Five Fascinating Micronations, Part I

There are microstates, and then there are micronations. While a microstate is an internationally recognised sovereign entity (e.g., Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City), micronations are a bit fuzzier in their definition (as Micronation Central states it, ‘a micronation is any entity which purports to be or has the appearance of being a sovereign state but isn’t). Generally speaking, micronations are creations of a single person or small group wishing to declare themselves sovereign over an extremely small piece of territory: perhaps a building, a farm, a island, or a small village. After all, who wouldn’t want to rule their own country? Most micronation projects are frivolous, to be certain, but some have captured a fair bit of international attention. The most famous micronation, Sealand, located off the English North Sea coast, has actually created genuine international incidents. This week, we look at five other micronations that may pique your interest.

Principality of Seborga

Seborga-cartellonistica_del_principato1

Source: D. Papallini, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seborga-cartellonistica_del_principato1.jpg. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

The village of Seborga lies in Italy’s Ligurian Alps, less than a 20 minutes’ drive from the French border and a half-hour northeast of the world’s most opulent microstate, Monaco. Seborga, however, is a modest, bucolic mountaintop village of just over 300 residents. Its claim to independence dates to 954, when the village was ceded by the counts of nearby Ventimiglia to the Benedictine Monks of Santo Onorato of Lerins. In 1079, the abbots in charge of the monastery were named princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and in the 17th century, the abbots even began printing coins in Seborga using the ‘Principality’ designation.

The loophole by which Seborgans claim their independence remains valid comes from the annexation of the region by the Kingdom of Sardinia under the House of Savoy in 1729. As it was a personal annexation of the crown not formally recorded in treaty, claimants state that the transfer was not valid since the transfer was not authorised by the Holy Roman Empire or the Holy See. As such, all subsequent territorial transfers are also invalid since they involve states that claimants maintain Seborga was never legally a part of (Sardinia, France, the Ligurian Republic, Sardinia again, and finally Italy). Furthermore, the claim states that any formal protectorate status that the Kingdom of Sardinia (and its direct successor, the Kingdom of Italy) would have had over Seborga based upon the annexation would have been extinguished with the end of the Italian monarchy in 1946, thus returning full sovereignty over Seborga to Seborga itself.

Flag_of_the_Principality_of_Seborga

Flag of the Principality of Seborga. Source: Oren neu dag, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_Principality_of_Seborga.svg. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence.

The movement to reestablish the sovereignty of the principality dates to 1963 and a florist named Giorgio Carbone. Digging out historic documents from the Vatican archives to verify his village’s legal independence, he began a half-century-long campaign to obtain formal international recognition of Seborga’s sovereign status. A local election was even held to declare Carbone prince (he took 304 of the 308 votes), and he took the Seborgan throne as His Tremendousness Giorgio I (a 1995 election reaffirmed his status). Eventually, a constitution was adopted, and a Crown Council was formed. The Seborgan coin (the Luigino) reappeared briefly during the 1990s, now with Giorgio’s image upon it. While formal recognition of Seborga on the world stage never came, the whimsical campaign did help boost tourism numbers in the village, which was likely much of the point to begin with. By the time of his death in 2009, Giorgio’s independence campaign had become so well-known it warranted an obituary in the Telegraph’s royalty section. His successor, Marcello I, took office the following year. The principality’s website, while very basic in appearance, has plenty of information and pictures, and even features a Luigino currency convertor.

Seborgan flags on display in the town plaza.

Kingdom of EnenKio

Even a micronation movement as benign as Seborga’s can be co-opted; for a time in the late 2000s, a fraudulent online diploma mill attempted to pass itself off as the ‘SBC-Antico Principato di Seborga’s Council for Distance Education, Culture and Faith, the Council of Accreditation‘, which drew the ire of the actual Seborgans. Some micronations, however, were born outright to commit fraud.

Wake Island is an unincorporated territory of the United States located 560 km (348 mi) north of the Marshall Islands that has famously been used as a US military base since 1941. Although the US has ruled Wake since 1899, the Marshall Islands still maintain a claim to the atoll (called Ānen-kio or Enen-kio in Marshallese); it is certainly most likely that Wake received visitors from the Marshalls, but no evidence of permanent settlement have been found. Still, using the claim of first visitation, a group portraying themselves as descendants of those indigenous travelers laid claim to Wake Island in 1994 as the ‘Kingdom of EnenKio’, eventually setting up a network of websites and message forum spams (the micronation’s main website went offline in 2009, but the Internet Archive preserves it).

Flag_of_the_Marshall_Islands.svg Flag_of_EnenKio.svg

The Marshallese flag is on the left; the Enenkio flag is on the right.

While at first glance the site appeared to be that of an indigenous rights movement, it becomes clear upon exploration that the site was a front for a scam soliciting donations toward the construction of a spaceport, down payments on becoming an official dealer of EnenKio stamps (requiring US$2 850 in fees), and membership fees in exchange for ‘economic citizenship’ (despite being ostensibly a indigenous movement, citizenship could be purchased in exchange for a US$500 to $10 000 enrolment in Kio Royale, a ‘private independent service-oriented advocacy group that supports the efforts of the government of EnenKio to assist persons of Marshallese ancestry to regain occupation and jurisdiction over the lands and seas of Eneen-Kio Atoll and protect human rights to self-sufficiency’.

Wake_Island_air

Wake Island, the territory claimed by the Kingdom of EnenKio.

Needless to say, both the Marshall Islands and the United States were unimpressed with the scam; a scam which culminated in its lead perpetrator, one Robert Moore of Hawaii purporting to represent an indigenous leader, attempting to offer US$1 billion worth of ‘Gold War Bonds’ to the public over the Internet (despite claims of gold reserves, fishing fleets, extensive infrastructure, and property holdings including a casino-hotel in the middle of Wake’s lagoon, naturally the bonds were backed by absolutely nothing). After receiving a restraining order from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Moore gradually faded away, only occasionally reappearing on message forums as his network of domain names faded away.

Further Reading

Adkisson, J.D. (2008). Kingdom of Enen Kio. Quatloos!. Available at http://www.quatloos.com/enenkio.htm. Accessed 4 October 2013.

Comune Seborga (2013). Seborga: Sito Ufficiale del Comune. Available at http://www.comuneseborga.it/. Accessed 4 October 2013.

Cruickshank, G. (2012). Micronation Central. Available at http://www.listofmicronations.com/. Accessed 4 October 2013.

Kingdom of EnenKio (2001). EnenKio. Available at http://web.archive.org/web/20070126041423/http://www.enenkio.org/home.htm. Accessed 4 October 2013.

Metro (2010). The King of Nylon: ‘kingdom’ of Seborga ruled by hosiery heir. 28 April 2010. Available at http://metro.co.uk/2010/04/28/the-king-of-nylon-kingdom-of-seborga-ruled-by-hosiery-heir-269981/. Accessed 4 October 2013.

Principality of Seborga (2013). Principality of Seborga. Available at http://principalityofseborga.org/seborga_menu_UK.html. Accessed 4 October 2013.

Richard’s Ramblings (2002) (2012). The Kingdom of EnenKio. Originally posted October 2002; updated July 2012. Available at http://www.richardsramblings.com/2002/10/the-kingdom-of-enenkio/. Accessed 4 October 2013.

Telegraph, The (2009). His Tremendousness Giorgio Carbone. 27 November 2009. Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/royalty-obituaries/6671765/His-Tremendousness-Giorgio-Carbone.html. Accessed 4 October 2013.

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