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According to pedestrian wisdom, a micronation — sometimes referred to as a model country or new country project — is an entity that apparently intends to replace, resemble, mock, or exist on equal footing with a recognised and/or sovereign state. Some micronations are created with serious intent, while others exist as a hobby or stunt. Scholarly research shows, however, that a real micronation must be at least an empirical tribe or community, or it simply isn't a micronation. Actually, most so-called micronations are more of a mocking of real nations than real states — it is intellectually dishonest to classify something, as the Wikipedia does in its article about micronations, based not on what it actually is, but rather on what it isn't, and a micronation is, first and foremost, a very small nation by size and/or population.

Etymology

The term micronation, which literally means small nation, is a neologism. The first reference in English to the word micronation in a popular book appears in the 1978 edition of The People's Almanac #2, where David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace write:

Established in 1972 by a declaration of sovereignty by a group of Californians, the Republic of Minerva has more claim to authenticity than most micronations because it actually has some land, although it disappears at high tide. The republic consists of two coral reefs 17 miles apart in the South Pacific Ocean some 3,400 miles southwest of Honolulu and 915 miles northeast of Auckland, New Zealand.

The term has since come to be used also retrospectively to refer to earlier unrecognised entities, some of which date to as far back as the 17th century.

According to micronational scholars, the term micronation is synonymous with the term Fifth and Sixth World nation. The more mature micronations (Fifth World nations) can also be social identity or irredentist groups.

Supporters of micronations often use the term macronation to describe any real sovereign nation-state. However, macronations are more appropriately medium- to large-sized nations that do not enjoy significant recognition, and according to micronational scholars they are Fourth World nations. The term macronation is also synonymous with the term self-determination or secessionist group.

Micronations should not be confused with legitimately recognised, but geographically tiny nations such as Fiji, Monaco, and San Marino, for which the term microstate is more accurate and descriptive.

What is a micronation?

Micronations generally have a number of common features:

  1. Micronations may have a form and structure similar to established sovereign states, including territorial claims, government institutions, official symbols and citizens.
  2. Micronations are often quite small, in both their claimed territory and claimed populations — although there are some exceptions to this rule.
  3. Micronations may issue formal instruments such as postage stamps, coins, banknotes and passports, and confer honours and titles of nobility.

A criterion which distinguishes micronations from imaginary countries, eco-villages, campuses, tribes, clans, sects, and residential community associations, is that these latter entities do not usually seek to be recognised as sovereign.

The Montevideo Convention was one attempt to create a legal definition distinguishing between states and non-states. A few micronations meet this definition, while most do not. Some micronational scholars find the Montevideo Convention unenlightened, or at the very least deceptive, with its emphasis on a state possessing a defined territory, since it has been discovered that states do not necessarily have to possess a territory to exist and be functional.

The academic study of micronations and microstates is termed micropatrology, and the hobby or activity of establishing and operating micronations is known as micronationalism.

The world's oldest and longest living micronation

The world's oldest and longest living micronation was probably the Indian princely state of Pudukkottai. From the 6th to the 14th century AD, Pudukkottai was successively ruled by the Pallavas, the Cholas, and the Pandyas. Then Pudukkottai came under the rule of Muslim sultans, who held power for about 50 years before being vanquished by the Vijayanagar kings. When the Vijayanagar kingdom disintegrated, Raghunatha Kilavan wrested the country from them in 1680, and appointed Raghunatha Tondaiman, his brother-in-law, as viceroy. The kingdom eventually acceded to the independent Dominion of India in August 1947, and merged with the Madras state in the following year.

History and evolution of micronationalism

The 19th century saw the rise to prominence of the nation-state concept, and the earliest recognisable micronations can be dated to that period. Most were founded by eccentric adventurers or business speculators, and several were remarkably successful.

The oldest extant micronation to arise in modern times is the Kingdom of Redonda, founded in 1865 in the Caribbean. 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.

Another very old extant micronation is relatively obscure to Anglophiles: Parva Domus. Parva Domus today is a cultural and recreational civil association based in Montevideo, Uruguay. It was founded on 25 August 1878, when José Achinelli raised the new nation's flag on a mast in front of a farmhouse. The Republic is reminiscent of a secret society, and its membership is restricted to men. Females are actually allowed entrance twice a year, for a special dinner. [1]

The 1960s and 1970s saw a micronational renaissance, with the foundation of a number of territorial micronations. The first of these, the Principality of Sealand, was founded in 1967 on an abandoned World War II gun platform in the North Sea, and has survived into the present day. Others were based on schemes requiring the construction of artificial islands, but only two are known to have risen above sea level.

The Republic of Rose Island was a 400 square metre platform built in international waters off the Italian town of Rimini, in the Adriatic Sea in 1968. It is reported to have issued stamps, minted currency, and declared Esperanto to be its official language. Shortly after completion, however, it was destroyed by the Italian Navy.

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 Fools' Day in 1973, John Lennon and Yoko Ono announced the birth of Nutopia, the world's first country where all people are ambassadors. Nutopia was described as "a conceptual country" with no boundaries and "no laws other than cosmic." At the time, Mr. Lennon was being threatened with deportation because of a 1968 marijuana conviction in Britain. As Nutopian ambassadors, Mr. and Ms. Lennon asked for diplomatic immunity and United Nations recognition, and they gave "One White Street" as the embassy address. Neither of them ever lived at that address.

On 1 April 1977, bibliophile Richard Booth, declared the UK town of Hay-on-Wye an "independent republic" with himself as its king. The town has subsequently developed a healthy tourism industry based literary interests, and "King Richard" (whose sceptre consists of a recycled toilet plunger) continues to dole out Hay-on-Wye peerages and honours to anyone prepared to pay for them. The official website for Hay-on-Wye, however, admits that the declaration of independence, along with the later claim to have annexed the United States and renamed it the "US of Hay" were publicity stunts.[2]

Micronational activities were disproportionately common throughout Australia in the final three decades of the 20th century. The Hutt River Province Principality started the ball rolling in 1970, when Prince Leonard (born Leonard George Casley) declared his farming property independent after a dispute over wheat quotas. The year 1976 witnessed the creation of the Province of Bumbunga on a rural property near Snowtown, South Australia, by an eccentric British monarchist named Alex Brackstone, and a dispute over flood damage to farm properties led to the creation of the Independent State of Rainbow Creek in northeastern Victoria (Australia) by Tom Barnes in 1979. In New South Wales, a political protest by a group of Sydney teenagers led to the 1981 creation of the Empire of Atlantium, and a mortgage foreclosure dispute led George and Stephanie Muirhead of Rockhampton, Queensland to secede as the Principality of Marlborough in 1993.

Yet another Australian secessionist state came into existence on 1 May 2003, when Peter Gillies declared the independence of his 66 hectare northern New South Wales farm as the Principality of United Oceania after an unresolved year-long dispute with Port Stephens Council over Gillies' plans to construct a private residence on the property.

Micronational hobbyists received a significant boost in the mid-1990s when popularisation of the Internet gave them the ability to promote their activities to a global audience. As a result, the number of online and fantasy micronations expanded dramatically. The majority were based in English-speaking countries, however a significant minority arose elsewhere in Portuguese-speaking countries as well.

In the 21st century micronationalism has taken on a less quixotic character, especially through the more mature micronations (Fifth World nations).

There are now micronationists who have been elected to an Official World parliament; micronationists who have been honoured with a MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire); micronationists who have developed new languages in working use; authentic micronational navigators/explorers; and there are even micronational athletes who have appeared on a world championship podiums.

There are also micronations that run alternative Internets with great sophistication; micronations which have issued gold coins; micronations which have co-sponsored a major cultural events; micronations which have been recognised by international organisations; micronations which have launched significant political petitions; and there are even micronations which have sent their flag into the vacuum of space.

But the list of real achievements doesn't end with specific micronationalists or micronations since there are, or have been, academic conferences on micronations; micronational travel guides; micronational bishops; micronational saints; micronational educational systems; micronational sports; micronational astrologies; micronational races; micronational meridians; micronational legal systems; micronational intellectual property; micronational archaeological findings; micronational virtual invasions with non-virtual consequences; micronational religions; micronational health discoveries; micronational environmental philosophies; and even micronationalism itself has developed into a real protoscience.

Categories of micronations

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

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

Social, economic, or political simulations

Micronations of the first type tend to be fairly serious in outlook, involve sometimes significant numbers of relatively mature participants, and often engage in highly sophisticated, structured activities that emulate the operations of real-world nations. A few good examples of these includes:

  • Freetown Christiania, a semi-legal district in Copenhagen, Denmark, founded in September 1971, where there are lax laws on drugs and squatting.
  • Talossa, an old political simulation with its own invented language, founded in December 1979. It was started by Ben Madison as the Kingdom of Talossa, but today is actually the name of three micronations — two called the Kingdom of Talossa (the Madison and Woolley kingdoms), and one called the Republic of Talossa.
  • Holy Empire of Reunion (Sacro Império de Reunião) — a Brazilian micronation founded in August 1997 as an online constitutional monarchy simulation. It claims several dozen members around the world.

Historical simulations

These micronations also tend to be fairly serious, and involve significant numbers of people interested in recreating the past, especially the Roman or Mediaeval past, and living it in a vicarious way. Examples of these include:

  • Nova Roma (Micronation), not to be confused with the historical Nova Roma, is a group created in 1998 with a worldwide membership of over 1000 that has minted its own coins, and which engages in real life Roman-themed re-enactmennts.

Exercises in personal entertainment or self-aggrandisement

With literally thousands in existence, micronations of this type are by far the most common. They are ephemeral, and tend to be Internet-based, rarely surviving more than a few months, although there are notable exceptions. They generally involve a handful of people, and are concerned primarily 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, and the conduct of "wars" with other micronations, are common manifestations of their activities. Examples include:

  • The Aerican Empire, a Monty Pythonesque micronation founded in May 1987, and known for its tongue-in-cheek interplanetary land claims, smiley-faced flag and a range of national holidays that includes "Topin Wagglegammon" amongst others.
  • Republic of Molossia, a Nevada desert-based micronation, founded in September 1999.
  • The Kingdom of Lovely, founded in January 2005, is an attempt by King Danny I (Danny Wallace) to create an internet nation based in his flat in London.
  • The Duchy of Bohemia, founded in 2007, which operates as a micronation and government in exile within the borders of the USA, claiming succession to the monarchy of the former kingdom of Bohemia, following the abdication of the last of the Holy Roman Emperors.

Exercises in fantasy or creative fiction

Micronations of this type include stand-alone artistic projects, deliberate exercises in creative online and offline fiction, artistamp creations, and even popular films. Examples include:

  • The Sultanate of Upper Yafa, one of an extraordinarily diverse and entertaining array of artistamp countries invented by prolific New Zealand producer Bruce Grenville in 1967.
  • 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.
  • Neue Slowenische Kunst (aka NSK State), a nation created in 1984 by a number of Slovene artists, among them the Laibach band.
  • The Republic of Kugelmugel, founded in 1984 by an Austrian artist and based in a ball-shaped house in Vienna, which quickly became a tourist attraction.
  • Lizbekistan, a popular Internet-based project conceived sometime in 1987 by Australian artist Liz Stirling.
  • The Republic of Howland, Baker and Jarvis, a highly developed web-based alternative reality project started in 1991. The islands of Howland, Baker and Jarvis are claimed today by the UMMOA.
  • Ladonia, a nation founded by the Swedish artist and historian Lars Vilks in June 1996. Ladonia claims a piece of land at a peninsula in southern Sweden as its territory.
  • Molvania, a nation that started as a parody of a tourist guide of a fictitious Eastern European untouched by modern dentistry, and published in November 2003.

Vehicles for agenda promotion

These types of micronations 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:

  • Akhzivland is a self-declared and officially tolerated "independent republic" established in the early 1950s by Israeli hippy and former sailor Eli Avivi on the Mediterranean beach at Akhziv in Israel. In 1970, Eli Avivi declared Akhzivland an independent nation.
  • The Republic of Aztlán, a movement started approximately in 1968, which calls for independence and restoration of Hispanic-Mexican rule of the Southwestern U.S. in parts of Arizona, California and New Mexico.
  • The Conch Republic, which began in April 1982 as a tongue-in-cheek economic protest by residents and business owners in the Florida Keys.
  • The "global state" of Waveland, established on the UK island of Rockall by Greenpeace protesters on 1 5 June 1997.
  • The Maritime Republic of Eastport, a part of the City of Annapolis, Maryland, that "seceded" from the rest of the city on Super Bowl Sunday 1998 (25 January 1998). It still exists as a charitable and publicity vehicle, and runs a unique fund-raiser in the form of a cross-water Tug of War.
  • The Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, founded in June 2004 on the uninhabited Coral Sea Islands off the coast of Queensland, in response to the Australian government's refusal to recognize same-sex marriage.
  • The Republic of Lakotah, a proposed republic for the American Indian Lakota people of North and South Dakota, eastern Montana and eastern Wyoming, and northern Nebraska, which was founded on December 2007.

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 best known of these are:

  • 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 Honduras, MacGregor wove one of history's most elaborate hoaxes, managing to charm the highest levels of London'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 1820.
  • The Dominion of Melchizedek, created in 1986 by a father-and-son team of confidence tricksters named Evan David Pedley and Ben David Pedley (the latter also known as David Korem) to sell fraudulent banking licenses. Melchizedek, which is supposedly an "ecclesiastical constitutional sovereignty", claims a number of territories, and a large slab of Antarctica. According to John Shockey, former special assistant, U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, in an address to the 4th International Financial Fraud Convention in London on 27 May 1999: "The Dominion of Melchizedek is a fraud, a major fraud, and not a legitimate sovereign entity. Persons associated with the Dominion of Melchizedek have been indicted and convicted of a variety of crimes."
  • The Kingdom of EnenKio, which claims Wake Atoll in the Marshall Islands belonging to the US Minor Outlying Islands (also claimed by the UMMOA), has been condemned for selling passports and diplomatic papers by the governments of the Marshall Islands and of the United States. On 23 April 1998, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands issued an official Circular Note, denouncing representatives of both "EnenKio" and "Melchizedek" for making fraudulent representations.
  • The United Kingdom of Atlantis operated a website from October 2003 to October 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 Palau to offer a low interest loan of $100 million.

Historical anomalies and aspirant states

A small number of micronations are founded with genuine aspirations to be sovereign states. Many are based on historical anomalies or eccentric interpretations of law, and tend to be easily confused with established states. This category includes:

  • Seborga, a town in the region of Liguria, Italy, near the southern end of the border with France, which traces its history back to the Middle Ages.
  • The Republic of Indian Stream, established in July 1832 on territory claimed by both the US and Canada.
  • Beaver Island in Lake Michigan was an unrecognised Mormon kingdom from 1848 to 1856, until its leader, James Strang, was assassinated by disgruntled followers.
  • The Principality of Sealand, a "sovereign principality" established in September 1967, and located on a WWII-era anti-aircraft platform in the North Sea in what were international waters at the time of its foundation. These waters are now subject to claims by both Sealand and the United Kingdom. Sealand is home to HavenCo, a colocation site that advertises that customer data will be secure "against any legal action."
  • The Hutt River Province Principality, a farm in Western Australia which claims to have seceded from Australia in April 1970, to become an independent principality with a worldwide population of 13,000.
  • Transnational Republic, a global nation counting several thousand citizens, established in 1996.

Exercises in historical revisionism

  • Kommissarische Reichsregierung (KRR, English: Provisional Imperial Government) is a label for multiple groups and individuals in Germany and elsewhere who assert that the German Empire (or, occasionally, Prussia) continues to exist in its pre-World War II borders and that they are its government or government in exile. The original Kommissarische Reichsregierung was founded by Wolfgang Gerhard Guenter Ebel in 1985 in West Berlin. Currently there are some 60 persons or organisations associated with operating competing KRRs.

New-country projects

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:

  • The Republic of Minerva, another libertarian project that succeeded in building a small man-made island on the Minerva Reefs south of Fiji in 1971, declared its independence in January 1972, and then was ejected by troops from Tonga, who later formally annexed it on 15 June 1972. In November 2005, Fiji put forward a complaint with the International Seabed Authority claiming ownership of Minerva Reefs.
  • The Principality of Freedonia, a libertarian project established as a "hypothetical project" by a group of US teenagers in 1992, before becoming a new country project in 1997, tried to lease territory from the Sultan of Awdal in Somaliland in December 2000-January 2001. Resulting public dissatisfaction led to rioting, and the reported death of a Somali.
  • The Seasteading Institute, founded by Wayne Gramlich and Patri Friedman on 15 April 2008, is an organisation formed to facilitate the establishment of autonomous, mobile communities on seaborne platforms operating in international waters. The project picked up mainstream exposure in 2008 after having been brought to the attention of PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who invested $500,000 in the institute.

Seasteading

Seasteading is a lifestyle of making the oceans, or at least water-borne craft, one's home. Most seasteads historically have been sailing craft, whether perhaps demonstrated by the the Chinese Junk, modified canoes of Oceania, or even the famous Pirates of Libertaria. In modern times in the west the cruising sailboat has begun to be used in the same manner. The term seasteading is of uncertain origin, used at least as early as the turn of the century by Uffa Fox, and others; many feel that catamaran designer and historian James Wharram and his designs represent ideal seasteads. More recently, American sailor and ecological philosopher Jerome FitzGerald has been a leading and effective proponent of seasteading, mostly teaching the concept through the environmental/sailing organization "The Oar Club". The Seasteader's Institute in Hilo, Hawaii offers classes, boat-building opportunities, education in forage foods, diving, and other aspects of a Seasteading lifestyle.

Some theoretical seasteads are floating platforms which could be used to create sovereign micronations, or otherwise serve the ends of ocean colonization. The concept is introduced in a paper by Wayne Gramlich, and later in a book by Gramlich, Patri Friedman and Andy House, which is available for free online. Their research aims at a more practical approach to developing micronations, based on currently available technology and a pragmatic approach to financial aspects.

The authors argue that seasteading has the potential to drastically lower the barrier to entry to the governing industry. This allows for more experimentation and innovation with varying social, political, and economic systems. Potential business opportunities include data havens, offshore aquaculture, and casinos, as well as the gamut of typical business endeavors.

Academic attention

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 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, the Italian La Repubblica, the Greek "Ta Nea", by 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 College geographer Daniel Doan, The Land that Never Was, about Gregor MacGregor, and the Principality of Poyais, by David Sinclair (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 such as the Principality of Sealand, NSK, Ladonia, the Transnational Republic, 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. Another exhibition about micronations opened at Paris' Palais de Tokyo in early 2007.

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.

On 9 September 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 (ISBN 1741047307).

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 pass.

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.

Related topics

  • Christiania — a partially self-governing neighborhood in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Hartola a small Finnish town with anomalous claim to being a royal parish of the Swedish monarchy.
  • Joshua A. Norton, San Francisco resident who proclaimed himself "Emperor of the United States"
  • Partenia, a cyber-diocese but with a real bishop
  • Seasteading — a self-sufficient floating platform

External links

Micronations et al

Other Relevant Sites

References


Adapted from the Wikipedia article, "Micronation" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micronation, used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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