If you’re not happy with the current state of politics, you could always try starting your own country. Micronations–tiny self-proclaimed states ruled by self-proclaimed kings, emperors, and princesses–might not be recognized by the U.N., but they are definitely real. Photographer Léo Delafontaine spent months documenting a handful of the tiny countries in a new book.
He visited places like the Principality of Sealand, built on an abandoned sea fort in the North Sea in 1967 by a pirate radio operator who wanted to be just close enough to the U.K. for his broadcasts to be heard. “Prince Roy,” along with his family, designed a new currency, flag, stamps, and passports for his tiny kingdom, and later successfully fought off a rival with a homemade flamethrower. Now, almost 50 years later, his son rules the micronation.
“I always liked small places with an improbable history,” says Delafontaine. “At the beginning I discovered the Principality of Sealand. I thought wow, this is the perfect place for me to start a new project. After some research, I found out that Sealand was not an isolated phenomenon, that I could make a world micronation tour.”
Of the dozen micronations he traveled to, Delafontaine had the best time in the Kingdom of Elleore, a tiny island off the coast of Denmark. “People over there are really serious about their micronation and their traditions–there are history classes for kids, and they created their own national sport, ‘cracket,'” he says. “But they are also very fun. Their main goal is to have a good time.”
Other micronations were basically started as jokes, like the Conch Republic in the Florida Keys, whose motto is “We seceded where others failed.” Delafontaine became a citizen of the Conch Republic, along with the Principality of Sealand and the Principality of Seborga.
While it’s becoming more common for people start virtual micronations online, Delafontaine says that the physical borders of microstates are starting to disappear.
“I think that the golden age of micronations is almost over,” he says. “The famous ones, like Hutt River and Saugeais, are headed by very old people. And after their death, their micronation will disappear with them. Young people interested in micronations don’t seem to be interested in claiming a physical territory. They prefer to create new countries online. It’s not better or worse, but it’s different.”
Micronations is available through Delafontaine’s French publisher.