What Is a Micronation?

If you’ve ever studied geography, you’re aware that there are all different types of nations. Some are monarchies, a few are theocracies, and many are versions of democracies like the United States, which is a democratic republic. But a lesser known concept is the micronation. This novel formation is far more common than you might expect—even though it is a contested concept.

What Is a Micronation?

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In short, a micronation is an entity that claims sovereignty while being part of another nation. A micronation is not formally recognized as an independent country, regardless of its claims. However, even though micronations (like the Swedish-adjacent Ladonia, whose flag is pictured above) aren’t recognized by other countries or international bodies like the United Nations, that hasn’t stopped some of these unofficial territories from acting as independent lands. Many micronations have adopted their own currencies, postage stamps, passports, and other common activities associated with real countries.

But Isn’t That a Microstate?

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In short, no. A microstate is a duly recognized sovereign nation that happens to be very small. Well-known microstates include Andorra, Lichtenstein, and Monaco. All four of these locales are small independent countries or states that enjoy autonomy and are considered to have their own governments — even if they depend on a larger nation for protection or support. A perfect example would be the Vatican. Officially, it is an independent state, but it receives support from its surrounding country, Italy.

How Did Micronations Begin?

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When compared to "real" countries and territories in the world, the concept of a micronation is fairly novel. And by that, we mean it’s still pretty new. The oldest record of a person declaring their own sovereignty on land already claimed by a country dates back to the early 20th century. Martin Coles Harman claimed the British Isle of Lundy as his own nation because he also owned the land. And then during World War II, the Principality of Outer Baldonia was formed in 1945 when Russell Arundel, the chairman of Pepsi Cola Company (now PepsiCo), declared sovereignty over a rocky island off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Over the years, micronations have been created by eccentric people like Ernest Hemingway’s brother, as well as government idealists, separatists, and people or groups focused on making political statements. Most notably, during the 1980s several Japanese villages in the northern part of the country declared their independence from Japan as a show of protest against Japan’s strong embrace of modernization. And in 2014, Greenpeace declared a segment of glaciers on the border between Chile and Argentina a sovereign micronation known as the Glacier Republic. This was a publicity stunt to bring awareness to the lack of environmental protections to prevent glacial damage caused by nearby mining activity.

How Do You Create a Micronation?

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If you’re bent on creating a micronation, it’s easier than you might think. Keep in mind that most likely, your micronation will never be formally recognized as an autonomous state. But if you’ve always wanted to be a leader of your own land, keep reading these quick tips to create your own faux country.

You Need Land

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For starters, in order to have your own country, you need land or a defined territory with clear borders. There are a few options here.

  • Your own property: If you own land, this is probably the easiest way to declare a sovereign state.
  • Undeclared land: Remember how we mentioned that Greenpeace created a micronation on the glaciers between Chile and Argentina? This is because they took advantage of a few loopholes that left those glaciers categorized as undeclared land between the two nations. Look for contested lands between states or nations and look for opportunities to stake your claim.

You Need a Government

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Real countries have some form of organized government or structure. Regardless of how you want to lead your new country, if you want anyone to come close to taking you seriously, you should draft a constitution. People with experience forming micronations recommend following the Model Constitution Code to create a relatively simple democracy.

You Need Citizens

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Yes, you need citizens. So, now you need to decide who will be a part of your new country. Will it be a nation of one, or are you going to recruit other people to renounce their current citizenship and join forces with you?

You Need Diplomacy

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Now that you’ve established a country, you’re going to need to negotiate terms with other nations. And this is where things can get “creative.” By some standards, paying taxes can qualify as international relations. For example, American citizens who pay property and annual income tax could continue to do so even if they’ve established their private residence and land as a sovereign entity. If you take creative license, those taxes could be interpreted as a tribute paid to a foreign nation to enjoy their protections and services.

Good to Know

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A micronation can still be found in violation of a real country’s laws. If your micronation Weedtopia allows for cannabis use outdoors but you live in Indiana where using the substance at all is illegal ... you’re still going to jail. You aren’t a sovereign land like a Native American reservation that is a duly recognized independent territory with their own laws.

Cover image credit: Triff / Shutterstock.com

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