Some Countries That I Used To Know

The modern international system is built, in part, on two ideas that turned out to be in tension: Borders are sacrosanct and people determine their own political status.

The former was meant to put an end to war by discouraging invasion or separatist rebellion. The latter was meant to protect citizens from dictators or occupiers. But when a subset of a population decides to break off, those two principles collide.

This has opened a vacuum in the international system when it comes to declaring independence. Neither norms nor the law are particularly clear on how or when it’s permissible.

Max Fisher and Amanda Taub for The New York Times

One of the more perplexing arguments against independence movements is the notion of stability, that we simply can’t be doing with all this map-altering border-scribbling changes for no good reason. After all, the nations we know today have persisted for decade, even centuries: why fix what isn’t broken? Such comments are usually cast with the unspoken belief that secession is inherently bad – it’s a “problem,” a “threat to the European Order,” “economically costly,” and “incredibly dangerous to the stability of nations.” It’s more of the same story, of states protecting their power and privilege in fear of the people making decisions that might jeopardise those things.

Perhaps if the appearance of newly-independent states was a rare thing, they would have a point. But in the last 30 years or so, just as many nations have gained their independence, formed and broken unions, redrawn their borders, and even disappeared entirely. Maps had to be redrawn; globes of the world replaced; dictionaries and encyclopedias and gazetteers republished.

Today is my 34th birthday. As an experiment, I thought I’d have a look at Europe from 1984 to the present day, with images taken from a popular video that’s been doing the rounds. No doubt it will be very basic, & one’s definition of international recognition or even of “nation” will vary, but I think it’s an interesting exercise.

1984

I was born on the 7th of March, during a rare heatwave. This was the state of the world when I awoke. Much of Western Europe was part of the European Economic Community, while many modern nations were part of the Eastern Bloc & USSR: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania’s status in particular being disputed since 1940. The comparatively recent nation of Germany had been divided in three for 35 years (West Germany, East Germany, and West Berlin). Terrorism plagues the UK and Spain. A few weeks before I was born, the United Republic of Cameroon dropped the “United” from its name, while the Republic of Upper Volta renamed itself Burkina Faso.

Yet a whole three months before I was born, an independent nation came into being: the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace celebrated its first day of independence from the British Empire on New Year’s Day. Brunei, a nation with a long and proud heritage, has flourished in the 34 years since.

Newly Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei

1985

I made it to my first birthday; the Internet Domain Name & New Coke make their debuts; Gibraltar’s borders opened up for the first time since Franco’s day; most shocking of all, Roland Rat invaded the BBC. Not much has changed in terms of borders. There had, however, been a change in names in October: the nation known internationally in English as Republic of Ivory Coast formally requested it be referred to as the Côte d’Ivoire; the Democratic Republic of Sudan dropped the “Democratic” part of the name following the suspension of its constitution; Saint Pierre and Miquelon became a Territorial Collective of France; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands were no longer Falkland Island Dependencies following the Argentinian invasion; Greenland withdrew from the European Economic Community following its 1982 referendum.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei

1986

I’m a terrible 2. The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia declared independence from the United States of America as part of the Compact of Free Association. In addition, the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya became the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya; the Sarbat Khalsa at the Akaal Takht declared the (still unrecognised) independent state of Khalistan; Aruba seceded from the Netherland Antilles to become a fully fledged autonomous nation of the Netherlands in its own right; Portugal and Spain acceded to the European Economic Community.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Khalistan)

1987

I’m 3 now. Again, not much change in Europe, though the same can’t be said for the rest of the world, and even then the songs of revolution began to murmur. The Sixth Republic of South Korea was established, and persists to the present day; the Constitution of the Philippines was ratified; the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was renamed the Republic of Afghanistan; the Derg-controlled Ethiopia became the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; the Dominion of Fiji abolished the monarchy in a coup d’état to become the Republic of Fiji.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Khalistan)

1988

I’m a boy of 4 now. Jordan relinquished control of the West Bank, leading to the Palestinian Declaration of Independence (Palestine is recognised as a de jure state).The Nagorno-Krabakh War commenced. The Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma became the Union of Burma.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Khalistan, Palestine)

1989

I’m 5. The collapse of the Eastern Bloc begins: revolutions in Albania, Bulgaria, Czecholovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania lead to the replacement of communism, while a human chain links 2 million people in the soon-to-be-former USSR. Elsewhere in the world: Communism was overthrown in Benin, the Republic of Burma renamed itself the Republic of Myanmar; the People’s Republic of Kampuchea became the State of Cambodia following Vietnam’s withdrawal; Afghanistan and Ethiopia were wracked by civil war.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Khalistan, Palestine)

1990

I was 6. Latvia & Lithuania declared independence from the USSR (which announced said declaration as “invalid” only a few days later); Namibia became independent from South Africa; East Germany, West Germany, and West Berlin reunified; several nations within Yugoslavia and the USSR announced their intentions to re-establish their independence. Outside Europe, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen joined with the Yemen Arab Republic to form the modern state of Yemen; Abkhazia declared independence, and the independence movement of Bougainville re-asserted its 1975 declaration (both remain unrecognised); Czechoslovakia renamed itself the Czech and Slovak Republic, the Republic of Fiji renamed itself again to the Sovereign Democratic Republic of Fiji, while the People’s Republics of Bulgaria and Benin dropped the People from their respective names.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen (Khalistan, Palestine, Lithuania, Abkhazia)
Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic

1991

I was 7 years old. The USSR is gone. A political entity which dominated world politics from its formation in 1922, one of the last true empires, had officially ceased to be. A multitude of nations regained or asserted their sovereignty: Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Macedonia, and Croatia in the West; Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan in the East. In addition to those widely recognised nations, territories within those nations – Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artaskh, Ichkeria, Herzeg-Bosnia, Serbian Krajina, and Dubrovnik – also sought independence, though they were not acknowledged by the wider world. In Africa, Somaliland declared its independence, too, though it also failed to gain acceptance from the United Nations.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Ichkeria, Herzeg-Bosnia, Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina)
Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR

1992

I’m officially 8-year-old Aly. Yugoslavia, long an ally of the fallen U.S.S.R., has fractured. Bosnia and Herzegovina became an independent nation, although the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro argued for successor status which was contested by the other former Yugoslav states. The Republika Sprska was established during the Bosnian War.

While the name of Yugoslavia would persist for some years, to the outside world, the nation itself has passed into history. It was joined by the short-lived Dubrovnik Republic, which was absorbed into Croatia – the first time a nation formed after my birth and ceased to exist within my own lifetime.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Ichkeria, Herzeg-Bosnia, Serb Krajina, Dubrovnik, Sprska)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia (Dubrovnik)

1993

I was 9 years old, and looking forward to Jurassic Park. The Czech Republic & Slovakia came into existence, consigning Czechoslovakia to the annals of history, and Eritrea won its independence after years of war. The European Economic Community became the European Union.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Ichkeria, Herzeg-Bosnia, Serb Krajina, Sprska)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik)

1994

I entered double digits: the age of 10. Europe hasn’t changed much, but the little Republic of Palau in the Western Pacific finalised its independence in this year.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Ichkeria, Herzeg-Bosnia, Serb Krajina, Sprska)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik)

1995

11 years old. Once again, few major widely recognised boundary changes: Austria, Sweden, and Finland joined the European Union, and that’s about it. Serb Krajina and the Republika Sprska joined poor Dubrovknik as nations that were born and died within my lifetime.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Ichkeria, Herzeg-Bosnia, Serb Krajina, Sprska)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska)

1996

12 years old. The First Chechen War has ended. The unrecognised Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia also ceased to be.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia)

1997

Unlucky for some – though not for me, as the sequel to Jurassic Park came out – I was 13. No boundary changes in Europe. The Republic of Bosnia & Herzegovina renamed itself Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Ichkeria)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia)

1998

14-year-old Aly. No boundary changes in Europe. The Troubles ended with the Good Friday Agreement, transforming public life in the Tin Isles.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Ichkeria)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia)

1999

I’m 15 years old, bursting with pride watching my little sister marching with the parade for the Scottish Parliament’s opening. Once again, no major boundary changes in Europe.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Ichkeria)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia)

2000

16-year-old Aly goes to college. While there were no internationally recognised boundary changes in Europe, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria was reconquered by Russia, ending almost a decade of self-determination.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Ichkeria)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2001

I was 17, and it was… well, you know. No boundary changes in Europe. The Yugoslav Wars ended.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2002

I was 18. No boundary changes in Europe, but the island nation of East Timor finally achieved independence after decades of turmoil and tragedy.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2003

19. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia officially renamed itself Serbia and Montenegro, finally closing the book on the Illyrian Dream… for now.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2004

20 years old, and off to University. While national boundaries in Europe remain the same, the European Union opened up considerably: Poland, Czech, Slovak, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Cyprus all joined this year.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2005

I was 21, and had my first opportunity to vote in a UK General Election. No boundary changes in Europe.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2006

I’m 22, just graduated from University with BA Hons. Montenegro and Serbia become independent nations. Serbia & Montenegro no longer exists – the first internationally accepted nation to be founded and disbanded within my lifetime.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2007

23 years old, and I voted in the paradigm-shifting Scottish Parliament Elections. Once more, national borders remained unchanged, though Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2008

I was 24. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia: it was not recognised by the United Nations.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2009

I was 25. No boundary changes in Europe.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2010

I was 26, and embarked upon my first expedition to a land far away. No boundary changes in Europe.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2011

I was 27 when everything changed in Scotland forever. Although the possibility of Scottish independence became far more real than the establishment wanted to believe, there were no boundary changes in Europe either – instead, it was Africa that change was afoot, as South Sudan declared its independence.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro, South Sudan (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2012

I was 28 when the mood began to change. No boundary changes in Europe, but yet again, Africa bore new fruit – this time, the Independent State of Azawad came into being, though it remains unrecognised.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro, South Sudan (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo, Azawad)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria)

2013

I was 29, and there was but one year to go. The Independent State of Azawad was snuffed out by Mali merely a year into its existence. Barely a few years after its involvement in brutal and bloody conflicts, Croatia joined the European Union – an accession that Scotland was apparently incapable of matching.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro, South Sudan (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo, Azawad)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria, Azawad)

2014

When I was 30 and gearing up for Scotland’s Independence Referendum, other nations were asserting their sovereignty in rather more drastic fashion: the Republics of Donetsk, Lugansk, and Crimea entered the international scene, though largely unrecognised as anything other than puppet states of the Russian Federation.

30 Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro, South Sudan (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo, Donetsk, Lugansk, Crimea)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria, Azawad)

2015

I was 31, and got involved in my first General Election Campaign. There were no boundary changes in Europe, but events which would rock the foundations of Europe began to roll.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro, South Sudan (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo, Donetsk, Lugansk, Crimea)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria, Azawad)

2016

I was 32 when I got involved in my first Scottish Election Campaign. Again, there were no boundary changes in Europe – but a certain EU member state decided that the continent was just too peaceful for their liking.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro, South Sudan (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo, Donetsk, Lugansk, Crimea)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria, Azawad)

2017

I was 33 the year the United Kingdom finally lost its mind. According to the governments of the international community, nothing has changed since 2016. For a brief period, the Republic of Catalonia asserted itself, unrecognised by virtually every nation in Europe even as hundreds of thousands of those nations’ citizens marched for their fellow humans’ right to democracy.

Independent Nations since 1984: Brunei, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Lithuania, Namibia, Latvia, Germany, Yemen, Georgia, Slovenia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Armenia, Croatia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Eritrea, Palau, Timor-Leste, Serbia, Montenegro, South Sudan (Khalistan, Palestine, Abkhazia, Transnistra, South Ossetia, Artsakh, Somaliland, Kosovo, Donetsk, Lugansk, Catalonia)
Independent Nations from 1984 that no longer exist: East Germany, West Germany, West Berlin, PDR Yemen, Yemen Arab Republic, USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Serbia and Montenegro (Dubrovnik, Serb Krajina, Sprska, Herzeg-Bosnia, Ichkeria, Azawad)

2018

I’m 34 years old. Although it’s only 65 days since the year began, the chaos engulfing the European Union makes national boundary changes more likely rather than less. It’s difficult to see how the situation in Catalonia can last like this; the UK’s complete disinterest in being serious about Northern Ireland might yet make Irish Reunification happen in the not too distant future; the election results across the continent further fuel dissatisfaction with the member states’ (mis?)handling of the European Project.

The idea that national boundaries are set things is comparatively recent: in my lifetime alone, I count 34 internationally recognised sovereign states that exist now which didn’t in the year I was born: furthermore, I count 9 sovereign states that no longer exist, either splitting up or being superseded over 34 years. If we include self-declared, de jure, and de facto independent states which went unrecognised, then that becomes 44 sovereign states and 15 former sovereign states.

These run the gamut from tiny island states in the South Pacific, to major economic powers, to mighty federations. There was a time when people thought the U.S.S.R. would follow us into the stars, so monolithic and permanent it seemed. Because the borders of Europe have remains more or less constant for a decade or so, people have started to believe in the end of history. It’s almost – not quite, but almost – understandable for an actual Minister in an actual UK Government to talk about Czechoslovakia in the present tense in the year 2017, to say nothing of a political journalist announcing the breakup of Bosnia and Herzegovina unbeknownst to… well, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

So that’s that. All that change in just one lifetime, yet a single new international border in one corner of one island among dozens of sovereign states is apparently insurmountable?

 

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2 thoughts on “Some Countries That I Used To Know

  1. Geraldine Harron says:

    Well, We have been warned!

  2. Westie says:

    Really interesting summary, thank you. I’m a wee bit older than you(50), and aware that there have been major changes in my lifetime, but to see them compiled like that is stunning.

    Happy birthday. Wonder if there will be another one to add to your list before you celebrate another one 😉

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