Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Principality of Sealand

Size: .0002 of a square mile

Of all the tiny upstart nations in the world, perhaps none has managed to garner as much fame as the Principality of Sealand, a micronation built on an abandoned WWII sea fort off the coast of Britain. It was started in 1967, when famed pirate radio broadcaster Paddy Roy Bates occupied the platform and began using it as hub for his station “Radio Essex.” Bates began calling the fort “Sealand,” and by 1975 he had come up with a flag, a national anthem, a currency, and even passports. Unlike most micronations, Sealand has gained a remarkably high profile in the international community, if only for its readiness to use force. This was most apparent in 1968, when Bates’s son Michael used a rifle to fire on a British vessel that had entered Sealand’s territorial waters. He was handed a weapons charge, but managed to dodge it in court because Sealand was far enough off the coast that it was outside of British jurisdiction. This decision has been used time and again as proof of Sealand’s sovereignty, but it has yet to be recognized by any major country. Germany did send a representative to the fort during the so-called “Second Sealand Incident” in 1975, when a German citizen briefly claimed the platform before being ousted and imprisoned by the Bates, but it has since denied that this action means it recognizes Sealand as a legitimate nation.

In recent years, Sealand has become less of a country and more of a business venture. During the dot com era, it was briefly used as an offshore data hosting facility because of its lack of laws and regulations. It has also operated as a tourist destination, and in recent years the Bates family even unsuccessfully attempted to sell the Principality for some 750 million euros.

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