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June 25, 2000

Micronations - Start Your Own Country!
by Royce Carlson

New countries arenít formed very often. Every piece of land on the planet is claimed by an existing nation. When a new country does get created it is usually done by violent secession from an existing power. There are a couple of other ways to create a nation, however. These new countries are called micronations.

Since all the land is taken, most micronations are land-less. They exist mostly in the minds of the citizens. In many cases these micronations are a form of role-playing. Often a micronation consists of one eccentric who crowns himself king, puts up a web site, and solicits for subjects. Some of the better known of these have upwards of 50 members, all playing along with the game. The Internet has furthered the expansion of these virtual nations. There is also a movement for personal sovereignty, where each person can make himself king of a one-person country. This is mostly done as a Libertarian or anarchic political statement having to do with individual freedom.

Some micronations are virtual now but want to be real countries. There are serious secessionist movements as well as humorous ones. There is a site, for example, that promotes the secession of California from the United States. A more humorous one is a group promoting the secession of "Baja Arizona." Any serious secessionist movement in almost any country is asking for a fight if they ever really try it.

Also considered in the land-less nation category are exiled peoples who really are nations in every cultural sense of the word, yet they have been forced to live in exile. The Tibetans are in this predicament now. They have been systematically colonized by the Chinese, had their monasteries destroyed, their men tortured, their women sterilized, and now there are more Chinese living in Tibet than there are Tibetans. Those Tibetans that have escaped are spread around the world as refugees and, with the Dalai Lama as their spiritual and temporal leader, are trying to keep their culture alive even though they no longer have a country.

Technology has produced the possibility of creating artificial "land" where there was none before. 25 years ago I was in the Seattle area and I met a college professor, whose name I donít remember, who bought a surplus 200-foot ocean-going barge and was looking for another one. His plan was to tow the barges to somewhere in the South Pacific and begin a floating city, independent of any other nation. I donít know what happened to his project but I visited his first barge while it was anchored in the Puget Sound and it was huge. I could see how this project might work with a little funding.

During World War II several platforms were built by the British in the North Sea to defend against enemy aircraft. Most were dismantled after the war, but one survived - "Roughís Tower." In 1967 former British Major, Paddy Roy Bates, took possession of this platform, declared himself its crown prince and called it the Principality of Sealand. He minted coins, created automobile license plates (even though the platform is only 6000 square feet!), and penned laws. Recently the platform has been leased to a business group who is going to turn it into a "data haven" which will allow Internet companies to exist online without any interference or taxation from any country.

Another project is called Oceania. Their plan is to build an artificial island 50 miles off the coast of Panama in the Caribbean. The spot is out of the normal path of hurricanes and the water is only 100 feet deep so there is a real possibility of building an island out of concrete and steel. The website looks like it hasnít been updated in a few years, however, so this project may be a long time coming if it ever happens at all.

If you want to crown yourself king or join a virtual kingdom visit the Zenzibar Micronations category. For more about the plight of the Tibetans check out the Free Tibet category.

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