Issue 18 Fictional States Summer 2005

Self-Declared Nations: A Portfolio

Geophysical processes make land, but geopolitical machinations make governments. Bedrock conditions—the placement of a river or mountain range, the dimensions of an island—may help to demarcate a country's borders. But a state is also bounded by its history, by the collective beliefs of its inhabitants, and by its relations with tourists, interlopers, regional authorities, and global patterns of information circulation. As regards ideological and symbolic character, then, the sui generis republic or principality might have as strong a claim to statehood as any other. In this selective portfolio of self-declared nations, the jurisdiction of international bodies such as the United Nations and the World Court, along with the self-interest of well-established countries like Australia and Norway, intersect with the private prerogatives of citizens and subjects whose allegiance is, first and foremost, to their own imaginations.

Protesting unfair tax and quota systems; colonizing virgin territory and reclaiming lands disdained by other countries; exploring new models of governance; asserting the right to practice one's own brand of authority: the nations presented here have been founded for reasons that will be familiar to any student of history. And, as with grander nations, the problems encountered by the Hutt River Province Principality, Kymaerica, the Kingdom of Fusa, the NSK State in Time, The Royal Kingdom of Elgaland-Vargaland (KREV), and the New Free State of Caroline (a.k.a. Millennium Island) are no different from those that mark the large-scale history books. Newly discovered traces of indigenous civilizations might tip the balance in a struggle for sovereignty; a rugged individualist might hold out—with the help of a devoted band of followers—against the onslaught of far more powerful adversaries. A fledgling state might swell its population by offering harbor to those in flight from their countries of origin; or a civil experiment might peaceably transform the definition of citizenship and the frontiers of no-man's-land. And, as with any other place whose national culture has been shaped by the artists who conceive of themselves as sons and daughters of the soil, the fictions attached to these states are often indistinguishable from their facts.

Special thanks to Robert Blackson and Peter Coffin for their help in assembling this portfolio. Thanks also to His Imperial Majesty George II of Atlantium for graciously loaning us materials related to Atlantium, Sealand, and Hutt River Province Principality.

Cabinet is published by Immaterial Incorporated, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Cabinet receives generous support from the Lambent Foundation, the Orphiflamme Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Opaline Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Danielson Foundation, the Katchadourian Family Foundation, The Edward C. Wilson and Hesu Coue Wilson Family Fund, and many individuals. All our events are free, the entire content of our many sold-out issues are on our site for free, and we offer our magazine and books at prices that are considerably below cost. Please consider supporting our work by making a tax-deductible donation by visiting here. Thank you for your consideration.