Most countries were traditionally defined by their borders, shared ethnic and cultural roots, mutual enemies, and other socio-political considerations. However — whether in the name of political rebellion, simple satire, art, or genuine technological innovation — recent decades saw a number of generally little known, mostly unrecognized, physical and virtual, self-proclaimed states appear all around the globe (and off its surface, too!).
The micro, not-so-micro, humorous, serious, and other “alternative” states like the Principality of Sealand, Republic of Molossia, Kingdom of Asgardia, or the Royal Republic of Ladonia aim to offer their citizens representation more truthful to their values and more aligned with the lifestyles and challenges of modern life.
Principality of… what? Those aren’t real countries!
According to the Montevideo Convention of 1933, which outlines the widely accepted legal definition of statehood today, four criteria must be met by any aspiring state:
· Having a permanent population,
· Having a defined territory,
· Having a government,
· Having the capacity to enter into relations with other states.
But is that really all it takes? And what exactly constitutes a territory? Can the population reside online (common for many microstates) and does it have to be human? After all, if you ask President Kevin Baugh of the Republic of Molossia, their mannequin civil servants fulfill their job duties pretty well!
For Queen Carolyn of Ladonia, a micronation formed in 1996, the definition is shifting. “The traditional model of statehood and what its role should be in the life of its citizens has changed a great deal since the last massive round of border redrawing (which, in Western Europe, was post-WWII) and we think the world is due for a re-examination of the role of the modern state,” she explains.
Liam Bates, of the principality of Sealand, says “The internet and blockchain technology in particular is challenging the historic norms of what it means to be a nation, as community building and shared economic and other interests are no longer restricted geographically. Startup cities, metaverse projects, micronations, and others all have different approaches to building and innovation.” He adds that “We truly believe that any group of people sharing a common cause should have the right to unite under a flag which represents them!”
It's no surprise that in a quickly changing, interconnected world, facing unprecedented challenges, and now holding previously impossible technologies at its disposal, people are beginning to question the rules of what makes a nation. From time to time, those very people go a step further, founding their own, new, and unique states. What follows are three micronations that represent the wide variety of reasons these unique places are formed.
Principality of Sealand
“In the 1960s [in England] the BBC held exclusive rights to radio and television broadcasting and other communication over the air was forbidden,”explains Bates of Sealand, arguably the most well-known micronation, founded just far enough off the coast of England to find itself in unclaimed international waters territory.
“Sealand was born in response to this overbearing communications regulation by the British government and its effective arm at the time, the BBC, and its first sustained use was as a base for pirate radio,” Bates clarifies.
The over-300-citizen strong population of Sealand embraces the desire for adventure and questioning authority as key aspects of their shared culture, according to Bates. As such, the tiny country has attracted international attention, mostly related to its policies on data transparency and internet freedoms. Today, Sealand continues to reinvent itself according to its founding values.
Using blockchain technology, Bates hopes to bypass what he views as “traditional institutions such as banks and dated government models in order to serve our community and citizens in a much more connected and effective manner.”
Looking to the future, Sealand hopes to evolve into a “metanation,” which will encompass their physical territory, in addition to creating an online block-chain enabled global community for people to interact, create, collaborate, and evolve the nation’s motto of ‘E mare libertas’ (from the sea, freedom) to ‘E crypto libertas’ (from crypto, freedom).
The Royal Republic of Ladonia
The micronation of Ladonia, located within a natural reserve in the south of Sweden, declared its independence in 1996 following a legal battle between its artist-founder Lars Vilks and the local authorities over two art sculptures. With “humor” a defining characteristic uniting the nearly 30,000 Ladonian citizens (you can become one online, and with a little donation, you can even claim a title of nobility!), the nation is led by its queen (head of state), prime minister (head of government), and a large cabinet of ministers with titles such as the “Minister of Raccoons and 42,” “Minister of the Dark Side,” or “Minister of Vampire Affairs.”
“Our ministers select and ‘pitch’ their own ministries, which is why so many have very whimsical names and odd mission statements,” says Queen Carolyn of Ladonia. “The Minister of Chili Peppers, for example, once conducted a year-long study on how various methods of preserving peppers — freezing, pickling, etc. — affect the heat of the peppers,” she explains.
Aside from managing their vampire population and studying chili peppers, Ladonia does also have a more traditional panel of ministers, because as the Queen herself admits, “it’s difficult to function without someone monitoring the bank accounts, wrangling ambassadors, and handling international/intermicronational foreign affairs.”
The national anthem of Ladonia is the sound of a stone being thrown (gently) into the water and according to tradition, the national anthem must be performed whenever a Ladonian citizen happens to find a stone and a body of water to toss it into, while shouting a hearty “WAAALLLLL!!!” (One of the two words in the Ladonsk language, always an odd number of a’s and l’s and always more a’s then l’s).
“There is a profound lack of humor in the world today,” notes Queen Carolyn. “We strive to find fun and humor in everything. Being able to laugh at yourself is important, and so is being able to allow speech and opinions that you don’t like or want to hear,” she adds.
Kingdom of Asgardia
Only founded in 2016, the Kingdom of Asgardia is not a micronation at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. It claims to be the world’s first ever Space Nation.
Despite its very young age, Agardia already boasts a population of over one million (so far residing on Earth) and has already launched a space satellite, which it claims as its sovereign territory.
What initially sounds like extravagant science fiction quickly comes into more grounded context, as the Asgardian Minister of Trade & Commerce Benjamin Dell explains:
“Elon Musk says he wants to put a million people in a city on Mars, but how are those people going to be managed? What will be permissible and what not? What are the children going to learn at school? What will people do after retirement? What will happen to human remains once people pass away? And what if suddenly there’s no resupply from Earth? You can’t wait to answer those questions when you’re already in space.”
That’s why Asgardia sees itself as a nation of the (not-so-distant) future, currently doing its dry run on Earth. Much like the early colonizers of North America who relied on naval technologies to reach the newly discovered continent, but in the end required much more than just ships to build a country, Asgardia isn’t merely interested in futuristic space tech. The Kingdom of Asgardia aims to lay groundwork for the full operation of their space nation – so that it can be ready once it becomes a true and viable possibility.
Does that mean Asgardians are just tired of Earthly problems and seek to escape rather than address them? Dell says not at all.
“Astronauts in space grow this distance. When they look at Europe, they don’t see Germany and France and Poland. They don’t see any little borders, no different countries. They see one Earth. What brings us Asgardians together is the fact that we’re all passionately wanting to build a new identity together, an identity which will unite all of humanity, of all across Earthly borders. It’s not perfect yet but that’s what we’re all working towards,” Dell explains
Cool! I can build a country too!
Whether your goals are to genuinely redefine existing national structures and values by establishing a serious, new, sovereign state, or if you merely want to build a pillow fort and declare your cat Emperor Whiskers of Pillowland, the good news is you can!
But don’t go shredding your national ID just yet. The hard truth is, if you’re looking for widespread, international acceptance, you’ll likely be disappointed.
“We take our nation very seriously,” states President Baugh of the Republic of Molossia. “We’d love to have recognition from the established nations of the world, but we’re also realistic in that it’s probably not going to happen. And so — we have fun, enjoy ourselves and just have a good time within our little country!”