The People’s Republic of Donetsk, a theoretical splinter nation from Eastern Ukraine, currently consists of one 11-story building, ringed by old tires lashed with razor wire and staffed by bureaucracy-obsessed teenagers and old men with guns. After reading the New Republic’s excellent account of spending some time in this building, we got to thinking about micronations, and the fact that many of them have fascinating designs.
Micronations, often unrecognized small groups of people who have declared themselves to be independent nations, form for a variety of reasons. Some emerge out of political protests, some come into being as fraudulent scams, and some are satirical pranks. Some don’t officially declare any land at all; several micronations exist entirely on the Internet.
But many do have their own land, and that land, as befitting the kind of oft-quirky protest that causes a tiny group of people to declare itself independent, is often pretty amazing from a design perspective. We collected some of our favorites, from a bathroom in the Nevada desert and an artificial island in the South Pacific to a spherical Austrian house.
Sealand exists solely on a sea fort, formerly known as Fort Roughs, off the coast of Suffolk, England. It’s in many ways the archetypical wacky micronation; for years it consisted solely of the Bates family, who seized the rusty fort from a bunch of pirate radio broadcasters in the 1960s. At one point, the Bates patriarch kidnapped a German lawyer and held him until Germany sent someone to negotiate his release, which Bates then claimed as a de facto recognition of Sealand’s sovereignty. Germany did not agree. Sealand would later catch on fire.
Also in the 1960s, a rich Italian guy named Giorgio Rosa created a platform a few miles off the coast of Italy, in the Adriatic Sea. He built a nightclub and restaurant, printed a bunch of stamps, and declared the platform an independent country–with himself as president. This greatly annoyed Italy, which viewed it as an attempt to make a tax-free tourist resort. In 1968, Italy seized the island and then blew it up.
Not so much a micronation as a remote microprovince, Bumbunga was located on a single farm in South Australia. Alex Brackstone, a former monkey-trainer from the U.K., was alarmed at what he saw as Australia’s independent leanings. Wanting at least part of Australia to remain wholly loyal to the Crown, he declared his farm as the Province of Bumbunga, complete with a giant strawberry patch in the shape of Great Britain. Thanks to a drought, all the strawberry plants died, and Brackstone eventually returned to his beloved England.
In 1984, Austrian artist Edwin Lipburger created a spherical home, the unconventional shape of which aroused the ire of Austrian building inspectors. In protest, Lipburger declared his weird house to be an independent micronation: the Republic of Kugelmugel. (Its address is in “Anti-Fascism Square.”) He refused to pay taxes and printed his own stamps, which is pretty much the first thing every micronation president does. The Austrian president seems to have been amused with him, though, and pardoned him from going to jail. Kugelmugel is now a popular tourist destination.
It began as a childhood hobby. Kevin Baugh has created his own micronation in Nevada, named Molossia. It is a self-aware, playful sort of micronation (which is why Baugh has managed to stay out of jail for treason), and consists of miniature versions of a real nation, run by Baugh himself, who plays a sort of dictator character. There’s a tiny railroad, a “national park,” a post office the size of a garden shed, and a space program that consists of a stomp rocket. Molossia has also maintained a war with East Germany for several years. The fact that East Germany no longer exists does not seem to deter the fiery Molossian people. (There are six of them.)