Following my recent article on micro nations, I have had a number of people (two is a number, so it counts) contact me to ask how they can start their own countries. Well I’m happy to announce that the Empire of Jennytopia has recently been created and therefore I am now a 100 percent genuine and verifiable expert on making your own country, so I will explain the process to you.
Let’s start with the first requirement…
5. Claim Some Land
All countries need land, because nations were originally conceived on the basis of the near-universal claim that “I’m having that bit over there”. Now there are some nations, such as the Ambulatory Free States of Obsidia, which claim ownership solely of a couple of small rocks (which the Grand Martial of the nation carries around in a briefcase) but the consensus that a nation needs land is enshrined in international law.
The Montevideo Convention lists four requirements for recognition as a country, and the second of those is “a defined territory” (the first requirement is to have some people but you’re already here, so you’ve got that covered). The good thing is that this territory doesn’t have a size requirement, so you can claim pretty much any parcel of land that you want. This could be anything from a square of land in your garden, to a few acres of land in Nevada with a massive train set in it (if you’re The Republic of Molossia), to wherever you decide to weigh anchor; if you’re one of the growing number of people interested in “Seasteading”, movement where new nations are created floating on the sea.
Basically, find some land that someone else isn’t going to take umbrage (or not too much umbrage anyway, nobody wants too much umbrage – it doesn’t taste great) over you calling dibs on and claim it for yourself. It worked out just fine for the Americans, nobody ever cried foul over them doing it!
No, I didn’t study history, why do you ask?
4. Decide on a System of Government
The third requirement under the Montevideo Convention is to have a system of government in place. This is, surprisingly, easy to do. If you can’t be bothered with politics and dealing with other people because they keep telling you they don’t like how you do things, you can just go ahead and declare an absolute monarchy and put yourself in charge. You can also do this if you decide to set up a dictatorship but why would you go to the trouble of pretending to have a functioning government when you can just declare yourself King (or Empress!) and get a fancy title thrown in to boot? It’s like a two-for-one sale on being in charge!
Anyway, you definitely need a government for your new nation because the fourth and final requirement under the Montevideo Convention is “the ability to conduct relations with other nations” and apparently most governments don’t react well if Johnny Whatshisface from the middle of nowhere just rocks up and asks to meet the Queen. Believe me, I’ve been there and they get really upset if you do that. It’s not a pretty sight. So you’ll need a government because these cool kid “established countries” only want to deal with people who know how to get organised.
What these other nations didn’t realise when they drafted the Montevideo Convention is that cool people like us would come along and spot a flaw in their plans. You see, they didn’t define a minimum size for a government, just like they didn’t define a minimum size for a territory. What this means is, if you set yourself up as the Absolute Monarch (which is my new nickname, by the way), you can totally claim to be your entire government! You are now free to conduct foreign relations like they are going out of fashion. Well done!
I mean sure, you could go to the trouble of setting up a real government with other people in it if you wanted to but if you’re lazy, you can totally just wing it as a free-range King. It’s definitely the way to go, in my opinion.
3. Write A Constitution
Now I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking “Empress Jenny, you’re super cool and amazing!” aren’t you? Don’t tell me if you aren’t, I don’t want to spoil the illusion. In all seriousness, though: doesn’t the United Kingdom not have a constitution yet they managed to take over the world? Well… yes and no, as we explained in a recent article. The thing is, Britain is something of an outlier on the world stage and it does its own thing while everyone else looks on in utter confusion. Don’t follow Britain’s example, they’re weird and a bit of a bad influence.
But what do you put in a constitution? Well, anything you want really. It’s your nation, so you get to decide what its founding principles are. Do you want to recognise the rights of all people to freedom; decency; and equality? Do you want to guarantee everyone in your nation the right to food and shelter? Do you want to declare perpetual war on squirrels? You can do it.
Most constitutions are basically the documents that lay out the beliefs of the creators of the nation; establish how the basic structure of the government will work; define the money that will be used (if any); lay out the principles of the courts; and tell foreigners who to talk to if they want to establish foreign relations with you (and they will because you’re the awesome new, cool kid on the block). If that seems like a lot of work, there are template constitutions available online, like this one from the Swiss International Constitutional Law website.
2. Design a Flag
Okay, now the hard work is mostly over, so it’s time to crack open your box of crayons and get to work on the fun stuff. You’re going to need a flag for your new nation because apparently that’s an unwritten rule. If you don’t have a flag, someone else might come along and decide you’re not a proper country, so they can take your stuff. There’s historical precedence for this and it’s really unpleasant, so it’s best to avoid it all by drawing something on a sheet of paper and deciding it’s your flag.
Flag design is a delicate art and there are many rules about what makes a good flag but the best rule that you should keep in mind is also the easiest to remember: keep it simple. If you can’t identify your flag when it’s flying from the top of a tall building, it’s not a good flag. That means intricate drawings are out, and so are words. Nobody’s going to be able to read “Billy smells of farts” from ground level when it’s flying from the top of the Buttlandian embassy. Sorry.
Most flags go with a simple set of coloured stripes, because most countries copied William of Orange’s three-stripe Prince’s Flag from 1579. You can do the same if you want; or you can go for something a bit more wild and interesting; like South Africa did. Just don’t copy Britain and draw lines all over the place because you’ll end up making the same mistake the British did when they rocked up in China for the first time, only to discover that their flag said “Rice” in Chinese script.
That is not a joke, this really happened. Don’t let it happen to you, or you’ll have people writing about your new country in comedy articles like this one for the rest of time.
1. Declare Independence
Okay, this is the final step. From here on out, you’re on your own – literally. It’s time to declare independence from that annoying country you’ve called home up until now and forge your own destiny as a truly independent country. All you need to do is declare independence!
Declaring independence is actually easier than it sounds. Basically, you just write to the government of your home nation and tell them that the piece of land you’ve claimed as your own will no longer be part of the nation it was a part of up to this point. It’s so simple everyone here at All Over the House towers (now part of the Empire of Jennytopia – no backsies!) can’t believe everyone else hasn’t done this as well.
There’s a reason few people have done this and that’s because you’ll likely get ignored. Most of the time, your nation will be regarded as the work of a local crank. You might get a bit of attention from the press (especially the local press because let’s face it, they have to fill the paper with something) but aside from that, you’ll not be taken seriously. Do not despair! This is the first of many tests your nascent country will have to face in its long journey through history.
The big kids might not want to talk to you right away but that doesn’t mean other micronations will ignore you. There’s an entire community out there, ready to meet you and make friends. Just keep plugging away at your diplomatic relations; establishing ties with the more established micronations in the international community and learning the ropes of how to govern a country. In the end, you’ll make it and gain international recognition from the bigger states. It worked for Sealand (kind of), it’ll work for you!
Good luck, new nation founder!
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