Ten Countries That Weren’t Countries for Very Long

The world’s oldest countries take great pride in how long they have been successful nations, nation-states, or republics. Even if they aren’t the same countries now that they were way back when, the history of a place is held in high regard when that place has had such a formative impact on society.

Take ancient Greece, for example, or ancient Rome. There is still understandably and rightfully a great deal of pride in present-day Greece and Italy for the impact of those two cultures and the legacy they leave behind. And even relatively “young” countries across the world (looking at you, here, USA!) have proud histories and very vocal supporters for all that they have achieved.

But what happens when a country only exists for a few short years? Or even shorter than that? Not all independent nations were made to last. Some were annexed, absorbed, invaded, overtaken, or otherwise destroyed in an incredibly short amount of time after declaring independence and sovereignty. And in this list today, that’s what we’re going to take a look at! The following ten countries—if you can even call them that—were not countries for very long at all. But they made this list, and they made a (small) mark on history, so that counts for something, we suppose!

Related: Top 10 Countries Held Back By Their Geography

10 The Republic of West Florida (1810)

The Republic of West Florida was a very short-lived nation of a region in what is now far-west Florida, its panhandle, and further to the west that was at the time known as the “Florida Parishes.” That region had recently been acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Still, the people there didn’t care much for the governments around them—either the U.S. or the Spanish, who were on the way out.

Before the Spanish could go, though, in September 1810, the residents of these so-called “Florida Parishes” in that state’s current panhandle took up arms and violently overthrew the Spaniards once and for all. In turn, they declared themselves an independent nation, naming it the Republic of West Florida.

That didn’t last very long, though. Up in Washington, D.C., the Americans were watching the situation carefully. They did not care for an armed insurrection going on in what had now become their borders. Even if it was an insurrection against the Spanish, the Americans didn’t really want to encourage off-shoot movements and other fledgling nations. So, they moved in quickly.

The West Floridians named their capital city St. Francisville, and they even elected a president named Fulwar Skipwith (yes, really) to run the new country. But by December 1810, that was all over. The area was forcibly annexed by the United States, and the Republic of West Florida was no more.[1]

9 The Paris Commune (1871)

The Paris Commune was an independent socialist government that was abruptly and violently set up—and then abruptly and violently quelled—during the spring and early summer of 1871 in Paris, France. This whole thing began during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. By early 1871, the French National Guard had successfully defended Paris. But there was major discontent within the ranks of their soldiers.

In September 1870, French leaders established the Third Republic. But it didn’t stand very long. On March 18, 1871, French soldiers of the National Guard seized control of Paris. They killed two French army generals and then refused to submit themselves to the authority of the Third Republic. Instead, they established an independent government and declared sovereignty as the Paris Commune.

Over the next two months, the Paris Commune governed the famous city. The soldiers established a series of mostly progressive policies that appealed to them from several different schools of 19th-century political science thought. Those policies included the separation of church and state, the abolition of child labor, self-policing, and more pro-worker labor beliefs. All Roman Catholic churches and schools were shut down, too.

But whatever the Paris Commune hoped to achieve simply didn’t happen. It only took two months and three days, and on May 21, 1871, the “Bloody Week” began. Still known in France as “La Semaine Sanglante,” the “Bloody Week” saw national French Army leaders suppress and destroy the short-lived Paris Commune nation once and for all.[2]

8 The Republic of Mahabad (1946)

The Republic of Mahabad was a Kurdish ethnic state that existed very briefly in Iran—for most of 1946, in fact, and not a second longer. Also sometimes called the Republic of Kurdistan, this short-lived and self-governing nation began in the western portion of present-day Iran on January 22, 1946.

With World War II having just ended and the Soviet Union exploring its geopolitical options in the Middle East at that point, the Republic of Mahabad caught early financial, logistical, and political support from the Soviets. And they weren’t the only nation in that area. There was also a very short-lived (and entirely unrecognized) Soviet puppet state called the Azerbaijan People’s Government, which also functioned for a time in that area. But the Republic of Mahabad was a bit more significant—and they had more significant dreams.

The Republic of Mahabad didn’t have much territory to its name, covering just a section of what is present-day northwestern Iran and running down the western side of that nation. But they had some formidable cities within that area, including Oshnavieh, Bukan, Naghadeh, and Piranshahr. They also claimed three other contested cities—Urmia, Khoy, and Salmas. The people who backed this Kurdish state were wildly patriotic for their cause, too.

But just about two months into the Mahabad experiment, in late March 1946, the United States and other Western powers put pressure on the Soviets to leave the region. The Soviet Union acquiesced, and just like that, Mahabad’s biggest ally was gone. Iran soon re-asserted its power over the rest of the region, isolating Mahabad economically and socially. By the middle of December, the government had imploded, and the nation’s brief life was snuffed out.[3]

7 The Republic of South Maluku (1950)

At the end of World War II, the Netherlands began the process of pulling out of their colonies in what is present-day Indonesia and relinquishing control of those islands, the surrounding territory, and their half of New Guinea. During that process, Indonesia, as we know it today, gained independence in 1949. There was just one (big) problem with that.

Indonesia is composed of tons and tons of islands, both large and small, and various ethnic groups who did not see eye-to-eye with the early rulers Indonesia had installed in their new nation. That included a group of Moluccan people who, in 1950, created the independent, sovereign Republic of South Maluku.

Neither the Dutch nor the Indonesians cared for this, having very much feared the potential destructive power of separatist states. And when it came time to disband old Dutch colonial forces that had been serving in Indonesia, the fate of several thousand pro-Moluccan soldiers who wanted to fight for their local region’s independence was suddenly a big worry.

Interestingly, with the Republic of South Maluku officially declared, the Indonesians were now forced to do something to get them back in line. So they made a fascinating move with all those Moluccan soldiers: They transferred them thousands of miles away to the Netherlands. More than 12,500 Moluccans were sent forcibly to live in the Netherlands.

This created a massive problem for Indonesia, as it fanned the flames of the Republic of South Maluku’s desire for full-time and eternal independence. It also created a major problem for the Dutch, who now had to house thousands of Moluccan immigrants in Amsterdam and other cities that had only just recently been absolutely decimated by World War II.

As far as the fate of the Republic of South Maluku goes, that independent state was quickly and forcibly brought back under the control of Indonesia before the end of 1950. Today, in Indonesia, various separatist groups spring up from time to time (most recently and most violently, the ones in West Papua), but the Republic of South Maluku itself is no more.

Here’s where things get really interesting: Most of the 12,500 Moluccans who were moved to the Netherlands in 1950 never went back home! Today, census estimates are hard to come by since all their descendants are full Dutch citizens. However, estimates hold that there are somewhere around 40,000 or 50,000 Moluccans who are now two, three, and four generations into calling the Netherlands their (no longer adopted) homeland![4]

6 The State of Katanga (1960–1963)

On July 11, 1960, a man named Moïse Tshombe and his very influential political party in the southern region of the Congo declared that they were beginning a new, independent nation. Called the State of Katanga, this breakaway nation did not want to have any part of the Congo after the Belgian colonial government left and the craziness of independence set in.

Katanga, you see, was a very mineral-rich area in the far southern section of what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There, minerals in the “Copperbelt” were mined ruthlessly by all kinds of international conglomerates, which then picked up big profits off the backs of Katangan laborers.

Tshombe wisely understood this, smartly recognized that his region of the world had some financial potential, and wanted out of the craziness of the Congo. Upon declaring independence on that July 11, 1960 day, Tshombe infamously said, “We are seceding from chaos,” which was a direct rebuke of the lawlessness that was rife across the rest of the Congo.

There was just one problem: Literally, nobody else in the entire world wanted the State of Katanga to exist. Not the US government, not the CIA, not the KGB, not the Soviet Union, and not any other fledgling African nation that was worried about secessionist elements within their own borders. International diamond, copper, and other mining corporations were making far too much money in the area at the time to risk political strife, too.

As such, Tshombe’s idea for full independence was a bad one as far as everybody but him and his supporters were concerned. By 1963, Tshombe was driven into exile in Spain—he reportedly took over a million gold bars with him on the way out. While he eventually returned a few years later as the Prime Minister of the Congo, the State of Katanga didn’t survive long enough to see 1964.[5]

5 The Republic of Biafra (1967–1970)

The Republic of Biafra was a short-lived independent state in present-day Nigeria that seceded from that nation after major ethnic friction. Historically, the north of Nigeria was far more prosperous and economically connected than the south and west. The north was also full of Hausa ethnic people, while the minority Igbo people were vastly outnumbered there.

By late 1966, tens of thousands of Igbo people had been massacred in Nigeria’s north, and the area was devolving quickly into a full-scale civil war. Upon another group of Igbo people being outright expelled from northern and eastern Nigeria, a Lieutenant Colonel (who later became a general) named Odumegwu Ojukwu declared a new independent nation had been formed under the name of the Republic of Biafra.

General Yakubu Gowon, the head of Nigeria’s federal government, flat-out refused to acknowledge Biafra as an independent state. Others did, though. Many African nations, including Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Tanzania, and Zambia, officially opened up democratic relationships with Biafra in early 1967. France even sent the new nation a major stash of weapons with which to defend themselves.

That was the other thing, too; because Nigeria didn’t want Biafra to secede, the whole thing cruised toward a brutal internal struggle. Thus began the awful Nigerian Civil War, which ran through the rest of the 1960s and claimed at least a half-million lives—and possibly more than three million, according to some estimates.

Through it all, Biafra was not meant to be. The region was landlocked, and without shipping lanes of its own, it struggled to complete basic economic trading patterns during the time of war. Worse yet, it was very hard to get supplies to Biafra and its people. By 1969, famine and disease began to horribly ravage the area as the civil war raged on interminably.

Nigerian forces were finally able to completely rout Biafran forces in a series of key battles in December 1969 and January 1970. Fearing for his life, Ojukwu fled to Côte d’Ivoire. On January 15, 1970, with Biafra on the brink of collapse anyway, its remaining generals fully surrendered to Nigeria.[6]

4 The Republic of Formosa (1895)

The Republic of Formosa was a very short-lived nation that existed for just a sliver of time before it was swallowed up by the Japanese. And when we say “short-lived,” we really do mean short-lived! In the year 1895, the emperor of the Qing dynasty of China formally ceded the island of Taiwan to the Empire of Japan. As part of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, the island was meant to be taken over and occupied by Japanese troops.

From there, the Japanese would go on and administer it full time, taking over the job that had previously belonged to China and the emperor of its Qing dynasty. But while the Japanese were interested in Taiwan (then known as Formosa to many in the West), the locals were very much NOT interested in having Japan come through and administer their lives.

So, on May 23, 1895, locals in Taiwan proclaimed the beginning of their new nation, known as the Republic of Formosa. A democratically elected government was installed, which at that time and in that area of the world was a notable rarity. But it didn’t have any staying power. On October 21, 1895—just 151 days after the birth of the Republic of Formosa was declared—the Japanese landed troops on the island and almost immediately took over the capital city, Tainan. And thus, that was that for the Republic of Formosa.

There is one interesting (and minor) sidenote here for all of you history buffs out there. As we already noted in this section, people like to pounce on the Republic of Formosa’s democratic leanings as a point of pride. That’s great, but some go so far as to proclaim it to be the first East Asian republic ever formed—and that part is not true.

The Lanfang Republic in Borneo was established way back in 1777 and lasted for a very, very long time. The Republic of Ezo in Japan was formed in 1869 and sustained itself for a long time, too. Still, the Republic of Formosa is an important part of Taiwanese history. And it’s one of the shortest-lived nations in all of world history![7]

3 East Timor (1975–1976)

East Timor was a breakaway region within Indonesia that declared its independence from the surrounding island nation in late 1975. Historically, while most of the rest of Indonesia had been administered by the Dutch before its independence from the colonial rule of the Netherlands in 1949, East Timor was forever separate.

Centuries before, the Portuguese had landed in East Timor, and even as the Dutch took over rule across the rest of Indonesia, East Timor remained a Portuguese colony. But in 1974, the Carnation Revolution way back in Portugal led to a series of colonial consequences—most notably, the Portuguese completely pulling out of East Timor.

In turn, the Timorese people had absolutely no desire to live under the rule of the Indonesians. So they didn’t, and in late 1975, they declared East Timor an independent nation. The Indonesians acted swiftly. On December 7, 1975, Indonesian troops occupied East Timor. Over the next several months, they completely dismantled the already powerless government that East Timor had hastily installed. By early 1976, East Timor completely ceased to be an independent nation, and it was swallowed up in the whole by Indonesia.

Now, if you are a geography buff, you may be saying to yourself, “I’m pretty sure East Timor exists as a country right now, though.” And you’d be right! For the next 23 years after early 1976, the Indonesians brutally administered the area and committed wanton acts of violence. By 1999, a referendum called for East Timor to become independent again. And by 2002, it was so.

Today, East Timor (also commonly called Timor-Leste) is a sovereign nation once more, and a stable one at that. It was that first go-around in 1975, though, where their time as a nation lasted only a few months before total destruction.[8]

2 The Republic of Hatay (1938–1939)

For about nine months, the Republic of Hatay existed as an independent state and a completely sovereign nation within what is commonly known then and today as Turkey. It all started on September 2, 1938, when an assembly within the breakaway region of Hatay proclaimed that the Sanjak of Alexandretta was formed and the Hatay State was official.

Alexandretta was named the capital city, and for a while, things were peaceful. The French and Turkish even oversaw joint military supervision over the state as it got its bearings together as a country and tried to figure out how to exist while no longer part of Turkey.

Unfortunately for the Republic of Hatay, though, things weren’t meant to be. On June 29, 1939—only about nine months after the nation was officially first formed—the Hatay legislature voted to disestablish Hatay State following a public referendum. That referendum came through overwhelmingly for the Hatay region to rejoin Turkey.

Both at the time and in years since, observers and historians have wondered whether the referendum was “phony” or “rigged” in the first place. Regardless, the French saw Hatay’s reunion with Turkey as a possible way to keep Turkey from allying with Nazi Germany as the rumblings of World War II were picking up. And no matter how legit or not, the referendum ended Hatay’s nine-month run as a sovereign nation just like that.[9]

1 The Republic of Slovene Styria (1941)

World War II was a total cluster all over Europe. Millions of people were killed—both soldiers and civilians—and the sheer displacement of and mistreatment of populations for years on end was absolutely staggering. There were also major political upheavals across the continent, even beyond the ones most often taught in your history books. Take, for example, the case of Slovene Styria.

That region is roughly analogous to the modern-day nation of Slovenia. At the time, just before World War II broke out, it was part of Yugoslavia as decreed by the re-done Yugoslav Constitution of 1931. And for a while, things worked out just fine like that for Slovene Styria. But in April of 1941, Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia. When they did that, they immediately annexed Slovene Styria as their own territory. As you might expect, the Slovene locals didn’t care for that at all.

What followed from spring 1941 through late May 1942 was a vicious battle within the greater battle of World War II. Nazi units went all over Slovene Styria and prohibited the use of the Slovene language or any historically Slovene-related cultural relics. They demanded everyone speak German and pledge their undying support for Hitler.

Intellectuals, clergymen, and other public figures were expelled or killed. But the Slovene people fought back. They declared themselves a sovereign state and put together battalions of loyal troops. Over the next year, they fought viciously against the Nazis as a Republic bent on guarding their land and their way of life.

Of course, we know how things eventually ended for the Nazis. But it wasn’t before tens of thousands of Slovene men gave their lives for their (very short-lived) nation. After World War II ended, the Slovenes were content to be reorganized within the reformed Yugoslavia, pointing to Ljubljana as their capital city.

There, Slovene Styria came to be known as an integral and economically prosperous part of Yugoslavia and was officially called the Socialist Republic of Slovenia. Today, the area is a nation once again—known solely as Slovenia—and it remains one of the best-kept travel secrets in all of Europe.[10]

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