A micronation is a political entity whose members claim that they belong to an independent nation or sovereign state lacking legal recognition by world governments or major international organizations. Most are geographically very small, but range in size from a single square foot to half a million square miles (Westarctica). They are usually the outgrowth of a single individual.
A micronation expresses a formal and persistent if unrecognized claim of sovereignty over some physical territory. Micronations are distinct from true secessionist movements; micronations' activities are almost always trivial enough to be ignored rather than challenged by the established nations whose territory they claim. Several micronations have issued coins, flags, postage stamps, passports, medals and other state-related items, often as a source of revenue.
The term "micronation" to describe those entities dates at least to the 1970s. The term micropatrology is sometimes used to describe the study of both micronations and microstates by micronationalists, some of whom refer to sovereignnation-states as "macronations".
Micronations generally have a number of common features, although these may vary widely. They may have a structure similar to established sovereign states, including territorial claims, government institutions, official symbols and citizens, albeit on a much smaller scale. Micronations are often quite small, in both their claimed territory and claimed populations--although there are some exceptions to this rule, with different micronations having different methods of citizenship. Micronations may also issue formal instruments such as postage stamps, coins, banknotes and passports, and bestow honours and titles of nobility.
The Montevideo Convention was one attempt to create a legal definition distinguishing between states and non-states. Some micronations meet this definition, while some do not, and others reject the convention. Some micronations like Sealand reject the term micronation and consider themselves as sovereign states; other micronations like Flandrensis or Molossia have no intention to be recognized as real states.
List of micronations
There are many different types of micronations that have been claimed over the years. A list of the notable micronations is located at List of micronations.
Operation Atlantis, an early 1970s New York-based libertarian group, built a concrete-hulled ship called Freedom, which they sailed to the Caribbean, intending to permanently anchor it as their "territory". The ship sank in a hurricane and the project was then abandoned.
Landing on Minerva
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 invaded by troops from Tonga, who annexed it before destroying the island.
Principality of Freedonia, a libertarian project that supported the Awdal Road Company's attempts to lease land from the Sultan of Awdal in Somaliland in 2001. If the Awdal Road Company is able to build a road, then the Sultan of Awdal will give land to allow the ARC to create an economic free zone, and some of that territory will then be handed over to the Principality of Freedonia. After the men from Awdal Roads Company were deported following false allegations about the lease, resulting public dissatisfaction led to rioting, and the reported death of a Somali.
Republic of Rose Island, an artificial island constructed in 1968 by Italian architect Giorgio Rosa in the Adriatic Sea. The structure was built as a tourist attraction, but soon after it was finished, Rosa declared sovereignty. The Italian navy dynamited the structure the following year.
Asgardia, founded on October 12, 2016 by Igor Ashurbeyli, is a proposed nation based in outer space. Plans are for the country to be pacifist, have no official language, to hold a competition to design its flag, insignia and national anthem, and to become part of the United Nations. As of 25 March 2017[update] over 169,327 people have signed up and become officially recognised members of the country.
A small number of micronations are founded based on historical anomalies or on legal anomalies (deriving from disputed 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:
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 now used as the site of a secure web-hosting facility. Sealand has continued to promote its independence by issuing stamps and money, and appointing an official national athlete. It has been described as the "world's most notorious micronation" as well as the "world's smallest and weirdest country".
The Crown Dependency of Forvik is an island in Shetland, currently recognized as part of the UK. Stuart Hill claims that independence comes from an arrangement struck in 1468 between King Christian I of Denmark/Norway and Scotland's James III, whereby Christian pawned the Shetland Islands to James in order to raise money for his daughter's dowry. Hill claims that the dowry was never paid and therefore Forvik is not part of the UK and should be a crown dependency like the Isle of Man. Hill encouraged the rest of Shetland to declare independence.
Martin Coles Harman purchased of the British island of Lundy in 1925, 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 Kingdom of Elleore declared August 27, 1944 when a group af schoolteachers purchased the Danish island and still exists today. A third example is the Principality of Outer Baldonia, a 16-acre (65,000 m2) rocky island off the coast of Nova Scotia, founded by Russell Arundel, chairman of the Pepsi Cola Company (later: PepsiCo), in 1945 and comprising a population of 69 fishermen.
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 still survives. 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 (4,300 sq ft) platform built in 1968 in Italian national waters in the Adriatic Sea,7 miles (11 km) 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 8-foot (2.4 m) by 30-foot (9.1 m) 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 sq yd (840 m2) platform near the Bahamas. The new country was called "Tierra del Mar" (Land of the Sea). (Ernest Hemingway's adopted hometown of Key West was later itself 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, bibliophileRichard Booth declared the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye an independent kingdom with himself as its monarch. The publicity may have assisted the town's tourism industry based on literary interests, and "King Richard" (whose sceptre was a recycled toilet plunger) awarded Hay-on-Wye peerages and honours to anyone prepared to pay for them.
Japanese micronations in the 1980s
In 1981, drawing on a news report about Leicester Hemingway's "New Atlantis", novelist Hisashi Inoue wrote a 700-page work of magic realism, Kirikirijin, about a village that secedes from Japan and proclaims its bumpkinish, marginalized dialect its national language, and its subsequent war of independence. This single-handedly inspired a large number of Japanese villages, mostly in the northern regions, to "declare independence", generally as a move to raise awareness of their unique culture and crafts for urban Japanese who saw village life as backwards and uncultured. These micronations even held "international summits" from 1983 to 1985, and some of them formed confederations. Throughout the 1980s there was a "micronation boom" in Japan that brought many urban tourists to these wayward villages. But the harsh economic impact of the Japanese asset price bubble in 1991 ended the boom. Many of the villages were forced to merge with larger cities, and the micronations and confederations were generally dissolved.
Australian and New Zealand developments
Micronational developments that occurred in New Zealand and Australia in the final three decades of the 20th century included:
The micronations established in Australia have no legal standing.
Effects of the Internet
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. An early example is the Kingdom of Talossa, a micronation created in 1979 by then-14-year-old Robert Ben Madison, which went online in November 1995, and was reported in The New York Times and other print media in 2000. As a result, the number of exclusively online, fantasy or simulation-based micronations expanded dramatically. The micronation Ladonia coexists as both a physical territory and as a large and active online community that resembles a third place, distinguishing itself from other micronations, which are either active online communities or claim small physical territories.
A number of traditional territorial micronations, including the Hutt River Province, Seborga, and Sealand, maintain websites that serve largely to promote their claims and sell merchandise.
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 titled "Utopian Rulers, and Spoofs, Stake Out Territory Online" brought the phenomenon to a wider audience. Similar articles were published by newspapers such as the Italian La Repubblica,O Estado de S. Paulo in Brazil, and Portugal's Visão at around the same time.
Several recent publications have dealt with the subject of particular historical micronations, including Republic of Indian Stream (University Press), by Dartmouth College geographer Daniel Doan, The Land that Never Was, about Gregor MacGregor and the Principality of Poyais, by David Sinclair (Review, 2003, ISBN0-7553-1080-2) and An Australian Monarch about the Principality of Hutt River by William Pitt (CopyRight Publishing, ISBN978-1-876344-67-2).
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 and organized by R. Blackson and Peter Coffin. Peter Coffin organized a more extensive exhibition about micronations at Paris' Palais de Tokyo in early 2007 called ÉTATS (faites-le vous-même)/States (Do it yourself).
The Sunderland summit was later featured in the 5-part BBC light entertainment television series 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 2005.
Similar programs have also aired on television networks in other parts of Europe. In France, several Canal+ programs have centered on 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 on the producer's creation of Robland. Among other things Vanoudenhoven minted his own coins denominated in "Robbies".
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 passport. The hearing continues.
In 2010, a documentary film by Jody Shapiro entitled How to Start Your Own Country was screened as part of the Toronto International Film Festival. The documentary explored various micronations around the world, and included an analysis of the concept of statehood and citizenship. Erwin Strauss, author of the eponymous book, was interviewed as part of the film.
The manga and anime series Hetalia: Axis Powers, in which the main characters are the stereotyped personifications of the nations of the world, features several micronations as characters. As of 2011[update] micronations represented include Sealand, Seborga, Wy, Kugelmugel, Molossia, Hutt River, Ladonia, and the former micronation of Nikko Nikko.
In 2015 Prof. Sandra Petermann of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz attended Polination Conference and wrote articles about micronations. Since 2016, her students have been required to interview micronationalists and write papers on various topics related to micronationalism.
The Australian television comedy series Micro Nation is set on the fictional island micronation of Pullamawang, which remained independent from Australia because they "forgot to mail in their paperwork" at the Federation of Australia in 1901.
Menefee, Samuel Pyeatt. "'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