Microstate

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This article is about political geography. For the specific configuration of particles of a material in statistical mechanics, see microstate (statistical mechanics).
Not to be confused with micronation.
The world's five smallest sovereign states: Vatican City, Monaco, Nauru, Tuvalu and San Marino, shown in the same scale for size comparison

A microstate or ministate is a sovereign state having a very small population or very small land area, but usually both. As the meaning of neither "state" nor "very small" is clear[1] the recent attempts to define microstates focus on identifying political entities with unique qualitative features linked to their geographic or demographic limitations. According to a qualitative definition, microstates are: "modern protected states, i.e. sovereign states that have been able to unilaterally depute certain attributes of sovereignty to larger powers in exchange for benign protection of their political and economic viability against their geographic or demographic constraints."[2] In line with this and most other definitions the examples of microstates include: Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Niue and the Federated States of Micronesia.

The smallest political unit recognised as a sovereign state is Vatican City, with 842 citizens as of July 2013 and an area of only 0.44 km². However, some scholars dispute qualifying Vatican as a state arguing that it does not meet the "traditional criteria of statehood" and that the "special status of the Vatican City is probably best regarded as a means of ensuring that the Pope can freely exercise his spiritual functions, and in this respect is loosely analogous to that of the headquarters of international organisations."[3]

Microstates are distinct from micronations, which are not recognized as sovereign states. Special territories without full sovereignty, such as the British Crown Dependencies, The Chinese Special Administrative Regions and overseas territories of Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom, are also not considered microstates.

Qualitative definitions of microstates and their limitations[edit]

Most scholars identify microstates by using a quantitative threshold and applying it to either one variable (such as territory[4] or population[5] size) or a composite of different variables.[6] While it is agreed that microstates are the smallest of all states, there is no consensus on what variable (or variables) or what cut-off point should be used to determine which political units should be labelled as "microstates" (as opposed to small states or "normal" states).[1][2][7][8]

Map of microstates bordering the European Union.
Sovereign states with a non-sea area less than 1,000 km2 (386 sq mi)[9][10]
Rank Country / Territory Area (km²/sqmi) Region
1 Vatican City Vatican City 0.44 km2 (0.17 sq mi) Europe
2 Monaco Monaco 2.02 km2 (0.78 sq mi) Europe
3 Nauru Nauru 21 km2 (8 sq mi) Oceania
4 Tuvalu Tuvalu 26 km2 (10 sq mi) Oceania
5 San Marino San Marino 61 km2 (24 sq mi) Europe
6 Liechtenstein Liechtenstein 160 km2 (62 sq mi) Europe
7 Marshall Islands Marshall Islands 181 km2 (70 sq mi) Oceania
8 Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis 261 km2 (101 sq mi) Caribbean
9 Maldives Maldives 298 km2 (115 sq mi) AsiaIndian Ocean
10 Malta Malta 316 km2 (122 sq mi) EuropeMediterranean Sea
11 Grenada Grenada 344 km2 (133 sq mi) Caribbean
12 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 389 km2 (150 sq mi) Caribbean
13 Barbados Barbados 430 km2 (166 sq mi) Caribbean
14 Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda 443 km2 (171 sq mi) Caribbean
15 Seychelles Seychelles 455 km2 (176 sq mi) AfricaIndian Ocean
16 Palau Palau 459 km2 (177 sq mi) Oceania
17 Andorra Andorra 468 km2 (181 sq mi) Europe
18 Saint Lucia Saint Lucia 616 km2 (238 sq mi) Caribbean
19 Federated States of Micronesia Federated States of Micronesia 702 km2 (271 sq mi) Oceania
20 Singapore Singapore 714 km2 (276 sq mi) Asia
21 Tonga Tonga 747 km2 (288 sq mi) Oceania
22 Dominica Dominica 751 km2 (290 sq mi) Caribbean
23 Bahrain Bahrain 765 km2 (295 sq mi) AsiaPersian Gulf
24 Kiribati Kiribati 811 km2 (313 sq mi) Oceania
25 São Tomé and Príncipe São Tomé and Príncipe 964 km2 (372 sq mi) AfricaAtlantic Ocean
With the exceptions of Singapore and Bahrain, all the above have fewer than 500,000 people.
Sovereign states with fewer than 500,000 people by latest national statistics or CIA Factbook estimate 2014.[11]
Rank Country/territory/entity Population Density (pop./km²) Region
1   Vatican City 842 1913.6 Europe
2  Nauru 9,488 451.8 Oceania
3  Tuvalu 10,782 414.7 Oceania
4  Palau 21,186 46.2 Oceania
5  Monaco 30,508 15103 Europe
6  San Marino 32,742 536.8 Europe
7  Liechtenstein 37,313 233.2 Europe
8  Saint Kitts and Nevis 51,538 197.5 Caribbean
9  Marshall Islands 70,983 392.2 Oceania
10  Dominica 73,449 97.8 Caribbean
11  Andorra 85,458 182.6 Europe
12  Antigua and Barbuda 91,295 206.1 Caribbean
13  Seychelles 91,650 201.4 Africa - Indian Ocean
14  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 102,918 264.6 Caribbean
15  Kiribati 104,488 128.8 Oceania
16  Federated States of Micronesia 105,681 150.5 Oceania
17  Tonga 106,440 142.5 Oceania
18  Grenada 110,152 320.2 Caribbean
19  Saint Lucia 163,362 265.2 Caribbean
20  São Tomé and Príncipe 190,428 197.5 Africa - Atlantic Ocean
21  Samoa 196,628 69.5 Oceania
22  Vanuatu 266,937 21.9 Oceania
23  Barbados 289,680 673.7 Caribbean
24  Iceland 317,351 3.1 Europe
25  Bahamas 321,834 23.2 Caribbean
26  Belize 340,844 14.8 Central America
27  Maldives 393,595 1320.8 Asia - Indian Ocean
28  Malta 412,655 1305.9 Europe - Mediterranean Sea
29  Brunei 422,675 73.3 Asia
With the exceptions of Samoa, Vanuatu, Iceland, Bahamas, Belize, and Brunei, all the above have a non-sea area less than 1,000 km2 (386 sq mi).

While employing simple quantitative criteria may seem straightforward, it can also be perceived as potentially problematic. According to some scholars the quantitative approach to defining microstates suffers from such problems as "inconsistency, arbitrariness, vagueness and inability to meaningfully isolate qualitatively distinct political units"[2]

Qualitative definitions of microstates[edit]

In response to the problems associated with the quantitative definitions of microstates, some academics have suggested finding states with unique features linked to their geographic or demographic smallness.[2][12][13] Newer approaches have proposed looking at the behaviour or capacity to operate in the international arena in order to determine which states should deserve the microstate label.[13][14] Yet, it has argued been that such approaches could lead to either confusing microstates with weak states[7][12] (or failed states) or relying too much on subjective perceptions.[2]

Microstates as modern protected states[edit]

In order to address both the problems with quantitive approaches and with definitions based on qualitative features, it has been argued that a useful and meaningful to isolate microstates from other types of states, would be to see them as "modern protected states".[2] According to the definition proposed by Dumienski (2014): "microstates are modern protected states, i.e. sovereign states that have been able to unilaterally depute certain attributes of sovereignty to larger powers in exchange for benign protection of their political and economic viability against their geographic or demographic constraints."[2] Adopting this approach permits limiting the number of microstates and separating them from both small states and autonomies or dependencies.[2] Examples of microstates understood as modern protected states include such states as: Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco, Niue, the Cook Islands or Palau.

Historical anomalies and aspirant states[edit]

A small number of tiny sovereign political units are founded on historical anomalies or eccentric interpretations of law. These types of states, often labelled as "microstates, are usually located on small (usually disputed) territorial enclaves, generate limited economic activity founded on tourism and philatelic and numismatic sales, and are tolerated or ignored by the nations from which they claim to have seceded.

One example is the Republic of Indian Stream, now the town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire—a geographic anomaly left unresolved by the Treaty of Paris that ended the U.S. Revolutionary War, and claimed by both the U.S. and Canada. Between 1832 and 1835, the area's residents refused to acknowledge either claimant.

Another example is the Cospaia Republic, which became independent through a treaty error and survived from 1440 to 1826. Its independence made it important in the introduction of tobacco cultivation to Italy.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Warrington, E., 1994. Lilliputs Revisited. Asian Journal of Public Administration, 16(1).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Dumienski, Zbigniew (2014). "Microstates as Modern Protected States: Towards a New Definition of Micro-Statehood". Occasional Paper. Centre for Small State Studies. Retrieved 2014-06-07. 
  3. ^ Mendelson, M., 1972. Diminutive States in the United Nations. The International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 21(4), pp.609–630.
  4. ^ Mehmet, O. & Tahiroglu, M., 2002. Growth and equity in microstates: Does size matter in development? International Journal of Social Economics, 29(1/2), pp.152–162.
  5. ^ Boyce, P.J. & Herr, R.A., 2008. Microstate diplomacy in the south pacific. Australian Outlook, (April 2012), pp.37–41.
  6. ^ Reid, G.L., 1975. Impact of Very Small Size on the International Behaviour of Microstates (International Studies), SAGE Publications Ltd.
  7. ^ a b Neemia, U., 1995. Smallness, islandness and foreign policy behaviour: aspects of island microstates foreign policy behaviour with special reference to Cook Islands and Kiribati. University of Wollongong.
  8. ^ Dommen, E., 1985. States, Microstates and Islands, Routledge Kegan & Paul.
  9. ^ "CIA – The World Factbook – Rank Order – Area". CIA. Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  10. ^ "Demographic Yearbook—Table 3: Population by sex, rate of population increase, surface area and density" (pdf). United Nations Statistics Division. 2008. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  11. ^ "CIA – The World Factbook – Rank Order – Population". CIA. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  12. ^ a b Amstrup, N., 1976. The Perennial Problem of Small States: A Survey of Research Efforts. Cooperation and Conflict, 11(2), pp.163–182.
  13. ^ a b Neumann, I.B. & Gstöhl, S., 2004. Lilliputians in Gulliver’s World ? Small States in International Relations.
  14. ^ Oest, K.J.N. & Wivel, A., 2010. Security, profit or shadow of the past? Explaining the security strategies of microstates. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 23(3), pp.429–453.