The United Nations currently recognizes 193 countries as well as two observer states—and FIFA recognizes a full 211 member nations—yet new countries continue to be born. Most often, new countries form when an established country splits or dissolves. Other times, new countries are former territories that have become independent from their mother/host country, establishing themselves as new sovereign nations. In the past 40 years alone, 34 new countries have been recognized by the United Nations, which is widely regarded as the final step of becoming a fully realized country. The newest nation in the world as of early 2022 is South Sudan, which split from Sudan in 2011. However, it may not hold the title for long. The Pacific island of Bougainville voted in 2021 to separate from Papua New Guinea by 2027, and several additional territories and unrecognized countries are well on their way to achieving independence themselves.
Top 5 Newest Countries in the World (plus one waiting in the wings):
- South Sudan — split from Sudan in 2011
- Kosovo (partially recognized) — seceded from Serbia in 2008, not yet fully recognized by United Nations
- Montenegro — separated from Serbia in 2006
- East Timor — gained independenced from Indonesia in 1975
- Serbia — separated from Montenegro in 2000
- Palau — graduated from U.N. Trust program in 1994
The fall of the Soviet Union and the new country boom of 1991-1993
The period from 1991-1993 witnessed the birth of some two dozen nations, thanks in large part to one singular event: The dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). Starting in 1988 and ending in 1991, the communist superpower splintered into 15 new countries, all of which joined the U.N. between 1991 and 1993. The Soviet collapse also had a domino effect upon nearby communist countries. Czechoslovakia joined the list of countries that no longer exist by separating into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and Yugoslavia fractured into five smaller nations—one of which (the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, later renamed to Serbia and Montenegro), split again in the early 2000s. Another potential split is currently stalled: The sovereign territory of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 but has not yet been recognized by enough United Nations members to be considered fully independent.
New Countries Born from the Dissolution of the U.S.S.R.:
New Countries Born from the Dissolution of Yugoslavia:
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Croatia|
Additional countries established in the early 1990s
While the former communist nations make up the majority of countries founded between 1991-1993, several additional countries were also established during that time which have their own, unrelated origins. For example, the African country of Namibia won its long battle to break free of South Africa's rule and joined the U.N. in 1990. Similarly, Eritrea was admitted to the United Nations in 1993, having endured a 30-year war of independence against Ethiopia. Pacific island countries the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia enjoyed a more peacful path, both achieving full independence in 1991 after having been nurtured (along with the aforementioned Palau) by the United States and the United Nations.
Perhaps the most widely known country established during this period is also the most familiar: Germany. Originally established in its modern form in 1871 (not quite one of the world's oldest countries, but a mature age nonetheless), Germany had split into communist East Germany and democratic West Germany in 1949, in the aftermath of World War II. However, the famous Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989 and the two halves of Germany were formally reunified in 1990. Many scholars understandably consider Germany's reunification a return to form rather than the establishment of an entirely new country. However, few question the newness of the Middle Eastern country Yemen, which was formed in 1990 by the merging of two pre-existing nations, South Yemen and the Yemen Arab Republic.