On May 20, East Timor will celebrate its 20th year as the first new country of the 21st century. This Southeast Asian island country is one of several nations that have emerged in recent decades, either through peaceful referendums like the Velvet Revolution that broke up Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic (or Czechia) and Slovakia or the years of violence that eventually led to the separation of South Sudan from Sudan. (Here are some countries that no longer exist and why.)
The birth of nations can have radically different outcomes. While the Czech Republic maintained and grew its economy with a high living standard from its inception in the early ‘90s, South Sudan tumbled into a bloody civil war less than three years after its independence in 2011. (These are the 25 smallest countries and territories in the world.)
To compile a list of the nine newest countries in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed several articles on the subject in major newspapers, and confirmed the information with the list of countries published by the U.S. Department of State on the Office of the Historian’s “All Countries” web pages.
The formation of new countries has slowed in modern times. Only five countries have emerged since 2000 – three of which came from the dissolution of Yugoslavia. But as recently as 2014, Scotland held an independence referendum after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The independence bid failed, but nearly 45% of voters supported independence, and some observers feel that Brexit (which 62% of Scots opposed) may lead to a different result if another referendum is called.
A similar movement for independence has been underway in the Spanish region of Catalonia, which has its own culture and language as well as a strong sense of unique identity. In addition, the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec held referendums on independence in 1980 and 1995, and though both were defeated, there is still a strong separatist element.
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In Africa, which produced two of the newest countries on this list, momentum has been building for full recognition of yet another one, Western Sahara. Officially known as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the de facto sovereign state considers Morocco an occupier. The former Spanish colony has garnered recognition from dozens of United Nations member states.
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