In olden times, countries came in and out of existence on a frequent basis as fighting raged across the world. Different peoples and factions aimed to carve out their own territories and spaces. In the modern age, especially since nearly all borders have been delineated, it is rather rare that a new country emerges, which is why the declaration of South Sudan as a country in 2011 was so widely popularized. The past 25 years have seen such massive changes in terms of country development (even more if you go back to World War II, after which many colonial empires fell for good and their colonial possessions became independent) that the 25 newest countries (technically 31 countries as you’ll see by #’s 3, 6, 8, 16, and 17) on this list have barely existed for 25 years at the most. Though the breakup of the Soviet Union led to the fascinating histories of many of the countries on this list, there are loads of new ones from the Pacific Ocean to the Arabian Peninsula and even to southern Africa. Wake up the budding cartographer in you with this list of the 25 Newest Countries to Come Into Existence.
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The second-to-last African country to gain independence, Namibia was a South African territory until 1990. Occupied by Germany after the carving up of Africa, Namibia was occupied by South Africa during World War I; South Africa administered Namibia until after World War II when it annexed the area. The Marxist South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) launched a guerrilla-based war of independence that raged for over 20 years, despite the United Nations’ recognition of SWAPO as the official representative of Namibians. Full independence was achieved on March 21st, 1990.
The Gulf-country of Yemen is embroiled in a deep civil war which has seen major fighting between factions in the north and south. But there’s a reason for the fighting if we look to history. Yemen was formerly split between North and South Yemen. North Yemen, formally the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, was controlled by the Ottoman Empire and gained its independence upon the Empire’s demise in 1918. South Yemen, formally the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, had become a British protectorate in 1839 and only became independent upon British withdrawal in 1967. Though the two countries unified in 1990, South Yemen seceded in 1994 which led to a period of northern occupation (supported by the United States) and a brief civil war to unify them again. Continued fighting has since occurred, the most serious of which is the modern-day renewed war between northern and southern factions. It’s unclear as of yet, but the fighting may bring a new country to clinch this list’s top spot as the newest country in the world.
The modern state of Germany has only existed for upwards of 25 years, something Germans who lived through those tough times were proud to see come to fruition. The country’s history stretches back for most of European history with multiple mergers and divisions, but was most recently divided in 1945 between the western (Allied-backed) Federal Republic of Germany and the eastern (Soviet-backed) German Democratic Republic (GDR). Berlin was also famously divided – the fall of the Berlin Wall meant the last days of the GDR and the reunification of Germany on October 3rd, 1990, making it one of the newest countries to come into existence.
Slovenia has long played an important role in trade between Asia and Central and Western Europe. Formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it united with nearby countries to form the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes after World War I, soon becoming the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. After World War II, the kingdom became the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia before breaking up in 1992. Slovenia shares a similar history (see #15) with other Yugoslavian countries (#’s 2, 9, 12, 15), though has always maintained a close history and relationship with Western Europe. As the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc was collapsing in 1991, Slovenians fought a 10-day war against the Yugoslav People’s Army to become the first of the socialist republic’s states to break off.
Located in an economically-important corner of Europe, modern-day Estonia has been controlled by the ruling elites of Denmark, Germany, and Sweden. Sweden gave the country up to Russia after losing the Great Northern War in 1721 and the Russians casually ruled the area until imposing Russification in the 1890’s, causing a nationalist backlash. Following Russia’s October Revolution, Estonia declared its first independence in 1918 before fighting a 14-month war of independence against the Bolsheviks. It would briefly remain free until Soviet occupation turned it into a socialist republic, a condition that would endure until the fall of the Eastern Bloc.