Top Five Micronations


06 Monday 06th December 2010

Most countries are, quite frankly, far too big. Gone are the days when a nation's leader could cast a truly omnipotent gaze over his people - or so we thought. Hidden far at sea and deep in the hills, beyond the reach of Google Streetview, micronations reignCar-free fiefdomsbird-shit republics, de facto sovereignties on sea forts - we sought out the weirdest, the smallest and the most obscure in order to bring them to you, dear reader.

Sark was, until recently, the last remaining feudal state in Europe. Though a crown dependency like nearby Guernsey, it is independent of the UK and was run by a Lord (the 'Seigneur') who granted land in return for military service. Due to its isolation from the mainland, they've developed all sorts of quirks, such as their own language (Sercquias), and a total lack of cars (horse-drawn carriages are used instead). It also remains a bastion against the smoking ban. Of course, such an idyllic place is bound to be coveted. Back in 1990 an armed French nuclear physicist tried to invade, but was arrested by a solitary officer before he made much progress.
However, last year the island finally decided they would have to modernise to democracy in order to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. This was necessary as billionaire twin brothers the Barclays (owners of the Ritz and Telegraph) were attempting to challenge Sark law on inheritance, claiming it contravened their human rights (we presume to drive cars and keep the enormous mock-gothic pile they've built on their private island off the coast). Elections were held, and the Barclays produced a glossy pamphlet, promoting their favoured candidates over supporters of the establishment. Unfortunately, fans of the Seigneur were voted in at a ratio of 9-2, and consequently the Barclays chose to close their numerous businesses on Sark, making a quarter of the population redundant. Donations kept the island from falling under the pressure of their would-be oligarchs, and eventually some of the businesses were reopened.
Sealand is the smallest area to lay claim to nation status, with a total area of a only 550 metres square. It was just an abandoned sea fort six miles off the coast of Suffolk, until Major Paddy Roy Bates landed with his family, laying claim to it as his own sovereign state. It was originally outside of British territory, but now we've slyly increased those limits to twelve miles beyond our land borders, enveloping it. It remains in murky legal water however.
Back in 1978, a German attempted an invasion, claiming that he was the Prime Minister of Sealand. As Bates wasn't there, he held his 15 year-old son Prince Michael hostage. His enraged father reclaimed his kingdom by force in a helicopter assault, counter-hostaging the German on counts of treason against Sealand (as he held a Sealand passport). Things got ugly, and German diplomats had to get involved. They have now revoked all passports to combat thousands of fakes flooding the market, so you can't have one. Sealand dollar coins do still exist. A couple of years ago, Pirate Bay tried to buy the principality in order to escape international copyright laws, but the deal fell through.
Hutt River Province
The Hutt River Province broke away from Western Australia in 1970 because of a dispute over wheat quotas. There was universal agreement among the 13,000 population, who would have been bankrupted by the new laws. Naturally the Australian government kicked up a fuss but to avoid prosecution the Hutts appointed a Prince to gain protection under British law. Today they boast a thriving economy based on the Hutt River Dollar and rely on the military might of the Hutt River Defence Force. Citizens may have dual nationality but the borders are strictly enforced. For all their protestations, the Ozzie government has yet to lift a finger.
The world's smallest independent republic, but maybe it shouldn't be. After a series of occupations by Britain, Australia and the Japanese, Nauru was granted its freedom in 1968. It joined the UN in 1999. Of late the country has been crippled by an over-reliance on depleting phosphate resources (fossilised bird shit), which forces the islanders to live on $20 million dollars a year of handouts from the Australian government.
The capital of the Jewish Autonomous ‘oblast', based in Eastern Russia. Created by Stalin in 1934 as a way of quarantining the perceived threat of Judaism, today only five percent of the population are actually Jewish. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Birobidzhan was encouraged to practise Russian politics. The main industries are textiles and tractor production. The town entered the history books in 2007 for creating the world's largest menorah.
Article originally published 30/03/2009

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