Micronations — sometimes also referred to as model countries and new country projects — are entities that resemble independent nations or states but which are unrecognized by world governments or major international organisations. These nations usually exist only on paper, on the Internet, or in the minds of their creators. Micronations differ from secession and self-determination movements in that they are largely viewed as being eccentric and ephemeral in nature, and are often created and maintained by a single person or family group.
Some micronations have managed to extend some of their operations into the physical world by issuing coins, flags, postage stamps, passports, medals, and other items. Such trappings of "real" sovereign states are created as a way of seeking to legitimize the micronations that produce them.
The term "micronation" dates at least to the 1970s (see The People's Almanac #2, page 330) to describe the many thousands of small, unrecognized, state-like entities that have mostly arisen since that time. The term has since also come to be used retroactively to refer to earlier ephemeral unrecognized entities, some of which date as far back as the early 19th century.
Template:Original research Micronations generally have a number of common features:
- They often assert that they wish to be widely recognized as sovereign states, but are not so recognized.
- They are small; those that claim to control physical territories are mostly of very limited extent. While several micronations claim hundreds or even thousands of members, the vast majority have no more than one or two active participants.
- Some issue government instruments such as passports, stamps, and currency, and confer titles and awards; these are rarely recognised outside of their own communities of interest.
These criteria distinguish micronations from imaginary countries, eco-villages, campuses, tribes, clans, sects, and residential community associations, which do not usually seek to be recognised as sovereign. Micronations are also distinguishable from entities that have diplomatic relations with other recognised nation-states of the world without being formally recognised themselves by many nation-states or accepted by major international bodies (such as the UN), for example the Republic of China (Taiwan). By contrast, micronations do not have diplomatic relations with recognised nation-states of the world or major international bodies (such as the UN).
Early history and evolutionEdit
The micronation phenomenon is tied closely to the development of the nation-state concept in the 19th century, and the earliest recognisable micronations can be dated to that period. Most were founded by eccentric adventurers or business speculators, and several were remarkably successful. These include the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, ruled by the Clunies-Ross family, and Sarawak, ruled by the "White Rajahs" of the Brooke family; both were independent personal fiefdoms in all but name, and survived until well into the 20th century. Author Peter L. Wilson has suggested that so-called pirate utopias located on the Barbary Coast during the 16th century were also a type of early micronation.
Less successful micronations are the Long Republic (1819–1820), in what is now the U.S. state of Texas, the Republic of Indian Stream (1828–1835), which is now the town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire, the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia (1860–62) in southern Chile and Argentina, and the Kingdom of Sedang (1888–90) in French Indochina. The oldest extant micronation to arise in modern times is the Kingdom of Redonda, founded in 1865 in the Caribbean. It failed to establish itself as a real country, but has nonetheless managed to survive into the present day as a unique literary foundation with its own king and aristocracy — although it is not without its controversies: there are presently at least four competing claimants to the Redondan throne.
Martin Coles Harman, owner of the U.K. island of Lundy in the early decades of the 20th century, declared himself King and issued private coinage and postage stamps for local use. Although the island was ruled as a virtual fiefdom, its owner never claimed to be independent of the United Kingdom, so Lundy can at best be described as a precursor to later territorial micronations. Another example is the Principality of Outer Baldonia, a Template:Convert rocky island off the coast of Nova Scotia, founded by Russell Arundel, chairman of the Pepsi Cola Company (later: PepsiCo), in 1945 and consisting of a population of 69 fishermen.Template:-
History during 1960 to 1980Edit
Template:Refimprove The 1960s and 1970s witnessed the foundation of a number of territorial micronations. The first of these, Sealand, was established in 1967 on an abandoned World War II gun platform in the North Sea just off the East Anglian coast of England, and has survived into the present day. Others were founded on libertarian principles and involved schemes to construct artificial islands, but only three are known to have had even limited success in realizing that goal.
The Republic of Rose Island was a 400 m² platform built in 1968 in Italian national waters in the Adriatic Sea, Template:Convert off the Italian town of Rimini. It is known to have issued stamps, and to have declared Esperanto to be its official language. Shortly after completion, however, it was seized and destroyed by the Italian Navy for failing to pay state taxes.
In the late 1960s, Leicester Hemingway, brother of author Ernest, was involved in another such project — a small timber platform in international waters off the west coast of Jamaica. This territory, consisting of an Template:Convert by Template:Convert barge, he called "New Atlantis". Hemingway was an honorary citizen and President; however, the structure was damaged by storms and finally pillaged by Mexican fishermen. In 1973, Hemingway was reported to have moved on from New Atlantis to promoting a 1,000-square-yard platform near the Bahamas. The new country was called "Tierra del Mar" (Land of the Sea). (Ernest Hemingway's adopted hometown of Key West would itself be part of another micronation; see Conch Republic.)
The Republic of Minerva was set up in 1972 as a libertarian new-country project by Nevada businessman Michael Oliver. Oliver's group conducted dredging operations at the Minerva Reefs, a shoal located in the Pacific Ocean south of Fiji. They succeeded in creating a small artificial island, but their efforts at securing international recognition met with little success, and near-neighbour Tonga sent a military force to the area and annexed it.
On April 1, 1977, bibliophile Richard George William Pitt Booth declared the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye an independent kingdom with himself as its monarch. The town has subsequently developed a healthy tourism industry based on literary interests, and "King Richard" (whose sceptre consists of a recycled toilet plunger) continues to award Hay-on-Wye peerages and honors to anyone prepared to pay for them.
Micronational activities were disproportionately common throughout Australia in the final three decades of the 20th century.
- The Hutt River Province Principality was founded in 1970, when Leonard Casley declared his property independent after a dispute over wheat quotas.
- 1976 witnessed the creation of the Province of Bumbunga on a rural property near Snowtown, South Australia, by an eccentric British monarchist.
- The Sovereign State of Aeterna Lucina was created in a hamlet on the New South Wales north coast in 1978.
- An anti-taxation campaigner founded the Grand Duchy of Avram in western Tasmania in the late 1970s; "His Grace the Duke of Avram" was later elected to the Tasmanian Parliament.
- In Victoria, a long-running dispute over flood damage to farm properties led to the creation of the Independent State of Rainbow Creek in 1979.
- The Empire of Atlantium was established in Sydney, in 1981 as a non-territorial global government.
- A mortgage foreclosure dispute led George and Stephanie Muirhead of Rockhampton, Queensland, to briefly and abortively secede as the Principality of Marlborough in 1993.
- Another Australian farm tried to establish itself as a secessionist micronation on 1 May 2003 as the Principality of United Oceania.
- The Principality of Snake Hill was established in 2003 as a result of a mortgage dispute and is located near Mudgee in NSW. The Head of State is Prince Paul and the constitution is based on the Ten Commandments. Lawyers are barred from entering.
- The Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands was established in 2004 as a symbolic political protest by a group of gay rights activists based in southeast Queensland.
- The United Federation of Koronis, based in Australia, claims the Koronis family of asteroids as its territory.
- The Principality of Ponderosa, based on a small farm in Northern Victoria, achieved notoriety in 2005 when its founders — Vergilio and "Little Joe" Rigoli — were convicted of tax fraud.
Effects of the InternetEdit
Micronationalism shed much of its traditionally eccentric anti-establishment mantle and took on a distinctly hobbyist perspective in the mid-1990s, when the emerging popularity of the Internet made it possible to create and promote statelike entities in an entirely electronic medium with relative ease. As a result the number of exclusively online, fantasy or simulation-based micronations expanded dramatically.
The activities of these types of micronations are almost exclusively limited to simulations of diplomatic activity (including the signing of "treaties" and participation in "supra-micronational" forums such as the League of Micronations and the Micronational News Network), the conduct and operation of simulated elections and parliaments, and participation in simulated wars — all of which are carried out through online bulletin boards, mailing lists and blogs.
A number of older-style territorial micronations, including the Hutt River Province, Seborga, and Sealand, maintain websites that serve largely to promote their claims and sell merchandise.
In the present day, seven main types of micronations are prevalent:
- Social, economic, or political simulations.
- Exercises in personal entertainment or self-aggrandisement.
- Exercises in fantasy or creative fiction.
- Vehicles for the promotion of an agenda.
- Entities created for fraudulent purposes.
- Historical anomalies and aspirant states.
- New-country projects.
Social, economic, or political simulationsEdit
These micronations tend to have a reasonably serious intent, and often involve significant numbers of people interested in recreating the past or simulating political or social processes. Examples include:
- Freetown Christiania, a semi-legal district in Copenhagen, Denmark where there are lax laws on drugs and squatting.
- Talossa (Kingdom of Talossa and the Republic of Talossa), a political simulation founded in 1979, with more than 130 members ("citizens") and an invented culture and language.
- Holy Empire of Reunion (Sacro Imperio de Reuniao) — a Brazilian micronation founded in 1997 as an online constitutional monarchy simulation. It claims several dozen members around the world.
- Nova Roma, a group claiming a worldwide membership of several thousand that has minted its own coins, maintains its own wiki, and which engages in real-life Roman-themed re-enactments.
Exercises in personal entertainment or self-aggrandisement Edit
With literally thousands in existence, micronations of the second type are by far the most common. They generally exist "for fun", have few participants, are ephemeral, Internet-based, and rarely survive more than a few months — although there are notable exceptions. They are usually concerned solely with arrogating to their founders the outward symbols of statehood. The use of grand-sounding titles, awards, honours, and heraldic symbols derived from European feudal traditions, the conduct of "wars" and "diplomacy" with other micronations, and claims of being located on fantasy continents or planets are common manifestations of their activities. Examples include:
- The Aerican Empire, a Monty Pythonesque micronation founded in 1987 and known for its tongue-in-cheek interplanetary land claims, smiley-faced flag and a range of national holidays that includes "Topin Wagglegammon" amongst others.
- Republic of Molossia, a desert-based micronation of 2.5ha located near Reno, Nevada ruled by President Kevin Baugh. There is a nationwide ban on smoking.
- The Kingdom of Lovely is an attempt by King Danny I (Danny Wallace) to create an internet nation based in his flat in London.
Exercises in fantasy or creative fiction Edit
Micronations of the third type include stand-alone artistic projects, deliberate exercises in creative online fiction, and artistamp creations. Examples include:
- The Republic of Kugelmugel, founded by an Austrian artist and based in a ball-shaped house in Vienna, which quickly became a tourist attraction.
- The Copeman Empire, run from a caravan park in Norfolk, England, by its founder Nick Copeman, who changed his name by deed poll to HM King Nicholas I. He and his empire are the subject of a book (ISBN 0-09-189920-6) and a website where King Nicholas sells Knighthoods.
- San Serriffe, an April Fool's Day hoax created by the British newspaper The Guardian, in its April 1, 1977 edition. The fictional island nation was described in an elaborate seven-page supplement and has been revisited by the newspaper several times.
- Republic of Saugeais (République du Saugeais), a fifty-year-old "republic" in the French département of Doubs, bordering Switzerland. The republic is made of the 11 municipalities of Les Allies, Arcon, Bugny, La Chaux-de-Gilley, Gilley, Hauterive-la-Fresne, La Longeville, Montflovin, Maisons-du-Bois-Lievremont, Ville-du-Pont, and its capital Montbenoit. It had a "president" — Georgette Bertin-Pourchet, elected in 2006 — a "prime minister" and numerous "citizens". It was born from a joke between a Sauget resident and the local Préfet.
Vehicles for agenda promotion Edit
- Akhzivland is a self-declared and officially tolerated "independent republic" established by Israeli hippy and former sailor Eli Avivi on the Mediterranean beach at Akhziv in Israel.
- The Conch Republic, which began in 1982 as a protest by residents and business owners in the Florida Keys against a United States Border Patrol roadblock. It has since been maintained as a tourism booster, though the group has engaged in other protests.
- The Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, founded in June 2004 on the uninhabited Coral Sea Islands off the coast of Queensland, in response to the Australian government's refusal to recognize same-sex marriage.
- The Republic of New Afrika, a controversial separatist group seeking the creation of an independent black nationalist state across much of the southern USA.
- The Maritime Republic of Eastport, a part of the City of Annapolis, Maryland, that "seceded" from the rest of the city. It still exists as a charitable and publicity vehicle, and runs a unique fund-raiser in the form of a cross-water Tug of War.
Entities created for allegedly fraudulent purposes Edit
A number of micronations have been established for fraudulent purposes, by seeking to link questionable or illegal financial actions with seemingly legitimate nations.
- The Territory of Poyais was invented by Scottish adventurer and South American independence hero Gregor MacGregor in the early 19th century. On the basis of a land grant made to him by the Anglophile native King of the Mosquito people in what is present-day Honduras, MacGregor wove one of history's most elaborate hoaxes, managing to charm the highest levels of London's political and financial establishment with tales of the bucolic, resource-rich country he claimed to rule as a benevolent sovereign prince, or "Cazique", when he arrived in the UK in 1822.
- The Dominion of Melchizedek has been widely condemned for promoting fraudulent banking activities and other financial scams, and for the involvement by one of its founders in the attempted secession of the Fijian island of Rotuma.
- New Utopia, operated by Oklahoma City longevity promoter Howard Turney as a libertarian new country project was stopped by a United States federal court temporary restraining order from selling bonds and bank licenses. New Utopia has claimed for a number of years to be on the verge of commencing construction of an artificial island territory located approximately midway between Honduras and Cuba, on the Misteriosa Bank but no such project has yet been undertaken.
- The Kingdom of EnenKio, which claims Wake Atoll in the Marshall Islands belonging to the US minor outlying islands, has been condemned for selling passports and diplomatic papers by the governments of the Marshall Islands and of the United States. On April 23, 1998, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands issued an official Circular Note, denouncing representatives of both "EnenKio" and "Melchizedek" for making fraudulent representations.
Historical anomalies and aspirant states Edit
A small number of micronations are founded on historical anomalies or eccentric interpretations of law. These types of micronations are usually located on small (usually disputed) territorial enclaves, generate limited economic activity founded on tourism and philatelic and numismatic sales, and are tolerated or ignored by the nations from which they claim to have seceded. This category includes:
- Seborga, a town in the region of Liguria, Italy, near the southern end of the border with France, which traces its history back to the Middle Ages.
- The Principality of Hutt River (formerly "Hutt River Province"), a farm in Western Australia which claims to have seceded from Australia to become an independent principality with a worldwide population numbered in the tens of thousands.
- The Principality of Sealand, a World War II-era anti-aircraft platform built in the North Sea beyond Britain's then territorial limit, seized by a pirate radio group in 1967 as a base for their operations, and currently used as the site of a secure web-hosting facility. Sealand has continued to promote its independence by issuing stamps, money, and appointing an official national athlete.
- Republic of Indian Stream, now the town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire — A geographic anomaly left unresolved by Treaty of Paris that ended the U.S. Revolutionary War, and claimed by both the U.S. and Canada. Between 1832 and 1835, the area's residents refused to acknowledge either claimant.
New-country projects Edit
New-country projects are attempts to found completely new nation-states. They typically involve plans to construct artificial islands (few of which are ever realised), and a large percentage have embraced or purported to embrace libertarian or democratic principles. Examples include:
- Operation Atlantis, an early 1970s New York-based libertarian group that built a concrete-hulled ship called Freedom, which they sailed to the Caribbean, intending to anchor it permanently there as their "territory". The ship sank in a hurricane and the project floundered with it.
- Republic of Minerva, another libertarian project that succeeded in building a small man-made island on the Minerva Reefs south of Fiji in 1972 before being ejected by troops from Tonga, who later formally annexed it.
- Principality of Freedonia, a libertarian project that tried to lease territory from the Sultan of Awdal in Somaliland in 2001. Resulting public dissatisfaction led to rioting, and the reported death of a Somali.
- Oceania (also known as "The Atlantis Project", but unrelated to the 1970s project listed above), another libertarian artificial island project that raised US $400,000 before going bankrupt in 1994.
Template:See also In international law, the Montevideo Convention on the Right and Duties of States sets down the criteria for statehood in article 1: The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
The first sentence of article 3 of the Montevideo Convention explicitly states that "The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states."
Under these guidelines, any entity which meets all of the criteria set forth in article 1 can be regarded as sovereign under international law, whether or not other states have recognized it. Most micronations are commonly seen to have failed to meet one or more of these criteria.
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as an independent subject of international law does not meet all the criteria for recognition as a State (however it does not claim itself a State either), but is and has been recognized as a sovereign nation for centuries.
The doctrine of territorial integrity does not effectively prohibit unilateral secession from established states in international law, per the relevant section from the text of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Final Act, Helsinki Accords or Helsinki Declaration:
IV. Territorial integrity of States
The participating States will respect the territorial integrity of each of the participating States.
Accordingly, they will refrain from any action inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations against the territorial integrity, political independence or the unity of any participating State, and in particular from any such action constituting a threat or use of force.
The participating States will likewise refrain from making each other's territory the object of military occupation or other direct or indirect measures of force in contravention of international law, or the object of acquisition by means of such measures or the threat of them. No such occupation or acquisition will be recognized as legal.
In effect, this states that other states (i.e., third parties), may not encourage secession in a state. This does not make any statement as regards persons within a state electing to secede of their own accord.
Academic, literary and media attention Edit
There has been a small but growing amount of attention paid to the micronation phenomenon in recent years. Most interest in academic circles has been concerned with studying the apparently anomalous legal situations affecting such entities as Sealand and the Hutt River Province, in exploring how some micronations represent grassroots political ideas, and in the creation of role-playing entities for instructional purposes.
In 2000, Professor Fabrice O'Driscoll, of the Aix-Marseille University, published a book about micronations: "Ils ne siègent pas à l'ONU" ("They are not in the United Nations"), with more than 300 pages dedicated to the subject.
In May 2000, an article in the New York Times entitled "Utopian Rulers, and Spoofs, Stake Out Territory Online" brought the phenomenon to a wider audience for the first time. Similar articles were published by newspapers such as the French "Liberation", Italian La Repubblica, Greek "Ta Nea", O Estado de São Paulo in Brazil and Portugal's Visão at around the same time.
Several recent publications have dealt with the subject of particular historic micronations, including Republic of Indian Stream (University Press), by Dartmouth College geographer Daniel Doan, and The Land that Never Was, about Gregor MacGregor and the Principality of Poyais, by David Sinclair (Review, 2003, ISBN 0-7553-1080-2).
In August 2003, a summit of micronations took place in Helsinki at Finlandia Hall, the site of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). The summit was attended by delegations of the Principality of Sealand, the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland, NSK-State in Time, Ladonia, the Transnational Republic, the State of Sabotage and by scholars from various academic institutions.
From 7 November through 17 December 2004, the Reg Vardy Gallery at the University of Sunderland (UK) hosted an exhibition on the subject of micronational group identity and symbolism. The exhibition focused on numismatic, philatelic and vexillological artifacts, as well as other symbols and instruments created and used by a number of micronations from the 1950s through to the present day. A summit of micronations conducted as part of this exhibition was attended by representatives of Sealand, Elgaland-Vargaland, New Utopia, Atlantium, Frestonia and Fusa. The exhibition was reprised at the Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York City from 24 June–29 July of the following year. Another exhibition about micronations opened at Paris' Palais de Tokyo in early 2007.
The Sunderland summit was later featured in a 5-part BBC light entertainment television series called How to Start Your Own Country presented by Danny Wallace. The series told the story of Wallace's experience of founding a micronation, Lovely, located in his London flat. It screened in the UK in August 2005.
Similar programs have also aired on television networks in other parts of Europe. In France, several Canal+ programs have centered around the satirical Presipality of Groland, while in Belgium a series by Rob Vanoudenhoven and broadcast on the Flemish commercial network VTM in April 2006 was reminiscent of Wallace's series, and centred around the producer's creation of Robland. Among other things Vanoudenhoven minted his own coins denominated in "Robbies".
On September 9, 2006, The Guardian newspaper reported that the travel guide company Lonely Planet had published the world's first travel guide devoted to micronations, the Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations.
The Democratic Empire of Sunda, which claims to be the Government of the Kingdom of Sunda (an ancient kingdom, in present-day Indonesia) in exile in Switzerland, made media headlines when two so-called princesses, Lamia Roro Wiranatadikusumah Siliwangi Al Misri, 21, and Fathia Reza Wiranatadikusumah Siliwangi Al Misiri, 23, were detained by Malaysian authorities at the border with Brunei, on 13 July 2007, and are charged for entering the country without a valid pass. Hearing continues.
References and notes Edit
- ↑ BBC - Mid Wales Arts - Richard Booth
- ↑ The Principality of Snake Hill
- ↑ Template:Cite news
- ↑ http://www.escapeartist.com/unique_lifestyles/for_a_new_nation.htm
- ↑ Template:Cite web
- ↑ http://www.occ.treas.gov/ftp/Alert/98-38.txt
- ↑ Richard’s Ramblings... History of Wake Island
- ↑ Official Marshall Islands Notices
- ↑ Template:Cite web
- ↑ The Oceania Project, accessed November 9, 2006
- ↑ http://www.osce.org/documents/mcs/1975/08/4044_en.pdf
- ↑ The Borneo Post Online » Print » DPP: Sunda princesses ‘Prohibited Immigrants’
- Ref United Oceania: Australian Daily Telegraph, Thursday, 24 July 2003, page 20, "Prince finds if all else fails, secede".
- Erwin S. Strauss: How to start your own country, ISBN 0-915179-01-6 , ISBN 1-893626-15-6.
- Samuel Pyeatt Menefee, "Republics of the Reefs": Nation-Building on the Continental Shelf and in the World's Oceans, California Western International Law Journal, vol. 25, no. 1, Fall, 1994, pp. 81-111.
- It's Good to Be King Wired 8.3 March 2000.
- Kochta/Kalleinen (Ed.): Amorph!03 Summit of Micronations – Documents/Asiakirjoja, 2003, ISBN 3-936919-45-3.
- The Sydney Morning Herald — Good Weekend, "If at first you don't secede..." by Mark Dapin, , 12 February 2005, pp 47-50.
- The Daily Telegraph (UK), "Mini-states Down Under are sure they can secede" by Nick Squires, 24 February 2005.
- iberkshires.com "Bite-sized sovereignties offer worlds of fun", by Kathy Ceceri, 2 February 2005.
- * Ref Republic of Saugeais: Office du Tourisme du canton de Montbenoît, 25 November 2004.
- Autopia, Saya de Malha Bank.
- Nations Come Together at Sunderland — Sunderland, UK exhibition.
- Andrew Kreps Gallery — New York City exhibition.
- Template:Cite news
-  — Building Blog article on the Lonely Planet book The Lonely Planet Guide to Micronations
- Micronations: An Introduction Overview of the Micronation Phenomenon, taken from 'Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations'.
- Believe, and Be Happy: An Interview with John Ryan, George Dunford & Simon Sellars Interview with the authors of 'Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations', featuring a discussion of micronational concepts and their real-world importance.
- DIY Sovereignty and the Popular Right in Australia — University paper discussing the prevalence of right wing political ideologies among Australian micronations.
- Footnotes to History — list of failed secessionist states, alternative governments and other historical oddities
- Imperial Collection — Comprehensive online catalogue of stamps, coins, banknotes, awards and ephemera issued by various secessionist states and micronations.
- The Microfreedom Index — On-line directory of micronation, independence and seditionist websites
- Micronations in the media — A selection of newspaper reports about micronations, scanned from the original publications.
- MicroHub — Simulationist forum
- The Micronations Page
- #micronations — IRC chatroom associated with online micronations (this link is for Java-based page)
- The Micronations Wikia aka MicroWiki
- Numismondo — website with information about various micronation banknotes.
- Unrecognised States Numismatic Society — coin club specialising in coins and banknotes from micronations.
- Micronational Cartography Society (MCS) — an online community with invented map for existing micronations to "claim" land on