When I was a child I created my own town in my backyard by sweeping out a grid of paths amid fallen leaves and building stick bridges over the ditch separating my family’s property with the neighbors’. In my college days I tried to create my own political ideology called Liamism, best described as “conservative anarchy.” I even came up with a movement called the Liamist National Front (LNF), and I think I even had one half-hearted follower. But I was never ambitious enough to attempt to create my own nation.
Recently I’ve learned of micronations, where individuals or small groups of people declare sovereignty over very small (sometimes imaginary) pieces of land. Some of them are jokesters, some are megalomaniacs, but some actually have an interesting cause or idea. According to the 1933 Montevideo Convention a nation needs only four things to exist: permanent population, defined territory, government, and capacity to enter into relations with other states (p. 5-6). Some micronations actually do meet these standards of legitimacy but still fail to be recognized by other more established nations. Yet the micronation phenomenon is on the rise.
Now there is a guidebook to micronations as well. Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations like micronations themselves is part tongue-in-cheek, but also serious about providing information for actual travel to (or at least near) these tiny nations. The histories of these micronations are the most interesting parts of the book. Most seem to be founded by men who enjoy dressing in uniforms with epaulets who raise money by selling stamps, coins, and sometimes aristocratic titles. One thing is for sure is that in a world of 6 billion people, it’s hard to come up with an original idea as the stories behind these micronations become redundant after a while. Still there’s enough in this guidebook to provide a few chuckles and a few “oh” moments to make it worth a (quick) read.
Here are some of my favorite micronations featured in the book:
Sealand – a former anti-aircraft tower off the coast of England is the “only operating stationary man-made nation in the world” (p. 8). Sealand has a long and violent history including a failed coup which lead to a government-in-exile, the Principality of Sealand.
Christiana – located along the river in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Freetown of Christiania is a communal experiment in drugs (but no hard drugs), bicycles (no auto traffic), and peaceful living (no guns). Sounds like my kind of place. They’ve even developed their own type of utility bike. Rick Steves writes about the effort to Save Christiania.
Hutt River Province Principality – A well-established model for many micronations across the Australian continent, establishing postage, currency and other traditional elements of economy as well as a unique system of numerology.
Lovely – Possibly the most romantic name for a micronation, Lovely began on British comedian Danny Wallace’s television program How to Start Your Own Country. The entire country is located in King Danny I’s flat in suburban London.
Whangamomona – Not to be upstaged by Australia, this rural region in New Zealand has it’s own micronation. Unlike many of the micronations in this book, Whangamomona has a hotel, a national rugby team, walking trails, and a history of non-human presidents including a goat and a poodle. The citizens celebrate Republic Day in late January in odd-numbered years.
The Gay & Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands – In protest of Australia’s anti-same-sex marriage laws, Emperor Dale I established a gay & lesbian haven on a small coral island. Lonely Planet dares to ask if the Emperor is really a Queen and how the citizens expect to perpetuate the population of the kingdom.
Kingdom of Elleore – This small island near Denmark has the most fascinating history. Founded in the 1940′s by teachers who followed a philosophy built on the teachings of St. Fintan. Unbeknown to the founders, the island had been used centuries before for a monastery for monks from an order founded by St. Fintan. Only 12-year students from the school may apply for citizenship, and the island is inhabited only once a year for Elleorian Week.
Akhzivland – A peaceful oasis amid war torn Israel, Akhzivland is adjacent to the beach and a national park attracting hippy backpackers and newlywed couples. More information at “A World of His Own” by Colin Miller.
Northern Forest Archipelago – Here’s one close to home and built on principles I can appreciate, preserving and appreciating the natural resources of the Northern Forest. Despite the name, the NFA is entirely on the mainland, the “islands” being pockets of woods and waters across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.
Republic of Molossia – Another nation within a home, this is the republic of Kevin Baugh, President of Molossia which is surrounded by the state of Nevada. I particularly liked this comment from Lonely Planet regarding tours of Molossia: “Once you’ve called the government of Molossia and made arrangements, plan to spend as much as a whole hours sightseeing. Some visitors have tried to capture the spirit of the Molossian people in only 30 minutes. This package tour mentality will prevent you from getting a real taste of this unique culture” (p. 68).
The Copeman Empire – Located entirely within a caravan trailer home, this may be the only empire that travels within another sovereign nation. The story of King Nicholas (name legally changed) are documented in his book King Nicholas and he Copeman Empire. Visitors to the country may take tea and cucumber sandwiches with the king for only £1.50!
Republic of Kugelmugel – Edwin Lipburger’s experiment in post-modern architecture and spherical housing ran into trouble with the local authorities. So Lipburger declared it to be its own republic not subject to the laws of Austria. Ironically, these days Kugelmugel is on display in a theme park as an example of modern art and micronations, yet surrounded by barbed wire that keeps out even the nation’s president.
Aerican Empire – Founded by Eris Lis at the age of 5, the Aerican Empire may be the quirkiest of all micronations featuring its own religion, a belief in the coming of the Not-Quite-the-Apocalypse, and a national holiday for procrastinators.
Westartica – The founders of Westartica had an original idea among micronations: Find land on our planet unclaimed by any other nation. That it is a portion of Antarctica is small potatoes compared to the fact that Westartica really seems to have legitimate claim.
Maritime Republic of Eastport – Annapolis, Maryland is a lovely city and one of my favorite places to visit, but little did I know that just miles away across Spa Creek is the breakaway republic of Eastport. Annual events include a tug-of-war with their neighbors in the Annapolis and a 0.5 km run across the bridge separating Eastport from the USA.
The Conch Republic – The Florida Keys seceded from the United States in 1982 in response to border patrol roadblocks searching for drugs and illegal immigrants that caused crippling traffic on the islands. Since then the Conch Republic has successfully opposed an invasion by US forces and thrown some good parties.
Ladonia – A post about Ladonia at MetaFilter first brought my attention to the micronation phenomenon. This country, like Kugelmugel, originated when an artistic creation was condemned by local authorities in Sweden. The sculptures survive in independent Ladonia which has a growing, nomadic population.
State of Sabotage (SOS) – Taking it a step further, SOS is built on the principle that “nurturing the arts should be a new state’s ultimate aim (rather than sovreignty, commerce or war)” (p. 148). Originally a virtual nation, SOS now has land on Australia.
Then there are various nations that are not of this Earth, including The Kingdom of Tycho, The Principality of Voodice, and the Artemis Project, all of whom know that one day “You Will Go to the Moon.”
Links to other micronations mentioned in the book:
Principality of Freedonia
Empire of Atlantium
Grand Duchy of the Lagoan Isles
Principality of Vikesland
Sovereign Kingdom of Kemetia
Republic of Cascadia (silly) or Republic of Cascadia (serious)
Trumanist Republic of Trumania
Republic of Saugeais
Barony of Caux
Dominion of British West Florida
Grand Duchy of Elsanor
Now the question remains, to which of these micronations should I grant my allegiance? Or should I start my own.