Have you ever thought about starting your own country? Maybe you don’t like the government or laws in the country of your birth? Perhaps you want your people to make their own rules? Or maybe you just think it would be cool to be President of your own nation? Well, today I’ll give you a quick introduction on how to found a new country!!

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Vocabulary List

Recognised (adj) – if someone or something is recognised, it is generally accepted that that person or thing has a particular position or is of a particular standard

If you decide to study English abroad, make sure the qualifications you receive are from a recognized provider 

Defined (adj) – clearly showing the edge, shape, or limits of something

I have a clearly defined role at work 

To declare (v) – to announce or express something clearly, publicly, and officially

A government declared a state of emergency due to the pandemic

Territory (n) – land, or sometimes sea, that is considered as belonging to or connected with a particular country or person

The UN is sending aid to the disputed territory

Independent (adj) – an independent country is not governed or ruled by another country

Belize became fully independent from Britain in 1981 

Sovereign (adj) – having the highest power or being completely independent

We must respect the rights of sovereign states to conduct their own affairs

Eligibility (n) – having the necessary qualities or satisfying the necessary conditions

The eligibility rules prevent children from entering the competition 

Straightforward (adj) – easy to understand or simple

Just follow the signs to Milton Keynes – it’s very straightforward

One of the ways I like to spend my free time is by visiting second-hand and antique stores. You can often find unique, quirky, and rare objects full of history and difficult to find on Amazon or other websites. At the weekend, I browsed aisles of old computer parts, vintage Japanese video games, snowboards, refrigerators, and jewellery. However, the item that stood out to me was an old map. I’ve always liked maps – as a teenager I tried to learn every country’s capital city and flag (wasn’t successful). The map I saw was a Japanese made world map which I thought might be useful for helping me learn country names in the language. On further study, however, I realised the map was from the 1980s. Not a problem, right? Well, actually it is. Many of the countries on that map no longer exist, and have been replaced by new independent nations. 

I’m sure it is a strange thing to think about for most of us, but countries are not permanent or natural things. Of course, the land exists – but a country is a human invention. And, at some point, all of our countries came into existence, and at some point they will end. What if you wanted to make your own country? What if you were tired with the rules and laws in your own country, or your government was not treating you well… Can you create a new country? How would you even start?

Well, first you should know it is not easy to be a country – you have to manage the economy, develop industries and the environment, build infrastructure, keep the population happy, create laws and rules,… and even if you do all of this successfully, a rival might invade you and ruin all of your plans. In many ways, it is quite remarkable that we have around 200 independent and relatively stable countries in 2021.

I just said that there are around 200 countries right now… but that brings up an important question – what is a country? Well there are a few things necessary to be a country: some land, people who live on that land permanently, and a government. There could be a group of people who are culturally and politically similar, and they may even have a government, but if they don’t have a defined territory it is very very difficult to be a country. A country must also be recognised by other countries, and have the ability to make deals and agreements with other countries.

A good starting place for answering how many countries there are is looking at members of the United Nations, because all recognised countries are supposed to be members of the UN. There are 193 members of the UN, so, there 193 countries, right? Not quite… There are two additional observers to the UN – the Vatican (or Holy See) and Palestine, who are recognised by many UN members. So, 195 countries? 

Well, there are six other partially recognised countries not members of the UN – Taiwan, Western Sahara, Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Northern Cyprus. These are all places with a defined population, defined territory, governments, self control, but are not recognized by a majority of UN members. In the case of Taiwan, in particular, it has major international involvement, conducts trade, and has representatives all around the world – but is claimed by China. So, if we include these six ‘countries,’ then there would be 201 countries in the world.

How about the countries not recognised by any UN members? There are places like the Cook Islands in the Pacific, or the Isle of Man between Britain and Ireland, which often act like independent countries but are not recognised internationally and do not try to become members of the UN. And there are actually three states that have declared independence, but do not have any recognition internationally – Somaliland, Transnistria, and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Depending on who you are and where you come from, you may have very different opinions about what is and isn’t a country!

And, what are the oldest and newest countries in the world? These are also not as simple to answer as you first think. Thousands of years ago, the ancient city states of Rome and Athens in Europe, Chichen Itza in the Americas, or Ur in Mesopotamia were powerful, influential, and important – but they weren’t really countries by modern standards. Or the massive territories of the Roman Empire, Mongol Empire, or the Han Dynasty were also not really countries.  

Take Egypt and China as examples. How old are they? Well, if you search online for the world’s oldest countries, the likes of Egypt, Iran, China, Japan, and Ethiopia are always at the top of the rankings. But are the ancient civilisations that existed there thousands of years ago the same as today’s modern countries? I would say no. Did the modern country we know as Egypt start in 3000 BCE when the First Dynasty was created by the first Pharaoh? Or did Egypt begin a thousand years ago with the Fatimid Caliphate? Or did the country we currently call Egypt originate in 1922 once it was internationally recognized as independent? 

How about China? Is today’s China the same as the ancient people known to live there 7000 years ago? Most historians would say no. The current China was either born in 1911 when the final dynasty ended, or possibly 1949 when the communist Democratic Republic of China came into existence!  Think about your own country! When did the country you live in begin to exist? There are probably a few possible dates!

There are a lot of different ways of thinking about the oldest countries in the world. You can rank countries by the earliest form of government, or by the date that they became sovereign states. If you go by the first criteria – the earliest form of government – then Iran, Egypt, Vietnam, Armenia, and Korea are probably the oldest countries. They all had some kind of government in a defined territory and with a defined population thousands of years ago. However, if you choose to go by the date that country’s become sovereign states – and somewhat resemble the modern country – then Japan, China, European microstate San Marino, France, and Austria are the oldest countries.  

How about new countries? In the 1990s, every week there seemed to be a new country coming into existence. As the Soviet Union crashed and burned, fifteen new sovereign countries emerged from the ashes including Kazakhstan, Estonia, and, of course, Russia. A few years later, the Eastern European communist countries also began to collapse and the likes of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic became independent nations. However, since the year 2000 there have only been five (or four depending on who you ask) new countries founded: East Timor in 2002, Montenegro, Serbia (both in 2006), Kosovo in 2008 (not fully recognised country), and South Sudan in 2011. In the next ten years, the Bougainville region of Papua New Guinea is also scheduled to become an independent country. 

So, have you ever thought about starting your own country? What would you need to do to make your own country?

First step is to make sure your new country meets all the eligibility criteria! I mentioned the criteria earlier – you need to have a defined territory, a permanent population, and a government. These are the three minimum requirements found in international law! If you meet the criteria, you can move onto the next step!

Step two of making your own country is to declare independence! To tell the world that your land, people, and government are now an independent country. This puts your country in the same category as Somaliland or Transnistria – places that have declared independence but not been officially recognised. In fact, just because you declare independence doesn’t mean you will be respected – if this was the case, anyone and everyone would be trying to make their own countries. 

Step three is to get recognized. What is the point in having a country if no one recognizes it? International recognition is what gives a country its international influence – the ability to trade, participate in sporting competitions, attend international meetings, and much more. It is completely up to the existing countries whether they recognize your new country or not. Sometimes, it can be straightforward to get recognition – especially if there has been a peaceful decision, referendum, and no one opposes it. Other times, it is not easy to get recognized as a country – just ask Taiwan, Palestine, and Northern Cyprus. They are recognised by a few UN members, but not all. These countries’ problems lie in the fact that the country from which they want to be independent (so China for Taiwan, Israel for Palestine, and Cyprus for Northern Cyprus) resist independence attempts! So, if you want to make your own country, make sure you are on good terms with the country from which you want to leave!

And finally, you should try to join the UN. If you are admitted to the UN, it is clear that you are a real country! And actually applying to become a member of the UN is quite simple – you just need to write a letter. It doesn’t even need to be a long letter – Montenegro applied in 2006 with about three sentences. The hard part is not the application, but getting accepted. Two-thirds of the UN General Assembly must approve your application – so unless you have some good friends already it might be difficult to join. Politics are often the biggest problem – Taiwan will probably never be able to join the UN with China a member of the security council (technically, Taiwan was a member of the UN until 1971 when it was kicked out and replaced with China. Kosovo probably will not be able to join due to Russia’s influence. 

Final Thought

So those are the steps you need to take to make your own country. Get a territory, some people, and a government. Declare independence. Get recognised. Join the UN. Simple, right? Well maybe not simple, but if you are patient and have some powerful friends it is definitely possible to make your own independent country. Even if you don’t manage to be completely recognized as a country, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful country. Taiwan is economically powerful and probably the best democracy in Asia. And even if you don’t have any territory, there might still be some hope for your country. The Sovereign Order of Malta has diplomatic relations with over 100 countries, its own passport which you can actually use to travel internationally, and is invited to participate in UN meetings… even though it doesn’t have any land. Yep, no land at all. So don’t be discouraged, maybe one day you can make your own country!!

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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