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.
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:
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.
Micronations generally have a number of common features:
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 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.
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 Jos 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. 
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.
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.
In the present day, eight main types of micronations are prevalent:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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 sigent pas 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 So Paulo in Brazil, and Portugal’s Viso 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 June29 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.
Adapted from the Wikipedia article, “Micronation” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micronation, used under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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