A micronation is a recently self-proclaimed state that is not officially recognized by a supranational body, such as the United Nations. It is not the same as a microstate, which is a tiny country that has its own formally known government (such as the Vatican or the South Pacific country of Tuvalu). Instead, a micronation claims independence but is not recognized as an independent state and is unable to engage in its own trade with other recognized states. They are usually short-lived, lasting for only a few hours to a couple of years, and are often the product of one individual or group claiming sovereignty.
Micronations claim land for themselves, often in support of libertarian values or in protest against an unpopular government move, and may even issue their own currency and passports to “citizens.” However, these passports and money are not recognized by other sovereign states and are of no value outside of the micronation.
The Republic of Minerva was an attempt to build a libertarian haven on a human-made island near Fiji in 1972. The island was soon destroyed in a takeover by the nearby country of Tonga. The Free Republic of Liberland is another attempt at creating a libertarian haven, this time in Eastern Europe on the border of Croatia and Serbia. No country recognizes it formally except for Somaliland, an autonomous region in Somalia.
Some micronations are created by people who believe that they have a historical claim to the land. For example, the Crown Dependency of Forvik in Scotland is a micronation based on the claim that the area, located in the Shetland Islands, does not legally belong to the United Kingdom.
Other micronations are created in protest against government policies. For example, the Principality of Hutt River, located in Australia, was established in 1970 by Leonard Casley in protest against wheat production quotas.
Some micronations have become sites of tourism and merchandise sales, such as the Conch Republic in Key West, Florida. The airport in Key West even boasts a sign saying “Welcome to the Conch Republic,” even though the micronation never attained formal recognition. Tourists buy t-shirts and other merchandise to celebrate the micronation, mostly as a gimmick.
The internet has somewhat changed the face of micronations, as people are applying global communications technology to concerns about national borders and issues of statelessness. Bit Nation was an attempt to create an international country without any boundaries, and it even issued passports to people who applied to become citizens.