Monday, November 14, 2011


Norman Davies created a moment of diversion last week when he called attention to what might be Europe's greatest flash in the pan--the Republic of Subcarpathian Ruthenia. Davies explains:
March 15, 1939. ... It was the day that Hitler marched into Prague. The Germans swallowed Bohemia and Moravia, formed a protectorate and Slovakia became a client statelet of the Reich. And the third part of Czechoslovakia, this Subcarpathian Ruthenia, was left with nobody to tell it what to do. So it declared its independence at around 10 o’clock in the morning. And by the evening the Hungarian army arrived and swallowed it up. Fortunately there was a British travel writer – or someone posing as such – there at the time who described all this.
I'll concede that Subcarpathian Ruthenia might be the champ, but there are some interesting runners-up. Example: the "State of Franklin," perhaps most-conspicuous of the not-quite states of the American union: Franklin fought and lost its battle for statehood in the 1780s. There's the Oklahoma Panhandle, a more or less neglected orphan of the slavery conflict in the pre-Civil War period (also, apparently, one of the most Republican realms in the nation, going 82 percent for John McCain in 2008). Closer to (my natal) home, there's the Republic of the Indian Stream which straddled the US/Canadian border along the top of New Hampshire from 1832 to 1835. There are countless others but I suppose my very favorite is the Republic of Poyais, a child of the turmoil generated by the Latin American revolutions of the early 19th Century. Its most visible public face was one Gregor MacGregor, by his own account the Cacique of Poyais, the sponsor of development schemes and the peddler of grants to land in Poyais. Sadly for the settlers, it was a tissue of falsehood from start to finish. It happens I am the proud owner of one of the land grants, and if you happen to see MacGregor, tell him I'm still counting on him.


New York Crank said...

Wait a second! Just wait a damn second! You left out the best and shortest-lived republic of them all.

I'm speaking, of course, about the Independent Republic of Bohemia, accessed at its only frontier via a tiny door on the west side of the Washington Square arch in Greenwich Village, New York City.

In 1917 Marcel Duchamp, the father of the dadaist art movement, and seven of his friends, were going past the arch when the noticed the tiny door. They smashed it in and discovered a flight of stairs behind it. They ran up the stairs to the top of the arch and declared that lofty space The Independent Republic of Bohemia.

The Independent Republic of Bohemia lasted approximately twenty minutes. Then the police arrived, and the entire population of the republic was arrested for trespassing.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Buce said...

Dikaiopolis in Aristophanes' Acharnians declares himself a sovereignty of one.