We all yearn to be free — to be independent, to call our own shots. But most of us have to abide by rules. You might be living in your parents’ house, for example, and have to follow the whole “my house, my rules” trope. Or you might live in a city or state with some laws you disagree with. Through it all, you just want to get away and pull the lever in favor of secession.
You want independence.
Unfortunately, becoming independent isn’t as easy as it sounds. A group of American states found that out the hard way during the Civil War. The United States itself had to go through the Revolutionary War to escape England’s clutches and then deal with the backlash again in 1812. Many other countries or would-be countries have gone through the same. If you want to be free and independent, it usually comes at a price.
Today, we’re seeing several countries — or prospective countries — willing to pay that price. Lately, the headlines have focused on Catalonia, which is trying to break away from Spain and become a sovereign country. But there are independence pushes happening all around the world and even within the U.S. as we speak. Here are 15 of them, starting with Catalonia.
- Violence might spill into the streets over Catalonia’s independence fight.
We’ll start with Catalonia, which is the proposed new country that has set off all this talk about independence. If you’ve been following the news, you know Catalonia is a part of Spain. The people there, however, are fighting to break away from Spain and form their own sovereign country. But the Spaniards, as you’d expect, aren’t willing to let a hunk of their country go quietly into the night. We don’t know what will happen yet, but it could get ugly.
Next: First, there was Brexit. Now, a Brexit exit?
- Many people in Scotland wish to remain a part of the European Union. That would mean breaking away from the U.K.
Scotland, along with Wales, Britain, and Northern Ireland, form the U.K. There is a lot of support for the idea of Scotland formally breaking away and forming its own sovereign nation — inspired by what’s happening in Catalonia. The Scots did vote against this very idea not too long ago, but it was only a matter of time before it bubbled back up, especially with the U.K. voting to leave the European Union, which puts Scotland in a tough position.
Next: Will a new country be born of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts?
- All the turmoil in the Middle East might see a new country rise from the ashes.
Officially referred to as Iraqi Kurdistan, Kurdistan is an area in northern Iraq, which is populated with one major group: the Kurds. It’s situated along the border with Syria, Turkey, and Iran, putting it right in the middle of the fracas with ISIS and the Syrian civil war. The Kurds want to make it their official homeland, but their neighboring countries are dead set against it. Again, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. But when it comes to the Middle East, things are hardly ever clear cut.
Next: A region in West Africa with more than 13 million people that still dreams of independence
- Located in West Africa, Biafra is an offshoot of Nigeria, which is home to 250 distinct ethnic groups.
The would-be nation of Biafra is actually an offshoot of Nigeria, which itself only declared independence from Britain in 1960. Back in the late 1960s, one of the country’s major ethnic groups did break off and establish the Republic of Biafra in southern Nigeria. This caused a civil war, which ended with Biafra’s defeat and reabsorption back into Nigeria. Support for Biafra is still alive, and the fighting — mostly political these days — rages on.
Next: A Canadian province that looks to secede
- La Révolution? Oui!
Many people would be surprised to learn a Canadian province has made serious threats about splintering away from its mother country. That’s the case with Quebec, which is home to Montreal and Quebec City, two major metropolises. Culturally, Quebec is different from the rest of the country, with a huge French-speaking population being the most obvious difference. The groundwork has already been laid, so to speak, but it’s hard to think Quebec will actually attempt to pull the trigger and leave Canada.
Next: A battle for independence in one of the world’s most iconic cities
- Has the Renaissance gotten to the Venetians’ heads?
Few cities are more iconic than Venice, Italy. But Venetians are evidently fed up with some of Italy’s policies and are threatening to break away and start their own country. There have already been referendums, including one in 2014 during which 2.1 million people voted to annex Venice into its own nation. Those 2.1 million people represented 89% of the voters, so it’s safe to say sovereignty is a very popular idea in Venice. Whether it happens, though, is another question.
Next: What would you get if you took a part of Belgium and a part of the Netherlands?
- It shares a name with a Simpsons character, but this Flanders is very much real.
Many people would be surprised to learn a new country might be born right between Belgium and the Netherlands. Flanders is one of Belgium’s three primary regions, in which the majority speaks Dutch. And Belgium being a very politically divided nation, there’s serious talk about Flanders declaring independence from the rest of Belgium. Flanders is a relatively rich part of Belgium, and many residents there don’t like seeing their money spent in other regions — on people they don’t know, they can’t speak with, or who lack their cultural customs.
Next: Spain isn’t the only European country with splintering loyalties.
8. New Caledonia
- The New Caledonia independence referendum is scheduled for 2018.
Plans have been drawn for New Caledonia — an island archipelago in the Pacific now a part of France — to leave and become its own country. This has been an idea floating around for decades now. There was actually a referendum in 1987, but it was overwhelmingly voted down with 98.3% of voters opting to stay in France. Though more people are on board these days, it still appears to be an unpopular option. Expect New Caledonia to remain with France for the time being.
Next: Yet another part of Spain that’s ready to revolt
9. Basque Country
- Basque Country has special status as an autonomous region in Spain, but it’s not enough.
We’re not through with Spain yet. Watching Catalonia rebel and push for independence has evidently inspired similar movements to step up their game. One of those is in Basque Country, which has a unique culture and language that differs from the rest of Spain. It’s located in northern Spain along the Bay of Biscay and is home to more than 2 million people. It’s long been an area of conflict, and secession has been on people’s minds for many years.
Next: To Oceania, where a portion of a large island nation has had enough
10. West Papua
- Though still a province of Indonesia, West Papua is pushing for statehood.
Located in Indonesia, West Papua doesn’t get as much attention as other would-be countries pushing for sovereignty. It did make its case before the U.N. recently but was shot down. Reportedly 70% of West Papua supports the push for independence, but Indonesia doesn’t look like it’s going to let it happen. Still, there is considerable interest among those in West Papua when it comes to breaking away from Indonesia, but it’s too early to say whether it will be successful.
Next: We head to a U.S. state that, on its own, is the world’s sixth-largest economy. In other words, it can take care of itself.
- California is America’s most populous state and is the world’s sixth-biggest economy.
It’s hard to think California would ever break away from the rest of the U.S. And it’s hard to think the federal government would let it. But that hasn’t stopped many Californians from dreaming about it. “Calexit” referendums have been put up to vote, and there seems to be some real enthusiasm among the state’s residents about leaving the rest of the country. This isn’t all that unique, of course, as Texas has threatened secession many times, and other separatist movements exist in different parts of the country.
Next: From the sunny Pacific Coast to some islands way up north
12. Faroe Islands
- The Faroe Islands want to separate from Denmark, but the Danes don’t seem keen on letting it happen.
The people of the Faroe Islands — located near Denmark and also a part of Denmark — plan to vote on a constitution in 2018. The issue, of course, is it’s not a sovereign country, at least not as long as Denmark has anything to say about it. Denmark has held dominion over the islands since the 1300s, and it doesn’t seem like it wants to give them up. But the Faroe Islands are pushing hard for independence, and given that it even has its own soccer team it might actually happen.
Next: A couple of former Soviet states hoping to become independent
13. South Ossetia
- After voting for independence in 2006, South Ossetia still isn’t recognized as a sovereign country by most of the world.
South Ossetia is a small block of land in Georgia, bordering Russia. Russia actually recognizes South Ossetia’s independence — much of the South Ossetia population actually wants to rejoin Russia — but few other nations do. The area has hosted wars fought between Russia and Georgia as recently as 2008, and it continues to be a politically and geographically troubled pseudo-nation. With increased Russian aggression as of late (Crimea annexation), South Ossetia might become more independent than ever before.
Next: Another nearby would-be nation that is still technically a part of Georgia
- Home to more than a quarter of a million people, Abkhazia is located on the Black Sea’s eastern shore.
Abkhazia is controlled by a separatist government and is actually a partially recognized state on the Black Sea. Though it’s technically still a part of Georgia, Russia and a few other countries recognize Abkhazia’s sovereignty. It’s in a region fraught with independence pushes and infighting, as it’s a former Soviet state. It formally declared independence in 1999, but again, only a few countries acknowledge it.
Next: Another U.S. state with dreams of seeing its kingdom reborn
- Many native Hawaiians consider their state an occupied nation — occupied, of course, by the U.S.
Hawaii is almost halfway around the world from the East Coast. And its native population isn’t all that thrilled about being a part of the U.S. As such, there is a lot of support among the archipelago’s community for a push toward independence and sovereignty. As with other U.S. states that have threatened secession, it’s hard to imagine Hawaii actually going through with it. But there’s evidently been some talk between the federal government and native Hawaiian leaders about secession.
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