Posts Tagged: micronations

Welcome to the Republic of Užupis

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  • A mermaid takes a seat by the river on the Uzupis border.
    A mermaid takes a seat by the river on the Uzupis border.
  • The constitution has been translated into 18 languages and is exhibited on the street in the heart of Uzupis, that is, just across the river.
    The constitution has been translated into 18 languages and is exhibited on the street in the heart of Uzupis, that is, just across the river.
  • Like Uzupis, its constitution has some quirky elements. Clauses include:  "Everyone is responsible for their freedom"; "Everyone has the right to celebrate or not celebrate their birthday"; "Everyone has the right to be happy"; "Everyone has the right to be unhappy";
"Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation." (That's me behind the clauses)
    Like Uzupis, its constitution has some quirky elements. Clauses include: "Everyone is responsible for their freedom"; "Everyone has the right to celebrate or not celebrate their birthday"; "Everyone has the right to be happy"; "Everyone has the right to be unhappy"; "Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation." (That's me behind the clauses)
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Having micronations on the brain reminds me of when, a few years ago on a rainy spring day in Vilnius, Lithuania, I unknowingly wandered into another country. On one side of a narrow foot bridge bedazzled with love locks, a standard road sign temps visitors to cross the Vilnia River and enter the Republic of Užupis. Appropriately, Užupis means “on the other side of the river.” This micronation is also a neighborhood in Vilnius’ old town with lots of shops and galleries, which declared itself independent on April Fools’ Day, 1997. At 0.2 square miles with an army of 11, its own currency, anthem and constitution, the Republic’s main agenda is to promote the arts, which they did by erecting a monument to Frank Zappa as one of its first initiatives. This utopian project also has a president: Romas Lileikis, a local artist. After the war, the neighborhood was largely abandoned and by the time Užupis was formed it had become derelict. Today, it is a bohemian nook that is increasingly home to wealthy professionals, including Vilnius’ own mayor. 

 

From the Sea, Freedom

photo via Lapham's Quarterly

photo via LaphamsQuarterly.org

Six miles off the English coast in the choppy North Sea waters stand two cement pylons supporting a platform spanning about 6,000 square feet. This is Her Majesty’s Fort Roughs, an abandoned World War II sea fort. It is also The Principality of Sealand – one of the world’s smallest self-proclaimed nations. For over forty years, the Bates family has clung to their nation of iron and cement, isolated by water, dabbling in business ventures, narrowly avoiding invasions and creating a dynasty based on the freedom of the unclaimed sea. While many projects in micronationalism have come and gone, Sealand lives on. E Mare Libertas, “From the sea, freedom.”