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Micronations — sometimes also referred to as model countries and new country projects — are entities that resemble independent nations or state but which are unrecognized by world governments or major international organizations. These nations often exist only on paper, on the Internet, or in the minds of their creators. Micronations differ from secession and self-determination movements in that they are largely viewed as being eccentric and ephemeral in nature, and are often created and maintained by a single person or family group.

Some micronations have managed to extend some of their operations into the physical world by issuing coins, flags, postage stamps, passports, medals, and other items. Such trappings of real sovereign states are created as a way of seeking to legitimize the micronations that produce them.

The term "micronation" dates at least to the 1970s to describe the many thousands of small, unrecognized, state-like entities that have mostly arisen since that time. The term has since also come to be used retroactively to refer to earlier ephemeral unrecognized entities, some of which date as far back as the early 19th century.

Definition

Micronations generally have a number of common features:
  1. They often assert that they wish to be widely recognized as sovereign states, but are not so recognized.
  2. They are small; those that claim to control physical territories are mostly of very limited extent. While several micronations claim hundreds or even thousands of members, the vast majority have no more than one or two active participants.
  3. Some issue government instruments such as passports, stamps, and currency, and confer titles and awards; these are rarely recognized outside of their own communities of interest.


These criteria distinguish micronations from imaginary countries, eco-villages, campuses, tribes, clans, sects, and residential community associations, which do not usually seek to be recognized as sovereign. Micronations are also distinguishable from entities that have diplomatic relations with other recognized nation-states of the world without being formally recognized themselves by many nation-states or accepted by major international bodies (such as the UN), for example the Republic of Chinamarker (Taiwanmarker). By contrast, micronations do not have diplomatic relations with recognized nation-states of the world or major international bodies (such as the UN).

The term "micropatrology" is sometimes used to describe the study of both micronations and microstates by micronational hobbyists, some of whom refer to sovereign nation-states as "macronations".

History

Early history and evolution



The micronation phenomenon is tied closely to the development of the nation-state concept in the 19th century, and the earliest recognizable micronations can be dated to that period. Most were founded by eccentric adventurers or business speculators, and several were remarkably successful. One early example of a micronation is the Cocos Islandsmarker, ruled by the Clunies-Ross family.

Less successful micronations are the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia (1860–62) in southern Chilemarker and Argentinamarker; the Republic of Indian Streammarker (1832-35) in North America; and the Kingdom of Sedang (1888–90) in French Indochina. The oldest extant micronation to arise in modern times is the Kingdom of Redonda, founded in 1865 in the Caribbeanmarker. It failed to establish itself as a real country, but has nonetheless managed to survive into the present day as a unique literary foundation with its own king and aristocracy — although it is not without its controversies: there are presently at least four competing claimants to the Redondan throne.

Martin Coles Harman, owner of the U.K.marker island of Lundymarker in the early decades of the 20th century, 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 Kingdommarker, so Lundymarker can at best be described as a precursor to later territorial micronations. Another example is the Principality of Outer Baldoniamarker, a rocky island off the coast of Nova Scotiamarker, founded by Russell Arundel, chairman of the Pepsi Cola Company (later: PepsiCo), in 1945 and consisting of a population of 69 fishermen.

History during 1960 to 1980

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed the foundation of a number of territorial micronations. The first of these, Sealandmarker, was established in 1967 on an abandoned World War II gun platform in the North Seamarker just off the East Anglianmarker coast of England, and has survived into the present day. 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 platform built in 1968 in Italian national waters in the Adriatic Seamarker, off the Italianmarker town of Riminimarker. 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 Jamaicamarker. This territory, consisting of an by 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-square-yard platform near the Bahamas. The new country was called "Tierra del Mar" (Land of the Sea). (Ernest Hemingway's adopted hometown of Key Westmarker would itself be part of another micronation; see Conch Republicmarker.)

The Republic of Minervamarker was set up in 1972 as a libertarian new-country project by Nevadamarker businessman Michael Oliver. Oliver's group conducted dredging operations at the Minerva Reefsmarker, a shoal located in the Pacific Oceanmarker south of Fijimarker. They succeeded in creating a small artificial island, but their efforts at securing international recognition met with little success, and near-neighbour Tongamarker sent a military force to the area and annexed it.

On April 1, 1977, bibliophile Richard George William Pitt Booth declared the Welshmarker town of Hay-on-Wyemarker an independent kingdom with himself as its monarch. The town has subsequently developed a healthy tourism industry based on literary interests, and "King Richard" (whose sceptre consists of a recycled toilet plunger) continues to award Hay-on-Wye peerages and honours to anyone prepared to pay for them.

Australian developments

Micronational activities were disproportionately common throughout Australia in the final three decades of the 20th century.

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. As a result the number of exclusively online, fantasy or simulation-based micronations expanded dramatically.

The activities of these types of micronations are almost exclusively limited to simulations of diplomatic activity (including the signing of "treaties" and participation in "supra-micronational" forums such as the League of Micronations and the Micronational News Network), the conduct and operation of simulated elections and parliaments, and participation in simulated wars — all of which are carried out through online bulletin boards, mailing lists and blogs.

A number of older-style territorial micronations, including the Hutt River Province, Seborga, and Sealand, maintain websites that serve largely to promote their claims and sell merchandise.

Categories

In the present day, eight main types of micronations are prevalent:

  1. Social, economic, or political simulations.
  2. Exercises in personal entertainment or self-aggrandisement.
  3. Exercises in fantasy or creative fiction.
  4. Vehicles for the promotion of an agenda.
  5. Entities created for fraudulent purposes.
  6. Historical anomalies and aspirant states.
  7. New-country projects.
  8. Exercises in historical revisionism.


Social, economic, or political simulations

These micronations tend to have a reasonably serious intent, and often involve significant numbers of people interested in recreating the past or simulating political or social processes. Examples include:
  • Freetown Christianiamarker, a semi-legal district in Copenhagenmarker, Denmarkmarker where there are lax laws on drugs and squatting.
  • Talossa ( Kingdom of Talossa and the Republic of Talossa), a political simulation founded in 1979, with more than 130 members ("citizens") and an invented culture and language.
  • Holy Empire of Reunion (Sacro Império de Reunião) — a Brazilian micronation founded in 1997 as an online constitutional monarchy simulation. It claims several dozen members around the world, and mints its own coins and medals.
  • Nova Roma, a group claiming a worldwide membership of several thousand that has minted its own coins, maintains its own wiki, and which engages in real-life Roman-themed re-enactments.


Exercises in personal entertainment or self-aggrandisement

With literally thousands in existence, micronations of the second type are by far the most common. They generally exist "for fun," have few participants, are ephemeral, Internet-based, and rarely survive more than a few months — although there are notable exceptions. They are usually concerned solely with arrogating to their founders the outward symbols of statehood. The use of grand-sounding titles, awards, honours, and heraldic symbols derived from European feudal traditions, the conduct of "wars" and "diplomacy" with other micronations, and claims of being located on fantasy continents or planets are common manifestations of their activities. Examples include:



Exercises in fantasy or creative fiction

Micronations of the third type include stand-alone artistic projects, deliberate exercises in creative online fiction, and artistamp creations. Examples include:
  • The Republic of Kugelmugelmarker, founded by an Austrian artist and based in a ball-shaped house in Viennamarker, which quickly became a tourist attraction.
  • The Copeman Empire, run from a caravan park in Norfolk, England, by its founder Nick Copeman, who changed his name by deed poll to HM King Nicholas I. He and his empire are the subject of a book (ISBN 0-09-189920-6) and a website where King Nicholas sells Knighthoods.
  • San Serriffe, an April Fool's Day hoax created by the British newspaper The Guardian, in its April 1, 1977 edition. The fictional island nation was described in an elaborate seven-page supplement and has been revisited by the newspaper several times.
  • Republic of Saugeais (République du Saugeais), a fifty-year-old "republic" in the French département of Doubsmarker, bordering Switzerland. The republic is made of the 11 municipalities of Les Allies, Arcon, Bugny, La Chaux-de-Gilley, Gilley, Hauterive-la-Fresne, La Longeville, Montflovin, Maisons-du-Bois-Lievremont, Ville-du-Pont, and its capital Montbenoitmarker. It had a "president" — Georgette Bertin-Pourchet, elected in 2006 — a "prime minister" and numerous "citizens". It was born from a joke between a Sauget resident and the local Préfet.


Vehicles for agenda promotion

These types of micronation are typically associated with a political or social reform agenda. Some are maintained as media and public relations exercises, and examples of this type include:



Entities created for allegedly fraudulent purposes

A number of micronations have been established for fraudulent purposes, by seeking to link questionable or illegal financial actions with seemingly legitimate nations.

  • The Territory of Poyais was invented by Scottish adventurer and South American independence hero Gregor MacGregor in the early 19th century. On the basis of a land grant made to him by the Anglophile native King of the Mosquito people in what is present-day Hondurasmarker, MacGregor wove one of history's most elaborate hoaxes, managing to charm the highest levels of Londonmarker's political and financial establishment with tales of the bucolic, resource-rich country he claimed to rule as a benevolent sovereign prince, or "Cazique", when he arrived in the UK in 1822.


  • The Dominion of Melchizedek has been widely condemned for promoting fraudulent banking activities and other financial scams, and for the involvement by one of its founders in the attempted secession of the Fijianmarker island of Rotumamarker.


  • New Utopia, operated by Oklahoma City longevity promoter Howard Turney as a libertarian new country project was stopped by a United Statesmarker federal court temporary restraining order from selling bonds and bank licenses. New Utopia has claimed for a number of years to be on the verge of commencing construction of an artificial island territory located approximately midway between Hondurasmarker and Cubamarker, on the Misteriosa Bank but no such project has yet been undertaken.


  • The Kingdom of EnenKio, which claims Wake Atollmarker in the Marshall Islandsmarker belonging to the US minor outlying islands, has been condemned for selling passports and diplomatic papers by the governments of the Marshall Islands and of the United States. On April 23, 1998, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islandsmarker issued an official Circular Note, denouncing representatives of both "EnenKio" and "Melchizedek" for making fraudulent representations.


  • The United Kingdom of Atlantis operated a website that ceased to function in 2005, and claimed to be located in the Pacific Ocean near Australia. The "kingdom" published maps of its alleged location; however, the islands shown did not exist. Atlantis' leader, the self-styled Sheikh Yakub Al-Sheikh Ibrahim, was wanted in the US for various crimes including fraud and money laundering. At one point, Atlantis sent a delegation to the legitimate state of Palaumarker to offer a low interest loan of $100 million.


Historical anomalies and aspirant states

A small number of micronations are founded on historical anomalies or eccentric 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:

  • Seborgamarker, a town in the region of Liguria, Italymarker, near the southern end of the border with Francemarker, which traces its history back to the Middle Ages.
  • The Principality of Hutt River (formerly "Hutt River Province"), a farm in Western Australiamarker, claims to have seceded from Australia to become an independent principality, with a worldwide population numbered in the tens of thousands.
  • The Principality of Sealandmarker, a World War II-era anti-aircraft platform built in the North Seamarker beyond Britain's then territorial limit, seized by a pirate radio group in 1967 as a base for their operations, and currently used as the site of a secure web-hosting facility. Sealand has continued to promote its independence by issuing stamps, money, and appointing an official national athlete. It has been described as the world's best-known micronation.
  • The Crown Dependency of Forvik is an island in Shetlandmarker, currently recognized as part of 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 it is not part of UK and should be a crown dependency like the Isle of Manmarker. Hill has also encouraged the rest of the Shetlands to declare independence.


New-country projects

Landing on Minerva.
New-country projects are attempts to found completely new nation-states. They typically involve plans to construct artificial islands (few of which are ever realised), and a large percentage have embraced or purported to embrace libertarian or democratic principles. Examples include:

  • Operation Atlantis, an early 1970s New York-based libertarian group that built a concrete-hulled ship called Freedom, which they sailed to the Caribbeanmarker, intending to anchor it permanently there as their "territory". The ship sank in a hurricane and the project foundered with it.
  • Republic of Minervamarker, another libertarian project that succeeded in building a small man-made island on the Minerva Reefs south of Fijimarker in 1972 before being ejected by troops from Tongamarker, who later formally annexed it.
  • Principality of Freedonia, a libertarian project that tried to lease territory from the Sultan of Awdal in Somalilandmarker in 2001. Resulting public dissatisfaction led to rioting, and the reported death of a Somali.
  • Oceania (also known as "The Atlantis Project", but unrelated to the 1970s project listed above), another libertarian artificial island project that raised US $400,000 before going bankrupt in 1994.
  • Seasteading, a project aiming at building competitive governments at sea.


Exercises in historical revisionism

In Germany, numerous individuals and groups – collectively labeled Kommissarische Reichsregierungen (KRR) – assert that the German Empiremarker continues to exist in its pre-World War II borders and that they are its government.

Legitimacy

In international law, the Montevideo Convention on the Right and Duties of States sets down the criteria for statehood in article 1: The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

The first sentence of article 3 of the Montevideo Convention explicitly states that "The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states."

Under these guidelines, any entity which meets all of the criteria set forth in article 1 can be regarded as sovereign under international law, whether or not other states have recognized it. Most micronations have failed to meet one or more of these criteria.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as an independent subject of international law does not meet all the criteria for recognition as a State (however it does not claim itself a State either), but is and has been recognized as a sovereign nation for centuries.

The doctrine of territorial integrity does not effectively prohibit unilateral secession from established states in international law, per the relevant section from the text of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Final Act, Helsinki Accords or Helsinki Declaration:

IV. Territorial integrity of States

The participating States will respect the territorial integrity of each of the participating States.

Accordingly, they will refrain from any action inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations against the territorial integrity, political independence or the unity of any participating State, and in particular from any such action constituting a threat or use of force.

The participating States will likewise refrain from making each other's territory the object of military occupation or other direct or indirect measures of force in contravention of international law, or the object of acquisition by means of such measures or the threat of them. No such occupation or acquisition will be recognized as legal.

In effect, this states that other states (i.e., third parties), may not encourage secession in a state. This does not make any statement as regards persons within a state electing to secede of their own accord.

Academic, literary and media attention

Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-made Nations
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 Sealandmarker 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 entitled "Utopian Rulers, and Spoofs, Stake Out Territory Online" brought the phenomenon to a wider audience for the first time. Similar articles were published by newspapers such as the French "Liberation", Italian La Repubblica, Greek "Ta Nea", O Estado de São Paulo in Brazil and Portugal's Visão at around the same time.

Several recent publications have dealt with the subject of particular historic micronations, including Republic of Indian Stream (University Press), by Dartmouth Collegemarker geographer Daniel Doan, and The Land that Never Was, about Gregor MacGregor and the Principality of Poyais, by David Sinclair (Review, 2003, ISBN 0-7553-1080-2).

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 Sealandmarker, the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland, NSK-State in Time, Ladoniamarker, 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 Sealandmarker, Elgaland-Vargaland, New Utopia, Atlantium, Frestonia and Fusamarker. The exhibition was reprised at the Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York Citymarker 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 Museum in early 2007 called ÉTATS (faites-le vous-même)/GROW YOUR OWN.

The Sunderland summit was later featured in a 5-part BBC light entertainment television series called 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 August 2005.

Similar programs have also aired on television networks in other parts of Europe. In France, several Canal+ programs have centered around 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 around the producer's creation of Robland. Among other things Vanoudenhoven minted his own coins denominated in "Robbies".

On September 9, 2006, The Guardian newspaper reported that the travel guide company Lonely Planet had published the world's first travel guide devoted to micronations, the Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations.

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 Bruneimarker, on 13 July 2007, and are charged for entering the country without a valid pass. Hearing continues.

Coins of micronations

File:Seborga Coin - Prince.JPG|A Pricipality of Seborga coin.File:Minerva Republic.JPG|35 Dollars Minerva Republic coin.File:Hutt River Province coin 1991.JPG|20 Dollar Hutt River Province.Image:1puffin1929.JPG|Lundy Island - 1 Puffin coin.File:FRENTE-MEDALHA.jpg|100 Cifras - Holy Empire of Reunion coin.Image:Wirtland crane.png|10 ICU gold "Wirtland Crane"

See also



References

  1. The People's Almanac #2, page 330.
  2. BBC - Mid Wales Arts - Richard Booth
  3. The Principality of Snake Hill
  4. http://www.escapeartist.com/unique_lifestyles/for_a_new_nation.htm
  5. http://www.occ.treas.gov/ftp/Alert/98-38.txt
  6. Richard’s Ramblings... History of Wake Island
  7. Official Marshall Islands Notices
  8. [1] [2] (also contains an image of the flag)[3]
  9. The Oceania Project, accessed November 9, 2006
  10. http://www.osce.org/documents/mcs/1975/08/4044_en.pdf
  11. The Borneo Post Online » Print » DPP: Sunda princesses ‘Prohibited Immigrants’


Further reading

  • Kochta & Kalleinen, editors. Amorph! 03 Summit of Micronations–Documents/Asiakirjoja, 2003, ISBN 3-936919-45-3
  • 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
  • Strauss, Erwin S. How to start your own country, ISBN 0-915179-01-6
  • Tallini, HMRD Cesidio. The Fifth World: Micronationalism on Steroids, ISBN 1-448663-53-9


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