Photo: MikeNG/Shutterstock

Dots on the Map: Tiny Nations and Micronations

Monaco San Marino Vatican City
by Hal Amen May 13, 2010
Some of these countries are small. Others are just bizarre.

LAST DECEMBER, Carlo reported on Kashi Samaddar, who got himself a Guinness World Record by traveling to all the world’s countries in just under seven years. 194 countries, to be exact.

But actually, there’s no single figure for how many countries there are in the world — it depends on who you ask. Some big names on the international scene are defined as having “limited recognition,” while others you may never have heard of are accepted without question.

And then there are the “micronations,” which are basically only recognized by the people that “founded” them. Check these out:

The Tiny

These little guys might be small, but (according to both Gadling and Neatorama) they’re officially independent nations. Can you find all five on a map? I couldn’t.

1. Vatican City – Just 0.17 square miles in size, this sovereign pocket in the middle of Rome is the world’s smallest and is governed by an absolute ruler: the Pope.

2. Monaco – It’s the size of NYC’s Central Park, but it’s also the most densely populated nation in the world. A rectangle of land cut from the French Riviera, Monaco used to be a great location for an offshore bank account. They’ve changed that now — you have to pay taxes on your income, unless your one of the 35,000 native-born residents.

3. NauruThis American Life did a segment on this 8sq-mi Pacific Island, which is the only reason I’ve heard of it. You should check out the link, but in short: massive reserves of phosphates (bird shit) spurred a boom in the last century, but when the shit ran out, the government had no contingency. Now the island is turning to money laundering, telemarketing, and refugee boarding to feed its people.

4. Tuvalu – More sad stories out of the Pacific. Tuvalu, just 9 square miles large, is losing what land it has to rising sea levels. Plans are underway to evacuate. In fact, there are probably Tuvaluans who’ve passed through Nauru’s refugee camps on their way to Australia.

5. San Marino – Another island stuck in the middle of Italy, San Marino advertises its title of world’s oldest republic. It’s famous for its three mountain towers, and half the nation’s revenue comes from tourism.

The Micro

Those above are legit. Those below…not. Apparently it takes more than declaring independence in your backyard to gain international recognition.

A Huffington Post article describes 13 micronations. Here are five highlights:

1. Sealand – As mentioned in Ross Lee Tabak’s 8 More Strange Places on Planet Earth, the Principality of Sealand is an abandoned WWII gun platform in the English Channel that was taken over by a pirate radio DJ in 1967.

The “nation” is still transmitting (these days as an Internet hosting site), but you won’t find its representatives at the UN.

2. Republic of Kugelmugel – This one’s nothing more than a spherical artist’s residence in Vienna, surrounded by barbed wire. However, when Edwin Lipburger, the republic’s founder, tried to start issuing his own postage stamps, he was sentenced to prison, a definite blow to Kugelmugel’s claims of sovereignty.

3. Ladonia – When authorities tried to remove two natural art sculptures from the coast of southern Sweden, the artist occupied the land around them and declared independence. Ladonia’s 14,000 “citizens” pay their taxes in the currency of creativity, and their national anthem is the sound a pebble makes when it hits water.

4. Republic of Molossia – Molossia consists of two properties, that of President Kevin Baugh near Dayton, Nevada, and that of his friend in California. There’s postal and telegraph service (within the nation), and the government holds treaties with numerous other micronations around the world.

5. Other World Kingdom – This is actually a commercial facility that for some reason declared itself independent. Services offered revolve around female-dominant BDSM for male clients. Unfortunately, the Other World Kingdom has recently joined the ranks of actual countries that have gone bankrupt.

Been to any of these tinies or micros? Tell us about your visit in the comments.

Community Connection

More bizarre trends at Matador:

Armchair Travel: Embrace the Bizarre
Three Bizarre Food and Sex Combinations for Your Next Dinner Party
5 Bizarre Local Traditions and Competitions Worldwide
4 Bizarre Prohibited Items Confiscated by US Customs Officials

Discover Matador

Save Bookmark

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners.

For more information read our privacy policy.