From hypothetical kingdoms to artificial islands, micronations are some of the weirdest places on the planet, home to unexpected histories and unusual traditions. But what are micronations, you ask? For the most part, micronations are quasi-real countries that assert themselves as independent nations or states without the formal recognition of other countries. Basically, anyone who wants their own micronation can simply declare that they’ve created one, and who’s to say otherwise?
But the best micronations go a step further by establishing their own governments, laws, and traditions – even if they don’t exactly have their own land or citizens! Many micronations also assert their nationhood by issuing their own stamps, coins, passports, flags, and other ephemera, but the world at large remains mostly unconvinced.
Some micronations are the sincere efforts of eccentrics who feel ignored by their governments, some are ridiculous cash-grabs by bold egomaniacs, and others are more like thought experiments or practical jokes run amuck. Here are some of the weirdest micronations in history.
The Nation Of Celestial Space: One Man’s Attempt To Monetize The Heavens
Established in 1949, the Nation of Celestial Space claims the entirety of outer space as the property of Chicago resident James T. Mangan. The idea for a celestial nation came to Mangan during an evening of idle conversation with his partner, Ernest Eckland. Reportedly, Eckland gestured out the window and noted that there was “plenty of stuff out there.” This ordinary sentiment caught fire in Mangan’s mind, as he smiled and replied, “I wonder who owns it?” Soon after staking his claim, Mangan drew national attention when he presented the “Charter of Celestia” to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, and with a fair bit of struggle, got the state of Illinois to accept it.
Mangan fought the rest of his life to gain international recognition for his claim, but it never happened. The United Nations denied his application, and 74 secretaries of state ignored his persistent letters. But Mangan was skilled at self-promotion and managed to keep the Nation of Celestial Space in the public eye for decades. He issued outer space postage stamps and offered to sell plots of outer space "land" for a dollar each. Mangan even minted his own gold currency called “Celestons,” which featured his daughter’s profile, whom he considered “the pleasantest person in the universe.” Although Mangan left the nation to his children and grandchildren, the UN later declared that no nation could claim sovereignty over outer space or celestial bodies, effectively putting an end to the once proud Nation of Celestial Space.
The Royal Republic Of Ladonia: Sweden’s Secret Driftwood Kingdom
In 1980, Swedish artist Lars Vilks began an art project that would one day become his very own micronation. Using stones and recovered driftwood, Vilks secretly started building elaborate structures in a remote region of the Kullaberg nature reserve in southern Sweden. The makeshift towers were never intended as actual buildings, but when local authorities discovered the secret sculptures two years later, they ordered Vilks to dismantle what they viewed as illegal dwellings. Vilks fought the decision over the course of a 14-year legal battle, all the while continuing to expand his sculptures in secret. The dispute was finally resolved in 1996 when the courts ruled that Swedish authorities did not actually have jurisdiction over the territory where the sculptures had been built. Vilks saw the ruling as a unique opportunity to both protect his artwork and prevent future legal entanglements. On June 2, 1996, he declared the Royal Republic of Ladonia as an independent nation.
Ladonia’s founder was its only citizen at first, but the nation has since grown to include over 17,000 citizens from more than 50 countries. As is the case for most micronations, Ladonian citizenship is largely symbolic. No one actually lives within the country’s borders, but anyone can visit Ladonia if they are intrepid enough to find it. Sweden has yet to recognize Ladonia as an independent nation, so it can’t be found on any signs or maps. Instead, would-be visitors must find a winding footpath and follow it to the rocky coastline where the enormous wooden sculptures reside.
The Principality Of Sealand: The Artificial Island In International Waters
Founded as a sovereign Principality in 1967, Sealand is one of the most successful and recognizable micronations in the world. The 120-by-50-foot country rests atop a repurposed anti-aircraft gun platform seven miles off the eastern shores of Britain. Its founder, Paddy Roy Bates, was familiar with the abandoned platform from his days as a British Army major. He took up residence on the artificial island in 1966 and began transmitting pirate radio broadcasts from the safety of international waters. A year later, the enterprising Bates declared the platform his own nation, and his family has maintained control of it ever since.
Despite a tense relationship with Great Britain, which still refuses to acknowledge Sealand, the floating micronation has done quite well for itself. Now under the leadership of the founder’s son, Prince Michael, Sealand has found great commercial success by issuing its own commemorative coins, stamps, and even titles of nobility.
Like any country worth its salt, Sealand also has its own share of scandals. In August 1978, a political coup was launched by the self-proclaimed Prime Minister of Sealand while the rulers were away in England. He hired German and Dutch mercenaries to storm Sealand using helicopters and jet skis and take Bates’s son as a hostage. Fortunately, the Bates boy was able to use weapons stashed around the platform to fight off the attackers and return Sealand to its rightful rulers.
The Principality Of Wy: The Australian Nation That Seceded Over A Driveway
In 1993, an artist named Paul Delprat applied for permission to build a concrete driveway on a strip of public land near the Wyargine Reserve in the Mosman suburb of Sydney, Australia. After 11 years and countless applications rejected or ignored, Delprat decided to secede from Mosman and create his own principality instead. "I was citizen of the year here,” Delprat said, “All I wanted was a drive."
On November 15, 2004, Delprat held a ceremony at Mosman Town Hall to announce the secession of the Principality of Wy, named for the nature reserve behind his house. Today, the population of the Principality consists of Prince Paul, Princess Susan, their three children, and their pets. The principality has become famous for its support of the arts, including its sponsorship of The Archy Wyld Art Award. Although the official award judge is Prince Paul, he is assisted by Archy Wyld, a ringtail possum who lives on the property and is said to ring a little bell on his tail when he sees a work of art he likes.