With over 4 million articles, Wikipedia is an invaluable resource, whether you're throwing a term paper together at the last minute, or reassuring yourself that the Texas Vampires weren't actual vampires. But follow enough links, and you get sucked into some seriously strange places. We explore some of Wikipedia's oddities in our 4,422,642-week series, Wiki Wormhole.
This Week's Entry: List of Micronations
What It's About: Ever wanted to start your own country? With blackjack? And hookers? Well, some people have! (Started their own country—we’re not sure about the blackjack or the hookers) Wikipedia has a list of tiny self-declared nations of dubious legality, often created as political protest, which exist “on land, at sea… in outer space… or in the minds of their creators.” Their populations are invariably small, and are very often limited to one ambitious or stubborn individual.
Strangest Fact: While most micronations only last as long as the individual who founds them, Llanrwst has remained in legal limbo for over 700 years. In 1276, the Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, fought a losing battle to keep Wales independent from Britain. As a result, he was the last man to hold the title before it was subsequently granted to the heir to the British throne. But before he was defeated, Llywelyn seized the vowel-deprived Llanrwst, declaring it a “free borough” independent from both the U.K. and the Catholic diocese to which it had previously belonged. On the second count, even an appeal to the Pope failed, and the town was allowed religious independence. Llanrwst has also quietly refused to rejoin Wales or the U.K., even appealing to the U.N. for recognition in 1947 (unsuccessfully).
Controversy: Palestine isn’t the only nation to which Israel is denying statehood. When the Israelis sent bulldozers to demolish Eli Avivi’s illegally occupied house, he both sued the government, and declared independence for Akhzivland—a micronation in the northwestern corner of its former parent country, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean. After 44 years, the micronation’s legal status is still up in the air, but the Israeli tourism board does promote it as an attraction.
Thing We Were Happiest To Learn: While there was a boom in micronations in the late 1970s and early '80s, new ones are still cropping up all the time. In 2011, Filettino, Italy’s mayor declared his town of 550 residents independent from the mother country, protesting an austerity measure that would have forced all towns with under 1,000 residents to merge with a neighboring town. Filettino even has a national currency, the fiorito, and royalty—lawyer Carlo Taormina accepted the title of Prince Of Filettino after a legitimate member of the deposed Italian royal family turned them down.
Thing We Were Unhappiest To Learn: One micronation has taken the old clubhouse rule “No Girls Allowed” to a national level. Outer Baldonia, a fishing island off the coast of Nova Scotia, was bought in 1948 for $750 by Pepsi executive Russell Arundel, who declared it a sovereign nation, with himself as “Prince Of Princes.” He took his status as monarch seriously, issuing coinage, passports, and even organizing a military to protect the population of around 70 men (it seems to have consisted of all 70 men). No women were allowed to enter the island, so it’s unclear how the country kept its population up. Any citizen was entitled to Princehood, provided he caught a bluefin tuna and paid $50, and it’s possible that every citizen of the country held that title. Because Arundel listed his office phone number in Washington D.C.’s phone book as “Consulate of Outer Baldonia,” he received man invitations to diplomatic events, and even an invite from the U.N., which was quashed by the Soviet Union, who dismissed the island nation as “savage Western imperialists.” The denunciation led to an actual declaration of war in 1953, and while the Soviets didn’t respond except through editorials, the negative press was enough to begin Outer Baldonia’s decline. Finally, in 1973, Arundel sold the island to the Nova Scotia Bird Society, who use the island to this day as a bird sanctuary.
Also Noteworthy: While Antarctica has been universally declared neutral territory to be used to scientific study, several nations, including nearest neighbors Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, and distant nations France, Britain, and Norway, each claim a slice of the continent for themselves. But Marie Byrd Land, unclaimed by any of the major nations, was claimed in 2001 by American Travis McHenry, creating the micronation of Westarctica. The country has had several monarchs—one of whom, Jon-Lawrence Langer, was deposed by McHenry in 2010 after several disputes with other Antarctic micronations, although it’s unclear whether Langer, McHenry, or any of the country’s other participants actually live on the frozen continent.
Best Link to Elsewhere On Wikipedia: A similar list accounts for the world’s unrecognized states, which includes countries fighting for independence like Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and rival nations who refuse to recognize each other, like the two Koreas, and China and Tawian.