Top 10 SMALLEST Countries in the World
Take a look at a broad world map and you’ll easily be able to identify a multitude of countries like the United States, Russia, Canada, Greenland, and Australia. What you’re not seeing without having to strain your eyes or zoom in 10x are the smaller countries of the world. For this installment, we’re grabbing our magnifying glass and searching for the top 10 smallest countries in the world.
Nestled in the western region of Rome, Italy, enclosed in a walled off territory, is the unique country known as the State of Vatican City. At .17 square miles or roughly.44 square kilometers large and sporting a population of around 450 people, Vatican City holds the record of being the world’s smallest country. Acting independent from Italy, Vatican City is an absolute monarchy overseen by the Pope. Every five years, the Pope appoints a series of cardinals to act as the legislative function known as the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State. On February 11th, 1929, Vatican City was separated from Italy as its own sovereign state, eradicating the territorial Papal States once ruled by the Pope and ending a lengthy feud between the church and secular government.
After the signing of the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861, the French microstate of Monaco was officially recognized as its own country, separate from France. Taking up a small sliver of land on France’s coast, Monaco only takes up 499 acres of space, or 1 square mile or about 2.6 square kilometers. Overseeing a population of just under 40,000 people is a constitutional monarchy led by the Sovereign Prince of Monaco preceded by a Minister of State acting as the executive branch and a Council of Government. Though it is separate from France and has its own small military force, protection of the sovereign state is outlined in the treaty as France’s responsibility. In 1993, Monaco was accepted into the United Nations as a voting member.
At around 8 square miles or about 21 square kilometers, the Republic of Nauru, formerly known as Pleasant Island, sports a population of around 10,000 people. Neighboring Banaba Island in the South Pacific, Nauru was once under control of the German Empire until after World War I, where it was entered into the League of Nations by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. During World War II, the Japanese inhabited the small island and it wasn’t until 1968, long after the war ended, that Nauru gained its independence. With few fertile areas and minimal resources to offer for trade, the country’s main source of income has come from Australia in exchange for use of some of its land for detention centers for refugees. Allegedly, the centers have been famous for their poor conditions, overcrowding, and abuse of human rights.
For now, the small Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu has a spot on this list earned by its 10 square mile or 26 square kilometer area, but with a maximum elevation of only 15 feet or about 4.6 meters above sea level, global warming may be changing that in the not-too-distant future. The history of the tiny nation starts before recorded history, about 3,000 years ago during a migration into the Pacific. By the 19th century, Tuvalu came under British control where it remained until October 1st, 1978 when it became an independent nation within the Commonwealth. Tuvalu consists of six atolls and three reef islands and is ethnically uniform with about 96% of the near 11,000 people being Polynesian.
San Marino is a curious slice of Italy. On any map, it looks like a major city on the northeastern edge of the peninsula, but it’s actually a sovereign state of only 24 square miles or about 61 square kilometers. Long before the formation of Italy, Saint Marinus was forced from the city of Rimini, where he lived as a stonemason after the Diocletianic Persecution. He fled to Monte Titano where he erected a small church and, on September 3rd, 301, founded the city of San Marino. Though its independence wasn’t officially recognized by the Pope until 1631, San Marino is known for being the oldest sovereign state in the world. Despite being surrounded by Italian land, the country never fell under Italy’s rule. In fact, San Marino served as a haven for refugees during the 19th-century Italian unification and even drew a hostile eye as an Austrian supporter after remaining neutral during World War I.
Not only is it really fun to say, Liechtenstein is also an incredibly petite and adorable slice of Europe, set right between Austria and Switzerland. The nation measures out to 62 square miles or roughly 160 square kilometers and houses a population of around 37,000 people. The small sovereign state gained its independence in 1806 when Napoleon Bonaparte incorporated it into the Confederation of the Rhine, or a collection of client states of the First French Empire, with the Treaty of Pressburg. While the national language is German, it’s an Alemannic dialect that is more closely related to what may be heard in Switzerland and Austria. Since the mid-1970s, when Liechtenstein started to turn its economy around after the Cold War, it has been considered one of the safest countries in the world.
Thanks to Global Warming, the future of the Marshall Islands doesn’t look too good as sea levels continue to rise. By 2050, it’s estimated that 17% of the land may find itself underwater, and though that may not sound like a high number, consider that the small country only covers an area of 70 square miles or about 181 square kilometers. Located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 53,000 people call the Marshall Islands home. After being settled by Micronesian colonists in the 2nd millennium BC, the islands saw many visits by Spanish and English explorers. In 1874, the islands were under Spanish rule until they were sold to the German Empire in 1884. After being occupied by the Japanese in World War I and claimed by the United States in World War II, the Marshall Islands gained full sovereignty in 1986 under the Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
On September 19th, 1983, the West Indies country of Saint Kitts and Nevis, otherwise known as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, gained its independence from the United Kingdom, turning it into a two-island sovereign state with an area of 101 square miles or about 261 square kilometers. Initially settled by Native Americans known as the Kalinago, the islands became an interest of Europe when discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The first settlement was established in 1538 by the French Huguenots, though the Spanish quickly destroyed it, making way for English settlers in 1623. A series of battles ensued as the Spanish sought to reclaim the land from the English and French and all three aimed to push out the Kalinago for good. In the end, Spanish power diminished and the French eventually ceded after a battle with the English for St. Kitts.
Located in the Indian Ocean, the sovereign nation of the Maldives is comprised of 1,192 different islands. Its history dates back to around the 3rd century BC. The spread of Buddhism helped form the culture that let this 115 square mile or roughly 298 square kilometer series of islands flourish. Despite starting under Buddhist rule, the Maldives fell under a series of different powers including the Portuguese in the 16th century, the Dutch in the 17th century, and finally and unsurprisingly the British in the 19th century. On July 26th, 1965, the Maldives gained independence from the United Kingdom, though a British airbase remained functional on the island of Gan for another 12 years. In 2008, the nation introduced a new constitution that led to the election of President Mohamed Nasheed, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for arresting Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
The largest of the world’s smallest countries, the Mediterranean archipelago of Malta sizes up to an area of only 122 square miles or about 316 square kilometers. Over the course of its lengthy history, Malta has been inhabited by Stone Age farmers and hunters from Sicily, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, French, and, finally, the British before finally earning its independence in 1964. During World War II, Malta’s proximity to Sicily and Axis ports made it an ideal launching point for British attacks on the Italian Navy. After the war ended, Maltese Prime Minister George Borg Olivier entered into negotiations with the United Kingdom to achieve its independence. On May 1st, 2004, 14 years after the original application was submitted by foreign minister Guido de Marco, Malta was accepted into the European Union.