Tiny nations, big backstories.
You’d be forgiven for writing off micronations as gimmicks–some of these self-declared independent nations entirely unrecognized by global governments totally are. But don’t go conflating them with places like Palestine or Tibet which are recognized by vast swathes of political society, or teeny-tiny sovereign microstates like Vatican City or Monaco.
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WHERE: International Waters
Arguably the most well-known micronation still in existence to this day, Sealand, which lies 12 kilometers off the coast of Suffolk, is ruled by Roy Bates. It was Christmas Eve of 1966 when he laid claim to Sealand (a.k.a. Roughs Tower, an “illegal fortress” built on international waters during World War II) in an attempt to circumvent UK laws surrounding pirate radio stations. However, it wasn’t until 1977 that Bates declared it the Principality of Sealand and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye is best known as the “town of books,” thanks to its literary festival, numerous second-hand bookstores and some very clever marketing back in the seventies. On April Fools’ Day in 1977, Richard Booth declared Hay-on-Wye an “independent kingdom” (albeit in name alone), as a means by which to drum up publicity. Naturally, he made himself the king of this newly declared kingdom, too, complete with toilet-plunger scepter. Veracity aside, the stunt successfully turned Hay-on-Wye into one of Wales’ quirkiest tourist attractions.
Forvik, or, to give it its full title, the Sovereign State of Forvik, is actually a part of Shetland. In fact, the official Forvik website claims it was “intended to demonstrate what Shetland as a whole could do… it was Shetland in microcosm.” Impressive goals aside, Forvik has courted controversy in the past, not least thanks to its founder Stuart Hill, who has been found guilty of evading road tax. His official Wikipedia entry even dubs him “Captain Calamity.”
INSIDER TIPYou can buy Forvik “membership” for just £20 a year.
Užupis, a real-life neighborhood in Vilnius, Lithuania, had a less than savory reputation for some time, particularly during the Soviet era; however, the resulting low rents attracted an artsy crowd throughout the nineties, transforming it into a bohemian hotspot-of-sorts. Nowadays, it’s marketed as a “self-proclaimed Republic,” complete with separate anthem, president, and constitution.
Not unlike Užupis, Christiania is a bohemian, alternative neighborhood which has declared itself a micronation. Formally known as Freetown Christiania, it’s more commune than country, and is now a popular Copenhagen tourist attraction, up there with Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid. This is almost certainly in no small part thanks to the once-open sale of weed on the main street.
WHERE: Outer Space
Micronations on earth are so last season. Enter Asgardia, the first Space Nation, founded on October 12, 2016—sorry, October 5, 0000—by Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli. As you might have noticed, not only does Asgardia have its own Head of State and set of objectives—like protecting the Earth from space hazards—it also has its own unique calendar composed of 13 months per year, each of which has 28 days. At the time of writing, Asgardia had over 275,000 “residents.”
The Kingdom of Thessania was once merely an autonomous nation within the Empire of Kadiristan (yes, a different micronation). However, tensions arose between the leaders of the two autonomous regions, leading to a split in 2013 and the eventual establishment of the Kingdom of Thessania, which lies close to Istanbul, Turkey, in 2014. According to Thessania’s website, “manga culture” is appreciated there and the King hopes to develop a manga series for the nation.
Seborga has been described before now, rather unflatteringly, as “The Italian Village That Thinks It’s a Country.” However, it’s not entirely untrue. Back in the 1960s, a campaign was started by Giorgio Carbone (later, Giorgio I, Prince of Seborga) to help what is essentially a small village located in Liguria, northern Italy, to reclaim its historic independent status. While Seborga is legally still very much Italian, it continues to elect a new monarch every seven years.
Kingdom of Enclava
WHERE: Serbia/ Croatia
As one of the world’s newest micronations, the Kingdom of Enclava made headlines back in 2015 when it was established on the Slovenian/Croatian border. And honestly? It sounds pretty great. As their official website—which is slicker than that of some actual countries—states, in Enclava you can “learn for free and earn money without worrying about taxes.” Intriguingly, the three official languages of this micronation, which has since migrated to the border of Serbia and Croatia, are Chinese, English, and Polish.
INSIDER TIPIn Enclava, you can pay for things in Dogecoin.
WHERE: Serbia/ Croatia
Picture this: You’re in Enclava, but you still haven’t had your fill of micronations for one day. Well, you’re in luck, as the Free Republic of Liberland, founded on April 15, 2015, lies pretty much next door. If you fancy becoming a citizen of the nation whose motto is “Live and Let Live,” then all you have to do it fill out a form online.
Empire of Atlantium
Atlantis may be a thing of fiction, but the Empire of Atlantium is very much fact. Founded by a trio of teenagers back in the eighties, Atlantium (which is situated in New South Wales, Australia) is something of a progressive, utopian experiment gone right—and even though it isn’t legally recognized, many of its ideals are refreshingly common sense. Amongst other things, the people of Atlantium support the right to abortion and assisted suicide, as well as free movement.
Grand Duchy of Avram
Another micronation which started life in eighties-era Australia is the Grand Duchy of Avram. Ruled over by the Grand Duke of Avram (a.k.a. John Charlton Rudge), this tiny Tasmanian non-nation is most notable for the establishment and running of its own bank (which prompted a prolonged and unsuccessful legal case against Rudge) and use of a “functional” alternative currency.
WHERE: United States of America
Tongue-in-cheek Talossa “seceded peacefully from the United States in 1979 (but we’re not sure the United States noticed!).” So reads the official website of this almost 40-year-old micronation, founded by a 14-year-old from Milwaukee, which takes itself just the right level of serious. While it has since been disestablished by its founder, Talossa (as well as its associated language, Talossan, apparently one of the most detailed fictional languages on earth) continues to maintain a loyal band of followers.
We have a prolonged legal battle over a set of sculptures to thank for the Swedish micronation of Ladonia. In the 1980s, artist Lars Vilks began placing his work within the bounds of the Kullaberg Nature Reserve. While they have since become a tourist attraction, the authorities at the time didn’t think so, and pushed for their removal. In a retaliatory move, Ladonia—which now has a Queen and a President—was inaugurated by Vilks in 1996.
Empire of Austenasia
Considered a local “quirk” in Carshalton, England, the Empire of Austenasia is barely a decade old and has already acquired territory around the world—sort of. More appropriately, Austenasia—named for the father and son founders, Jonathan and Terry Austen—”claims” houses in the Hebrides and Australia, among other places.
Republic of Saugeais
The product of an off-the-cuff joke in a Montbenoît restaurant, the Republic of Saugeais remains one of the world’s longest-running self-proclaimed micronations. Situated in Doubs, France, it’s been in “existence” since 1947 and is currently presided over by Georgette Bertin-Pourchet (the daughter of first president Georges Pourchet). As with most micronations (at least those who can lay claim to a sliver of land), the Republic of Saugeais is more of a self-aware tourist attraction than a self-governing “country.” They still pay their taxes in France, after all.
WHERE: Nowhere (That’s Right)
The Romanov Empire was a real Russian empire (and dynasty) which ruled for close to 200 years. However, to paraphrase Star Wars: This is not the Romanov Empire you’re looking for. No, the most-recent Romanov Empire (sometimes called the Imperial Throne) is a micronation dreamt up by businessman Anton Bakov. In his attempt to legitimize his new micronation, Bakov has tried to acquire land in numerous countries over the years—including Kiribati and Gambia—but, alas, no dice.
Republic of Kugelmugel
The Republic of Kugelmugel, despite being declared as such by artist Edwin Lipburger in 1976, is less a micronation, more of a dome-shaped edifice in Vienna, Austria. (Its name loosely translates to “spherical hill,” too.) Despite initially arising as an act of resistance in response to an artist vs. authority dispute, the Republic of Kugelmugel has since (ironically) been adopted by Austria who perhaps sensed it was a tourist attraction in the making.
Germany’s Kingdom of Romkerhall is the so-called “smallest kingdom in the world”. Unlike so many micronations around the world, Romkerhall—which is actually just a hotel—is situated within an unincorporated area, however it’s still not legally recognized. Even so, it’s worth paying a nominal fee for a tour of this tiny “kingdom.”
Kingdom of Elleore
Bought for use as a summer camp by some Danish teachers back in the 40s, the Kingdom of Elleore (which, incidentally, has also been referred to as the world’s smallest kingdom) finds its home base on Zealand Island, in the Roskilde Fjord. Parodic in nature, it lightly pokes fun at Danish royalty and is inhabited for just one week of the year (Elle Week). Oh, and it’s reportedly banned the book Robinson Crusoe.