Countries That No Longer Exist
The United Nations recognizes 195 countries around the world today. For how long will this list remain the same?
Our global map changes more than you might think. Thanks to geopolitical forces, entire nations come and go. In 2019, the global community welcomed North Macedonia, a successor state to the former Yugoslavia that was previously known as the Republic of Macedonia. And that's to say nothing of places, like Tibet, whose very status as a nation is in dispute.
Then, there are countries, republics and regions that, quite literally, have fallen off the map. Some changed names. Others were split into separate entities. Many lost their sovereignty after being taken over by another country. In any case, none are recognized by the international community as existing nations.
History-buff world travelers, take note. These are the countries that no longer exist.
The Republic of Anguilla wasn't a country for long. For about two years, from July 1967 until March 1969, the island of Anguilla formed its own independent state. It was never completely recognized by Britain, however.
In February 1967, Britain granted the territory of Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla the title of "associated state." This gave the island of Anguilla the power to write its own constitution and self-govern, for the most part, but under the political rule of Saint Kitts. The people of Anguilla weren't thrilled and responded by kicking all the Saint Kitts police officers off the island.
Anguilla declared its independence, but the island's leadership was too fractured to hold up long-term. The British took control once more on March 19, 1969, after arriving with a military force of 300. It was reclaimed peacefully, and Anguilla was eventually allowed to become an individual British dependency separate from Saint Kitts. Ironically, both Saint Kitts and Nevis both became independent of Britain in 1983, while Anguilla did not.
The name Bengal usually makes us think of either tigers or cats, but it was once an independent kingdom in Asia. It was around from 1338 to 1539, functioning as a leading regional empire with massive trade networks.
Bengals were known for traveling the seas with their sizable military forces, and Europeans considered them to be wonderfully wealthy trade partners. Though the climate was painfully hot, the Bengal kingdom produced an abundance of silk, cotton and building materials. Their living standard during the 16th and 17th century was among the highest in the world.
After the area was taken over by the British East India Company in 1757, it became the Bengal Presidency of the British Raj. The British proceeded to tax Bengal so heavily that multiple famines ensued from the 1770s through the 1940s. The area was later divided up into two separate countries: Bangladesh and India.
Bohemia, pictured here in red, was also known as the Czech Kingdom. It was an early modern monarchy in Europe, and it's essentially the grandmother of the current Czech Republic.
It began as a state in the Holy Roman Empire, and it was ruled by a series of kings. The area controlled by the Kingdom of Bohemia shifted over the centuries, but it primarily included Moravia, Silesia and Lusatia, along with portions of Bavaria, Brandenburg and Saxony. Many of its kings were also elected Holy Roman Emperors.
When the Holy Roman Empire was disbanded in 1806, Bohemia became part of the Hapsburg Empire. It kept its name and independence until 1918. After World War I, the Kingdom of Bohemia was dissolved and became the center of the brand-new Czechoslovak Republic. Even today, the Czech language is very similar to the language spoken in old-world Bohemia.
The Kingdom of Bora Bora, an independent Polynesian state, started during the early 1800s. It was first recognized officially in 1847 during the Jarnac Convention.
It was in the same general department as other islands in the area, including Tahiti, Huahine and Raiatea. All the islands were culturally tied, sharing similar languages and rulers tied by marriage.
The Kingdom of Bora Bora didn't merely include the island of Bora Bora, but also the islands of Tupai, Maupihaa, Maupiti, Manuae and Motu One. Bora Bora was annexed to France in 1888, with its final queen, Teriimaevarua III, forced to step down in 1895.
Ever heard of a Burmese python? The massive snakes were originally found in the country of Burma, but Burma no longer exists. It was once a British colony, but it became an independent nation in 1948 called the Union of Burma.
Most other former British colonies became members of the British Commonwealth. Burma, however, set up a bicameral parliament, including a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Nationalities. Some ethnic groups within the country pushed for federalism, however, and the military staged a coup in 1962.
In 1989, Burma's name was officially changed to Myanmar. In effect, it's the same country, just with a different name.
When King Moshoeshoe I asked the British for help in fighting off invaders in the 19th century, it’s unlikely he expected them to colonize his lands.
But that’s exactly what happened.
In 1868, Basutoland, until then an independent African Kingdom, became a British colony renamed the Territory of Basutoland. The kingdom remained intact for the next 100 years, until it gained independence from Britain in 1966 and became Lesotho.
Today, Lesotho is ruled by a constitutional monarchy, complete with a royal family. Along with the Vatican and San Marino, it is one of only three countries in the world to be completely surrounded by another country, in this case South Africa.
Californians have talked about starting their own country, but no one has given the idea much credence. In 1846, however, California actually was a country of its own.
The California Republic, also known as the Bear Flag Republic, was a rebel state from Mexico. It was launched by 33 American immigrants who were upset that they hadn't been permitted to buy or rent land and had been threatened with deportation, even though none of them had been legally admitted into the country.
The Mexican government was anxious about the uprising due to the concurrent outbreak of the Mexican-American War, but the California Republic wasn't much of a threat. Although its leaders did elect military officers, that's as far as they got. The republic lasted for less than a month. California's only reminder of its rebellious predecessors can be found on the state's flag, which still features the same California grizzly bear that appeared on the California Republic's flag.
Fun fact: Michael Ondaatje, the famous author of "The English Patient," is from Ceylon — a country that no longer exists.
The history of this island-state dates back to the late sixth century B.C., when the Sinhalese arrived. That group lived peacefully on the land until a southern Indian dynasty seized power and established the Tamil kingdom in the 15th century.
But the conquering was far from over: Over the next two centuries, Ceylon was occupied by the Portuguese and then the Dutch, until ceding to British control in 1796. The Brits ruled until Ceylon became independent in 1948.
Finally, in 1972, the nation-state adopted the name Sri Lanka, meaning "great and beautiful island," which – of course – it still goes by today.
This fascinating history has made Sri Lanka one of the world’s most culturally diverse nations. Three languages are used in the country: Sinhalese, Tamil and, because of its British rule, English. Britain’s influence is also seen in one of Sri Lanka’s most popular sports: cricket.
The Cherokee Nation was an official tribal government in North America that was recognized until 1907. It was located in what's now the state of Oklahoma. Its people usually referred to it as "The Nation," and it had strong cultural roots that were virtually obliterated by the United States.
Before Oklahoma became a state, the Cherokee Nation's land rights were snuffed out, and the Cherokee people were forced to reorganize elsewhere. In some cases, Cherokee people were taken as slaves, although they were later emancipated after the Civil War. All Cherokee people were then considered U.S. citizens.
Recently, on July 9, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that certain Native American nations, including the Cherokee Nation, had never actually been disestablished.
After the end of World War I in 1918, Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia were combined in Central Europe to form Czechoslovakia.
From 1939 to 1945, it was partially incorporated into Nazi Germany and ceased to exist as a state, though its government-in-exile remained in operation. During the Cold War, it became part of the Eastern Bloc.
It was the birthplace of numerous important literary figures, including Milan Kundera, author of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," and playwright Tom Stoppard.
In 1989, Communist rule came to an end following the Velvet Revolution. Shortly after, in 1993, Czechoslovakia was split into two countries: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Both are today thriving nations with superb historical attractions thanks to their past lives. Wenceslas Square in Prague, Czech Republic, for example, was the site of the reading of the Proclamation of Independence of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and makes for an excellent addition to a travel itinerary.
East Germany and West Germany
It's almost hard to fathom how Germany – today a thriving unified nation – was starkly divided not too long ago.
As every schoolchild knows, following WWII, Germany was divided into two independent countries – East Germany and West Germany – with the Soviets occupying the East, and the U.S. and other Allied forces the West. In 1961, the construction of the Berlin Wall solidified this division, standing as a powerful symbol of global conflict.
It took nearly 30 years for the wall to finally be abolished, in 1990, and for reunification to happen, helping to usher in the end of the Cold War.
Today, a visit to Berlin promises a fascinating glimpse into this history. The East Side Gallery, a portion of the wall featuring over 100 large-format paintings, serves as a stunning symbol of hope and is not to be missed.
El Stronato technically still exists, but today, it's called Paraguay. The name El Stronato only lasted for a period of 35 years between 1954 and 1989 when the country was ruled by a dictator called Alfredo Stroessner.
Originally a Paraguayan Army officer, he led a coup against former leader Federico Chavez. He then won an "election" in which he was the only candidate. Despite oppressing the Paraguayan people for years, the United States supported him because of his stance against communism.
El Stronato was a country marked by few civil liberties, the torture of political opponents and lots of repression. During Stroessner's eight consecutive terms, he offered exile to war criminals and dictators alike. In 1989, he was finally overthrown by his former confidant, General Andrés Rodríguez, and went into exile in Brazil. The country was renamed Paraguay immediately after.
Where Colombia, Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador now exist, there once was a larger country known as Gran Colombia. It only existed from 1819 to 1830, but it was fairly powerful while it did. It was the largest country in Spanish America, but European countries opposed its territory claims.
Its constitution defined it as a unitary centralist state, but its people were divided. Some wanted a centralized government while others wanted a decentralized, federal model. Others wanted to break the country up into smaller republics. Those who wanted a stronger presidency were headed by President Simón Bolívar, who is still known as a national icon.
Gran Colombia fell apart in 1831 due to the substantial political discord between the two schools of thought, along with regional tensions. It broke into Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, with Panama later separating from Colombia as well.
Hawaii was a country of its own for centuries, known as the Kingdom of Hawaii. It wasn't officially recognized as an independent nation, however, until the 1840s. Two families ruled Hawaii, known as the House of Kamehameha and the House of Kalakaua. They traded with many modern nations, and the United States was it's primary partner in trade for years.
The kingdom wasn't completely at peace, unfortunately. A group of anti-monarchist militiamen called the Honolulu Rifles forced King Kalakaua to sign a new constitution in 1887.
The country was annexed to the United States in 1898. His successor, Queen Liliuokalani, tried to promote another new constitution, but she was overthrown by the Committee of Safety. The Committee of Safety was comprised of both Hawaiian subjects and foreign settlers, including many Americans.
Hawaii was annexed by the U.S. in 1898, creating the Territory of Hawaii. The U.S. later apologized to the native Hawaiian people for annexing the kingdom without the people ever directly relinquishing claims to their sovereignty.
What do the concept of time, math and the wheel have in common? All were born in Mesopotamia, a region that, at various times, encompassed many different ancient nations.
The name "Mesopotamia" roughly translates to "between two rivers," a nod to its location within the Tigris-Euphrates river system. The region's roots run deep. It dates back to the very beginning of written history, circa 3100 B.C.
Its most famous city and capital, Babylonia, is considered the birthplace of literature and writing, and was home to mythical hanging gardens listed among the world's Seven Wonders.
The region fell around the seventh century A.D. Today, its land is occupied by modern-day eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and most of Iraq.
In recent years, Iraq has opened up some ancient Babylonian ruins to visitors. But only about 2 percent of the ancient city has been excavated.
Once upon a time, there was a minuscule country in Europe not much bigger than a square mile called Neutral Moresnet. It had its own flag and currency, but most importantly, it had Vielle Montagne, one of only two zinc mines on the continent.
After Napoleon’s Empire fell in 1814, the victors carved up his domain. The United Kingdoms of the Netherlands and Prussia couldn’t agree on this tiny village straddling both their lands, so in 1815, they declared it a co-owned state.
In 1830, Belgium took over from the Netherlands. When zinc ran out in the late 19th century, there were efforts to generate money from casinos and the issuing of commemorative stamps. But nothing stuck. Even an attempt by local Wilhelm Molly to establish Neutral Moresnet as the first Esperanto-speaking nation failed.
When Prussia lost out in World War I, the country became part of Belgium.
Newfoundland still exists, but along with neighboring Labrador, it’s now part of a Canadian province. Before joining Canada, it was actually its own independent nation.
The island, which was first peopled by the Beothuk Indians, was discovered by the Vikings in the late 10th century A.D. Around 1600, the Europeans followed in their path, seeking out the rich fishing waters of the icy Atlantic. A disparate group of Scottish, French, Irish and English settlers established independent outposts on the land, which were combined in 1907 to form a self-governing independent country called the Dominion of Newfoundland.
After the Great Depression left the nation’s economy in tatters, it voluntarily reverted to a British colony in 1934. Finally, in 1949, it became part of Canada.
Today, although its waters have been greatly depleted of the cod stocks that originally fueled the local economy, Newfoundland remains well-known for its caviar and ecotourism ventures.
The New Kingdom of Granada, or New Granada, was a collection of Spanish colonial provinces in South America. It was originally a segment of the Viceroyalty of Peru, but a separate kingdom was established in 1549 called the Audiencia of Santa Fe. In 1717, it became part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada.
There were some later attempts to define independent states, but eventually, the kingdom and viceroyalty melded into one and became the United Provinces of New Granada. The region was reconquered by Spain in 1816, bringing New Granada to an end.
The Ottoman Empire was a country that governed a sizeable portion of Southeastern Europe, Asia, and Africa from the 14th through 20th centuries. Also known as the Turkish Empire, it was founded around 1300 A.D. by a Turkish tribal leader named Osman I.
In 1354, the Ottomans took over the Balkans and became a transcontinental empire. They were also responsible for bringing down the Byzantine Empire. Eventually, the Ottoman Empire included the regions that are now known as Russia, Hungary, Turkey, northern Africa, and much of the Middle East.
Its power slowly weakened over the centuries. It died out completely in 1923 post-World War I when Turkey declared its independence.
Persia technically still exists, but today it's called Iran. The Persian Empire reached all the way from the Mediterranean Sea to India. The first Persian Empire was one of the largest in human history. It was run by Cyrus the Great starting in 550 B.C.
For over 200 years, the Persian Empire flourished as a hub of human endeavor. Art, science, technology and culture bloomed. The empire was then conquered by Alexander the Great, but the Persian Empire continued in a series of dynasties spanning several centuries.
It wasn't until about 1935 that Persia became known as Iran. Technically, Iran is just a formal name for Persia, but since most people don't know the country's lengthy roots, we counted it.
The Kingdom of Prussia dates back as far as the Middle Ages and remained in existence until 1947. Although it was named after the region of Prussia, it was a German Kingdom that at its peak included more than half of modern-day Germany and all of what is now Western Poland, as well as some of present-day France, Belgium, Denmark and Lithuania.
Prussia came to greatness under the rule of Frederick II in the 18th century when it was still a Kingdom made up of independent principalities. These had the same status of countries, much like the four countries that make up the United Kingdom today.
The Kingdom survived through wars against Napoleon, the Danes, Austrians and the French. But the 20th-century world wars were its downfall. When Germany was defeated in World War I, the Prussian monarchy ended. After allies took control of Germany following World War II, Prussia's land was divvied up and the once-dominant state was fully abolished.
Although Prussia no longer exists as an independent territory, the royal title lives on in the person of Prince Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, a monarch without a kingdom to rule. He now resides in Hohenzollern Castle in Bisingen, Germany.
In 1948, as the story goes, a footprint of the Yeti (better known as the Abominable Snowman) was found high in the snow-covered Eastern Himalayas. Whether the elusive creature actually made an appearance here remains up for debate. What’s not up for debate is the existence of the country where it was reportedly seen.
At the time, this area was the Kingdom of Sikkim, established as a sovereign monarchy in 1642. It became an Indian protectorate in 1950 and merged with India after a referendum in 1975.
Today, the population in this part of modern-day India is a mix of Nepalese, Tibetan and Hindi-speaking peoples, as well as native Sikkimese. These original inhabitants worship the mountains as gods and believe Sikkim was the seat of the chogyal, temporal and spiritual kings who continue to rule their world.
The small limestone island of Tavolara off the northeast coast of Sardinia was once the smallest kingdom in the world. Just under four miles long and a bit over half a mile wide, it was discovered by Giuseppe Bertoleoni in the late 18th century. He immediately proclaimed himself king, and that title has been handed down through the generations – even though the dominion has never been legally recognized.
The current king, Bertoleoni’s great-great-grandson Antonio, runs the island’s only restaurant. It’s popular with visitors coming to the island to dive in waters rich in marine life. Some are lucky enough to spot a Pinna nobilis, a rare giant clam.
Tavolara is now part of a protected Italian national marine reserve, with other sections of the island zoned for military use and owned by NATO.
As far as countries go, the United States isn't very old. Less than 200 years ago, Texas wasn't even a state. The Republic of Texas was originally part of Mexico. It declared independence during the Texas Revolution in 1835. Although Mexico didn't take the new country seriously, but the U.S. acknowledged it as an independent country in early 1837.
The citizens of Texas weren't called Texans, but Texians. Their exact border was disputed for years, with Texas claiming that the Rio Grande was its southern border. In the end, it didn't matter much. Texas only remained an independent nation for about a decade.
On Dec. 29, 1845, the United States annexed Texas, welcoming it as the 28th state. Texas's border dispute became Uncle Sam's problem, sparking the Mexican-American War the following year.
Tibet is a region in East Asia that covered a large segment of the Tibetan Plateau. It's considered the homeland of the Tibetan people, along with several other ethnic groups. The Sherpas, who are known for guiding Western hikers through the perils of Mount Everest, still live in the region.
Perched amid the Himalayas, Tibet is the highest settled area on Earth with an average elevation of 14,000 feet. From the seventh century on, Tibet was an independent nation. In 1950, however, it was invaded by China. The country was occupied and incorporated into the People's Republic of China. Although Tibet attempted to rebel, their government was formally abolished in 1959. It's now known as the Xizang Autonomous Region of China.
There's still some measure of political discord in the area, with reports of Tibetan activists being subjected to torture and uncalled-for arrests. Today, Tibet's dominant religion of Buddhism influences the culture and art of the region. If you ever visit the area formerly known as Tibet, you'll probably have a chance to try yak meat and butter tea, two of their most popular dishes.
Tripoli, the capital of present-day Libya, takes its name from what was once an independent republic with a long, messy history.
Bounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Steppes of Ghibla, the Jebel mountain range and the desert of Giofra, Tripolitania covered an area of around 500 miles. The Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs and many others had a go at controlling Tripolatinia before the Ottomans claimed it as part of their Empire in the 16th century.
In 1711, the local governor Ahmad Karamanli was recognized as a hereditary pasha, a title inherited by birth, and his dynasty ruled until around 1835. After the Italo-Turkish War broke out, the territory was handed over to Italy in 1912. The Italians wanted more territory and encouraged Italian nationals to migrate.
By 1939, Tripolitania was no longer a separate state. It became part of the Italian colony of Libya, with Tripoli as its center.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, better known as the Soviet Union, was a powerful socialist state that took up a large portion of Europe and Asia for nearly 70 years. It first formed in 1922, and it quickly became the most powerful communist country on the planet.
Considered a global superpower, the USSR had the largest military in the world and the second-largest economy. It was responsible for numerous advances in science and technology, particularly in space travel, and was noted as one of the five nuclear weapons states. It was so large and powerful that it was sometimes called the "Soviet Empire."
It dissolved in 1991 after years of political turmoil, breaking into 15 separate countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldovia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Not many people know that, for a brief time between 1777 and 1791, the U.S. state of Vermont was an independent country.
After a series of land-grant battles in the early 1700s, the people living in the Vermont territory declared their independence and established the Vermont Republic. They issued their own currency, initiated and paid for their own militia, ran their own postal service, and drafted a constitution. All adult males, not just the upper class and property-owning ones, were granted the right to vote, and slavery was abolished.
After 14 years as a separate country, Vermont was granted entry into the Union of states. It was the first actual state to enter the U.S., joining the 13 colonies already included.
Yugoslavia is commonly associated with communist dictator Josip Tito, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914 and a brutal civil war in the 1990s. What fewer people know is that, at one time, Yugoslavia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The region has, in fact, gone through many iterations, including the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes starting in 1918, and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia beginning in 1929.
After World War II, the region was arranged as a federation of six republics – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia – based on ethnic and historic lines. Yugoslavia was relatively stable under the iron grip of communist and revolutionary statesman Josip Broz Tito, but ethnic tensions simmered. When Tito died in 1980, there was no one to stamp out the fire and a civil war broke out, with repercussions that are still being felt today.
By 1992 only Serbia and Montenegro remained in what was called "the third Yugoslavia." Everywhere else had broken away after many bloody conflicts. In 2003, the name Yugoslavia was ditched, and the region became the country of Serbia and Montenegro.
Finally, in 2006 – just 13 years ago – Serbia and Montenegro became independent countries, which they remain today. Both are relatively safe to visit (Montenegro especially) and are excellent spots for history lovers to travel to.
The small tropical island of Zanzibar has a big history.
In the 1500s, the Portuguese converted it to Christianity, which remained the dominant religion until the Muslims of Oman pushed back in the 17th century. By the 19th century, Zanzibar was full of majestic palaces built for Said bin Sultan, and the economy thrived on the sale of cloves, sugar and slaves.
Then, the British came to end slavery and explore what they called "deepest darkest Africa." In August 1885, the Germans sailed into the Zanzibar lagoon and demanded their share, leaving the Sultanate with only a 10-mile strip of coast. That and the rest of the island became a British protectorate in 1890.
For one brief period of time in December 1963, Zanzibar was a fully independent state. A month later, a communist-led revolution saw Zanzibar merge with neighboring Tanganyika in the United Republic of Tanzania.