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Oldest Countries 2024


  • Determining the age of a country is complex, as it can be defined by various historical milestones such as independence, conquest, or the formation of a government.

  • Historical countries like Egypt and China present challenges in defining their 'birth' due to their long, varied histories of governance and territorial changes.

  • The top 10 oldest countries, based on earliest known organized government, include Peru, India, and Pakistan, dating back several millennia.

As strange as it may feel to imagine one's home country ceasing to exist, it's actually quite difficult for a country to survive in the world. The economy must be managed, industry and the environment must both be helped to prosper, infrastructure must be built and maintained, political alliances must be kept healthy ... and a single war or armed conflict can devastate every one of those elements.

Despite these challenges, some of the world's nearly 200 nations have stood the test of time. Although national boundaries, ruling governments, and capital cities have changed, these nations have survived throughout the years, making them the world's oldest countries.

Where do countries come from?

The first step in determining the oldest countries in the world is defining exactly what qualifies as a country. Early city-states such as Ur, Uruk, Athens, Rome, and Chichen Itza were incredibly powerful and influential in their time, but they were not countries as we would consider them today. Similarly, the sprawling empires that often conquered and connected these city-states, such as the Roman Empire in Europe and the Han Dynasty in Asia, would not be considered countries. However, countries can be born from the shattered remains of a collapsed empire.

Although few empires exist in the modern era, new countries are still emerging. This typically happens when a territory secedes from an existing country, such as when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) broke into 25 smaller territories (15 of which became countries) from 1988-92 and ceased to exist.

The challenge of determining national birthdays

Establishing a country's age is not always a simple task. Particularly with older countries, it can be difficult to pinpoint the moment in history when the country officially began. Egypt is an excellent example. Did the country begin in 1922, when the U.K. recognized it as an independent country? Or did it begin in 969, when the Fatimid Caliphate conquered the area and founded the capital city of Cairo? Perhaps it was in 3100 BCE, when the first pharaoh united upper and lower Egypt, creating the First Dynasty? One could easily make a case for any of these dates, as well as several others.

Similarly, the country we know as China is the birthplace of one of Earth’s oldest civilizations, with early evidence of writing that dates back to 7000 BCE and written records of large-scale governments as early as 2070 BCE. However, China’s early history is a series of dynasties in which one warlord or kingdom would conquer the region, then be conquered by another in turn, with the region often fracturing into smaller kingdoms in between. As such, the ruling government and geographical borders of China were in a state of constant flux for thousands of years. Because of this, many historians would say that the country we call China was not born until 1911-1912, when the last feudal dynasty was replaced by a modern republic—in fact, some would move the date clear up to 1949, when the Chinese Civil War ended and China became the communist “Democratic Republic of China,” which we know today.

Other countries with very early evidence of modern habitation include Greece, which has been inhabited by advanced civilization for some 4000 years and whose city of Athens was the first in the world known to have adopted the democratic system, and India, whose first civilization began approximately 10,000 years ago.

Even younger countries can present a confusing case. For example, the United States' official birthday is July 4, 1776, the day the 13 original colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. But it could arguably have been when the first native Americans migrated from Asia thousands of years earlier; when Colombus landed in 1492; when the first pilgrims arrived in 1620; or September 3, 1783, when the American Revolutionary War officially ended and Great Britain formally recognized U.S. independence.

Because of complex scenarios such as these, any list of oldest countries changes significantly depending upon how one defines the birth of a country. For instance, if we consider the beginning of a country to be the date with the earliest known evidence of organized government, the list looks like this:

Top 10 Oldest Countries in the World (by date of earliest known organized government)

Date Sovereignty Acquired
Nigeria1 October 1960
Pakistan14 August 1947
China1600 BC
Indonesia17 August 1945
India2500 BC
Bangladesh26 March 1971
United States4 July 1776
Brazil7 September 1822

For comparison, the following list sorts each country by the date that country is believed to have become a sovereign state:

Top 10 Oldest Countries in the World (by date of self-sovereignty)

  1. Japan - 660 BCE
  2. China - 221 BCE
  3. San Marino - 301 CE
  4. France - 843
  5. Austria - 976
  6. Denmark - 10th century
  7. Hungary - 1001
  8. Portugal - 1143
  9. Mongolia - 1206
  10. Thailand - 1238

Several of the world's oldest cities have been continuously inhabited for thousands of years. Damascus, Syria, is believed to be as old as 10,000 BCE. Other demonstrably ancient cities include Jericho, West Bank (9000 BCE); Plovdiv, Bulgaria (7000 BCE); and Susa, Iran (7000 BCE).

Finally, for those interested in the more recent end of the timeline, the following are the newest countries in the world as of 2021:

Top 10 Youngest Countries in the World (2021):

  1. South Sudan - 2011-07-09
  2. Kosovo (still awaiting full recognition) - 2008-02-17
  3. Serbia - 2006-07-05
  4. Montenegro - 2006-06-03
  5. East Timor - 2002-05-20
  6. Palau - 1994-10-01
  7. Eritrea - 1993-05-20
  8. Slovakia - 1993-01-01 (tie)
  9. Czech Republic - 1993-01-01 (tie)
  10. Bosnia and Herzegovina - 1992-03-03*

It is worth noting that positions 11-30 on the list of newest countries in the world are dominated by the 15 former members of the Soviet Union that became sovereign in 1991, including Uzbekistan, Estonia, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation.

  • It is vital to keep in mind that there is often a vast difference between the date when an organized government first appeared in a country and the date when the earliest modern iteration of that country first established its sovereignty.
  • For example, Egypt's civilization dates back to 3,000 BCE, but modern Egypt was founded in 1922, when the country went from being a UK protectorate to a sovereign state.
  • Similarly, the Romans of Italy were already a major civilization during the time of Christ, approximately 2000 years ago. Yet, modern Italy first attained its sovereignty in 1720, making it barely 50 years older than the United States.
  • In other cases, particularly with older countries, the transition from early city-states and warring tribes and/or empires to full-fledged countries can muddle countries' founding dates.
  • For example, the Kingdom of Colchis in modern-day Georgia dates back to 1500 BCE. However, few archaeologists consider this date to be the founding date of the country because the Colchis people were loosely organized, largely unconnected tribes with no central government. The earliest predecessor of modern Georgia arguably did not arise until the establishment of the Kingdom of Georgia in 1010 CE.
  • Similarly, urban civilization in Afghanistan began as early as 3000 BCE. But many experts consider modern Afghanistan's founding date to be 1747 CE, the year the Durrani Empire established a uniquely Afghan political identity free of the Persian and Mughal empires.

Download Table Data

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Date Sovereignty Acquired
Date Current Form of Government Established
Iran2600 BC3 December 1979
India2500 BC26 January 1950
Luxembourg194523 November 1890
Bhutan188524 March 2008
Greece182111 June 1975
Kuwait175211 November 1962
Afghanistan174715 August 2021
Italy17202 June 1946
China1600 BC4 December 1982
Taiwan1600 BC25 December 1947
Ireland154229 December 1937
Spain14796 December 1978
Turkey129924 June 2018
Monaco129717 December 1962
Switzerland129112 November 1848
Andorra127828 April 1993
Mongolia120612 February 1992
Albania119029 April 1991
Georgia10089 April 1991
Sweden9701 January 1974
Poland9664 June 1989
Denmark9655 June 1953
United Kingdom9278 December 1922
South Korea91829 October 1987
North Korea91825 December 1972
Ethiopia90021 August 1995
Hungary8951 January 2012
Russia88225 December 1993
Ukraine88224 August 1991
Belarus88228 November 1996
Armenia88021 September 1991
Croatia8798 October 1991
Germany84323 May 1949
Morocco78818 November 1955
Serbia7808 June 2006
Iraq76215 October 2005
Bulgaria68110 November 1989
France4814 October 1958
Algeria202 BC19 September 1958
South Africa31 May 19104 February 1997
Uzbekistan31 August 1991
Kyrgyzstan31 August 199110 June 2010
Trinidad and Tobago31 August 1962
Botswana30 September 196630 September 1966
Barbados30 November 1966
DR Congo30 June 196017 May 1997
Vanuatu30 July 1980
Togo30 August 1958
Seychelles29 June 1976
Syria28 September 196127 February 2012
Mauritania28 November 1960
Azerbaijan28 May 191818 October 1991
Peru28 July 182131 December 1993
Egypt28 February 192218 June 1953
Turkmenistan27 October 199128 September 2008
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines27 October 1969
Djibouti27 June 1977
Saint Lucia27 February 1967
Grenada27 February 196730 September 1978
Dominica27 February 19673 November 1978
Saint Kitts and Nevis27 February 1967
Dominican Republic27 February 184428 November 1966
Moldova27 August 199127 August 1997
Eritrea27 April 1993
Sierra Leone27 April 1961
Lebanon26 November 194123 May 1926
Guyana26 May 1966
Bangladesh26 March 19714 November 1972
Maldives26 July 196511 November 1968
Liberia26 July 1847
Netherlands26 July 158115 December 1954
Oman26 January 16501996
Nepal25 September 176828 May 2008
Mali25 November 1958
Jordan25 May 194612 June 2011
Argentina25 May 181010 December 1983
Slovenia25 June 199113 December 1991
Mozambique25 June 197527 October 1994
Uruguay25 August 18258 December 1996
Guinea Bissau24 September 1973
Zambia24 October 1964
Romania24 January 185922 December 1989
Libya24 December 19514 August 2014
Laos22 October 19532 December 1975
Malta21 September 196413 December 1974
Marshall Islands21 October 19861 May 1979
Namibia21 March 1990
Timor Leste20 May 200220 May 2002
Tunisia20 March 195625 July 2022
Colombia20 July 18104 July 1991
Estonia20 August 199124 February 1918
Senegal20 August 1960
Liechtenstein19 October 181316 March 2003
Venezuela19 April 181020 December 1999
Chile18 September 181017 August 1989
Gambia18 February 1965
Qatar18 December 18788 September 1971
Austria17 September 115612 November 1918
New Zealand17 January 18536 February 1840
Gabon17 August 1960
Indonesia17 August 194518 August 1945
Malaysia16 September 196316 September 1963
Mexico16 September 18107 February 1917
Lithuania16 February 191811 March 1990
Kazakhstan16 December 199130 August 1995
Cyprus16 August 196016 August 1960
Guatemala15 September 182131 May 1985
Honduras15 September 182111 January 1982
Nicaragua15 September 18219 January 1987
El Salvador15 September 182116 December 1983
Costa Rica15 September 18217 November 1949
Palestine15 November 19884 May 1994
Suriname15 December 1954
Bahrain15 August 197114 February 2002
Republic of the Congo15 August 1960
Madagascar14 October 1958
Israel14 May 194814 May 1948
Paraguay14 May 181120 June 1992
Pakistan14 August 194714 August 1973
Saudi Arabia13 January 190223 September 1932
Central African Republic13 August 196021 September 0197
Equatorial Guinea12 October 1968
Mauritius12 March 1968
Philippines12 June 18962 February 1987
Kiribati12 July 1979
Sao Tome and Principe12 July 1975
Kenya12 December 1963
Angola11 November 19751975
Zimbabwe11 November 196522 December 1987
Japan11 February 660 BC22 December 1885
Canada11 December 19311 July 1867
Chad11 August 196010 October 2022
Fiji10 October 1970
Cuba10 October 18981 January 1959
Ecuador10 August 180928 September 2008
Tajikistan9 September 1991
Cambodia9 November 195321 September 1993
South Sudan9 July 20119 July 2011
Tanzania9 December 19611 July 1991
North Macedonia8 September 199117 November 1991
Brazil7 September 18225 October 1988
Vatican City7 June 19291274
Bahamas7 January 1964
Eswatini6 September 19688 February 2006
Thailand6 November 17676 April 2017
Ghana6 March 1957
Comoros6 July 1975
Malawi6 July 1964
Finland6 December 191729 March 1809
Jamaica6 August 1962
Bolivia6 August 182525 January 2009
Portugal5 October 11432 April 1976
Cape Verde5 July 19755 July 1975
Burkina Faso5 August 196030 September 2022
Lesotho4 October 1966
Belgium4 October 183021 July 1831
Latvia4 May 19907 November 1922
Tonga4 July 1970
United States4 July 17764 March 1789
Myanmar4 January 19481 February 2021
Sri Lanka4 February 194822 May 1972
Ivory Coast4 December 1973
Niger4 December 1958
Cook Islands4 August 1965
San Marino3 September 3011600
Panama3 Novemebr 190311 October 1972
Micronesia3 November 198610 May 1979
Bosnia and Herzegovina3 March 19923 March 1992
Montenegro3 June 200622 October 2007
Singapore3 June 19659 August 1965
Nauru3 January 1968
Vietnam2 September 19451 January 2014
Guinea2 October 1958
Solomon Islands2 January 1976
United Arab Emirates2 December 1971
Palau1 October 19941 January 1918
Tuvalu1 October 19781 October 1975
Nigeria1 October 1960
Antigua and Barbuda1 November 1981
Yemen1 November 191822 May 1990
Uganda1 March 1962
Samoa1 June 1962
Rwanda1 July 1962
Burundi1 July 196228 November 1966
Somalia1 July 196020 August 2012
Brunei1 January 198412 December 1962
Belize1 January 1964
Cameroon1 January 196020 May 1972
Sudan1 January 195615 April 2010
Australia1 January 19011 January 1901
Haiti1 January 1804March 1987
Papua New Guinea1 December 1973
Iceland1 December 19181 July 1845
Benin1 August 19601 March 1960
Czech RepublicOctober 19181 January 1993
SlovakiaOctober 19181 January 1993
showing: 197 rows

Which country is 5000 years old?

Egypt’s earliest known organized government dates back to 3100 BCE, making it over 5000 years old.

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