10. Palau – 465.55 km2
Historically known as Belau or Pelew, the Republic of Palau is an island country in the Western Pacific containing 340 islands within an area of 466 square kilometers! Previously a part of the Unites States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Palau became a fully sovereign state with Ngerulmud as its capital, though it uses the US dollar as its currency.
Though a new country, Palau has been under human habitation for 3,000 years now with migrants from the Phillipines, and its name derives from the word for ‘village’ in Palauan. Palauan and English are its two national languages, with Japanese, Sonsorolese and Tobian as recognized languages.
Today the population of Palau is approximately 21,000, yet in spite of the small number, there are people from many races along with the native Palauans – Filipinos, Chinese, Koreans, Nepalese, Bangladeshi and some Europeans and Americans. Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, though almost all the faiths can be found here.
The coolest thing about this country is that it follows a very strict matrilineal system, with related practices in the most important aspects of society – funeral, marriage, inheritance and even the passing of traditional titles. It has also refused to bow in to pressures to let the US military carry out nuclear tests or store nuclear weapons on its territory.
9. Niue – 260 km2
With a land area of 260 square kilometers, Niue is a free country in association with New Zealand and is located 2,400 kilometers to its northeast. While it is not a member of the United Nations, its freely associated status makes it an independent territory when it comes to evaluation for international laws, and the country is a full member of some specialized UN agencies like WHO and UNESCO, and can attend conferences which are open to ‘all states’. Niue is subdivided into 14 villages, with the village of Alofi as its capital.
It is one of the largest coral islands in the world, and has many beautiful limestone caves close to the coast. The island is roughly oval in shape, and has two bays at the western side, the Alofi Bay and the Avatele Bay. The soil happens to be very unusual in its composition, and contains high levels of natural radioactivity. Very few other places in the world havehave such soil. Thankfully, calculations show that the level of radioactivity is too low to have any adverse effect on the inhabitants. However, it has the largest number of skin cancer deaths in the world.
It is also one of the few countries to have decreasing population rates. Most of the people are ethnic Niueans, and Protestantism is the dominant religion. In spite of its size, Niueans happen to be avid sport enthusiasts, with rugby being the most popular. The artist and author John Pule was born here.
8. Saint Kitts and Nevis – 261 km2
This is the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere, both demographically and geographically. A Commonwealth country, it achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1983, and currently recognizes Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It is located in the Leeward Islands chain of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies.
The two-island state has its capital Basseterre on the larger island of Saint Kitts, and because these were the first islands to be invaded by the British and the French, they are known as ‘The Mother Colony of the West Indies’. It should be noted here that these islands had been settled by Native Americans five thousand years before the Europeans, with the last wave of immigrations happening three hundred years before the colonial invasion. And ever since their invasion, the Europeans had systematically dehumanized the natives in a bid to quell the rebellion against the usurpation of their land.
Traditionally, Saint Kitts and Nevis had been two separate political entities till the 19th century, and to this day the relationship between the two islands is strained, with the smaller accusing the bigger of being negligent. In 1983, these two had joined to become the newest sovereign state of America. In 1998, Hurricane Georges became the worst hurricane to hit the area in the 20th century, causing damage worth approximately $458,000,000.
7. Principality of Hutt River – 75 km2
This is an interesting place. While the 75 square kilometer stretch with 30 odd fulltime residents claims to have achieved its independence from Australia on 21st April, 1970, the Australian government or for that matter any other government refuses to acknowledge its presence. The micronation was formed by Leonard Casley over a dispute on the issue of wheat production quotas with the Australian government. Casley has been styling himself as Prince Leonard ever since and has issued currency, passports and stamps. It is located 517 km north of Perth in Western Australia, and its area actually makes it larger than many independent countries.
Over the past 45 years, the Principality of Hutt River has caused rather a lot of trouble for the Australian government, especially in the tax department. Also, it has received some acknowledgement, however negligible, from some places like The National Museum of Australia and the Heritage Council of Western Australia. On Google maps, it appears as a tourist attraction.
In fact, tourism is very important for its economy, as it attracts around 40,000 mostly foreign tourists annually, who are mostly attracted by the quaint little Principality, and the enigma surrounding the Casleys. Their highest point was perhaps receiving a letter congratulating the Prince on the forty-sixth anniversary of achieving ‘independence’.
6. Tuvalu – 26 km2
Formerly known as the Ellice Islands, Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation located in between Hawaii and Australia, having a total land area of 26 square kilometers and a population of roughly 10,650.
While being under Polynesian habitation for a long time (approximately 3,000 years), the Spanish were the first Europeans to set foot and lay claim to the archipelago consisting of nine islands. Tuvalu came into existence on the 1st of January, 1976, and became the 189th member of the United Nations on 5th September 2000.
Today, the population of Tuvalu consists mostly of ethnic Polynesians, who speak the Tuvaluan language and English as their national languages. Tuvalu is a secular country, with most people being followers of the Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu, which is a part of the reformed tradition. The country happens to have only one hospital. Education is free and compulsory for children aged between 6 and 15, and Tuvalu has an awesome adult literacy rate of 99.0%, which is much more than some of the most powerful countries in the world.
Tuvalu, with its rich culture, food and music, happens to be a very important exporter of cultural goods in the Pacific region. Sadly, it also happens to be among one of those small and beautiful countries that have to bear the brunt of the carelessness of the big nations. In 2014, New Zealand had to grant ‘climate change refugee’ status to a family who had appealed for residence in the face of the deteriorating conditions of Tuvalu. It also happens to be among the islands risking submersion due to global warming.
5. Nauru – 21 km2
Now officially known as the Republic of Nauru, this island country in Micronesia in the Central Pacific was formerly known as Pleasant Island before its independence in January 1968 from the UN trusteeship under UK. With an area of 21 square kilometers and having 10,084 residents, it is the third smallest country in the world after the Vatican City and Monaco.
First settled by people from Micronesia and Polynesia at around 10,000 BCE, today the country is chiefly inhabited by the Nauruans who speak the Nauruan tongue. Two of their twelve indigenous groups became extinct in the 20th century. English is the language for official communication. There are no daily news publications on Nauru, except for the fortnightly publication MwinenKo. The rest of the programs are broadcast from Australia and New Zealand.
Like the rest of its neighbors, Nauru happens to be a country avidly interested in sports, and rugby and football are the most popular. It regularly participates in the Commonwealth and Olympic games.
4. Principality of Seborga – 14 km2
This is another area claiming independence from the mother country while still being landlocked. At the end of a complicated chain of claims and counterclaims, the bone of contention is that Seborgia is not mentioned in the Act of Unification for the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, and thus is exempt from all rules and regulations bounding the other states, thus qualifying it as a sovereign state.
The Principality occupies an area of a mere 14 square kilometers, and is located in the northwestern Italian Province of Imperia in Liguria, near the French border, 35 km from Monaco. It has its own insignia, though its Olympic committee is not recognized by the International Olympic Committee. It also maintains a volunteer defense force which goes by the name of Corpodella Guardia. The present monarch is Marcello Menegatto, who took over from Prince Giorgio I, who had founded the nation in 1963. The position of the monarch is not hereditary, and is based on elections.
3. Republic of Molossia – 0.055 km2
With an area a little over an acre, this nation operates out of someone’s house! Yes, you read that correctly. The Republic of Molossia happens to be the culmination of the childhood fantasies of Kevin Baugh, who created it on 3rd September 1999. This is not the end of Baugh’s ambitions though. The self-proclaimed nation has a claim of 49,881 square miles in Venus going under the name of Vesperia! In the North Pacific Ocean, 750 kilometers southwest of Mexico, Molossia claims a spot named Neptune Deep.
On April 11, 2015, Baugh hosted Micro-Con 2015 in the Anaheim Capital Library in California in a bid to attract media attention to the micro-national world. It recognizes many other small nations like Monaco and the Principality of Hutt River which are disputed territories. It was one of the first political entities to recognize the Republic of Kosovo, a day after the country was declared on the 18th of February, 2008. Molossia even has its own currency, known as valora which has a value relative to the Pillsbury cookie dough.
It is located at Dayton, Nevada over two properties owned by Baugh, with the capital and largest city being Baughston. It has an estimated population of 6 and a membership of 32 as of 2016. It operates as a sovereign state under a de facto military dictatorship, with the languages being English and Esperanto. It also happens to recognize gay marriage since 2002.
2. Sovereign Military Order of Malta – 0,012 km2
The present day continuation of the medieval Knights Hospitailer, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta is one of the oldest surviving chivalric orders. Based purely on a system of values dedicated to the defense of the Catholic faith, today it mostly serves that purpose by aiding victims of natural disasters, wars and epidemics. It has around 13,500 Knights, Dames and auxiliary members, employs around 25,000 doctors, and has 80,000 volunteers in more than 120 countries.
Founded in the Duchy of Amalfi in 1048 and recognized as a sovereign order by Pope Paschal II in 1113, it is currently based in Rome; it has an observer status in the UN and some of the specialized agencies. It has the authority to issue passports, license plates, stamps and coins to its members, and its annual budget of around 200 million Euros is largely funded by European governments, the U. N., and the European Union.
1. Principality of Sealand – 0.004 km2
With only the disused anti-aircraft defensive gun platform Maunsell Sea Fort (also known as Rough Towers) as its territory, this has to be the most amusing (for the lack of a better word) nation in the world. It has an area of 0.004 square kilometers and is owned by the Bates family. Ever since its inception on 2ndSeptember, 1967, it has been in a legal quagmire with no resolution in sight, at least not as long as the Bates family is unwilling to put down its guard. That it is an independent sovereign state is based on a 1968 English court decision which placed Rough Towers in international waters. However, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea refuses to recognize any artificial installation as an island, let alone a country. It also boasts of a high-profile war of possession, with the now-Prince Michael Bates being taken hostage by Alexander Achenbach, who claimed himself to be the PM of Sealand. Young Bates had managed to turn the tables however, and had taken Achenbach hostage in what turned out to be an international crisis, with many European countries pleading for Achenbach’s release.
The world is indeed a stage, but one needs to admit that it also makes it perhaps the most beautiful planet around. Here we get gods, and we get men who play God. So they become kings. So why not pack your bags and pay them a visit sometime?