History is the story of nations rising and falling. While countries and empires have lasted for centuries, other nations were not so lucky. Sometimes a country exists and falls within a month, sometimes within a day. These countries were born out of political pressure or necessity but failed to survive for various reasons but all of the countries that are on this list were declared independent at some point. Whether or not they were recognized by the international community is another thing. Nonetheless, their histories tell exciting tales of samurai nations, Danish adventures, communist revolutions, Canadian civil wars, Biafran separatists, and more.
This is a Listverse article that didn’t pan out, so it is for you dear readers.
6. Republic of Ezo (151 Days)
When Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Japan at the beginning of the 1850s, he was the first American official to make real contact with the Japanese people, and the most important figure for the opening of trade between the American and Japanese government. While most Americans viewed the Perry Expedition as a success, a large part of the Japanese public disagreed with how the ruling Tokugawa regime handled negotiations. A decade after the expedition, forces who wished for power to return to the hereditary emperor hatched a plan to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate. A brief war ensued, ending with pro-emperor forces reclaiming most of Japan and removing the Tokugawa shogunate from political power.
Fleeing the main island, the Tokugawa shogunate led by Admiral Enomoto Takeaki and his French military advisers settled on the sparsely populated and undeveloped island of Hokkaido. When the Imperial government refused to give the group legitimacy in 1869, Takeaki declared the Republic of Ezo a separate state. One of the main goals of the new country was preserving the old samurai ways and setting up a more egalitarian government. To this end, the Republic of Ezo was the first government to hold democratic elections on the Japanese islands, with much of their government ideas based off of French and American philosophies.
Peace was not long-lasting. In less than a year the Imperial forces looked to consolidate their foothold on the islands, and the rebellious government of Ezo posed a challenge to their claim. Using the newly modernized Japanese fleet, the Imperial forces landed on Ezo and quickly won a decisive battle against the samurai forces. Within a week Imperial forces surrounded the main fortress of Goryokaku, forcing Takeaki to surrender his forces. The Republic of Ezo was dismantled, effectively ending the tradition of the samurai. Although the small state was short-lived, it was influential on Japan. Democratic ideals practiced in Ezo would soon be instituted in the Empire. The conquest of Ezo also gave the Imperial Japanese forces much needed practice for their inevitable expansion across to Korea and Taiwan. To this day Japanese culture remembers the Republic as the last stronghold of the fabled samurai.
5. Provisional Government of Saskatchewan (62 Days)
While Canada is usually stereotyped as a peaceful non-interventionist country by their southern neighbors in the United States, the inhabitants of the great white North have had their fair share of armed conflict. One of the lesser known but interesting wars was the short-lived North-West Rebellion of 1885. This uprising started to address the grievances of the native Métis and Cree people, under the command of the controversial figure of Louis Riel.
Riel had a history of agitating the original inhabitants of Canada against the European and Eastern North American settlers. After starting unsuccessful rebellions in the 1870s, Riel began his biggest revolt in 1885, kicking off the North-West Rebellion. His stated goal was to give the native people their original life style back and loosen the grip of the Canadian government, but soon blossomed into full blown succession. Small skirmishes were fought in the beginning of 1885, but in March of that year, Riel made his big move by declaring the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan based in Batoche as an independent country. Riel planned to unite all the native people of Saskatchewan along with the white settlers under the banner of his new government.
Unfortunately for Riel, his plan never caught on and the Canadian government would not allow the ad hoc government to exist. Lead by Frederick Middleton, nearly one thousand militia men and regular soldiers surrounded the capital of Batoche and conducted a series of probing attacks for two days. The attacks weakened the Batoche defenses with almost three-fourths of the rebel men wounded, killed, or fleeing. On May 12th, Middleton stormed the settlement, capturing Riel and ending the rebellion. With the new government subdued, the Canadian government was able to restore order to the territory. In November Riel was hung. Even though the rebellion was shut down, the Canadian government still had to deal with political fallout from the incident, especially after they followed the rebellion with increasingly strict measures against the plain Indians.
4. Land of Iceland (58 Days)
Danish explorer Jorgen Jorgenson is one of the most fascinating but overlooked personalities of the Napoleonic era. His life was filled with adventure and danger, more than it seems one man could handle. Although his life is worth looking into and discussing, the most interesting aspect of his checkered story is when Jorgenson became the ruler of an independent Iceland for almost two months.
Jorgenson began the adventure that would lead to him ruling Iceland during the Napoleonic War, when he was present at the British bombing of Copenhagen. Outraged, Jorgenson joined the Navy and was given command of the privateer ship Admiral Huul. After a series of successful raids, Jorgenson was caught by the H.M.S. Sappho, forcing him to surrender. The English Navy took him back to London where he was held in prison for several months. On parole, Jorgenson convinced an English captain to conduct a trade expedition to Iceland, which was experience severe food shortages due to Danish trade limits. In March 1809, Jorgenson first set foot in Iceland, and was disappointed with the way that the Icelandic people were treated by Danish ruling authorities. A few months later, Jorgenson was back in Iceland again with another English trade expedition, this time with the plan to overthrow the Danish government.
Jorgenson was just the interpreter on the expedition but somehow he convinced the English sailors to help him arrest the Danish governor of Iceland. With the governor out of the way, Jorgenson installed himself the protector of Iceland. Jorgenson declared Iceland an independent country and promised the Icelandic people to reestablish the Althing, the historical Icelandic parliament, as soon as they were able to govern themselves. Jorgenson had big plans, but as soon as the Danish government heard of what happened, they requested English help to reinstate the governor, even though the two governments were on opposite sides of the Napoleonic War. After two months of ruling Iceland, the HMS Talbot arrived and overthrew Jorgenson’s reign. The indifferent Icelandic people offered no help as their self-proclaimed “protector” was hauled away. Iceland fell back under Danish rule. However, the actions of Jorgenson are an important event in the eventual independence of Iceland. To this day he is known as Jorundur hundadagakonungur, literally translated as “Jorgen the dog-days king”.
3. Republic of Benin (1 Day)
Nigeria became involved in a bloody civil war when the Republic of Biafra succeeded from its parent state in 1967. Tension had been rising for years between the ethnic groups of Nigeria. Biafra was composed mostly of the Igbo people and looked for international recognition, dragging the region into a civil war. Nigeria’s region known as Mid-Western attempted to stay neutral in the conflict, but was occupied by Biafran forces weeks after the succession.
From the start the Biafran occupation ran into trouble, since Mid-Western had a mixed Igbo, non-Igbo population. Biafran leadership appointed doctor Albert Okonkwo to rule the new area. As soon as he took control Okonkwo endlessly broadcasted pro-Biafran propaganda, which seemed to work for a time. However, the non-Igbo population became increasingly restless as the occupation continued and Nigerian federal forces began to liberate the Mid-Western. After only a few months of controlling the region, Okonkwo became concerned that the non-Igbo groups would side with Federal forces and overthrow him.
Because federal Nigerian forces were able to begin a reconquest of the Mid-Western territory so effectively, Okonkwo needed a last-ditch effort to separate the non-Igbos from federal forces. In a baffling move, Okonkwo and his ministers decided the best course of action was to declare the Republic of Benin a separate country on September 20, 1967, only a few months after the civil war officially commenced. Okonkwo declared that the Republic of Benin would support Biafra in all military endeavors and apply for UN membership. Despite the lofty announcement, Federal forces supported by the British overtook the capital of Benin City the next morning, 12 hours after the Republic was officially declared. Okonkwo and his officials did not bring up the independence as the Republic slipped back under Federal control. The Republic of Benin holds the record for the shortest lived country in African history.
2. Carpatho-Ukraine (1 Day)
Pre-World War II Czechoslovakia was a country of a variety of Slavic ethnic groups. Among these were the Ruthenians, a distinct linguistic and ethnic group (of which Andy Warhol was a part). While the country held together at first, growing tensions between the Ruthenians and the rest of Czechoslovakia were aggravated by Nazi policies leading up to World War II. In 1938 Hilter became concerned about a possible war with the Czechoslovakians and mobilized soldiers to prepare for the fight. At the same time Hungary mobilized troops to their border to support Hitler. These troops were almost entirely bordering Carpatho-Ukraine. On March 15, 1939 Nazi troops invaded Czechoslovakia and declared it a protectorate of the Reich.
A day earlier, the Slovakia region of the country declared itself independent, which put Carpatho-Ukraine in an awkward position. Independent Slovakia put a whole country between them and the Czech capital of Prague. The Ruthenians had no desire to ally themselves with other bordering nations, especially the Soviet Union. On March 15, 1939 Carpatho-Ukraine declared itself an independent country and adopted the blue and yellow flag associated with present day Ukraine. Instantly the country dissolved into anarchy as irregular soldiers attacked pro-Slovak and pro-Hungarian citizens.
Hungarian and Ruthenian relations were strained before this. Border clashes occurred regularly over the past year and the Hungarians were itching to put down the problematic region. With pro-Hungarian citizens being attacked and tension escalating, the Hungarians received permission from Hitler to attack the country and annex the territory. The same day that independence was declared Hungarian forces lunged over the border and took control of the new country. For the rest of World War II the region was under Hungarian occupation until the Red Army invaded in 1944. Carpatho-Ukraine became a part of the Ukrainian SSR and stayed with the country after the breakup of the Soviet Union. To this day there is a small Ruthenian movement to make the region an independent country again, but they are overshadowed by the current conflict over Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea.
1. Russian Democratic Federative Republic (Less Than A Day)
Here is the shortest lived country in history. The Russian Democratic Federative Republic lasted only a few hours after it was founded. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 Russia was thrown into confusion. When Tsar Nicholar II abdicated, control of the government fell to the leaders of the Duma, which became known as the Provisional Government. Pre-revolution law demanded that an election be held and within a few weeks of the Provisional Government taking power the citizens of Russia demanded the election of a Russian Constituent Assembly.
All political parties agreed to the election. However, once the ballots came in it was the Right Socialist Revolutionaries who won the election, not the Bolsheviks as Vladimir Lenin predicted. Bolshevik power was concentrated in the soldiers on the Western Front and in the cities, but it was the right-wing Socialist Revolutionary party that took control of the new Russian Constituent Assembly. Lenin and the Bolsheviks believed that the elections did not really represent the desires of the Russian people and demanded that the Constituent Assembly recognize the demands of the Soviets. When their demands were not met, the Bolsheviks walked out of the assembly.
The next day the Constituent Assembly ratified a constitution outlining the new government of Russia. Called the Russian Democratic Federative Republic, this new country was the first democratic government in Russia. The head of state would be elected for a one-year term and universal suffrage was given to all citizens over the age of 20. Oblast (regions of Russia, similar to states or provinces) government was recognized and a bicameral legislature was founded. Unfortunately for the Constituent Assembly, the Bolshiveks did not take defeat easily. Later in the afternoon Bolshivek forces attacked the Assembly, dispersing all the other political parties. The RDFR lasted only a few hours and the actions of the Bolshivek’s plunged Russia into a civil war culminating in Soviet control. To this day the RDFR is the shortest lived country in history. Had it survived, the history of the world would have been drastically different.