March 20, 2011

MY COUNTRY SMALLEST



The term ‘Micro Nation’ is used to refer to those entities which despite being unrecognized by other nations or global organizations and forums, continue to press their claim over some physical region. Established mainly for satisfying the ambitions of its so-called rulers, or to protest against what its founders perceived as draconian laws or as means to derive business mileage, these ventures are popularly known as ‘Model Countries’ or ‘New World Projects’. These differ from regions like Taiwan which continue to maintain diplomatic accord with several other countries in spite of not being fully recognized. A majority of the hundred odd micro nations that exist today have minuscule territorial limits and boast of a population that consists of handful of citizens.

However, with the advent of Internet, several micro nations have gained popularity, thereby attracting new members and visitors across the world. Besides, many of these states often issue coins, stamps and passports- like ordinary nations to enforce their claim of sovereignty. However, the fact remains that these are unrecognized outside their territory and often end up being memorabilia for passionate collectors.

From revolts to naval attacks to splits, the stories of the micro nations is often more turbulent then many ordinary nations. While the states may not have any political significance, the tales of their formation and their struggle to survive presents a story which is worth reading.


(1) Principality of Sealand: Probably, the most popular micro nation in the world, it is located on HM Fort Roughs, a man-made platform erected by the British Navy in the North Sea, 10km off the coast of Suffolk, England to repulse German raids during World War II. The sea fort, like other Maunsell forts was abandoned by the Royal Navy in 1956 and became a bone of contention between competing radio pirates who intended to use it for broadcasting.

On 2nd September, 1967 the fort was captured by Major Paddy Roy Bates, a former army man, who wanted to use it as a base for his private radio channel, Radio Essex. However, soon after establishing control over the fort, Bates declared himself the King and renamed the platform as ‘The Principality of Sealand’. In 1968, when some British workmen tried to repair parts of the platform that had been damaged over the years, the Crown prince, Michael drove them away by firing in the air. The issue came up in the British court which decided that it could not adjudicate in the matter as the incident had occurred outside the territorial extent of the United Kingdom.

The most important event in the history of the tiny state occurred in 1978 when the King and the Queen were away in England. Their Prime Minister, Alexander Achenbach, a German national who held the passport of Sealand led German and Dutch mercenaries to launch a surprise naval attack on the tower and took the prince hostage. However, Bates was able to regain the control of his kingdom, free his son and also managed to capture the perpetrators. The governments of Germany, Netherlands and Austria pressurized the British government to secure the release of its citizens held in Sealand. However when the authorities in UK refused to intervene citing the earlier court ruling, Germany sent a diplomat to Sealand to diffuse tension and secure the release of the prisoners. This German diplomatic commission and the earlier court ruling are cited by the Bates royal family as recognition of the sovereignty of Sealand. Meanwhile, Achenbach has formed a government-in-exile in Germany referred to as ‘Rebel Government of Sealand’.

The Bates family has been running the territory as a recognized sovereign entity. Roy Bates styles himself "Prince Roy" and his wife "Princess Joan". Their son is known as "His Royal Highness Prince Michael" and has been referred to as the "Prince Regent". Sealand has its own constitution, an anthem, a currency, a website, an online newspaper and also issues passports. The economy is depends on offshore internet hosting capability – Data Haven, apart from issuing of coins and postal stamps. Besides, athletes have represented Sealand in various sporting disciplines like mini golf, football and fencing as well as unconventional sports like egg throwing.

In 1987, after Britain extended its control up to 12 miles from its coast, the platform that constitutes Sealand now lies within the waters administered by the UK, thereby raising several questions regarding the future of the Principality. In January, 2007 Pirate Bay attempted to buy off Sealand after copyright violation issues forced it to stop operation from Sweden. But the deal fell through like the previous, much hyped, HavenCo deal. In the same year the Principality has been put up for sale with the asking price of 600 million pounds.


(2) Kingdom of Talossa: Founded as a kingdom on 26th December, 1979 Talossa, the Finnish word for ‘inside the house’, is the brainchild of 14 year old Robert Ben Madison, a resident of Milwaukee. The kingdom when founded covered Madison’s bedroom but today, claims sovereignty over Milwaukee East Side, the French island of Cezembre and a large chunk of Antarctica.

The membership of this micro nation grew exponentially when it launched its website in the 1990s and publicity gained by the articles published in the New York Times. Yearly get-togethers were held in Milwaukee known as ‘Talossafests’. The micro nation held elections to elect its head in which several parties contested. It was during this time that the Talossians wrote a detailed history of their nation which traced its origins to the Berbers, invented a Talossian language with grammar and a dictionary and also composed an anthem.

However, a political dispute led to some Talossians to break away from the kingdom of Talossa and form the Republic of Talossa. The Kingdom is ruled by Ben’s minor son, Louis I whereas the Republic is headed by John Woolley.


(3) Principality of Hutt River: Australia’s oldest micro nation was founded in 1969 by the Casley family in response to unjust laws regarding the selling of wheat introduced by the Western Australian government. The territory comprises an area of about 75 sq km and has a world wide population of nearly 15, 000 people with 30 odd permanent members.

In 1969, the Western Australian government passed a law that allowed the Casley family to sell wheat produced only from 40 hectares of the 4000 hectares that they had harvested. The five families that owned the Hutt River region grouped together and petitioned the governor. When their plea fell on deaf ears, Leonard George Casley and his associates exploited the Treason Act, 1492 and declared independence from the Commonwealth of Australia while maintaining loyalty to the British crown. The new state was named ‘Hutt River Province’ and Leonard became its Administrator. Meanwhile the Australian authorities decided that intervention against this would be unconstitutional.

When officials contemplated action against him for non payment of taxes, Leonard declared himself the King under the title, His Majesty Prince Leonard I to take advantage of an Australian law that provides immunity to a monarchy from all prosecution. Thanks to the lack of political will to act, the Hutt River Principality got de facto legal status on 21 April, 1972 – two years after Casley declared secession in accordance to Australian law.

All mails to the micro nation are redirected through Canada and its citizens are classified as non residents of Australia. A former employee of NASA, Casley has a unique distinction of having a star to be named after him. His eldest son, Crown Prince Ian is the Prime Minister. Besides issuing stamps and minting coins, the principality also allows car registration and issues license plates to overseas vehicles. The capital is called Nain.


(4) Molossia: The Republic of Molossia is a successor to Grand Republic of Vuldstein established by Kevin Baugh and James Spielman in their childhood. On 3rd September, 1999 Baugh founded Molossia, comprising of his properties near Dayton, Nevada and declared himself as its President.

This micro nation is supposed to be a republic but is presently under martial law thereby allowing Baugh to exercise complete authority over the territory. It has its own postal and telegraph service. Tourists are allowed to visit the territory with prior permission and tours are conducted by Baugh in full uniform. While visitors have to produce their passports to get admission, Baugh has stated that these requirements are waived for citizens of Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco, Seborga and "any other country recognized by Molossia". Also it claims to be one of the first countries to officially recognize the Republic of Kosovo.


In fact, each of the seventy odd micro nations has a story to tell. May of these territories are created to highlight relevant issues and to attract public opinion to noble causes. The Independent State of Aramoana – a micro nation established in a village of the same name in New Zealand to oppose the construction of an aluminium smelter in 1974 and was peacefully reintegrated when the plan was finally scrapped. In 1997, Greenpeace declared the North Atlantic island of Rockall as Waveland to highlight the ill effects of oil exploration on marine environment. While the Global Country of World Peace aims to be ‘a nation without borders that is open to peace loving people’, the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of Coral Sea Islands off the Australian coast is as an expression of Queer nationalism and has given diplomatic recognition to Taiwan and Tibet. The Other World Republic established in a Czech chateau is a monarchy where women rule over the men.

While territorial extent is the basis for the existence of a sovereign state, the sizes of the micro nations throws up a bizarre examples. Celestia – a defunct micro nation claimed the entire universe excluding the Earth was founded by James Thomas Mangan to claim outer space for the whole of humanity. The Grand Duchy of Westarctica consists of a desolate area in Western Antarctica. On the contrary, the Republic of Kugelmugel comprises of a ball shaped house in Vienna whereas Austenasia consists of three privately owned properties in London. Surprisingly, the Duchy of Avram has never claimed territory in the manner of other Australian micro nations and the Duke is on record as saying that the Duchy is a "state of mind". Micro nations based on the construction of artificial islands like Minerva – a man made island near Fiji which was later seized by Toga, Rose Island – an artificial platform which was sunk by the Italian officials and Operation Atlantis – a New York based group whose island in the Caribbean Sea sank in a hurricane.

While the micro nations may seem to be politically insignificant, they do indulge in diplomacy and wars as major nations do. Many micro nations have friendly contact with each other. The definition of embassy is rather vague and in many cases will simply be a web page. The League of Small Nations and the Organization of Active Micro Nations are the major inter micro national organizations and boast of a substantial membership. Wars, though infrequent, are declared mainly on the macro nation that surrounds the micro nation and are generally ignored by the latter.