A micronation is a piece of land, either geographical or hypothetical, which claims to be a sovereign state—but isn’t. By the most bare-bones definition, this means all you have to do to create one is declare that you’ve done so. If you want to get fancy about it, you can also design your own passport, currency, regalia, and/or other accoutrements of statehood. Badgering the United Nations for recognition is optional, but by definition, micronations aren’t formally recognized by other countries or international bodies.
Some micronations are serious attempts driven by political ideology, while others are more like practical jokes. By some accounts, over 400 currently active micronations now exist. Here are 15 of the most interesting from the past few decades:
1. VÍT JEDLIČKA // LIBERLAND
In April 2015, a Czech man named Vít Jedlička declared that an otherwise unclaimed 2.7-square-mile patch of land between Serbia and Croatia was now a libertarian paradise called the Free Republic of Liberland. According to the micronation’s website, “The motto of Liberland is ‘To live and let live’ because Liberland prides itself on personal and economic freedom of its people.”
Applications are currently being accepted for citizenship from those who 1) have respect for others and their opinions, 2) “ have respect for private ownership, which is untouchable,” 3) do not have a “Communist, Nazi, or other extremist past,” and 4) have not been punished for past criminal offenses. Jedlička told TIME that within a few days of his announcement he had received 20,000 citizenship applications, although he planned to accept just 3000 to 5000.
At the time of the announcement, the only structure in the area was a dilapidated hunters’ lodge, and police in both Croatia and Serbia have since blocked access to the area. Nevertheless, “President Jedlička” is currently making international visits to drum up support for his new nation.”
2. PADDY ROY BATES // PRINCIPALITY OF SEALAND
One of the world’s more successful micronations was founded in 1967 on an abandoned former WWII anti-aircraft gun platform about seven miles off the coast of England. Former British Army major Paddy Roy Bates originally occupied the 120-by-50-foot platform in 1966 to transmit pirate radio broadcasts, and later declared it his own nation: The Principality of Sealand.
Today, Sealand continues its radio broadcasts and has also become an online data haven. Since 1999, it’s been ruled by Bates’ son, Prince Michael, and boasts its own chapel, prison, flag, currency, stamps, national anthem, and passports, as well as a strained relationship with Great Britain, which doesn’t recognize its existence but has mostly left it alone. It also sells royal titles—“The perfect gift for the person that has everything!”
3. LEICESTER HEMINGWAY // REPUBLIC OF NEW ATLANTIS
On July 4, 1964, Leicester Hemingway, younger brother of writer Ernest Hemingway, declared that half of an 8-by-30-foot bamboo raft in international waters off the coast of Jamaica was his own country: New Atlantis.
Hemingway claimed to derive his authority from the U.S. Guano Islands Act of 1856, which authorized U.S. citizens to take possession, on behalf of the U.S. government, of any unoccupied “island, rock or key” on which a deposit of guano was found. (Guano, or bird excrement, was then considered a valuable commercial fertilizer.) Hemingway declared that half his “island” now belonged to the U.S. government, while the other half was reserved for New Atlantis.
Hemingway hoped to run a marine research society funded by profits from selling New Atlantis stamps, but things didn’t turn out as he’d hoped. The Universal Postal Union refused to recognize his country or the stamps, and the raft was destroyed by storms a few years later, its remains pillaged by fishermen.
4. JEREMIAH HEATON // KINGDOM OF NORTH SUDAN
In 2014, Virginia farmer Jeremiah Heaton claimed a plot of land between Sudan and Egypt, Bir Tawil, as his own country so that he could declare his seven-year-old daughter a princess. His daughter declared herself delighted, but no governmental entity has recognized their claim. A somewhat controversial film is said to be in development about their story.