The world is ever-evolving, and with it, new nations emerge, either through political upheavals, peaceful negotiations, or the dissolution of larger entities. As of 2023, the United Nations recognizes 193 countries, with several territories and unrecognized countries on the brink of achieving independence.
This article gets you into the 30 newest countries, offering insights into their formation and the events leading up to their recognition.
The Birth of New Nations
According to the World Population Review, in the past 40 years, 34 new countries have been recognized by the United Nations. The process of a territory becoming a recognized nation is intricate, often involving political negotiations, referendums, and sometimes conflicts.
|Country||Admitted to UN||Formation|
|South Sudan||2011||split from Sudan|
|Montenegro||2006||seceded from Yugoslavia,|
|Serbia||2000||seceded from Yugoslavia,|
|Palau||1994||graduated from U.N. trust|
|Czech Republic||1993||split from Czechoslovakia|
|Slovakia||1993||split from Czechoslovakia|
|Eritrea||1993||split from Ethiopia|
|North Macedonia||1993||seceded from Yugoslavia|
|Uzbekistan||1992||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Kazakhstan||1992||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Azerbaijan||1992||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Tajikistan||1992||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Kyrgyzstan||1992||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Turkmenistan||1992||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Croatia||1992||seceded from Yugoslavia|
|Georgia||1992||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Moldova||1992||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1992||seceded from Yugoslavia|
|Armenia||1992||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Slovenia||1992||seceded from Yugoslavia|
|Russia||1991||remainder of U.S.S.R.|
|Belarus||1991||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Lithuania||1991||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Latvia||1991||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Estonia||1991||seceded from U.S.S.R.|
|Micronesia||1991||graduated from U.N. trust|
|Marshall Islands||1991||fostered by United States|
|Germany||1990||merged East & West Germany|
|Yemen||1990||merged Yemen Arab Republic & South Yemen|
|Namibia||1990||rebelled against South Africa|
|Ukraine||1945||Joined U.N. separately from U.S.S.R. in 1945, seceded from U.S.S.R. 1991|
The Dissolution of Larger Entities
According to the source provided, one of the most significant events leading to the birth of new countries was the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). Between 1988 and 1991, this communist superpower splintered into 15 new countries. This event also influenced nearby communist countries, leading to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Similarly, Yugoslavia fractured into several smaller nations.
- U.S.S.R. Dissolution: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
- Yugoslavia Dissolution: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
Top 30 Latest Countries
The geopolitical landscape of the world is ever-changing. Over the past few decades, we’ve witnessed the birth of several new countries, each with its unique history and journey to sovereignty. Here’s an in-depth look at the 30 newest nations:
Admitted to the UN in 2011, South Sudan split from Sudan after years of conflict. This separation marked the end of a tumultuous relationship and the beginning of a new chapter for the South Sudanese people.
Gaining UN membership in 2006, Montenegro seceded from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, which was the last remnant of the former Yugoslavia.
Serbia, once part of the larger Yugoslav federation, was admitted to the UN in 2000 after the dissolution of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
This beautiful island nation in the Pacific graduated from the U.N. trust in 1994, marking its journey from being a trust territory to a sovereign nation.
Czech Republic & Slovakia
Both these nations were once part of Czechoslovakia. In a peaceful split known as the “Velvet Divorce” in 1993, they became two separate nations, with both gaining UN membership the same year.
After a prolonged war of independence against Ethiopia, Eritrea became a sovereign nation in 1993 and was admitted to the UN.
Previously known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), North Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia and joined the UN in 1993.
The Former Soviet Republics
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to the emergence of multiple countries:
- Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia all seceded from the U.S.S.R. between 1991 and 1992. Each of these nations has since been forging its path, with Russia being the primary successor state of the former Soviet Union.
The Yugoslav Wars
According to the International Committee Of The Red Cross disintegration of Yugoslavia led to bloody conflicts and the eventual emergence of several nations:
- Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia all seceded from Yugoslavia and were admitted to the UN in the early 1990s.
Micronesia & Marshall Islands
Both these Pacific island nations graduated from the U.N. trust in 1991, marking their sovereignty.
In a significant event marking the end of the Cold War, East and West Germany merged in 1990, leading to the modern-day nation of Germany.
The merger of Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) in 1990 resulted in the formation of the modern state of Yemen.
After a prolonged struggle against South African rule, Namibia achieved independence in 1990 and was admitted to the UN.
Ukraine has a unique history. It joined the U.N. separately from the U.S.S.R. in 1945. However, it declared its independence and seceded from the U.S.S.R. in 1991.
The Legacy of the U.S.S.R. Dissolution
The fall of the Soviet Union was a monumental event in world history, leading to the birth of numerous nations. According to the JSTOR, the period from 1991-1993 alone witnessed the emergence of two dozen nations, primarily due to the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.
The New Nations from the U.S.S.R.
The breakup of the Soviet Union led to the formation of 15 new countries:
- Armenia – A nation with a rich history, Armenia has since been forging its path in the Caucasus region.
- Azerbaijan – Rich in oil reserves, Azerbaijan has become a significant player in the global energy market.
- Belarus – Often referred to as “Europe’s last dictatorship,” Belarus has a unique political landscape.
- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – These Baltic nations have since joined the European Union, integrating closely with the West.
- Georgia – With its unique culture and history, Georgia stands at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
- Kazakhstan – The largest landlocked country in the world, Kazakhstan is a major energy producer.
- Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – These Central Asian nations have rich cultural heritages and are known for their stunning landscapes.
- Moldova – Located between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova has a diverse cultural influence.
- Russia – The largest country in the world, Russia has been a dominant player on the global stage.
- Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – Rich in natural gas and cultural heritage, these nations have significant roles in Central Asia.
The Domino Effect
According to JSTOR dissolution of the Soviet Union also influenced other communist nations. Czechoslovakia, for instance, split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Yugoslavia, on the other hand, fractured into several nations, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
The Early 1990s: A Time of Change
The early 1990s was a period of significant geopolitical shifts. Apart from the countries emerging from the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia, several other nations gained independence during this period.
Africa’s New Nations
- Namibia – After a prolonged struggle against South African rule, Namibia joined the U.N. in 1990.
- Eritrea – Following a 30-year war of independence against Ethiopia, Eritrea was admitted to the United Nations in 1993.
Pacific Island Nations
- Marshall Islands and Micronesia – These Pacific island countries achieved full independence in 1991, marking their presence on the global map.
The Unique Case of Germany
According to United States Institute Of Peace one of the most notable events of this period was the reunification of Germany. East and West Germany merged in 1990, tearing down the Berlin Wall and marking the end of the Cold War era.
Possible New Countries on the Horizon
According to the World Atlas, Mic, and Young Pioneer Tours, there are several regions and territories around the world that have expressed desires or have conditions that might lead them to seek independence in the near future. Here’s an extensive look at some of these potential new countries:
Republika Srpska – Bosnia & Herzegovina
According to Radio Free Europe, Republika Srpska’s leader has expressed disdain for the larger state. With improving Serbian-Kosovo relations, there’s a precedent for potential secession in the Balkans.
Bougainville – Papua New Guinea
Bougainville, officially a part of Papua New Guinea, has had a tumultuous history with its parent nation, primarily due to resource allocation issues. In 2019, a staggering 98% of the population voted for independence. The actual realization of this independence is expected between 2025 and 2027.
Chuuk – Federated States of Micronesia
Chuuk, the richest and largest of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia, believes it might fare better as an independent entity. Although a referendum on this matter has been postponed multiple times, it’s a topic that remains on the table.
West Papua – Indonesia
According to ReliefWeb West Papua’s struggle against Indonesia has been long-standing. Despite the challenges, there’s a glimmer of hope for their independence, especially with support from Pacific states like Vanuatu.
New Caledonia – France
Located in the Pacific Ocean, New Caledonia has seen three independence referendums since the Nouméa Accord of 1998. The indigenous population and the colonialists have a significant wealth disparity, which has been a driving force behind the push for independence.
Gagauzia – Moldova
While many might be familiar with Transnistria’s quest for independence from Moldova, Gagauzia’s aspirations are less known. The region has a pro-Russian sentiment, and any move by Moldova towards the EU or NATO might trigger Gagauzia’s push for independence or alignment with Russia.
Bermuda – British Empire
Technically still a part of the British Empire, Bermuda enjoys a significant degree of autonomy. With its own currency, passport, and even a football team, the current pro-independence government might just take the final step towards full sovereignty.
Rojava – Syria
According to The Washington Institute Rojava, a region in Syria, stands out due to its governance based on socialist and anarchist principles. While they’ve stated they don’t seek full independence, the ongoing conflict in Syria might change the dynamics.
- Scotland: Although it has a strong independence movement and had a referendum in 2014, the quest for Scottish independence remains a topic of debate.
- Catalonia: Spain’s economic challenges and political scandals have amplified Catalonia’s calls for independence. The region’s economic contribution to Spain is significant, making its bid for independence a matter of keen interest.
- Quebec: The French-speaking Canadian province has had close encounters with independence in the past. The outcomes of the Scottish and Catalan referendums could influence Quebec’s future decisions.
- Somaliland: A relatively stable region compared to the rest of Somalia, Somaliland declared independence in 1991. However, it’s yet to be recognized by any state.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why do countries seek independence?
Countries often seek independence due to cultural, ethnic, or political differences, economic disparities, or a desire for self-governance.
What is the process for a country to gain UN membership?
A country must first declare independence and then apply for UN membership. The application is reviewed by the Security Council, and if approved, it’s passed to the General Assembly for a vote.
How do new countries manage their economies post-independence?
New countries often face economic challenges. They may seek international aid, form trade partnerships, or adopt new economic policies to stabilize and grow their economies.
Are there any territories currently seeking independence?
Yes, several territories worldwide express desires for independence, such as Catalonia in Spain and Taiwan in East Asia.
How do new countries establish their governments?
New countries typically draft a constitution, which outlines the structure and function of the government. They may adopt a model from another country or create a unique system.
What challenges do new countries face post-independence?
New countries often grapple with economic challenges, establishing governance, potential disputes over borders, and sometimes, internal conflicts.
How do existing countries typically react to new countries?
Reactions vary. Some countries quickly recognize and establish diplomatic relations with new countries, while others may be hesitant due to political or strategic reasons.
The birth and recognition of new countries are not just political events but represent the aspirations, struggles, and identities of millions of people. As we look back at the newest countries of the past few decades, we are reminded of the dynamic nature of our world and the ever-evolving landscape of nations. Each country has its unique story, and understanding these narratives is crucial for fostering global understanding and cooperation.