A Brief History
On October 10, 2010, the group of islands known as the Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist as a united country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Some of those islands became constituent countries by themselves within the Netherlands, while others changed their status to “Special Municipalities” within the Netherlands. Some minor islands became part of each of the 6 larger islands. Today we will discuss 10 places that formerly were recognized as countries, that are no longer independent nations. So many African countries, especially pre-colonial, existed that they would require an extensive list of their own. Europe was also once a hodgepodge of smaller kingdoms and the like, quite unlike the larger nations that now exist (notably France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Our limited number of entries does not mean to minimize the importance of Native American and other indigenous nations. (Note: The year posted next to the name of the former country is the year or range of years the country was disestablished.)
1. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), 1991.
Crated from the ashes of Imperial Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the USSR became the largest country in the world and one of the most populous, gradually acquiring status as the second most powerful nation on Earth after World War II. Due to internal corruption and the enormous expense of trying to keep up with the United States and Western Allies militarily during the Cold War, the USSR imploded on itself in the face of national movements among its many republics that were not ethnically Russian, finally dissolving in 1991 into a basket full of separate countries.
2. Yugoslavia, 1991-2006.
A Balkan olio of Slavic countries melded together by communist Pan-Serbian nationalist Josef Broz Tito after World War II, Yugoslavia included Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia and Kosovo into an amalgamation of a country of Southern Slavic people. After World War I a proto-Yugoslavia called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was created from the remnants of part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that had been dismantled after the War. Post World War II found the Balkans in the sphere of Soviet influence, facilitating the creation of a communist state. Religious and ethnic tensions never really allowed a cohesive nation to develop, and by 1991 discord had reached violent proportions and warfare between competing ethnicities, with Serbians representing the central government trying to hold on to all parts of the country. Eventually and painfully, the country broke up into separate nations, including Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia, and The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (a different way of saying Serbia and Montenegro).
3. Netherlands Antilles, 2010.
The island colonies of the Netherlands formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles changed its status in 2010 to create 3 of the islands as Special Municipalities (Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius) within the Kingdom of the Netherlands while 3 other of the Dutch islands became separate countries (Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire) within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
4. Tanganyika and Zanzibar, 1964.
Tanganyika gained its independence from the United Kingdom (Britain) in 1961 and more completely in 1962, while neighboring Zanzibar gained its independence from an Arab dynasty through revolution in 1963. The 2 countries in the Rift Lakes region of Africa then merged in 1964 to form Tanzania, a name obviously taken from the 2 former names of the former countries. As in many areas of the world (notably India, South America, and others) the new nation encompassed many ethnicities and languages (130 different languages!), making the creation of a coherent national identity difficult. Somehow, that daunting task has been accomplished and the nation of 55+ million people largely identify as Tanzanians today. Tanzania is a favorite destination for hunters and animal enthusiasts.
5. Austria-Hungary, 1918.
An unlikely alliance of ethnic German and Magyar kingdoms, The Austrian Empire and Kingdom of Hungary joined in 1867 to become an Empire known as The Austro-Hungarian Empire or simply, The Dual Monarchy. The alliance of those 2 European powers created the second largest (by area, behind Russia) European country and the third largest (by population, behind Russia and Germany) European country. Austria-Hungary covered a diverse area of ethnicities and nationalities and was never a particularly cohesive nation with a national identity. (In fact, the author’s grandparents that emigrated to the United States reflect an “Austrian-Hungarian” birth despite being born in the Ukraine and being Ukrainian ethnically and linguistically.) Unrest among Serbian nationalists within the realm of Austria-Hungary led to World War I in the first place, a catastrophic war that precipitated the dissolution of the unlikely empire.
6. United Arab Republic, 1961.
Created in 1958 as a union of Egypt and Syria, Egypt had been led by Gamal Abdel Nasser since his successful revolution that overthrew Egyptian King Farouk in 1952. A man with a Pan-Arabian view, Nasser sought to create a Pan-Arabic state (with himself at the helm) and partially succeeded by merging with Syria in 1958. Syria had been facing increasing communist influence, and the merger was seen as a move to prevent a communist takeover of Syria. Syria pulled out of the union in 1961, but Egypt persisted in the myth of Pan-Arabia by calling itself the United Arab Republic until after the death of Nasser in 1970, losing the misleading nomenclature in 1971.
7. Czechoslovakia, 1993.
After World War I resulted in the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the results was the formation of Czechoslovakia, an amalgamation of Czechs and Slovaks into a new country. In 1939 the world watched helplessly while Nazi Germany invaded the smaller country and annexed the place, enslaving the people. Liberation from Germany after World War II in 1945 brought new overlords in the form of the USSR, the Soviets setting up a communist puppet state in Czechoslovakia. The Czecho-Slovaks chafed under Soviet domination and against their communist government, and when the Soviet Union started to collapse around 1990 the Czecho-Slovaks broke away from their former communist “friends” and went on to form a more natural pair of countries reflecting the ethnic/national origin of the Czechs and Slovaks, creating the Czech Republic and The Republic of Slovakia.
8. Republic of Texas, 1845.
Established in 1836 as a secession from Mexico by American settlers in Texas, the Lone Star State had its origins as a sovereign nation for 9 years before being accepted into the United States as a new state in 1845. Although the Mexicans had welcomed American settlers into Texas, the fact that Mexico had outlawed slavery and that those Americans settling Texas wanted to continue slaveholding was a precipitating factor in Texas revolting from Mexico and declaring its independence. The fact of slavery as a primary issue in the creation of the Republic of Texas is often overlooked by American educators. Honorable Mention: The Republic of California and the several other US states that had previously been separate colonies or countries from the rest of the United States, including Hawaii.
9. Confederate States of America, 1865.
When the rest of the world was well along the path of outlawing slavery, the United States struggled with the debate over whether or not to continue the “peculiar institution.” In 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, many of the slave holding states (all in the Southern US) feared the coming of the abolition of slavery and the inherent disruption in the economy of the South, causing most of the slave states to secede from the Union, precipitating the American Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history. (Slave states Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and Delaware did not secede and join the Confederacy.) The other 11 slave states that seceded (Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida) formed a new country, The Confederate States of America. When the American Civil War ended in victory for the Union, the Confederate States of America ceased to exist as a separate country, though in the minds of many Southerners, the CSA is still quite real.
10. Dominion of Newfoundland, 1933-1949.
Canada did not always include Newfoundland and Labrador, as Newfoundland (which included Labrador) was a separate Dominion within the Commonwealth of the Untied Kingdom. In 1933, in the shadow of the Great Depression, economic woes spurred Newfoundland to forgo independence and join Canada, though not until 1949 did Newfoundland join Canada as a Province (the 10th), changing its name in 2001 to Newfoundland and Labrador. Located at the Northeast part of Canada, North of Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest percentage of English speaking Canadians, at over 97% of the population, making it the most linguistically homogeneous of Canada’s provinces.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other countries would you add to this list? Do you believe each ethnic group deserves to have its own country? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Lonely Planet. The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World. Lonely Planet, 2016.
Stalker, Peter. A Guide to Countries of the World (Oxford Quick Reference). Oxford University Press, 2010.