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Micronation

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A micronation is an attempt to start a new nation from scratch. This often takes novel forms, such as plans to create new artificial islands in international waters, occupying an existing abandoned structure in international waters, establishing a colony on Antarctica, declaring that one's personal ranch or property has seceded from its parent nation and is now an independent country, and "virtual" micronations which exist over the Internet.

Micronations are not to be confused with genuine small countries which have real residents and international recognition as nations, such as Andorra, Monaco, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Vanuatu, Singapore, the Vatican City, the Pitcairn Islands, Mauritius, etc. — these countries are properly referred to as "microstates." They are also not to be confused with publicity stunts such as the "Conch Republic", a tongue-in-cheek "secession" of Key West, Florida from the United States in 1982 declared by the Key West city council to drum up tourism and protest U.S. Border Patrol activity in the Florida Keys. ("If you're going to treat us like a banana republic, by golly we'll become one!")[1]

Typical formation and politics[edit]

Micronations exist for a bunch of different reasons, albeit with quite a few of them overlapping[2]:

  • Cranks and/or geeks with a political motivation, hoping to create LibertyTariaTopiaLand!™ as a protest against tax or drug laws.
  • Overlapping with the above, hippies, anarchists, and squatters trying to establish a new society on fundamentally different egalitarian or libertarian principles.
  • People who aren't seriously trying to secede, but bring attention to a political or cultural issue.
  • Con artists who mainly use the new "nation" to sell passports, stamps, and coins, often as a tax evasion scheme.
  • Creating a tourist trap, selling passports, stamps, and coins to kitsch connoisseurs.
  • Deluded megalomaniacs who want to declare themselves absolute monarch over something and dress in kingly or princely attire.
  • Exploitation of legal loopholes in a larger country as a proof of concept.
  • Humour.[3]
  • Bored twelve-year-old nerds trying to be funny.

Most micronations have no more actual residents than you can count on one hand. None of them has ever gained legitimate international recognition as a sovereign nation, although a British court ruled in 1968 that the Principality of Sealand was outside of British jurisdiction.

The idea of having a country of one's own to rule as one likes is an ancient one, but the popularity of micronations has been heavily influenced by fashion and copycat behaviour. While some examples below are older, there was a flurry of micronations founded in the late 1960s and 1970s, and for many years Australia was a hotbed (typically as a result of disputes with government)[2], but today the internet has allowed people all round the world to share their ideas: while NSK (founded 1984 in rudimentary form) relied on the postal service and coverage in alternative arts publications, today anybody can set up a website for their "government".

Examples of micronations[edit]

The Principality of Sealand[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Sealand
Sealand

An abandoned British anti-aircraft platform located in international waters near the U.K., and occupied and claimed as an independent nation since 1967. Has the dubious distinction of having undergone a forcible attempted coup.

Kingdom of Talossa[edit]

A long-running Internet community, created in 1979 by a 14-year-old, that is often credited as the origin of the micronation fad.[4] Its motivation appears to be mostly for lighthearted and humorous purposes, but its residents take it seriously enough to synthesize an entire culture, complete with its own conlang which has a claimed vocabulary of 35,000 words and even its own ISO 639 code, "tzl".[5]

The Hutt River Principality[edit]

Entrance to The Hutt River Principality

A farm in Australia whose owner declared it an independent nation in 1970 after a dispute over wheat quotas with the Australian government. Hutt River is unique among micronations in that it actually does function as a de facto independent state instead of merely claiming to be one; although it lacks a standing army and depends on Australia for military protection, it is otherwise self-sufficient. It lacks international recognition and has few residents, but the fact that none of the residents pay taxes to Australia and the insanely low 0.5% income tax rate in the principality itself have caused it to gain popularity as a tax haven.[6]

The Dominion of Melchizedek[edit]

Monothiesm, Unity, Peace… Ponzi

A long-running virtual micronation considered by law enforcement to be a mail-order passport and banking fraud scheme. It was founded by an American, Mark Pedley (a.k.a., Branch Vinedresser), in 1990, and named after a priest from the Book of Genesis. Through the 1990s it sold fake licences for people wishing to establish companies, including banks; Pedley was charged with parole violations over his actions, while other people have been jailed for using fake checks on banks in Melchizedek; Roger Rosemont set up a Ponzi scheme with a Melchizedek business licence which conned 1400 people into investing a total of $4m.[7]

The Embassy of Heaven Church[edit]

Also known as The Embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven, an exceptionally odd example in Oregon, which claims to be independent of the United States, but does not claim sovereignty, instead claiming to be an enclave of God's Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.[8][9] Because they do not recognize any "worldly governments" and proclaim themselves to be literal citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, they issue their own identity documents and license plates. They used to have a compound outside of Stayton, Oregon, but it was seized in 1997 for non-payment of property taxes, despite their claims that it was exempt because it was a "foreign embassy."

Freetown Christiania[edit]

An entrance to Christiania in 2004

Located in Copenhagen, this is a rare example of an urban micronation. This hippie commune was founded by squatters and anarchists in a disused army barracks in 1971, and declared itself an independent free town. This legal status is not formally recognised by the Danish government, but the commune's existence has largely been tolerated, and the government has turned a blind eye to the open cultivation and trade of marijuana within its boundaries, until a crackdown in recent years.[10] The closest it has had to any recognition was from the local bus service that added a stop near the old barracks gates, and a listing on the official Copenhagen tourist website[11].

Frestonia[edit]

Frestonia was a squatter community in Freston Road, London (then part of Hammersmith, now Kensington and Chelsea). Inspired by Christiania and the comedy film Passport to Pimlico, they declared independence from the UK on 31 October 1977. The new government appointed writer Heathcote Williams as ambassador to the UK and actor David Rappaport as foreign minister. Frestonia had strong links to London's alternative subculture, and punk band The Clash recorded their album Combat Rock there, while other bands including Motorhead used their studios. In 1982 they reached an agreement with Notting Hill Housing Trust to redevelop the area with accommodation for the residents. However not everybody accepted that compromise, and many of the original members left; the remainder abandoned plans of independence and became a more conventional community group.[12][13]

The Other World Kingdom[edit]

Located in the Czech Republic, this was a resort for submissive male and dominant female BDSM practitioners which opened to visitors in 1997.[14] It was styled as an absolute matriarchal monarchy, with a currency, national anthem and a queen in the form of the resort's owner, Patricia, but of course neither the Czech Republic nor any other entity recognized its sovereignty. As of recent years, the resort has closed and the land put up for sale in 2008.

Nation of Celestial Space[edit]

coin of the Nation of Celestial Space

Founded in 1949 by James Thomas Mangan, also known as Celestia, claiming all of outer space to ensure no nation established political hegemony there, and banned all atmospheric nuclear tests. Largely ignored by the superpowers, the project's surviving legacy are a number of gold and silver coins that fetch high prices on the collector's market.[15]

Republic of Rose Island[edit]

Built by Italian engineer Georgio Rosa in 1967, also known as Insulo de la Rozoj, it was an off-shore platform 7 miles (11 km) from Italy's Rimini province, established partly as an engineering experiment and partly as a tax-free drinking den. Complete with several businesses (a bar, restaurant, night club, post office, and souvenir shop), its own currency (but no coinage or notes), and the official language Esperanto, Rosa declared independence in 1968. It was raided by Italian authorities that same year, dynamited by military engineers, and the remains sunk into the Adriatic Sea during a storm.[16]

Liberland[edit]

President Vít Jedlička

Created in 2015 as the brainchild of libertarian Vít Jedlička, who has appointed several ministers of it, it's a small (around 3 square miles of surface) territory in dispute between Croatia and Serbia. The Croatian police have threatened to arrest anyone who lands on it, although Croatia doesn't actually claim the area because accepting it would also require accepting other aspects of the disputed border with Serbia. Its currency is inevitably Bitcoins.[17][18][19] Substantially subsidised by Bitcoin advocate Roger Ver.[20]

Kingdom of North Sudan[edit]

Established in the terra nullius of Bir Tawil between Egypt and Sudan (similar to the situation of Liberland, neither Egypt or Sudan accept the border settlement between the two, and both fear that claiming the territory will be viewed as implicit acceptance of the entire border). It was declared in 2014 by American man Jeremiah Heaton who wanted to create his own country so his daughter could be a princess. Its status as an independent country has been questioned by experts on international law, and although Heaton travelled there in June 2014 to stake his claim, he does not appear to have been back since.[21][22]

Kingdom of EnenKio[edit]

Also known as Enen Kio, it claims sovereignty over Wake Island, which is also claimed by the US and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. The US Air Force administers Wake Island, so it is de facto part of the US. There are no permanent residents and approximately 100 non-permanent residents. EnenKio sells citizenship for sums from $500 to $10,000, and is judged to be a fraud by anti-fraud website Quatloos.com.[23][24]

Neue Slowenische Kunst[edit]

NSK structure

Founded in 1984 as a conceptual art project by the Slovenian industrial rock band Laibach, also known as New Slovene Art, since 1991 this organisation has functioned as a virtual online state, with its own passports, currency, and flag.[25][26] The NSK state is described by NSK itself as "an abstract organism, a suprematist body, installed in a real social and political space as a sculpture comprising the concrete body warmth, spirit and work of its members."[27] "Passports" are available online for a fee of 24 Euro.[28]

Asgardia[edit]

A "space kingdom" named after the Norse home of the gods[29], it aims to establish a nation in space and launched one unmanned satellite in December 2017. This satellite weighs a few pounds and contains a hard drive with a copy of its constitution and data from each of its 14,000 "citizens"; it is expected to burn up in the earth's atmosphere in about five years. On earth, the "nation" is based in Vienna, Austria. There is skepticism about whether it legally constitutes a valid state.[30][31]

Nutopia[edit]

Founded on April 1, 1973 by the musicians, artists, and peace activists John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It is a conceptual nation rather than a physical area, and combines the couple's political views with their sense of humor: its flag is white, because surrender is the path to peace, but the country's seal depicts an actual seal, as in the marine animal. The couple declared that the Nutopian embassy was at their home in the Dakota building in New York City, putting a plaque on their kitchen door.[32][33]

Sultanate of M'Simbati[edit]

One of the older micronations, as well as one of the last relics of white rule in the former British Empire in Africa. It was established in 1959 on an island (or possibly peninsula, at least at low tide) near Mtwara in the territory of what was then Tanganyika, later part of Tanzania, by the white Englishman Latham Leslie-Moore. Reportedly, Leslie-Moore had an informal agreement with President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania that the Tanzanian government would ask before entering his kingdom as long as he always gave permission.[34][35][36] It is known among flag enthusiasts, and featured on John Heminway's 1993 TV program The Africa Passion.[37] Leslie-Moore was deported to the UK by the Tanzanian government, according to them to receive healthcare, and with his departure and subsequent death (in 1980) it appears to have become a regular part of Tanzania.

Political tendencies[edit]

While it is true that most micronations are just for show, it is necessary to also note that most micronations follow certain guidelines for nation formation. Most micronations actually have a single ruler or a president, most micronations also seem to be ruled by one of several kinds of government.

  • Democratic Republic
  • Monarchy
  • Communism
  • Theocracy
  • Dictatorship

With these in mind, most people can see through the lens of the creators of these nations and try to figure out what they want out of the nation itself. Most people who choose a monarchy or dictatorship for their nation will most likely want power and unity whilst Republics will want unity and individualism. Politics in micronations are not complex, and can be seen as mini versions of failed states.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. The Conch Republic
  2. 2.0 2.1 Masters of micronations: Meet people who started their own tiny countries, Mark Johanson, CNN Travel, May 24, 2017
  3. The Republic of WhangamomonaWikipedia's W.svg being one of the more long-running examples of this genre.
  4. Kingdom of Talossa official website
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Talossa.
  6. See the Wikipedia article on Principality of Hutt River.
  7. See the Wikipedia article on Dominion of Melchizedek.
  8. "Embassy of Heaven". http://www.embassyofheaven.com/. 
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Embassy of Heaven.
  10. See the Wikipedia article on Freetown Christiania.
  11. Alternative Christiania, Visit Copenhagen
  12. See the Wikipedia article on Frestonia.
  13. Freedom for Frestonia: the London commune that cut loose from the UK, The Guardian, 30 Oct 2017
  14. See the Wikipedia article on Other World Kingdom.
  15. See the Wikipedia article on Nation of Celestial Space.
  16. When Italy went to war with the esperanto micro-nation Insulo de la Rozoj, Visit Rimini
  17. See the Wikipedia article on Liberland.
  18. Liberland official website: About
  19. The man who created a tiny country he can no longer enter, BBC, 14 November 2016
  20. http://www.gq.com/story/the-libertarian-utopia-thats-just-a-bunch-of-white-guys-on-a-tiny-island
  21. US father takes unclaimed African kingdom so his daughter can be a princess, Telegraph, 14 July 2014
  22. See the Wikipedia article on Bir Tawil.
  23. See the Wikipedia article on Kingdom of EnenKio.
  24. Kingdom of Enen Kio, Quatloos.com
  25. See the Wikipedia article on Laibach (band).
  26. See the Wikipedia article on Neue Slowenische Kunst.
  27. About Us, NSK
  28. How to get an NSK passport, NSK
  29. Asgardia website, accessed 3 April 2018
  30. The 'space kingdom' Asgardia says it's the first nation with all of its territory in orbit — but legal experts are dubious, Business Insider, 8 Dec 2017
  31. See the Wikipedia article on Asgardia (nation).
  32. See the Wikipedia article on Nutopia.
  33. On the day of the birth of Nutopia, Yoko Ono, 1 April 2015
  34. See the Wikipedia article on Sultanate of M'Simbati.
  35. M'Simbati (1959-1961) (Tanzania), CRW Flags, accessed 16 May 2018
  36. Micronazionalismo. Libertà, identità, indipendenza, Emanuele Pagliarin, p 364
  37. Travels: The Africa Passion (Review), Variety, Hoyt Hilsman, Jan 11, 1993