One of the great quixotic dreams of adventuresome travelers and political idealists is to start one’s own micronation. Virtually all of the land on the Earth has already been taken, but if you’re clever, you can find a slice of land that no nation bothers to claim or enforce their right to govern. Even if the only land available to you is a tiny rock in the ocean, at least that land is all yours. And as we know, it’s good to be the King.
Back in 2013, we looked at one charming example, Sealand, an abandoned naval fort off the coast of England which has claimed independence for nearly five decades. The Wikipedia entry for micronations has several dozen examples, and that list continues to grow with each passing year. Just this past April, two more nations declared their micro-independence: Liberland and Enclava. Today let’s take a look at these two, which are both located along the contested border between Croatia and Serbia. They both took advantage of the fact that these areas are terra nullis, i.e., land that neither Croatia nor Serbia actually claims. Despite these similarities, though, these two upstarts are not affiliated with each other, and in fact have completely different origins.
Liberland was the first micronation to declare its sovereignty this year, on April 13th. It claims a 3 square mile triangular parcel of land along the Danube River. As of yet, its territory is forested and completely uninhabited. It is likely to remain so, because Croatia has blocked access to it, and individuals trying to reach the new nation have been detained by Croatian police. That has not dissuaded the founder, Vit Jedicka, who recommends sailing a boat down the river from one of the neighboring countries to reach Liberland.
Jedicka, a Czech politician and activist, conceived of Liberland as a libertarian paradise. According to its website, liberland.org, this constitutional republic “prides itself on personal and economic freedom”. The nation is accepting applications for citizenship on its website (over 250,000 have already applied), and welcomes all people who are tolerant and respectful of private property. The only bars to citizenship are certain political views (Communism, Nazism) and past criminal convictions. Jedicka has drafted a constitution and even created a flag for his fledgling nation.
Flag of Liberland (via https://liberland.org/en/about/)
Liberland is not currently recognized by any other nation, but it has attracted some attention. Croatia and Serbia mostly treat it as a joke, and given the fact that Liberland has claimed territory that neither country wanted, they do not seem too concerned, as long as Liberlandians don’t intrude upon their own territory. The Czech Republic has distanced itself from Jedicka’s actions, calling them “inappropriate and potentially harmful.” But positive responses have come in from political parties in Switzerland, Norway, and Spain, and at least one other micronation (the Kingdom of North Sudan) has officially recognized it. Is it possible that Liberland could become an internationally recognized nation in the future? Not likely, but considering that Liberland has only existed for less than two months, I would say it’s too early to count them out just yet.
Here is the map of the Croatian-Serbian border showing the location of Liberland, which is the green area toward the middle labeled “Siga”:
A Map of the Croatian-Serbian border. Lands in yellow are claimed by both Croatia and Serbia. Lands in green are not claimed by either. Liberland has seized this opportunity to claim the land marked “Siga”, and Enclava has claimed the tiny plot of land marked “pocket 1” (via Wikipedia)
On April 23, ten days after Liberland formed, Enclava declared its own sovereignty. It currently claims a little glob of land upriver from Liberland. If you thought Liberland was tiny, then take a look at “pocket 1” in the map above. That’s the Kingdom of Enclava, all 0.386 square miles of it. Enclava also created all the trappings of a modern nation-state, including a currency, an anthem, and its own flag.
Flag of Enclava (via http://www.enclava.org/)
Enclava was initially founded on an unclaimed piece of land between Croatia and Solvenia by a group of Polish tourists who were traveling through that region. However, Slovenia stepped in and asserted that a court of arbitration had yet to determine the actual land border, so the Enclavians, rather than incite an international incident, moved their claim to their current location on the Croatian-Serbian border. Enclava has no constitution yet, but it does have a set of 24 principles, which have been adapted from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Much like Liberland, Enclava’s guiding philosophy is personal freedom. However, Enclava seems to lack Liberland’s overt libertarian bent. It places great emphasis on “caring for others” in its mission statement and its principles contain many guarantees (such as free public education) common to modern welfare states. Although it styles itself as a monarchy, it does have a parliament with ministers who are elected by its citizens. Currently, 134 citizenships have been granted, and the website claims that it accepts requests (though they have yet to add an application form).
Where would you most like to live? Liberland or Enclava? You still have plenty of time to decide; it may be awhile before either one secures its territory and gains recognition from other countries. In the meantime, you can always start your own micronation.
The YouTube clip below gives a quick primer, using the example of Liberland, on micronation-building, for all those ambitious self-styled kings and queens out there: