Small but Powerful…Well Sort of. Micronations and their OddityPosted: June 5, 2013
My roommate is kind of odd to be honest. He is also French but that’s probably a different story, I don’t know. The other day, he announced with a little buzz but steely determination that he would – one day – buy an island in the south of Chile and declare his own nation. A nation, of which, of course, no other than his humble self would be the only legitimate leader and where every citizen would have to consume at least one glass of wine and eat lots and lots of non fermented cheese every day. How Napoleon of him, isn’t it?. He would after all, just like his fellow countryman in 1804, crown himself the leader of a new nation. That wouldn’t be that easy nowadays would it?
Selfmade Kings and Queens
Well there is actually quite a bunch of people out there that share my roommate’s high goals of reigning over a territory. Some them of didn’t leave their higher calling to chance and declared sovereignty over a certain territory creating quasi state-like entity that is referred to as ‘micronations’. Whether it is a joke, an art installation, a political statement or honest wishful thinking is not always clear and it is oftentimes not easy to tell how serious the founding fathers of micronations take themselves. There are however around 30 noted micronations that existed continuously for a significant amount of time in the world today.
Sealand and the ‘paraphernalia’ of a country
The first micronation to be founded is The Principality of Sealand, a tiny self proclaimed nation whose surface spans over the 550m² of an abandoned World War II gun platform, six miles off the eastern shore of Britain. This platform was used to protect Britain from German airstrikes but lost its purpose with the end of the war. In 1967 former infantry major in the first battalion Royal Fusiliers, Roy Bates decided to take over fortes, raised a flag on this artificial island of steel and concrete and declared independence and sovereignty of the Principality of Sealand.
Sealand still exists today and it is Roy Bates’ son Michael Bates who currently carries the title of Prince of Sealand. For a micronation that is only slightly bigger than a Basketball field it takes its business very seriously. “If you want to be a country you have to act like a country. Bates told German TV station ZDF in 2011. “Which is why, you have visas to visit Sealand, stamps, coins and passports and all the paraphernalia that comes with it.”
Probably the most famous of all micronations exists in the very heart of Denmarks capital Copenhaguen where a bunch of hippies got together in the 1971 squatted an military area to create an alternative, self organized living community. Today In the eyes of the Danish government Christiania is an autonomous commune partly regulated by the Danish state and partly by special law, the Christiania Law of 1989.
Let’s talk legality
Micronations are not states in a legal sense even though they sometimes act like it. A sovereign state– in order to exist as such – has to fulfil certain criteria. First it has to have a permanent population, a territory and government. The last criteria and this is by far the most annoying one for most micronations is the recognition by other states. Now while this seems pretty difficult for self-made nations so obtain, the question of what counts as ‘recognition’ is in fact matter of heated debates among jurists and micronations are oftentimes used as examples in lectures in law school.
Travel the Micronations
In 2006 Lonely Planet published Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations. This tongue in cheek travel guide features all the important facts and figures about self made countries and their quirky charm.