There are many well-known small countries such as the principality of Monaco, the Vatican, and even slightly larger ones such as Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and San Marino. But what about micronations?
Micronations are even smaller. Some, and these are mostly tongue in cheek creations, exist in a bedroom, or an apartment. Others exist only in cyberspace and have no physical territory under their control.
However there have been a number of serious attempts to create micronations in the unused corners of the world, often for economic reasons (ranging from tax havens or outright frauds on gullible investors) or sociopolitical and utopian goals.
Below is a short summary of the most notable micronations. Some are more real or viable than others, even enjoying potentially valid status as sovereign nations under international law, while others are little more than tourist attractions or even scams designed to fleece gullible investors.
The Republic of Indian Stream
The so-called Republic of Indian Stream was a small enclave of land between the State of New Hampshire, United States and the then British province of Quebec. It existed as a result of an ambiguity in the Treaty of Paris which defined the boundaries between British Canada and the newly independent United States. As a result of this ambiguity, the territory of Indian River was not clearly owned by either county. This led the inhabitants (315 according to the 1840 census) to establish their own government, that existed from July 9, 1832 to 1835.
The republic dissolved in 1835 when New Hampshire Militia occupied the area at the request of the Indian Stream Congress, which feared annexation by Britain. Britain eventually relinquished its claims to the area.
The Duchy of Sealand – The Most Notorious Micronation
Sealand is a colorful little nation built on an abandoned World War 2 gun platform off coast of England. Unlike many micronations it may actually have legal validity, and has even fought two micro-wars.
Flag of Sealand Micronation
The gun platform was built outside British territorial waters during World War 2 and was finally abandoned by British forces in 1967. This led the current “owners” of the tower to seize the island. British Navy forces attempted to dislodge the squatters and were met with warning shorts. The head of the group that had seized Sealand, a British citizen, was then summoned to court to face charges. He successfully beat the charges when the court agreed with him that the incident had happened in international waters and therefore the British courts had no jurisdiction.
Buoyed by this ruling, the occupants of Sealand (about 10) introduced a constitution, followed by a flag, a national anthem, a currency and passports.
A sort of coup was staged by the “Prime Minister” of Sealand and some supporters which led to the ruler and his supporters staging a counter attack by helicopter. The coup participants were held as prisoners of war and one man was charged with treason. Sealand would not initially release him, and England sent a diplomat to negotiate for his release, which led to Sealand’s claims that this constituted official recognition of Sealand’s independence.
However, since then a German tribunal has ruled that the Duchy of Sealand does not exist. Moreover, Britain has now formally extended its territorial limits up to 12 miles off shore which means that Sealand is now within British territorial waters.
Sealand is the original micronation upon which all other micronations are modeled. It is also the one that has tried the hardest to achieve international recognition, rather than existing merely as a concept or state within a state. The issue of whether Sealand is a country has been the subject of a surprisingly large amount of litigation, which unfortunately has not gone its way. In In re Duchy of Sealand a Federal court in Germany examined the requirements for statehood, and concluded that Sealand failed to meet any of them.
A more ambitious version of Sealand is currently being planned by proponents of New Utopia who plan to build a city on platforms in the Caribbean.
Kingdom of Redonda – A Micronation Created by Queen Victoria
The Kingdom of Redonda has one of the more unusual histories and for a while was a legitimate political entity, created by decree of Queen Victoria. This micronation was a briefly independent kingdom located on the uninhabited island of Redonda (approximately 1 square mile in area)in the Leeward Islands. The Kingdom came into existence in 1865, when Matthew Dowdy Shiell, who resided on the nearby island of Montserrat, proclaimed himself King of Redonda.
Mr. Shiell, a banker from Montserrat bought the island and then requested the title of King from Queen Victoria, as the island was in fact a possession of the British Empire. Amazingly Queen Victoria granted him the title subject to the condition that there would be no revolt against imperial power.
The royal title was later sold and resold several times as the various kings ran into financial trouble. The question of who is currently the rightful king is now a matter of controversy, with different pretenders to the throne advancing competing claims. One claimant to the throne has established a literary prize called the Kingdom of Redonda. The reward is several thousand euros and a Redondan duchy.
In any event the kingdom is now part of Antigua. There are no inhabitants on the island. However, the Kingdom of Redonda lives on and even has its own website.
The Micronation Republic of Minerva
The Republic of Minerva was created by Las Vegas architect and political activist Michael Oliver. Oliver and his supporters aimed to create a libertarian utopia on reclaimed land by dumping sand on an underwater reef near Tonga, in the South Pacific.
Unlike many proposed projects to build a micronation on artificial islands or platforms, this one actually got off the ground as the Minervans managed to create the land mass. However, the nearby nation of Tonga immediately annexed the territory and evicted the colonists by military force.
Principality of Hutt River
The tiny Hutt River Principality of Australia
Hutt River is allegedly independent micronation in Australia. The Principality of Hutt River came into being when a local landowner and farmer declared his large farmlands independent as a result of a dispute with the Australian government over wheat quotas. The Principality of Hutt River is located 517 km north of Perth, and is about 75 km (approximately 18,500 acres) in size. Exports include wildflowers, agricultural produce, stamps and coins. Tourism is also important to its economy. Hutt River is one of the few micronations that actually has an economic base of sorts, and exports goods.
Although actual residents are very few, the principality claims a world-wide citizenry of 13,000, thanks largely to the profitable sale of passports and titles. Australia does not recognize the Principality of Hutt River as an independent nation but it notes its claim to be a sovereign country on local tourist maps.
However Hutt River claims that it was in fact recognized as an independent country due to official correspondence with the British and Australian governments which seemed to acknowledge it. For the most part, Australia is content to let Hutt River be as it is a good tourist attraction. The legal status of the Principality of Hutt River is currently unclear.
The United Micronations
Did you know that there is world wide league of micronations?
Although micronations are generally not recognized by real countries or under international law, this has not stopped them from organizing various international conferences and organizations modeled after the United Nations. Micronations also enter into formal agreements and treaties with each other, and occasionally even with unrecognized countries or breakaway regions.
Many Micronations publish official newspapers concerning the political machinations of their Royal Courts and debates over economic and social issues. Under the present quarantine measures due to the Covid pandemic, bedroom-sized micronations have become strangely normal.