A micronation is basically what it sounds like, a tiny country! A country that’s started under questionable circumstances, like a home-made nation. Some Micronations are started as school projects, or protests, some are just jokes. Other times they’re scams to avoid taxes or con money out of people. Sometimes, it’s really unclear why a micronation was formed, and it’s hard to tell if the one running the show really takes it seriously or if they’re just out of their minds. In no particular order, here are ten examples from the weird world of micronations.
When the Antarctic treaty was signed it split up the territory in Antarctica among several different countries, but there is an area in Western Antarctica named Marie Byrd Land, between the claims of Chile and New Zealand, that had no territorial claim attached to it. In 2001 Travis McHenry saw the area was unclaimed and declared it an independent nation with himself as the ruler. Sending declarations to all the signing nations of the Antarctic treaty; the letters were of course universally ignored, as there are no year-round residents of the area and no one who claims to part of the nations’ government has even been to the location thus far. Very little is known about the intentions of the founder, or the “Nobility” of the nation. The most that’s come out of country have been a few coins and stamps, and a free e-mail service for “Citizens”.
Of all these micronations, this one by far has the most interesting history. We’re all at least somewhat familiar with the Mutiny on the Bounty, where the evil Captain Bligh was overpowered by mutineers who wished to return to Tahiti instead of going back to England. What most don’t know is that many of the mutineers actually did eventually relocate to Tahiti, though some settled in a tiny Island called Pitcairn in the south Pacific where a few of their descendants still live today. Officially, the island is not considered a nation, but an unincorporated territory. It is legally a democracy with the town’s mayor considered the ruler, but isn’t considered a country. With a population of roughly 50 as of 2003 this island is officially the smallest democracy in the world.
Started by Kevin Baugh in 1977 as a school project, the Republic of Mallosia is a mock dictatorship in northern Nevada described as a “hobby” by it’s de facto ruler. Kevin Baugh calls Molossia an “Enclave Nation” being that it’s surrounded by the United States, and while the country has a constitution and a national assembly, Baugh claims martial law due to the “Ever present foreign threat” of the US. The micronation also has territorial claims in Pennsylvania and northern California, and has recently laid claim to the Neptune deep (The floor of the deepest trench in the pacific ocean) and the province of “Vesperia” located on the planet Venus. Baugh has also decreed national bans on firearms, incandescent light bulbs and smoking, along with more outlandish bans against onions, catfish, walruses, and anything from Texas. The property is mainly considered a tourist trap, with tourist getting a 45 minute guided tour of the country by Kevin Baugh himself who expects them to present their passports at the gate.
While not a traditional Micronation (if there is such a thing) Freetown Christiania certainly qualifies for this list as a a self-governing area with a small resident population. Freetown was established in 1971 in an abandoned military base in Copenhagen, Denmark by free-thinkers and hippies with ambitions of building a free society. Depending on who you talk to, Freetown Christiania is either “The world’s first fully functioning anarchistic society” or an area overrun with squatters and drug dealers. It’s either a “Safe, quiet town where one is free to be themselves” or a crime ridden slum, where people are often raped, mugged or murdered.
Since the area is indeed in a state of anarchy, no official numbers exist on crime rates so it’s hard to tell if the lofty vision of the founders actually lines up with reality. The “town” consists of an area less than a kilometer square, and it’s citizens still pay taxes and city utilities to Copenhagen, but the residents claim it has it’s own set of laws and public services. The local laws forbid firearms, cameras, “hardcore” drugs and cars, though it’s unclear how these laws are enforced since the town also boasts it has no police. The main attraction for visitors is “Pusher street” where people can buy marijuana and related paraphernalia in an open-air market. Despite the fact it’s illegal in the rest of Denmark while it has something of a bad reputation, Freetown is still known for being the origin of many famous Danish writers, artists and theater groups. It’s considered by some to be a shining example of how Anarchy is a plausible system of government.
If I were rating these nations by territory claimed, this Nation would be the hands-down winner. The so-called “Nation of Celestial Space” was establishedon January 1st, 1949 by James Thomas Mangan when he wrote his local board of of deeds and titles to lay claim to some previously unclaimed territory. What was this territory? The entire Universe, minus the Earth. While this bizarre claim was ignored by most, it didn’t stop Mangan from printing coins, bills, and postage stamps for his “nation”. When the US and Russia began flying high-altitude aircraft he wrote letters of complaint to their respective state departments claiming that these flights were infringing on his territorial claim without his permission. Strangely, Mangan wasn’t the only person to establish an extra-terrestrial micronation before the Outer Space Treaty was signed in 1967 forbidding territorial claims in outer space. Others included the “Other World Nation” claiming the other planets of the solar system and the “Celestial Solar Kingdom” claiming the surface of the sun.
In 1968 Italian architect and real-estate investor Giorgio Rosa constructed a 400 square meter platform in the Adriatic sea 7 Miles from the Italian town of Rimini. The platform was meant to be a tourist spot, sporting it’s own souvenir shop, fishing pier and radio station. Soon after it was opened Rosa declared sovereignty and renamed platform “The Republic of Rose Island” and started claiming he was going to begin printing his own currency. Worried that this was a ploy to avoid taxes, the Italian government evicted Rosa and his employees soon after and the Italian navy destroyed the platform with explosives. In a snarky retort, Rosa began printing postage stamps with an image of the platform’s destruction and issued them from his “Government In Exile”.
An example of a micronation founded in the name of both protest and comedy, the Conch Republic was established on April 23 1982 to protest the building of a US border checkpoint between the Florida keys and the mainland. The checkpoint was meant to curb an influx of illegal immigration and smuggling from Cuba and other Caribbean islands, but inadvertently caused gridlock on the only highway bridge that lead to the Keys, inhibiting tourism and shipping. Mayor of Key west Denis Wardlow declared himself prime minister of the republic and during the secession ceremony declared war on the United States by breaking a stale loaf of Cuban bread over a nearby naval officer. He then quickly surrendered and applied for one billion dollars in foreign aid from the United States.
While the secession was never serious, the keys are still jokingly referred to as the Conch Republic and the protest did succeed in persuading the Border Patrol to remove the checkpoint. The people of the Conch Republic also banded together in 1994 to re-open a national park that was closed due to the federal government closure. During the closure the Prime minister declared “The US government is closed, but the Conch republic can still issuing passports.” Indeed, passports and other souvenirs are available on the country’s website. Their national Motto is “We Seceded Where Others Failed”.
Wishing to create a libertarian utopia with no taxes, subsidies or welfare, real-estate millionaire Michael Oliver started a project to create an island and declare it an independent nation. In 1971 he succeeded. In the Minerva reef, between Tonga and New Zealand, tons of sand was poured into the shallow reefs to bring it above sea level and create a small island. The citizens of this tiny island had high hopes, thinking they could attract tourists, fisherman, even industry after adding more sand to the island, which at the time was barely stable enough to hoist a flag on. The group elected a president, Morris C. Davis, and wrote up a declaration of independence and send it to nearby nations. Suspicious of the groups intentions, nearby Tonga issued a proclamation that the island was inside their territorial waters and used soldiers to forcibly evict the residents and lower the flag. This action was supported by the South Pacific Forum, so there wasn’t much Oliver could do but fire the “President” of his nation and cut his losses. Years later former president Davis returned with an expedition of American settlers, intending to reoccupy the reef, but was again kicked out by Tongan troops. A more recent expedition has found that the artificial island has been “More or less reclaimed by the sea”.
Sealand started it’s life as an offshore anti-aircraft platform called “HM Fort Roughs” placed in a British shipping lane during World War II to fend off German mine laying aircraft. During the war the platform housed 107 UK sailors on its 550 square meter deck and observation towers. In 1967 Pirate Radio broadcaster Paddy Roy Bates occupied the platform and set it up as a base for his pirate station “Radio Essex”. A year later Bate’s son fired a rifle at a work crew that was repairing an automated buoy near the platform, and was arrested for firearms violations since Bates and his family were still considered British Citizens. Bates was acquitted, due to the platform being three miles outside of the UK’s oceanic claim and in international waters. Seeing an opportunity Bates declared the platform the “Principality of Sealand” giving his tiny nation the motto E Mare Libertas (From the Sea, Freedom), wrote a national anthem, and started issuing stamps and currency. He stated that the court ruling gavbe him the right to declare the open-sea platform as a sovereign nation.
Since Sealand exists in international waters, there was little the British government could do about the pirate broadcasts (and the Bates family’s habit of shooting at passing boats while “Defending their waters”) though to this day no one has officially recognized the sovereignty of the platform.
Likely the most well known micronation on this list, the Principality of Hutt River was founded by Leonard George Casley in 1970. It consists of about 75 square Kilometers of farmland near the town of Northampton in western Australia. It came into being due to a wheat quota law Casley called “Draconian”. The government imposed quotas that only allowed him to sell 99 acres of wheat when he had just grown 9900 acres. He initially fought the unfair quotas in court, even appealing to the British royal family. When all else failed, Casley resorted to an obscure tort law that allowed British colonies to secede in similar circumstances. Leonard George Casley dubbed himself “His Royal Highness Prince Leonard” and declared his independence.
Despite nearly forty years of calling itself a sovereign state, the Principality of Hutt River hasn’t been recognized by the Commonwealth of Australia, nor any international entity. However, the principality has issued stamps, passports, and coins (one bearing the profile of American ex-president Bill Clinton) and claims approximately 18000 citizens “Living Abroad” as you can apply for citizenship for a small fee on the country’s website. It has a standing military (mostly consisting of Casley’s children and grandchildren) and even though it’s landlocked, they claim they have a navy. The Australian government, while not honoring Hutt River as a real country, regards it as simply an eccentric old man selling souvenirs to tourists. Many Australian wildernesses tours include a stop at Hutt River, billing it as “The second biggest Nation on the Continent”.