There are 193 states recognised in the United Nations. Even the most remote or isolationist nations of the Earth are represented there.
There are 193 states recognised in the United Nations. Even the most remote or isolationist nations of the Earth are represented there. A look at the map of the world will confirm that almost the entire planet is covered.
However there are countries that no map or atlas will show you. These states are not recognised by many, if any, national governments of recognised nation states.
The most sophisticated run their own governments, tax systems, banks and every other pre-requisite of a functioning country, yet are still unknown and essentially invisible to the rest of the world. Here are five of them.
(Note – The states listed in brackets are merely an indicator of which country the disputed territory is internationally recognised as being in and not an endorsement of any side in the dispute)
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (Cyprus)
This is by far the best known of these breakaway nations. I visited it myself last year and many other Britons have property there.
Northern Cyprus came about in 1974 following a Turkish invasion of the country to protect the Turkish minority on the island following a coup on the island.
The Greek military junta, the only dictatorship in NATO, had orchestrated the coup to install a new head of state who would promote the idea of enosis – the union of Greece and Cyprus. Since most of the population of the island are Greek this did not sit well with the Turks. The two peoples have had a long and often violent history for almost a millennium.
A line, known as the Green Line, was drawn across the island, separating the two parts of the country. Part of it runs right down a former main street in the middle of the divided capital city Nicosia. Although the northern republic is independent, it is recognised only by Turkey.
Although the border remains secure there are now several crossings between the two countries – including one right in the centre of Nicosia. It is not a hard border to cross and the contrast is fascinating between the Western clothing brands and shops on the Greek side and the small Turkish café-bars on the other.
This country is technically part of Azerbaijan, however its majority group has long been ethnic-Armenians. Armenia and Azerbaijan had a war about it in 1920 before both were consumed by the Soviet Union.
Tensions and killing by both sides began to bubble again in the late 80’s as the Soviet Union entered its twilight. All out war broke out soon after and finished in 1994. Nagorno-Karabakh has remained out of the control of the Azeris ever since.
The only way to enter the country is via Armenia and Azerbaijan who refuse to admit anyone to their country who has evidence of visiting either Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh in their passport.
The country runs as a multi-party democracy and has permanent representatives posted in several capital cities across Europe and the Middle East. Despite this it is only recognised by three other nations, all of whom also feature on this list.
South Ossetia (Georgia)
Located in the north of Georgia, the South Ossetians declared independence during the break up of the Soviet Union. A war was fought between 1991 and 1992, resulting in around a thousand deaths.
The situation remained tense until eventually war broke out again in 2008 under hotly disputed circumstances. Russian forces joined the offensive against the Georgians, who were pushed back.
In response Moscow would recognise both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent sovereign states. The two also recognise each other, as do a handful of Latin America and Pacific Island nations.
With the right permits, South Ossetia remains accessible from both Russia and Georgia.
The other breakaway state located in the territory of Georgia, Abkhazia sits on the shores of the Black Sea and is reported to have beautiful, if dilapidated coastal resorts. If you can get there that is.
War between the Abkhazians and the Georgians lasted until 1993 with reports of human rights violations by both sides. There was further fighting during the war of 2008, but not to the extent that occurred in and around South Ossetia.
The country is renowned for the high quality of its wine and, like South Ossetia, is heavily dependent on aid from Russia. Unlike South Ossetia however it is only accessible from Russia, again with the correct permits and visas.
Located in the east of impoverished Moldova, Transnistria is reportedly a throwback to Soviet times. It even retains the much feared KGB.
Wedged between the sovereign territory of Moldova and Ukraine, the country is relatively easy to access from either side, if you’re willing to deal with corrupt border guard.
Like a majority of the states on this list Transnistria came into existence following a low-level conflict with Moldova in 1992. Today it remains protected by a Russian “Peace-keeping force”, as is the case with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Unlike those two states Russia does not recognise it as independent although they have set up a consulate in the capital Tiraspol and, according to the European court of Human Rights, exert considerable influence over the republic.
The country is reputedly a centre of trafficking in all manner of things – from firearms to people. This is of course a headache to its neighbours.
The republic recently made the news during the Russian annexation of Crimea. They had requested formal annexation into Russia themselves. There is no word yet on when or if this will occur, but it would certainly provoke serious international discussion.
Not bad for a country that doesn’t technically exist.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.
(Photo taken by the author, Tom Burnett, June 2013)