Looking for Something New? These 5 Countries Were Created Only This Century
This probably isn’t the case for everyone, but I’d bet there’s a sizable chunk of people out there who look at maps of the U.S. or Europe or Africa or wherever, see the borderlines as they’re drawn now, and completely take for granted that they didn’t always look that way. Chances are pretty good that you’ve taken a history class at some point in your lifetime, though, and you know that world maps have been in a constant state of change for centuries.
New countries don’t necessarily crop up all the time, but, believe it or not, there have been 34 countries added to the map since 1990. A host of these, including the likes of Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, became independent once more and were thus “new” again when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.
Several other new countries came into being during the ‘90s as well, but there have only been five nations newly created in the 21st century. Given current events in Cameroon, where the English-speaking minority is attempting to create a new nation called Ambazonia out of the central African country’s northwest and southwest regions, a sixth could soon join their ranks. For now, though, these are the five newest countries in the world, and here’s why you might want (or not want) to visit each:
1. South Sudan (2011)
South Sudan, the newest country in the world, is actually almost eight years old already, having declared independence from its northern neighbor, Sudan, on July 9, 2011. Independence did not come without sacrifice, however, as the people of the world’s youngest nation had to fight tooth and nail with the Sudanese over decades to get where they are now. Unfortunately, only two and a half years after earning its independence, South Sudan became embroiled in a civil war that remains ongoing.
Due to that continuing conflict, as well as rampant violent crime throughout the country, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel advisory back in December 2018 warning would-be visitors to try their luck elsewhere. The Fund for Peace, an American nonprofit research and educational institution, lists South Sudan as one of the most fragile states in the world, and Lonely Planet describes it as one of the poorest and least developed nations on the planet.
2. Kosovo (2008)
Part of the former Yugoslavia (as are the next two entries on this list), Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, a fellow eastern European nation, 11 years ago this month, on Feb. 17, 2008. Unlike South Sudan, however, Kosovo’s sovereignty is not entirely recognized.
While a healthy percentage of the respective memberships of NATO, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the European Union recognize the legitimacy of the country, only a little better than half of the members of the United Nations give Kosovo that credit. Serbia itself does not recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state, though the Serbs have begun to normalize relations with the Kosovan government in recent years.
Aside from being a young nation in terms of sovereignty, Kosovo is also home to a rather young population. According to a Feb. 2018 fact sheet put together by U.S. News & World Report, the median age in the country is 29.1 years, meaning Kosovo has one of the youngest populations in all of Europe. Wondering what there is to do here? Check out Eternal Arrival’s “21 Awesome Things to Do in Kosovo, Europe’s Newest Country.”
3. Serbia (2006)
Serbia happens to be pretty new itself. Another former piece of Yugoslavia, which dissolved into five separate countries in 1992, the Serbs established their own nation on June 5, 2006, after peacefully splitting with their counterpart, Montenegro, a couple days earlier. Though they’ve been around for more than a decade now, the good people of Serbia are still waiting to become a member state of the European Union, a process that may not be complete for another few years yet.
There are many reasons to visit Serbia, including plenty of stops in its capital, Belgrade. Easily among the city’s most popular attractions are Kalemegdan Park and Belgrade Fortress, which contain museums, monuments, and centuries of conflict. Learn more about other stops in the capital and beyond with this list from Culture Trip.
4. Montenegro (2006)
The other half of the once-unified Serbia and Montenegro isn’t too shabby itself. Quite a bit smaller than Serbia and only slightly larger than the land contained within Kosovo’s partially-recognized borders, Montenegro is an eastern European country that’s been getting a bit more attention from international travelers lately. Draws include lots of tiny islands, craggy mountains, pristine beaches, and 183 miles of coastline along the Adriatic Sea that Lord Byron once described as “the most beautiful merging of land and sea.”
Be wary, however: the Montenegrin coast is hardly Europe’s best kept secret anymore. In 2018, numerous outlets reported that coastal cities like Kotor were beginning to drown under a tidal wave of tourism. Everyone wants to visit during the summer, of course, but you may avoid the crowds by exploring during the offseason. For year-round ideas and inspiration, take a peek at this month-by-month guide cobbled together by Lonely Planet.
5. Timor-Leste (2002)
Finally, leaving eastern Europe behind, we have Timor-Leste, or East Timor, a Southeast Asian nation occupying half the island of Timor. Having declared independence from Indonesia on May 20, 2002, Timor-Leste was the first new sovereign state to be created in the 21st century (and is also the only nation on this list I hadn’t heard of before).
With the violent conflicts associated with the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste a thing of the past, locals and visitors alike can concentrate on the country’s positive attributes. Diving, biking, whale watching, and mountain driving are among the numerous reasons to visit the island nation, which contains about 5,400 square miles all told. In addition to the mainland, if you will, are the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco and the Oecusse district, an exclave on the western side of Timor.
Find out more about Timor-Leste’s jungle caves, misty mountain village markets, and spectacular seascapes with this travel guide authored by Vanguard Voyager.