New nations seem to pop up with alarming regularity. At the start of the 20th century, there were only a few dozen independent sovereign states on the planet; today, there are nearly 200! Once a nation is established, they tend to stick around for awhile, so a nation disappearing is quite uncommon. It’s only occurred a handful of times in the last century. But when they do, they completely vanish off the face of the globe: government, flag, and all. Here then, in no particular order, are the top ten countries that had their moment in the sun but are, alas, no more.
10. East Germany, 1949-1990
East Germany, formally the German Democratic Republic or GDR (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR), was a state in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War period. From 1949 to 1990, it administered the region of Germany that was occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II—the Soviet Occupation Zone of the Potsdam Agreement, bounded on the east by the Oder–Neisse line. The Soviet zone surrounded West Berlin, but did not include it; as a result, West Berlin remained outside the jurisdiction of the GDR. The German Democratic Republic was established in the Soviet Zone, while the Federal Republic was established in the three western zones. The East was often described as a satellite state of the Soviet Union. Soviet occupation authorities began transferring administrative responsibility to German communist leaders in 1948, and the GDR began to function as a state on 7 October 1949. Soviet forces, however, remained in the country throughout the Cold War. Until 1989, the GDR was governed by the Socialist Unity Party (SED), though other parties nominally participated in its alliance organisation, the National Front of Democratic Germany.
The economy was centrally planned, and increasingly state-owned. Prices of basic goods and services were set by central government planners, rather than rising and falling through supply and demand. Although the GDR had to pay substantial war reparations to the USSR, it became the most successful economy in the Eastern Bloc. Nonetheless it did not match the economic growth of West Germany. Emigration to the West was a significant problem—as many of the emigrants were well-educated young people, it further weakened the state economically. The government fortified its western borders and, in 1961, built the Berlin Wall. Many people attempting to emigrate were killed by border guards or booby traps, such as landmines.
In 1989, numerous social and political forces in the GDR and abroad led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of a government committed to liberalization. The following year open elections were held, and international negotiations led to the signing of the Final Settlement treaty on the status and borders of Germany. The GDR was dissolved and Germany was unified on 3 October 1990.
Geographically, the German Democratic Republic bordered the Baltic Sea to the north; the Polish People's Republic to the east; Czechoslovakia to the south and West Germany to the west. Internally, the GDR also bordered the Soviet sector of Allied-occupied Berlin known as East Berlin which was also administered as the state's de facto capital. It also bordered the three sectors occupied by the United States, United Kingdom and France known collectively as West Berlin. The three sectors occupied by the Western nations were sealed off from the rest of the GDR by the Berlin Wall from its construction in 1961 until it was breached in 1989.
9. Czechoslovakia, 1918-1992Was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.
From 1939 to 1945, following its forced division and partial incorporation into Nazi Germany, the state did not de facto exist but its government-in-exile continued to operate.
From 1948 to 1990, Czechoslovakia was part of the Soviet bloc with a command economy. Its economic status was formalized in membership of Comecon from 1949, and its defence status in the Warsaw Pact of May 1955. A period of political liberalization in 1968, known as the Prague Spring, was forcibly ended when the Soviet Union, assisted by several other Warsaw Pact countries invaded. In 1989, as Marxist–Leninist governments and communism were ending all over Europe, Czechoslovaks peacefully deposed their government in the Velvet Revolution; state price controls were removed after a period of preparation. In 1993, Czechoslovakia split into the two sovereign states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
8. Yugoslavia, 1918-1992
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFR Yugoslavia or SFRY) was the Yugoslav state that existed from its foundation in the aftermath of World War II until its dissolution in 1992 amid the Yugoslav Wars. It was a socialist state and a federation made up of six socialist republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. In addition, it included two autonomous provinces within Serbia: Kosovo and Vojvodina.
After initially siding with the Eastern bloc under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito at the beginning of the Cold War, Yugoslavia pursued a policy of neutrality after the Tito–Stalin split of 1948, and it became one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. After the death of Tito in 1980, rising ethnic nationalism in the late 1980s led to dissidence among the multiple ethnicities within the constituent republics, followed by collapse of inter-republic talks on transformation of the federation and recognition of their independence by some European states in 1991. This led to the federation collapsing along the federal borders, followed by the final downfall and breakup of the federation in 1992, and the start of the Yugoslav Wars. The term "former Yugoslavia" (bivša Jugoslavija) is now commonly used retrospectively.
7. Austro-Hungary, 1867-1918Austria-Hungary (German: Österreich-Ungarn; Hungarian: Ausztria-Magyarország; Czech: Rakousko-Uhersko; Slovak: Rakúsko-Uhorsko; Polish: Austro-Węgry; Croatian: Austro-Ugarska; Italian: Austria-Ungheria), also known by other names and often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire in English-language sources, was a constitutional union of the Austrian Empire (the kingdoms and lands represented in the Imperial Council, or Cisleithania) and the Kingdom of Hungary (Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen or Transleithania) that existed from 1867 to 1918, when it collapsed as a result of defeat in World War I. The union was a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 and came into existence on 30 March 1867, when the compromise was ratified by the Hungarian parliament. Austria-Hungary consisted of two monarchies (Austria and Hungary), and one autonomous region: the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia under the Hungarian crown, which negotiated the Croatian–Hungarian Settlement (Nagodba) in 1868. It was ruled by the House of Habsburg, and constituted the last phase in the constitutional evolution of the Habsburg Monarchy. Following the 1867 reforms, the Austrian and the Hungarian states were co-equal. The Compromise required regular renewal, as did the customs union between the two components of the union. Foreign affairs and the military came under joint oversight, but all other governmental faculties were divided between respective states.
Austria-Hungary was a multinational state and one of the world's great powers at the time. Austria-Hungary was geographically the second-largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire, at 621,538 km2 (239,977 sq mi), and the third-most populous (after Russia and the German Empire). The Empire built up the fourth-largest machine building industry of the world, after the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Austria-Hungary also became the world's third largest manufacturer and exporter of electric home appliances, electric industrial appliances and power generation apparatuses for power plants, after the United States and the German Empire.
After 1878, Bosnia and Herzegovina was under Austro-Hungarian military and civilian rule until it was fully annexed in 1908, provoking the Bosnian crisis among the other powers. Sandžak/Raška, de jure northern part of the Ottoman Sanjak of Novi Pazar, was also under de facto joint occupation during that period but the Austro-Hungarian army withdrew as part of their annexation of Bosnia. The annexation of Bosnia also led to Islam being recognized as an official state religion due to Bosnia's Muslim population.
Austria-Hungary was one of the Central Powers in World War I. It was already effectively dissolved by the time the military authorities signed the armistice of Villa Giusti on November 3, 1918. The Kingdom of Hungary and the First Austrian Republic were treated as its successors de jure, whereas the independence of the West Slavs and South Slavs of the Empire as the First Czechoslovak Republic, the Second Polish Republic and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, respectively, and most of the territorial demands of the Kingdom of Romania were also recognized by the victorious powers in 1920.
6. Tibet, 1913-1951The historical era of Tibet from 1912 to 1951 is marked following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, and lasted until the incorporation of Tibet by the People's Republic of China. The Tibetan Ganden Phodrang regime was under Qing rule until 1912, when the Provisional Government of the Republic of China replaced the Qing dynasty as the government of China, and signed a treaty with the Qing government inheriting all territories of the previous dynasty into the new republic, giving Tibet the status of an "Area" with extremely high levels of autonomy as how it was treated by the previous dynasty. However at the same time, several Tibetan representatives signed a treaty between Tibet and Mongolia proclaiming mutual recognition and their independence from China, although the Government of the Republic of China did not recognize the legitimacy of the treaty. With the high levels of autonomy and the "proclaiming of independence" by several Tibetan representatives, this period of Tibet is often described as "de facto independent", especially by some Tibetan independence supporters, although most countries of the world, as well as the United Nations, recognized Tibet as a part of the Republic of China.
The era ended after the Nationalist government of China lost the Chinese Civil War against the Chinese Communists Party, when the People's Liberation Army entered Tibet in 1950 and the Seventeen Point Agreement was signed with the Chinese affirming China's sovereignty over Tibet in the next year.
5. South Vietnam, 1955-1975South Vietnam, officially the Republic of Vietnam (Vietnamese: Việt Nam Cộng Hòa), was a state governing the southern half of Vietnam from 1955 to 1975. It received international recognition in 1949 as the "State of Vietnam" (1949–55), and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" (1955–75). Its capital was Saigon. The term "South Vietnam" became common usage in 1954, when the Geneva Conference provisionally partitioned Vietnam into communist and non-communist parts.
The Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed on 26 October 1955 with Ngô Đình Diệm as its first president. Its sovereignty was recognized by the United States and by some eighty-seven other nations. It had membership in several special committees of the United Nations, and would have been a member of the United Nations itself had it not been for a Soviet veto in 1957.
South Vietnam's origins can be traced to the French colony of Cochinchina, which consisted of the southern third of Vietnam and was a subdivision of French Indochina. After World War II, the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, proclaimed the establishment of a Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi in September, 1945. In 1949, anti-communist Vietnamese politicians formed a rival government in Saigon led by former emperor Bảo Đại. Bảo Đại was deposed by Prime Minister Ngô Đình Diệm in 1955, who proclaimed himself president after a referendum. After Diệm was killed in a military coup led by general Dương Văn Minh in 1963, there was a series of short-lived military governments. General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu led the country from 1967 until 1975. The Vietnam War began in 1959 with an uprising by Viet Cong forces armed and controlled by Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Fighting reached a climax during the Tet Offensive of 1968, when there were over 1.5 million South Vietnamese soldiers and 500,000 U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam. Despite a peace treaty concluded in January 1973, fighting continued until the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong armies overran Saigon on 30 April 1975, marking the end of the South Vietnamese state.
4. United Arab Republic, 1958-1971
The United Arab Republic (UAR; Arabic: الجمهورية العربية المتحدة al-Jumhūrīyah al-'Arabīyah al-Muttaḥidah) was a short-lived political union between Egypt and Syria. The union began in 1958 and existed until 1961, when Syria seceded from the union after the 1961 Syrian coup d'état. Egypt continued to be known officially as the "United Arab Republic" until 1971. The president was Gamal Abdel Nasser. It was a member of the United Arab States, a loose confederation with North Yemen which in 1961 dissolved along with the Republic.
Established on 1 February 1958, as a first step towards a larger pan-Arab state, the UAR was created when a group of political and military leaders in Syria proposed a merger of the two states to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Pan-Arab sentiment traditionally was very strong in Syria, and Nasser was a popular hero-figure throughout the Arab world following the Suez War of 1956. There was thus considerable popular support in Syria for union with Nasser's Egypt. The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party was the leading advocate of such a union.
In mid-1957 western powers began to worry that Syria was close to a communist takeover; it had a highly organized communist party and the newly appointed army's chief of staff, Afif al-Bizri, was a communist sympathizer. This caused the Syrian Crisis of 1957 after which Syrians intensified their efforts to unite with Egypt. Nasser told a Syrian delegation, including President Shukri al-Quwatli and Prime Minister Khaled al-Azem, that they needed to rid their government of communists, but the delegation countered and warned him that only total union with Egypt would end the "communist threat". According to Abdel Latif Boghdadi, Nasser initially resisted a total union with Syria, favoring instead a federal union. However, Nasser was "more afraid of a Communist takeover" and agreed on a total merger. The increasing strength of the Syrian Communist Party, under the leadership of Khalid Bakdash, worried the Syrian Ba'ath Party, which was suffering from an internal crisis from which prominent members were anxious to find an escape. Syria had had a democratic government since the overthrow of Adib al-Shishakli's military regime in 1954, and popular pressure for Arab unity was reflected in the composition of parliament.
3. Ottoman Empire, 1299-1922The Ottoman Empire (//; Ottoman Turkish: دولت عليه عثمانیه, Devlet-i ʿAlīye-i ʿOsmānīye; Modern Turkish: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu or Osmanlı Devleti), also known as the Turkish Empire, Ottoman Turkey, was an empire founded at the end of the thirteenth century in northwestern Anatolia in the vicinity of Bilecik and Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman. After 1354 the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans the Ottoman Beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire was a multinational, multilingual empire controlling much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, the Caucasus, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. At the beginning of the 17th century the empire contained 32 provinces and numerous vassal states. Some of these were later absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, while others were granted various types of autonomy during the course of centuries.
With Constantinople as its capital and control of lands around the Mediterranean basin, the Ottoman Empire was at the centre of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. While the empire was once thought to have entered a period of decline following the death of Suleiman the Magnificent, this view is no longer supported by the majority of academic historians. The empire continued to maintain a flexible and strong economy, society, and military throughout the seventeenth and much of the eighteenth century. However, during a long period of peace from 1740 to 1768, the Ottoman military system fell behind that of their European rivals, the Habsburg and Russian Empires. The Ottomans consequently suffered severe military defeats in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, which prompted them to initiate a comprehensive process of reform and modernization known as the Tanzimat. Thus over the course of the nineteenth century the Ottoman state became vastly more powerful and organized, despite suffering further territorial losses, especially in the Balkans, where a number of new states emerged. The empire allied with Germany in the early 20th century, with the imperial ambition of recovering its lost territories, joining in World War I. While the Empire was able to largely hold its own during the conflict, it was struggling with internal dissent, especially with the Arab Revolt in its Arabian holdings. Starting before World War I, but growing increasingly common and violent during it, major atrocities were committed by the Ottoman government against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontic Greeks.
The Empire's defeat and the occupation of part of its territory by the Allied Powers in the aftermath of World War I resulted in its partitioning and the loss of its Middle Eastern territories, which were divided between the United Kingdom and France. The successful Turkish War of Independence against the occupying Allies led to the emergence of the Republic of Turkey in the Anatolian heartland and the abolition of the Ottoman monarchy and caliphate.
2. Sikkim, 8th century CE-1975In 1947, when India became independent, a popular vote rejected Sikkim's joining the Indian Union. Afterward, a treaty was made between India and Sikkim in 1950, in the interest of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. That Indo-Sikkim treaty gave Sikkim an Indian protectorate status. Sikkim came under the suzerainty of India, which controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications, but Sikkim otherwise retained administrative autonomy.
A state council was established in 1953 to allow for constitutional government under the Chogyal. Despite pressures from an India "bent on annexation" as well as China, Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal was able to preserve autonomy and shape a "model Asian state" where the literacy rate and per capita income were twice as high as neighboring Nepal, Bhutan and India. Meanwhile, the India-backed Sikkim National Congress demanded fresh elections and greater representation for Nepalis in Sikkim. Crowds organized by agents from New Delhi, marched on the palace against the monarchy. In 1973, antiroyalist riots in front of the Chogyal's palace led to a formal request for protection from India.
In 1975, the Prime Minister of Sikkim appealed to the Indian Parliament for Sikkim to become a state of India. In April of that year, the Indian Army took over the city of Gangtok and disarmed the Chogyal's palace guards. Thereafter, a referendum was held in which 97.5 per cent of voters supported abolishing the monarchy, effectively approving union with India. According to Chinese state media, India had stationed 100,000 troops in a nation of only 200,000 during the referendum.Neither the Chogyal nor his supporters were allowed to organize a campaign in support of the monarchy. On 16 May 1975, Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union, and the monarchy was abolished. To enable the incorporation of the new state, the Indian Parliament amended the Indian Constitution. First, the 35th Amendment laid down a set of conditions that made Sikkim an "Associate State", a special designation not used by any other state. Later, the 36th Amendment repealed the 35th Amendment, and made Sikkim a full state, adding its name to the First Schedule of the Constitution.
1. Union of Soviet Socialist Republic 1922-1991The Soviet Union (Russian: Сове́тский Сою́з, tr. Sovetskiy Soyuz), officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russian: Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик, tr. Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik;), abbreviated to USSR (Russian: СССР, tr. SSSR), was a socialist state on the Eurasian continent that existed from 1922 to 1991. A union of multiple subnational Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The Soviet Union was a one-party federation, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital.
The Soviet Union had its roots in the October Revolution of 1917, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the provisional government that had replaced the Tsar. They established the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (renamed Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1936), beginning a civil war between the revolutionary "Reds" and the counter-revolutionary "Whites." The Red Army entered several territories of the former Russian Empire and helped local Communists take power through soviets, which nominally acted on behalf of workers and peasants. In 1922, the Communists were victorious, forming the Soviet Union with the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian, and Byelorussian republics. Following Lenin's death in 1924, a troika and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s. Stalin suppressed all political opposition to his rule, committed the state ideology to Marxism–Leninism (which he created), and initiated a centrally planned command economy. As a result, the country underwent a period of rapid industrialization and collectivization which laid the foundation for its victory in World War II and post-war dominance of Eastern Europe. Stalin also fomented political paranoia, and conducted the Great Purge to remove opponents of his from the Communist Party through the mass arbitrary arrest of many people (military leaders, Communist Party members, and ordinary citizens alike) who were then sent to correctional labor camps or sentenced to death.
Shortly before World War II, Stalin signed the non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, after which the two countries invaded Poland in September 1939. In June 1941 the Germans invaded, opening the largest and bloodiest theater of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the cost of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad. Soviet forces eventually captured Berlin in 1945. The territory overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Eastern Bloc. The Cold War emerged by 1947 as the Soviet bloc confronted the Western states that united in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949.
Following Stalin's death in 1953, a period of political and economic liberalization, known as "de-Stalinization" and "Khrushchev's Thaw", occurred under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev. The country developed rapidly, as millions of peasants were moved into industrialized cities. The USSR took an early lead in the Space Race with the first ever satellite and the first human spaceflight. In the 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed when the Soviet Union deployed troops in Afghanistan in 1979. The war drained economic resources and was matched by an escalation of American military aid to Mujahideen fighters.
In the mid-1980s, the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to further reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost and perestroika. The goal was to preserve the Communist Party while reversing economic stagnation. The Cold War ended during his tenure, and in 1989 Soviet satellite countries in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective communist regimes. This led to the rise of strong nationalist and separatist movements inside the USSR as well. Central authorities initiated a referendum—boycotted by the Baltic republics, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova—which resulted in the majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the Union as a renewed federation. In August 1991, a coup d'état was attempted by Communist Party hardliners. It failed, with Russian President Boris Yeltsin playing a high-profile role in facing down the coup, resulting in the banning of the Communist Party. On 25 December 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the remaining twelve constituent republics emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Union as independent post-Soviet states. The Russian Federation is the legal successor of the USSR.