In April 2015 The Free Republic of Liberland declared itself the world’s newest state.
The independent micronation was proclaimed on unclaimed territory between Croatia and Serbia by idealistic Libertarians from the Czech Republic, on a patch of derelict land only 7km2.
This controversial declaration hasn’t led to recognition by any formal countries, but more than 200,00 people have applied to be citizens. Regardless of whether this was a political stunt or a true attempt at nation building, the fact remains that across Europe there are many more self declared nations that have existed unrecognised, unknown and fiercely contested for years. These are the countries that don’t exist.
Population: ~ 550,000
Recognised by: NO UN Member States
On the banks of the Dniester River in Eastern Europe, the predominantly Russian speaking region of Transnistria broke away from Moldova- who claimed sovereignty over the area- when the Soviet Bloc began to crumble in the early ’90’s.
While Soviet Republics across Europe and Central Asia seized the chance to split from Moscow, the citizens of Transnistria decided that they preferred the good old days of communism. Moldova though had other plans- democratic plans. And of course, those democratic plans led to war when Transnistria declared its own independence in an effort to retain its socialist style planned economy.
The war in 1992 didn’t last all that long. The Russian Red Army- which was still hanging around the region- stood in and forcibly brought about a ceasefire and created a demilitarized zone. But this resolved nothing, and Transnistria has since been a de facto independent nation. They have their own government, currency, flag and probably even a national football team. The only thing is though, not a single UN member state has ever recognised their existence. Not even the Russians who stood in to help the Transnistrians against the Moldovans.
The breakaway state has a reputation for clinging to its Soviet past. They carried on with the planned communist style economy for a while before ditching it recently for a a more free market. But with the free market, and huge stock piles of old Soviet weaponry to sell, it’s also acquired the non too welcoming reputation of being a gun running, black market mafia state. I suppose a country that doesn’t technically exist can do whatever the hell it wants though.
It might not be recognised, but it’s still there- and Transnistria can be travelled to by those looking for a real legacy of the Soviet Bloc, or maybe those looking to purchase out dated ballistic missiles or cartons of fake and illicit Marlboro Reds . The capital- Tirasapol- can be reached from Moldova, or Ukraine, and the government issues visas on arrival- only for 24 hours though. Just watch out for corrupt border guards.
Population: ~ 240,00
Recognised by: Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Naura
Situated on the edge of the black sea in the Caucasus, Abkhazia’s hot climate and sandy beaches made it a popular destination for millions of Russian tourists. As part of the Soviet Union, it came under the auspice of the Georgian SSR, but when Georgia declared its own independence, the Abkhazians feared that ethnic tension would leave them oppressed, and in 1992 all out war began.
The Georgians overran Abkhazia, and then the Abkhazians took it all back again. By 1993 there was stalemate, but not before both sides had committed atrocities and thousands were left displaced because of their ethnicity. The Abkhazians have had de facto control over themselves since, and in 2008 the Russians even recognised their independence, as did a number of Russian allies, after the 2008 conflict with Georgia. The state is now heavily dependent on Russia- Georgians even claim the area is occupied is Russia.
Avoiding the odd minefield, travellers can enter Abkhazia from Georgia or from Russia. With a subtropical climate, stunning mountain scenery and an historic legacy stretching back to before biblical times it might be worth the risk. Email the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for permission to enter.
Population: ~ 50,000
Recognised by: Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Naura
South Ossetia is a disputed territory that, just like Abkhazia, lies between Georgia and Russia. The result of another Post-Soviet conflict, South Ossetia, while unrecognised, became rather well known in 2008 when conflict with the Georgians led to the full scale Russian-Georgian war.
The South Ossetians declared independence from Georgia when the Abkahzians did, and fought the Georgians as the Abkhazians did for their own independence. The conflicts were left unresolved, but after the 2008 war, when Russia defeated Georgia, the Russians gave recognition to South Ossetia.
The self declared nation has struggled to recover from the conflicts it’s been through, even with Russian support, and is largely closed off to foreign travellers. The only way in, if you can get permission that is, is through the Roki tunnel which cuts through the Caucasian mountains from Russia.
Population: ~ 150,000
Recognised by: No UN Member States
Another casualty of war, The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is an unrecognised state between Azerbaijan and Armenia. This de facto independent Republic was formerly a territory of the Azerbaijan SSR during the Soviet days and is still recognised as a part of the modern nation of Azerbaijan by the UN.
On the ground though things are slightly different. The border with Azerbaijan is an active war zone, and things are run from their own capital of Stepanakert. Seeing themselves as more Armenian than Azeri, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh wanted unification with Armenia when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
This led to full scale war, with the Armenians stepping in to oust Azerbaijan from the territory. As with the other frozen conflicts in the Post-Soviet world, the war ended, but there has been a tense ceasefire ever since. To this day, towns such as Agdam have been left as uninhabited ghost towns.
The only way in is through Armenia. The Armenians may have rescued their neighbour from the Azeris, but not even they have recognised the nation. They do let them use their currency though.
The Republic is even quite welcoming to tourists. The fledgling tourist board is trying to promote the renovated walking trails which can take a hiker across the country. The Janapar trail is 2 weeks worth of walking along marked trails in the mountains. Watch out for land mines and bears, and you should be alright.
**Travel Tramp Travel Advice**- If you are caught trying to enter Azerbaijan with any evidence of having visited Nagorno-Karabakh- a visa is a big giveaway- then the Azerbaijani government will bar you for life. They still hold a grudge.
**Disclaimer- The Foreign and Commnwealth Office of the United Kingdom advices against all travel to all of these breakaway states. Not having formal recognition, there is no consular assistance available for most nationalities. If you get in trouble, you’re on your own **
The Travel Tramp will be visiting these self declared nations across Europe and Central Asia in an effort to discover what really makes a country. Follow the journey right here at www.travel-tramp.com