There are about 190 countries today, depending on how other countries recognize those countries. Several countries claim to be sovereign, and some even have their own governments. However, they are not recognized internationally, or may only be accepted minimally, and many think that they do not exist.
The first, and perhaps most significant, unrecognized country is Palestine. Jewish people had long claimed the land of Palestine – the historic area of Israel before the diaspora that began in the first century – as their ancestral home. The only problem is that people were living there! A movement for the Jews to be able to return to Palestine and form their own state, known as Zionism, gained traction in the late 1800s, particularly in the face of widespread oppression and persecution of Jews who lived in Europe. That persecution culminated in the tragedy of the Holocaust, after which many Jews migrated to Palestine. An ensuing war between Jews and Palestinians led to what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe, in which they were forcibly displaced from their homes. Today, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza have their own governments and are pressing for international recognition of statehood. However, their efforts are stymied by governments who believe that only Jews have the right to live in the land of Palestine.
Another important one that you may not have heard of but which fuels much political debate today is Kurdistan. The Kurdish people – who have their own language, religious practices, and other cultural norms – live primarily in a swathe of land that covers parts of Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. In some places, such as northern Iraq, they have their own government, while in other areas, such as Turkey, they are subject to brutal repression by the Turkish government. Calls to recognize Kurdistan’s country could lead to peace between the Kurds and governments that attempt to eradicate them. However, as with Palestine, those calls are mostly unheeded.
In 2017, the region of Catalonia, part of Spain, declared independence, which has long been a goal of many Catalan people. The effort was short-lived, and the country did not receive international recognition. However, Spain’s treatment of the Catalan independence movement received widespread condemnation, especially since it imprisoned many of the leaders who sought independence.
There are many other unrecognized countries throughout the world, and there tends to be political turmoil over their status.