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Microstates Around the World Part 2

In the first part, we talked about the Oceanian microstates which usually don’t have much recorded history. Thus, I wrote more about their colonial past, economies, and populations. However, the European microstates are a lot older and are the last remains of feudalism in Europe, so the second part will be focused on history. We will be analyzing 3 of the 6 European microstates in this blog: Andorra, Malta, and Liechtenstein.


European microstates were small city-states, (usually a part of bigger Empires) during the Middle Ages and after they gained their independence, they were never annexed by surrounding countries mostly because of their mountainous terrains. That's why they are still around with their own cultures, policies, governments, and parliaments. Let's start with the biggest one, Andorra. The Principality of Andorra is located in the Pyrenees Mountain range with France in the north and Spain in the south. It has a land area of 468 km², a population of 79.000, and the capital city of Andorra la Vella. Andorrans are ethnically a part of the Romance people, and they mostly speak Catalonian. Andorra is an old country with the first settlements dating back to 9.500 BCE as a passage between the sides of the Pyrenees Mountains. During the Neolithic Age, the people of the valley started growing grains, raised farm animals, and traded with other nearby settlements. The inhabitants were a part of the Iberian tribe called Andosini. Between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD, the locals were influenced by the Romans and traded wine and grains with close by Roman cities. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region was controlled by the Visigoths and the Kingdom of Toledo. Additionally, the Visigoths stayed in the valleys of Andorra for two centuries and spread Christianity in the area. During the time the Muslim Empire of Al-Andalus annexed almost all of the Iberian Peninsula, Andorra was protected by the Franks and became a part of the buffer zone (Diocese of Urgell) between the Frankish Empire and the Muslims. At that time, Andorra was ruled by the bishop of the Diocese of Urgell, and the bishop was still one of the two co-princes of Andorra (The bishop of Urgell and the president of France ruled Andorra as co-princes, along with the executive council and head of government.). If you are curious about Andorra's geography, Andorra's population is mostly situated in a valley formed by the Gran Valira River in the Pyrenees Mountains, it has a rugged terrain with the highest point being 2,942 meters and an average elevation of 1,996 meters. Moreover, Andorra's biggest income is tourism with 10.2 million tourists annually and. This is because Andorra is cheaper compared to other European nations. So, people who love to shop visit Andorra for cheaper prices.

The capital city of Andorra:


Up next, we have Malta. Malta is an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea with Italy in the north and Libya in the south. Malta is especially a geopolitically important nation due to its location being right in the center of the Mediterranean Sea. Malta has a population of 519.000, a land area of 316 km2, and its capital is Valetta. Malta has been inhabited since 5900 BCE due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea and after 1000 BCE, Phoenician traders colonized the islands and used it as a stop when they used their trade routes. After the fall of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians started controlling the archipelago and after the First and Second Punic War, Malta was conquered by the Roman Empire and became a part of the province of Sicily. During the division of the Roman Empire, Malta fell under the control of the Western Roman Empire and then, it was conquered by the Vandals, Ostrogoths, and Byzantine Empire respectively. In 870, Malta was seized by the Arabs, and the Maltese language was highly influenced by Arabic. Between 1091 and the late 1700s, Malta changed owners a couple more times, and in 1798, it was captured by Napoleon. After that, in 1814, the British Empire gained control of the islands as part of the Treaty of Paris and in both World Wars, it was used as a military base and a place for the treatment of wounded soldiers. Finally, in 1964, Malta gained its independence as the State of Malta and 10 years later declared itself a republic within the Commonwealth (an international association formed by the former colonies of Great Britain.). Additionally, Malta joined the EU in 2004 and the eurozone in 2008. Malta is an archipelago with only 3 of its islands being inhabited, its official languages are Maltese and English and the most common religion is Roman Catholic.

A map of Malta:


Finally, let's talk about Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein is a landlocked nation in the Alps between Switzerland and Austria with a population of 39.000, a land area of 160 km2 and its capital is Vaduz. Liechtenstein is a very special nation because it is one of the only two doubly landlocked countries meaning its neighbors are also landlocked and according to a popular myth, one time, its army of 80 men were going to the Austro-Prussian War, and on their way they met a foreign guy (they claim that it was an Italian farmer) and he decided to live in Liechtenstein too so they came back with 81 people. Moreover, Liechtenstein has one of the highest scores on the Human Development Index with a score of 0.935, and the first settlements in the country date back to the Paleolithic Era with Neolithic farming starting in around 5300 BCE. In 58 BCE, the Roman Empire conquered the region by defeating the Alpine tribes living there and Liechtenstein became a part of the Raetia province. In the 6th century, the region was captured by the Frankish Empire and after the empire collapsed, it fell under the control of East Francia, one of the countries that formed after the collapse of the Frankish Empire. Around 1000, the region was seized by the Holy Roman Empire and until about 1100, the predominant language remained Romansch but then the German language gained popularity in the region. In 1719, during the Napoleonic Wars, France started to control the Holy Roman Empire. Eventually, France completely dissolved the Empire and reorganized its land, and formed the Confederation of the Rhine. But when the Confederation dissolved in 1813, Liechtenstein joined the German Federation which was established afterwards. After that, until the end of World War 1, Liechtenstein was a part of the Austrian Empire and then Austria-Hungary. After the Empire dissolved, Liechtenstein became independent and during World War 2, it remained neutral along with Switzerland and managed to survive the war. On September 20th, 1990, Liechtenstein became the 160th member of the United Nations. However, I think the weirdest thing about Liechtenstein is that they don't have an army nor an airport!

A map of Liechtenstein:


Briefly, Europe is rich in microstates due to its history of feudalism and these small nations are functioning, independent countries despite their small sizes and populations.


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