HOW TO START YOUR OWN MICRONATION
Definition | Beginning | Goal | Seriousness | Basics | Government | Diplomacy
SO. You want to start your own country. You have cast about and discovered the strange quirky world of micronationalism and you think you might be interested in having your own little realm to rule but where do you start?
Please note, what follows are some suggestions as to the workings of the micronational world. There is truly no specific definition that applies to any aspect of the micronational hobby, it is largely up to the individual micronationalist and the individual micronation.
First, before we get into the mechanics of this, let's have a little definition of what a micronation is:
A micronation is an entity created and maintained as if it were a nation and/or a state, and generally carrying with it some, most or all of the attributes of nationhood, and likewise generally carrying with it some of the attributes of statehood. Though a micronation may well have begun as a mere drollery, it has the potential (given the evolution of a sufficiently vital national culture) to develop into a true nation, and possibly to achieve statehood.
-Peter Ravn Rasmussen
Or, if you prefer, this definition, borrowed from the Kingdom of Talossa:
Micronations, microstates, imaginary countries, countercountries, unrecognized nations, or ephemeral states, are all terms for countries which have been declared independent by (usually eccentric) individuals or small groups, but unlike other such attempts, fail to achieve widespread diplomatic recognition. Many have only one inhabitant; others are larger. Most seem to consist of a single Grand Poobah, with or without a coterie of petits Poobahs. Talossa, however, counts over 50 citizens who have been part of its wild multiparty political structure. And there are reportedly 20,000 people with Hutt River citizenship or honours--more than several members of the UN!
In most cases, Micronation founders have declared dominion over land that actually exists; often tiny, isolated islands, sometimes under several feet of water. Like other countries, some of these nations have proclaimed declarations of independence, adopted constitutions, sought diplomatic recognition, sent out envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary, displayed coats-of-arms, and issued stamps, passports, and currency.
OK, so now you know what a micronation is by definition, let's get a little more into the why's and then we'll look at the how's.
So you get up one morning and you do like I did, you watch the movie "The Mouse That Roared" or "Moon Over Parador", or "The Prisoner of Zenda", and you say to yourself, "Self, I wish I could have my own country. That way I could avoid that situation the other day where I almost ran over Mrs. MacGillicuddy in my rush to get my income taxes into the mail on time." Well, that's one reason. Maybe a bad one. Or maybe you're twelve and tired of having your mom compare the condition of your room to Berlin after the war. "Mom," you say, "This room is no longer your concern, because it is now an independent country. The Kingdom of Bob's Room. And I am King. So enough with harassing me about my socks on the floor." And so, as you gaze around your domain, your new nation, you say to yourself, "Now what?".
Like most people, you now abandon the idea of your own country in favor of the latest Nintendo game (for minors) or beer (for adults). But a few imaginative individuals instead forge ahead and seek to make their own path, creating their own nation, a personal Lilliput in a world of Brobdingnags.
And having decided this, you must now ask yourself, what exactly is your goal? There are many different types of micronations. Erwin S. Strauss broke down efforts to start a new country into five different categories in his book, How to Start Your Own Country:
Traditional sovereignty: Having status as a sovereign nation, including exchanging ambassadors, acceptance of passports, membership in international organizations. This usually includes possession of actual territory (land).
Ship under flag of convenience: Ships off the coast of sovereign nations, usually as part of a money-making scheme.
Litigation: Using macronational law to press your claim to independence.
Vonu (out of sight out of mind): Establishing your "nation" in a remote area, far from macronational authority.
Model country: A project nation designed to resemble most aspects of nationhood, without actually seeking sovereignty. Generally the definition of an on-line nation.
That is one way to look at it. Lars Erik Bryld, from the Sovereign Principality of Corvinia breaks it down thus, with an eye toward the seriousness of your micronational effort:
Statehood means acquisition and complete control over a territory, and the acceptance of this sovereignty by the international society.
Nationhood means a condition where a group of persons achieve a common identity as a people and the will to be identified as such.
A Political Exercise means the attempt to create a plausible and internally consistent simulation of a governmental mechanism. Though the ultimate purpose might be recreational, emphasis is on the realism.
Community means a society of like-minded individuals, which in some respects does not possess the attributes of a nation as defined above.
Mostly Fun means a completely spurious vehicle of interacting as a way of entertainment. Though a governmental structure may exist, the prime purpose is to have fun.
So now you know the types of micronations. Now you must ask yourself, again, what is my goal with this country? Bear in mind, most micronations start out just for fun. This can change, of course, and sometimes does. All nations evolve. It is good though to think ahead just a little. If you want your nation to be taken seriously humorous elements will have to be toned down, at least to some extent. So, if you start your nation out as the Republic of Buttwind, and at some point decide that you would prefer to be taken seriously, a name change might be in order. So think ahead, as you build your country, no matter what your current goals might be.
On the matter of micronational seriousness, a few notes. This is a subject that can be quite vexing for the new micronationalist. There are several serious micronational efforts out there, and they take themselves very seriously. They tend to avoid elements in their nations that are not mostly grounded in reality; no fictional histories, actual possession or at least claims of real places, not fictional, never any "fake" citizens, all real. Their goal, in many cases, is actual independence, on some scale or another. Most will not open diplomatic relations with less than serious micronations, feeling that to have open communications with less serious nations may damage their micronation's reputation and endanger their goal of sovereignty.
It varies from micronation to micronation, but seriousness can be a real sticking point in micronational relations. As a new micronationalist, it is important not to get too annoyed when certain nations refuse to recognize yours, or even reply to your e-mails. That is their way of doing things, and you have yours. Seek nations that are at your level of seriousness, and open relations with them.
Ok, so you have decided to start your country. While you think about where you want to go with it, we'll start with the basics. You need citizens. You need a website. For many micronations, this is most, if not all that their country ever is, a website and a few dedicated citizens. Some micronations start without any citizens, build a website and try to lure citizens in. This is hard, since most micronationalists want their own country and don't want to share. So, I suggest you cast about among your friends and family and find your citizens first. Or, if you wish start without citizens, build a nice website and see where it goes. Like the movie said, "if you build it, they will come", and they will. But you must have something interesting, new and exciting. There are a plethora of one-man kingdoms out there, make your nation spark interest.
As a note, your website should not be your nation. If your nation is just a website, it will not last very long and never be taken seriously. It should represent your nation, and be used if you want as a tool for communicating your nation to the world. It is important that your nation be something beyond your website, otherwise you will have a hard time developing your nation into something interesting that will last a while.
So, now you have the idea. Get a website through one of the free hosting places, like Freewebs or Tripod. This will start you on the right track. I advise that you visit some of the websites of real nations (we call them "macronations") and see how they are designed, and what elements are included. Look at their national symbols, descriptions of their government, culture, people and so on. Get ideas from them and take your nation's website from there. You may also want to visit existing micronations, and draw ideas from them. Be careful that only draw ideas from them, and not specific items, images, text or formats. Plagiarizing from another nation's website (or any website) is very bad, and you will end up regretting it. Trust me. Sometimes, however, the owner of another website will allow you to "borrow" with permission, and usually with credit given where due. By the way, a message board or a social networking site is not acceptable for your nation's website, not if you wish to be taken seriously. The U.S. Government doesn't conduct it's business via Facebook, does it? Neither should you. Get a real dedicated website.
Once you have a website, and you have ideas of what to put on it, what's next? Well, you need a flag. I chose my nation's flag from among those that already exist, in this case Sierra Leone, and then turned it upside down. I did this so that I would have a real flag to fly outside when ever I wish, without having to sew one from scratch. What flag you choose, though, is really up to you. Your flag should represent your nation. If you never plan on actually flying it, it can look like anything. It is one of many important aspects of your nation, so think about it carefully. Of course, if you're the Grand Poobah of your nation, you can change it at will, but be careful of making too many changes, too often or else you will appear to be a flake. Rapid, frequent changes should be avoided studiously. This will require planning for the future some, but it will pay off diplomatically as your nation appears more stable and doesn't change on a whim.
On to arms. A coat of arms is nice to have, although not essential. If you have limited graphic capability, you may wish to postpone this, but you will need to think of it eventually. Let your arms represent your nation, symbolically. Again, look at other nation's arms and glean your ideas from there.
Other symbols. You can have a national anthem, national bird, national animal, national food, etc. Whatever you think best represents your nation. Look around at other macro- and micronations, get some ideas. You may wish to develop a coherent "theme" for your nation, such as medieval, German or something like that. Your type of government and your culture will reflect that theme. While not essential, a theme for your nation gives it more character and style, and makes it more interesting.
Land. Your nation should possess or at least claim land. I know, not everyone can buy land, but everyone can claim land. It doesn't need to be solely yours, claim land that is publicly owned, like a local park, a nature reserve, that sort of thing. Go there, plant your flag, and claim the land in the name of your nation. Take some pictures and go home and load those pictures onto your website. With a few photos and a land claim you just gave your nation and its website depth and you made it interesting. It changes everything, makes you a nation to be noticed, so go do it!
Activities. Sure you just held the elections for the National Assembly, or you just had a splendid coronation of yourself as Emperor of Bob's Room - now what? More elections? Establish foreign relations with Bob's Bathroom? No, you need to get out in the sun. Go do something in name of your nation. A nation isn't just about it's government, it's about a world of other things, too. How about foreign trade? Make something and trade it for something else from your buddy down the street - voila! Foreign trade, announcement it on your website. How about sports? Go play football (either kind) and announce it on your website. Science? Go explore someplace and, you guessed it, announce it on your website. Here's a thought: That public land you claimed in the preceding paragraph? Get a trash bag and go tidy it up. Take a couple of pictures, and not only put it on your website, but also send the announcement in to your local newspaper. Not only is it good for the environment, it's good publicity for your nation in the real world. And hey, how about appearing in a local parade? Most towns have a parade sometime during the year, go ahead and get your imperial self into it! These are just some ideas, but the overriding concept is there - get away from the computer and your bedroom and get out in the world and do things with your nation!
So, now, to government. Having a government is often the point of a micronation, although not always. As you see from the definitions above, some micronations are political simulations for the purpose of practicing the workings of government. The other extreme would be an absolute monarchy, where the workings of government is in the hands of the king and how things work is based on how he wants things done. In the latter case, government plays a comparatively minor part, and your nation could compensate with an interesting culture or something like that. In the former case, government is all-important and the interaction of the government is the draw for new citizens. Culture, while present, may take a back seat.
Your type of government also reflects how others see your nation. Extreme governments, such as communist or fascist carry with them much psychological baggage. This can affect not only who and what kind of citizen becomes part of your nation. It can also affect the kind of nations that recognize yours and your overall standing in the micronational world. While communist nations can be accepted by the micronational community, for example, fascist nations generally are not, and your nation will almost certainly be an outcast from the beginning if you choose this type of government. Monarchies and republics tend to be more mainstream and garner fewer preconcieved notions.
Speaking of which, acceptance by the community is an often sought-after goal, although it can be very transitory and fickle. Design your nation in a manner that makes you happy, and do it well, and you will naturally make friends. You can't make everyone happy, and anyway, that is not the point.
Which brings us to:
Diplomacy, defined by Webster, is the art or practice of conducting international relations, as in negotiating alliances, treaties and agreements. A second part to that is tact and skill in dealing with people. Diplomacy can be a very big issue for many micronations. Often, when a new nation emerges, while their internal workings are still being formalized, diplomatic relations are eagerly sought after. In this area it is important to take a close look at the nations you are seeking relations with. As I said above, serious nations may avoid relations with new nations, often refusing to open relations at all with those nations that are less serious than them. This can be very subjective. Seek relations with those nations that seem to share similar concepts and ideals with yours. Branch out to other nations as you learn more about the hobby.
When seeking diplomatic relations, begin formally. Do not assume that the person you are speaking to is as informal as you might be, instead, assume the opposite. Use standard mail formats, heading, salutation, body, closing, signature. Later, if an informal relationship develops between you and a micronationalist in another nation, informality is allowed. But communication between two nations should always be formal.
Remember, you represent your nation at all times. NATION. Not a cute little website that you call a nation. If you are going to play the game, play it right. Your purpose, whether serious or not, is to have your own country. Behave that way at all times, as if your nation were real. In this way, you will gain respect from your peers and gain greater standing in the micronational world.
MORE TO COME....
For questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MODEL CONSTITUTION, that may be adapted for micronational use, provided by International Constitutional Law.
SAMPLE DIPLOMATIC LETTER
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF MICRONATIONAL MESSAGE BOARD ETIQUETTE, as drafted by Peter Ravn Rasmussen of the Sovereign Principality of Corvinia
THE SEASTEADING INSTITUTE, whose mission is to establish permanent, autonomous, innovative ocean communities, creating the technology so that micronations can become real.