After All: Long live the glorious Space Kingdom of Asgardia!
Our columnist discovers a number of peculiar self-proclaimed micronations (including the world’s first techno-micronation) and proclaims his own one.
What? You’ve never heard of Molossia and Freedonia? How about Liberland, Seborga or Asgardia? Well, I don’t blame you if you haven’t, for all of the above – and several dozen others – constitute one of the most obscure areas of modern geopolitics, the so-called ‘micronations’ (not to be confused with ‘mini-states’ such as San Marino, Liechtenstein etc). Each of them, according to Wikipedia, is “an entity that claims to be an independent nation or state but is not recognised by world governments or major international organisations”.
I can boast of not just a long-standing interest in the micronations, but also – believe it or not – with discovering one and putting it on the map!
I am serious: while researching my book ‘Little is the Light’ in the mid-1990s, I visited Seborga – a small and seemingly unremarkable village of 300 people on the border of France and Italy (not far from Monaco) – and spent a day in the company of an eccentric local flower farmer, Giorgio Carbone, who referred to himself as Prince Giorgio I – Seborga’s first democratically elected head of state, no less! In 1963, Carbone decided to galvanise a short spell of Seborga’s de facto independence back in the Middle Ages. “We didn’t feel like paying high Italian taxes any longer,” he told me in confidence as we were drinking in one of the two village restaurants. The locals gave him complete support, and – lo and behold – 20-odd years later, Europe’s newest self-proclaimed ‘state’, with its own Cabinet, which included, among others, the Counsellor for Foreign Affairs and the Counsellor for Defence in charge of a part-time army of five (!), came to be.
After a second glass, Carbone solemnly offered me the job of Seborga’s extraordinary and plenipotentiary Ambassador in the UK – a truly ‘extraordinary’ honour, which I chose to refuse...
On return to London, I wrote a feature about Seborga for the magazine The Spectator. A couple of weeks later there came a phone call from the compilers of the first online World Atlas asking for more information. I was happy to supply such information, and soon Seborga was featuring not just in that particular atlas, but on numerous other maps too.
Prince Giorgio I was so encouraged by that development that he started minting his own currency – luigino. He passed away in 2009 to be succeeded by Marcello Menegatto, a local building contractor, elected Prince Marcello I in 2010.
At this point, the reader may raise a legitimate question: this is all very nice, but where is the technology angle?
Here it comes. Until recently, the only micronation that had anything to do with engineering was the Principality of Sealand in the North Sea (12km off the coast of Suffolk and hence outside the pre-1987 limit of British territorial waters), established by former British Army Major Paddy Bates in 1967. Situated on Roughs Tower – an offshore oil platform originally called HM Fort Roughs and built as an anti-aircraft gun fort during World War Two, it could qualify as a peculiar object of engineering heritage after the last Royal Navy personnel finally left the fort in 1956.
Enter the Space Kingdom of Asgardia, the world’s newest and so far the only techno-micronation. I first heard about it last year from a friend who helped to organise Asgardia’s first parliamentary session in Vienna: despite calling itself a ‘space nation’, the self-proclaimed mini-country uses the Austrian capital as its ‘administrative centre’.
Before adding Asgardia to my ever-growing list of micronations, I did some research and came up with the following:
Unlike all other micronations, which are in possession of at least a patch of the Earth’s territory – be it a discarded oil platform or a teenager’s messy cubbyhole (like in the case of the Kingdom of Talossa, founded in 1979 by the then 14-year-old Robert Ben Madison of Milwaukee and initially confined to his bedroom), Asgardia does not claim a single square inch of terra firma. Started in 2016 by a group of people who shortly afterwards, on 12 November 2017, launched a 2.8kg 2U CubeSat-type satellite ‘Asgardia-1’ into orbit, it only claims sovereignty over the space inside that very satellite measuring 10x10x20cm. To paraphrase the famous idiom – not enough space to swing a mouse.
However, Asgardia’s founding fathers, including the Head of Nation Russian-Azeri scientist and businessman Igor Azhurbeyli and the Chairman of Parliament Lembit Opik, a former British MP, are planning a massive expansion by launching many more satellites and then establishing a space colony in orbit. To quote Asgardia’s Constitution, it “shall be a nation of the supremacy of science and technology, and a nation of ideas”.
I hope those utopian intentions will eventually come true, but at the moment Asgardia is experiencing recognition problems. Some lawyers believe that its very existence contradicts the main principle of international space legislation declaring all outer space ‘the province of mankind’, with no part of it subject to sovereignty claims by any nation, particularly the self-proclaimed micronations.
So far, the only state that has partially recognised Asgardia is The State of Nevada, which has agreed to regard it as ‘an unincorporated non-profit association’ – not a huge achievement for human history’s first ‘Space Kingdom’.
To become Asgardia’s citizen, of whom there are already nearly 300,000, is easy: you simply have to fill in your details on the country’s website and tick the box saying that you agree with its constitution, a copy of which can be viewed online.
I don’t know about you, but so fed up am I with this never-ending mess around Brexit that at times I feel like leaving the UK (even if just in my dreams) and becoming an Asgardian. Or a Sealander, for that matter. Or perhaps even starting a micronation of my own. In fact, I’ve already made the first steps towards it by creating a name and a blog – see ‘View from Vitalia’.