[Anunevagnei/Updated 29 July 2020]
1. Overview of Micronations
2. Selected Listing of Micronations
1. Overview of Micronations
Micronations, also called “model countries”, do what models do: they resemble what they model to a lesser or greater degree. They may possess all the elements of any other nation: territory, population, government, language, culture, traditions, and so on. Like model airplanes, many of which can fly, model countries are countries on a small scale. Who hasn’t encountered both cities and countries already too large, with all the attendant problems of size? For many micronations, then, “small is beautiful” — not a disadvantage at all, but a particular strength.
Google “micronation” and one of the most frequent questions is “Are micronations real?” (Another common question: “Are micronations legal?”) What determines whether a nation is a “real” country or not? And what do we mean by “real”?
The Wikipedia entry [accessed Sept. 2018] for “micronation” notes:
Micronations, sometimes also referred to as model countries and new country projects, are small, self-proclaimed entities that claim to be independent sovereign states but which are not acknowledged as such by any recognised sovereign state, or by any supranational organization. They should not be confused with microstates, which are recognised independent states of a small size, nor should they be confused with unrecognized states, which may have legitimate claim to sovereign state status.
Lots to consider here. First, it’s easy to see why confusion over such distinctions persists. At one time, the U.S., too, was “self-proclaimed”: who else, after all, would do the proclaiming?! Certainly not the United Kingdom, which saw in its upstart colony a set of rebels to be brought back under the British Crown. Consider, too, what a “declaration of independence” means and what it usually attempts to accomplish: it was only after an unnecessary war that the United Kingdom acknowledged its former colony as a new nation. In this case, the claim of sovereignty initiated dramatic political change. But who has to “recognize” a nation or state to validate its existence? The U.S. Declaration of Independence asserts that the Colonies “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.” Was the new nation of the United States not a nation until Great Britain surrendered at Yorktown, or even later?! You begin to see the problem. And what about “unrecognized states” in the Wikipedia definition above, which somehow differ from micronations because they have a “legitimate claim” to “state status”?
So are there any criteria that can help determine whether a political entity is “real” or a “nation” or “legitimate” (or “legal”)?
Competing Ideas of Statehood
The two principal, current and competing ideas of statehood are the constitutive and the declarative theories.
The constitutive theory “defines a state as a person of international law if, and only if, it is recognised as sovereign by other states”. One of the obvious difficulties this theory presents is the confusion caused when some states recognize a new national entity, but other states do not. Taiwan currently experiences this confusion, to cite just one example. The United States recognizes Taiwan as a nation; China does not. So is Taiwan a nation?
Oddly enough, or perhaps not so oddly, given human behavior, nations still interact much like high school students: “You’re not a nation unless we say you are.” Does national sovereignty really depend on no more than such group-think or majority rule? In response to such illogic, micronational President Kevin Baugh of the Republic of Molossia observes wryly, “We never heard of you, yet you exist, don’t you?”
Here, then, is one of the great paradoxes of statehood or sovereignty, because by definition a sovereign state is neither dependent on nor subject to any other power or state. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be sovereign. Yet recognition by other nations obviously grants substantial political and economic advantages.
The declarative theory, in contrast to the constitutive one, and arising from the 1933 Montevideo Convention, is perhaps more realistic and useful. Under the terms of this Convention — which the U.S. signed, along with 18 other nations — a nation has four qualities: 1) a defined territory; 2) a permanent population; 3) a government and 4) a capacity to enter into relations with other states. From these criteria come many claims to legitimate status as a nation, especially from unrecognized states. For instance, many Native American tribes claim varying degrees of sovereignty within the United States, and have upheld those claims in court. The Navajo/Diné and Iroquois/Haudenosaunee nations are two of the more prominent examples.
Most micronations qualify as nations under these terms. Their territories may be small (though some micronations like the Principality of Hutt River inside Australia are larger than some established countries like the Vatican City). Their populations may likewise be small (though again, micronations like the Kingdom of Lovely in England, with a population at its height of over 50,000 people, are larger than some macronations). They possess governments spanning the spectrum from republics to monarchies, and they certainly can — and do — enter into relations with other states. (Conch Republic representatives, to cite just one example, have traveled to other countries and have also had the Conch Republic passport recognized there.)
As a final interesting footnote, “according to declarative theory, an entity’s statehood is independent of its recognition by other states, as long as the sovereignty was not gained by military force”. It may, however, use force to defend itself once it exists — another paradox of the declarative theory.
On the basis of the constitutive theory, then, Sovermia — like other model countries and micronations — is indeed a nation.
2. Selected Listing of Micronations
Below are links to several of the more well-established, famous — or notorious — micronations, out of the hundreds in existence that have a physical presence. Many more exist solely online; there are over 300 on Twitter alone.
Visit the nations below and begin to make up your own mind about micronations. Or if you prefer to be an armchair tourist, check out Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations (2006). It’s great fun.
Prince Leonard seceded from Western Australia in 1970; the 18,000 acres of the Principality lie several hours north of Perth. Hutt River has issued stamps and coins.
The Kingdom, established by British comedian Danny Wallace, who created a video series (now on Youtube), had 50,000 citizens at its peak of activity.
Eli Avivi founded this micronation in 1971 in Israel. Avivi died in May 2018; his widow continues his work. As the Wikipedia entry notes, “The micronation is promoted by the Israel Ministry of Tourism even though its legal status remains ambiguous”.
President Kevin Baugh’s micronation is located in the southwest U.S. Nevada desert — one of the most creative, genial, visible and well-documented of micronations. Baugh is also an excellent spokesperson and advocate for micronationalism.
Begun as a pirate radio station broadcasting from an abandoned naval station a few miles off the southern English coast, Sealand has passed to a new generation of leadership.
Travis McHenry has claimed territory at the south pole and holds out a vision of a new nation.
Activist Vit Jedlicka has made a political claim on disputed land on the Danube River between Serbia and Croatia.
A district in Copenhagen/Kobenhavn, Christiania is renowned for internationally-known music concerts, creativity and relaxed attitudes toward recreational drugs.
MicroCon 2019 [website]
This is the official website of a biennial convention of micronations, launched in 2015. MicroCon 2021 is tentatively scheduled for Las Vegas, NV.