Catalonia Follow Up

It now seems unclear if Catalonia will manage to declare independence from Spain. And would it actually become independent even if it did?

New countries are surprisingly common, with around 30 (depending how you define "new country") since the beginning of the 1990s. The richest year was easily 1991, with perhaps 17 new countries.

The majority of these came from the breakup of the Soviet Union: Georgia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan are all former Soviet states that came into being (or back into being) in 1991. In fact, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan all became independent in a three-week period - quicker than one every three days.

Also in this year Germany was reunited from the post-war East Germany and West Germany.

But are these new countries, or are they old countries that regained independence after being taken over by a conquering nation, or reformed after being partitioned?

The newest country is South Sudan, which gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, and it is definitely a new country, having never existed as a nation before.

Before that we have Timor-Leste, which, via a circuitous route from Portugal, Indonesia and the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, became a new, autonomous country in 2002.

But going back from Timor-Leste the next new independent country is probably Namibia. This started its existence as German South West Africa, was occupied by South Africa in 1915, and became independent in 1990.

So since 1990, perhaps 30 new countries or perhaps only three, depending on what you think makes a "new" country.

There are three ways a new country can form:

Part of an existing country can gain independence from another; most recently South Sudan, and potentially Catalonia.

A country reunifies; most recently by Germany.

A country splitting into two or more parts, such as the Soviet Union . . . but which was the most recent country to split into parts?

The answer is Serbia and Montenegro that split in 2006, thirteen years after Czechoslovakia.


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