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9 countries that ceased to exist in the 20th century


There’s nothing quite like the bragging rights of a new, exotic stamp in your passport. However, that won’t be happening with the following countries, which, as of astonishingly recently, no longer exist.

Whether they lost wars, were adopted by other countries, or simply got forgotten, here are nine countries that ceased to exist in the 20th century.​

Neutral Moresnet, 1816 to 1920

After Napoleon’s fall in 1815, Europe had to rethink its borders.

This small piece of land, less than 1.5 square milesthat used to be wedged between present-day Germany and Belgium, fell through the cracks when Europe’s borders were redrawn, and became a “co-dominium,” meaning that Belgium and what was then Prussia shared custody of it: Both had their eye on a profitable zinc mine.

The tiny territory was Dutch-Prussian prior to Belgium’s 1830 independence, briefly German when annexed during World War I, and finally formally annexed by Belgium in 1920. Today, it essentially amounts to the Belgian city of Kelmis.

.moresnet_karteA postcard of Neutral Moresnet, pictured around 1900.

Republic of Salò, 1943 to 1945

Also known as the Italian Social Republic, Salò was essentially a Nazi satellite state in Italy and run by Mussolini. Or rather “run” by Mussolini, as it was really only officially recognized by Germany, Japan, and the rest of the Axis powers, and depended heavily on German troops to maintain control. While it claimed Rome as its capital and northern Italy as its territory, it really centered on the small town of Salò, which is near Lake Garda and east of Milan. The rickety regime came to an end in 1945 — on what’s now known as Liberation Day — when, thanks to the Allied forces, every last German was removed from the country.

students_for_a_free_tibetMany believe that Tibet should become an independent country once more.

Tibet, 1912 to 1951

Wikimedia/Medill DCMany believe that Tibet should become an independent country once more.

Of course Tibet has a history predating 1912 by thousands of years, but 1912 marks the year it officially became a recognized independent country, proclaimed as such by the Dalai Lama. Under a chain of Dalai Lamas, Tibet was a peaceful country. Communist China invaded in 1951, occupying Tibet until it rebelled in 1959, leading China to annex it. Ever heard the chant “Free Tibet”? Tibet is still calling for its independence to this day, and it has many outspoken advocates.

United Arab Republic, 1958 to 1971

Mostly a political union between Egypt and Syria that hoped to thwart Israel, among other things, the UAR didn’t last long, as Syria seceded from the republic after only three years. (The fact that Egypt and Syria don’t even share a border didn’t help with cohesion.) While Egypt continued to be known as the United Arab Republic for another decade, it was dissolved in 1971.

Sikkim, 1642 to 1975

Once a tiny Himalayan monarchy (the kingdom of Sikkim was established in 1642 when Phuntsog Namgyal was crowned the first king), Sikkim was absorbed into India as its 22nd state in 1975. Before becoming part of northern India, Sikkim sat along the Silk Road route to China and was bordered by Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and India’s West Bengal state.

Ceylon, 1505 to 1972

This South Asian country, better known as Sri Lanka, has a pretty international history, having been a trading hub for Arabs in the 7th century before the Europeans took over. After that Ceylon was ruled by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British from 1815 until 1948, when Ceylon gained its full independence.

In 1972, it changed its name to Sri Lanka.​


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