Most governments are having to adjust their processes as the Covid-19 pandemic continues, but some are seeing a significant resurgence as the disease forces us to stay indoors.
These are the governments of the world’s micronations, tiny countries not legally recognised by either the United Nations or any of the world’s quote unquote “genuine” nations.
Anthony Clark, a micronational journalist for the Amerston Post and a high-profile member of the micronational legal community such as it exists, agreed to speak with me to tell me more about how the micronational community works and how it has expanded in response to the outbreak.
Micronations aren’t necessarily culturally insignificant; some, such as the Republic of Molossia, a pseudo-republic based in the Nevada Desert, achieve mainstream media coverage. Others, such as the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, are instruments of protest intended to spark policy change – in this case, for instance, pressuring Australia to recognise same-sex marriages.
Most of the micronations that exist, however, are small creative projects between one or more people, and they tend to congregate on a central hub site, micronations.wiki. The site has had over half a million contributions since its establishment.
Additionally, SEMrush, a website data analytics service, suggests there was a bounce in visitors in both March – when lockdown set in in the United Kingdom – and May this year. This occurred against a backdrop of anecdotal evidence claiming an increase in micronational activity. It is therefore fair to suggest that an increased interest in the micronationalist hobby is linked to the increased amount of time we are spending indoors due to the outbreak.
People start micronations for different reasons, as Clark explains:
Regardless of the motive, though, the first step for most in establishing countries is basing it around a constitution. Some countries take an approach of merely writing it up and being done with it, while others, such as the former Republic of Silofais, take a more ceremonial approach:
In the crucible of the online community, most micronations spark fast and burn out quickly; others last a little while before slipping under the waves. Still others stay afloat for years – these tend to be nations where a critical mass of people have coalesced.
With that being said, even in those countries that have beaten the odds and developed enough momentum to remain in existence for some time, what is there practically to do? Clark tells me their options are fairly limited by the constraints of reality:
The key to success, then, is thinking outside the box, as a number of nations have done. Some, as Anthony Clark has done in the past, keep the flame alive by writing extensive, almost impervious legislation. Others thrive on politicking (and regular elections), and this tactic for keeping interest up does tend to work, if only for a time.
For instance, in the Empire of Abelden, election campaigns are a massive draw, if one trusts the turnout figures published by their electoral commission – though Clark advises me that, sometimes, the elections can be more theatrical than actual, as with a lot of what goes into micronationalism in the first place.
Occasionally, these micronation projects even join forces with each other. Whereas in the supposedly “real” world, nations co-operate and interact on a macro-level because in some respects they are forced to by the nature of international economy, in micronationalism there is no such impetus: there are no goods or services, really, to regulate the trading of, and there is no omnipresent security threat that requires international collaboration to defeat.
Instead, micronations form diplomatic connections with each other, often simply because the option is available to them. The consequences aren’t nothing; there have been a number of well-attended intermicronational summits, such as the various MicroCons, that have dealt with the minutiae of micronational endeavour to an extent that’s almost refreshingly unnecessary.
Others, such as the Grand Unified Micronational, which is the community’s closest answer to the United Nations they have created with any level of success (not for want of trying), have survived through a mix of specifically government and politics related business and, when occasion strikes, real world advocacy:
This is not to mention the litigating. Clark, perhaps the arch micronational litigator, has been involved in a number of cases, and is fighting a case at the moment: he, along with another micronational news website, the Messenger, accuse the Empire of Abelden’s intelligence agency of acting unconstitutionally.
The specific context of the case isn’t as important to this point as the content of the complaint itself – though the context is explained in detail by Clark himself on his website the Amerston Post – which is impressive.
The complaint, totalling nearly 1,000 words including headers and footers, is a surprisingly competent work of legal craftsmanship. If not for the Abeldane references dotted everywhere, it might be indistinguishable from a genuine legal complaint.
Litigation runs deep in micronationalism, as it is a core part of the constitutional governing systems that many micronations seek to emulate. As a result, micronationalists sue each other often, and the cases can be quite highly charged (if sometimes a bit odd – one ruling dismisses a case, citing in part the fact that the law provides no recourse for name-calling).
It’s possible to read about the micronational community’s activities and conclude that, in whole, it is almost entirely meaningless. In a sense this is true, but it rather misses the point; the fact that a community dedicated to a pursuit that promotes creative endeavour and in many cases can be quite complicated should be encouraged rather than dismissed as the bizarre, self-defeating exercise it appears to be.
The world map that makes up the background of the featured image for this article was published by BMN Network and is used under a CC BY 2.0 license. Changes were made to the image before publication.