What Is the Shortest Lived Country in History?
World map of countries around the world, shown with their national flags and symbols.

What Is the Shortest Lived Country in History?

By Zirbo | World Wide Stories | 2 Feb 2021

Across the world there are many different countries, but for the exact total amount it depends on how you look at it. According to the United Nations there are currently 195 countries. But of course there are many more that have limited recognition by other nations, like Abkhazia and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, and there also a few that no one recognizes, like Somaliland and Transnistria.

Many other nations have simply gone extinct over time, but others have gone on to become the modern nations states that we know today. For example, Egypt has been around since at least 3150 BCE, Japan was founded in 660 BCE, Armenia as a country has existed since 321BCE, and Iceland was created in 930.


But what is the shortest lived country in the world?

Well, that again depends on how you look at it. There are a few different definitions and theories on what exactly a country is.

Basically there are two main theories about what makes a country, a country.

One is called the constitutive theory, which says that being a country is based on international recognition. According to this theory, a country is only a country when others say it is.

When most other nations don't recognize you, it's almost impossible to join international organizations, have access to world banking, connect your country to others by air, and conduct trade with other countries.

The problem with that is, that many countries around the world that operate 100% independently are not recognized by some other countries. Taiwan for example is not recognized by China, and because others don't want to offend China, which claims Taiwan as their own, many don't recognize it for that reason.

Israel is another famous example. Most Arab and Muslim nations don't recognize the state of Israel as a country. This means that Israeli Airline El Al cannot fly over these countries, and that trade, travel, and diplomatic relations are almost impossible with them.

If we consider UN membership as real recognition of a country, them the shortest lived country is the Sultanate of Zanzibar.


Zanzibar had been a protectorate of the British, but on December 10, 1963, declared its independence, and was recognized by the UN on December 16th, as its own independent country.


But unfortunately for the young country, only about a month later, two major political parties in Zanzibar came together to overthrow the Sultan. And on January 12th, 1964, they declared a new nation, The People's Republic of Zanzibar. This gave the country a duration of just 33 days, as a UN recognized country.

But there are a few problems with the Zanzibar answer. First the UN didn't exist until 1945, so any country that came before it isn't included. And then of course there are plenty of countries around the world that are partially recognized or are simply not in the UN, like Kosovo and Vatican City.

If we consider one country's recognition of another to be enough, then the shortest lived country is The Republic of Crimea, which existed from March 17th, 2014, to March 18th, 2014. So just about a day!


Crimea held a referendum and declared its independence on March 17th, and Russia immediately recognized it as a sovereign nation. But then the next day, Russia annexed Crimea, and made it a part of the Russian Federation. This ended the existence of the Republic of Crimea about 24 hours after it officially began!


But like I mentioned before there are two theories on what a country actually is. The other theory is the declarative theory.

This one sets out four criteria for a country:

1. Permanent population

2. Defined Territory

3. A government

4. The capacity to enter into foreign relations

According to those criteria, the shortest lived country is The Russian Federative Democratic Republic! The country was formed at around 12.00 on January 19th, 1918, when the democratically elected Russian Constituent Assembly drafted and adopted a resolution that ended the Russian Republic, and declared themselves a new democratic country.


They had a permanent population, the Russian people. A defined territory, Russia. A government, the Russian Constituent Assembly, and also had the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

But then on the same day, at around 18:00, Vladimir Lenin dissolved the assembly, and instead formed the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, giving the Russian Federative Democratic Republic a total of 6 hours!


But before we give the title of shortest lived country in the world to Russia, there's technically another country that is the winner, Catalonia!


On October 1, 2017, Catalonia held a referendum, in which the Catalonian people overwhelmingly voted to become independent from Spain.

On October 10th, the Catalan leader held a speech where he declared independence, saying: "I assume the mandate of the people for Catalonia to become an independent state in the shape of a republic". But right after that, he asked parliament to suspend his declaration of independence, so that he could negotiate with Spain, giving the independent nation of Catalonia a lifespan of exactly 8 seconds!


Nobody of course recognized Catalonia as an independent country during that time, but they did fulfill all the criteria, and they did declare independence.

So if you're thinking of creating or declaring your own country, I hope this article has helped you!


Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this article!




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