post office and a radio station. At only 400 square meters in size, it was definitely close quarters.

Rose Island issued its declaration of independence on June 24, 1968. Flags, stamps, and currency were promptly issued. Rosa decreed that his nation's official language would be Esperanto. Thus, in it's native tongue, it was known as Insulo de la Rozoj.

As the island was an obvious ploy to collect tourist dollars without paying state taxes, the Italian government sent police and tax inspectors to take control of the island. The Rosan government protested the violation of its sovereignty through pseudo-diplomatic channels but this was to no avail. The government decided that the island was more trouble to secure than it was worth. In an act that no doubt establishes how seriously the establishment took affront to the status quo, the Italian Navy destroyed the facility with explosives.


As the 1960's were a time of major social change, most of the micro-nations listed here were founded in that time period.  Not discussed here are the hundreds of 20th century 'new nation' movements that operated in various countries around the world. 

Most movements died with the inaction of their founders.  Some went on to acheive legitimate sovereignty through military or diplomatic means.  A few, however, were able to organize people, funds, plans, and even criminal acts of independence before failing to actually acquire and defend their own territory.  Others acquired territory and, like the Hutt River Province, exist as quasi-sovereign states within established territories.  As the examples above have shown, to be a real nation is not as clear cut as it seems to be.

May 26, 2005 in Politics | Permalink

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Comments

Although these countries are not completely sovereign, they have a very typical state model. And they are quite autonomous in how they to govern themselves.

Such as the island of Sark near the Channel islands.
Perhaps this particular island-country can also be named here.

Posted by: Edwin | Aug 23, 2006 12:42:19 PM

According to Eddie Izzard ( see http://www.eddieizzard.com ) IIRC that was from either "Dressed to Kill" or "Indefinite Article".

Posted by: Dave Aronson | Feb 25, 2009 7:19:21 AM

ARGH! Post got chopped. Retry:

According to Eddie Izzard ( see http://www.eddieizzard.com ), it also needs a flag. "No flag, no country. That's the law!" IIRC that was from either "Dressed to Kill" or "Indefinite Article".

Posted by: Dave Aronson | Feb 25, 2009 7:20:16 AM

ewerything is faine regarding this micro states,but why some of them their web site cannot be open,or if they exist why they dont want to reply back if you send them email,whats the use to have states if you dont want to touch with rest of the world,i think the people who create their own micro non exist state want to show anyone that they have own state,EVERYONE CAN CREATE OWN STATE,ITS NOT ANYTHING complicateted to have a own micro state,the point is WHO RECOGNISE THAT,

Posted by: Dragan/wellington,new zealand | Apr 6, 2009 2:44:35 PM

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