Posts Tagged ‘abkhazia’

Limbo World: Countries that don’t actually exist (Foreign Policy)

Friday, January 8th, 2010

KURDISTAN: A shepherd tends to his flock in Iraqi Kurdistan. Few would-be countries have reached a happier state of limbo than this relatively stable Iraqi region.

[Editor's note: I discovered a dozen or so "countries" working on Natural Earth that exist on the ground but hardly any other nation recognizes. This article from Foreign Policy give you an arm-chair geographer's guide to several.]

Republished from Foreign Policy (which is a The Washington Post media holding)
BY GRAEME WOOD
| JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2010

They start by acting like real countries, then hope to become them.

On my most recent visit to the Republic of Abkhazia, a country that does not exist, I interviewed the deputy foreign minister, Maxim Gundjia, about the foreign trade his country doesn’t have with the real countries that surround it on the Black Sea. Near the end of our chat, he paused, looked down at my leg, and asked why I was bleeding on his floor. I told him I had slipped a few hours before and ripped a hole in my shin, down to the bone, about the size of a one-ruble coin. Blood had soaked through the gauze, and I needed stitches. “You can go to our hospital, but you will be shocked by the conditions,” Gundjia said. So he pointed me to the building next door, where in about 20 minutes I had my leg propped up on a dark wooden desk and was wincing at the sting of a vigorous alcohol-swabbing by the health minister himself. I was not accustomed to such personalized government service. Fake countries have to try harder, I thought, and wondered whether it would be pressing my luck to ask for the finance minister to personally refund my vat and for the transportation minister to confirm my bus ticket back to Georgia, which is to say, back to reality.

Abkhazia, along with a dozen or so other quasi-countries teetering on the brink of statehood, is in the international community’s prenatal ward. If present and past suggest the future, most such embryonic countries will end stillborn, but not for lack of trying. The totems of statehood are everywhere in these wannabe states: offices filled with functionaries in neckties, miniature desk flags, stationery with national logos, and, of course, piles of real bureaucratic paperwork — all designed to convince foreign visitors like me that international recognition is deserved and inevitable. Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian separatist enclave within Azerbaijan, issues visas with fancy holograms and difficult-to-forge printing. Somaliland, the comparatively serene republic split from war-wasted Somalia, prints its own official-looking currency, the Somaliland shilling, whose smallest denomination is so worthless that to bring cash to restock their safes, money-changers need to use draft animals.

These quasi-states — which range from decades-old international flashpoints like Palestine, Northern Cyprus, and Taiwan to more obscure enclaves like Transnistria, Western Sahara, Puntland, Iraqi Kurdistan, and South Ossetia — control their own territory and operate at least semifunctional governments, yet lack meaningful recognition. Call them Limbo World.

Continue reading at Foreign Policy . . .

Greenland Gains Self-Government from the Kingdom of Denmark, Kinda (Economist)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

2609ww2[Editor's note: What is a country? A nation? A nation-state? By some counts, there are about 195 "countries" or 194 (US State Department) in the world, but by others like the ISO and United Nations, about 245 which includes extra "regions" for statistical reasons or FIPS code assignments. The World Bank (2) says 186 or 210. How can there be such a wide spectrum of valid answers? The issue is complicated by historic colonial relationships with overseas dependencies and affiliated political administrative units, and by the non-uniform way different "countries" sub-divide themselves.

For instance, France considers all it's "dependencies" unitary parts of France, while the U.S. does not view it's own territories equal to states vis-a-vis constitutional rights. But some unitary parts of France outside mainland Europe get treated differently from Metropolitan France by the European Union (they don't necessarily get an E.U. passport).

This week, Greenland steps closer to becoming one of the club of 195 "countries" in the world, but really it's just getting more quasi-self-government (sticking in the 245 bracket) within the Kingdom of Denmark's administrative umbrella (which is and is not the same as the "country" of Denmark) for defense and foreign policy.

The higher number doesn't even address sub-national semi-autonomous entities like the United Kingdom's England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland which fall somewhere between what we in the U.S. think of as "states" and "provinces" (1st order admin units) and those top level countries and nations. Nor does it address disputed or break away regions like Abkhazia.

For Natural Earth Vector, we will include groupings at both "top-level" views (about 195 and 245), and at the 1st order admin (state, province, over 3,000). We will also include a sample of sub-national areas and disputed, breakaway areas.]

Republished from the Economist.

Two tonnes of rare whale meat were distributed in Greenland as part of celebrations to mark the start of an era of self-government. After nearly three centuries of rule by Denmark, Greenland’s 56,000 people will gradually take control of most domestic affairs, although defence and foreign policy remain in Danish hands. Greenlandic is now the official language. Photo by: Adam Roberts.

Continue reading related story, “Greenland’s future: Divorce up north?” from Nov. 27, 2008 . . .