MicroCon 2015: Leaders Of Self-Proclaimed Nations Meet In Southern California
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
While world leaders are meeting in Panama this weekend, a group of lesser-known figures are gathering for a different kind of summit in Southern California. Among the attendees, the grand duke of Westarctica and the supreme leader of Geovannia. If you've never heard of these places, well, neither had we, till we read this morning about MicroCon 2015. It's a meeting of leaders from self-proclaimed micronations. And to learn more, we're joined by Kevin Baugh. He's the conference organizer and president of the Republic of Molossia. Welcome to the program.
KEVIN BAUGH: Well, thank you very much.
CORNISH: So what exactly defines a micronation?
BAUGH: A micronation is basically a small, or fairly small, self-declared nation. Most of the time, they exist within larger nations, but otherwise, they generally have the trappings of established nations - flags and stamps and so forth like that.
CORNISH: Taxes, currency, defense.
BAUGH: Yes, pretty much, but, again, on a smaller scale.
CORNISH: So tell me about your nation of Molossia. Where is it, and, you know, what's the population?
BAUGH: Well, Molossia is located about 35 miles southeast of Reno, Nev. We have a full population of about 27 - six are residents in the nation and then the rest are expatriates that live outside our country. As small as we are, we, again, have our own flag, stamps, money, our own customs, a variety of buildings, our own bank and post office. We even have our own radio show.
CORNISH: What's it called?
BAUGH: Radio Molossia.
CORNISH: (Laughter) So these are not real nations, right? But they're real places.
BAUGH: They are real places. For the most part, they're real places. Some are - some micronations are only online. But, for the most part, many of them have some sort of physical presence somewhere on the earth.
CORNISH: So right now we can hear all the kind of hubbub behind you. You're at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood where you and these other heads of state are on a little sightseeing trip, right? What's the purpose of this gathering?
BAUGH: That's exactly right, yes. We do a little walking around. You know, there's a lot of oddly dressed folks here, so we thought we'd join in and pretty much do the same thing.
CORNISH: Oddly dressed - so are you, for instance, wearing your full presidential garb?
BAUGH: Yes, indeed, and so is the grand duke of Westarctica (laughter).
CORNISH: Is that a lot of, like, medals, sashes? I mean, how far do you go with this?
BAUGH: Absolutely, yes. Yes, medals and sashes are definitely a requirement when you're a micronational leader. And then I also have a fantastically amazing hat.
CORNISH: What are some of the struggles for micronations, right, when you guys get together for these high-level talks?
BAUGH: Well, it's a number of different things. You know, the big hampering factor being, you know, that we're small countries. We're not recognized by larger countries. We don't have a lot of resources - in some cases, none. So, you know, there's micronational economics to be taken into account, relationships between other micronations and between established nations as well. Anything that you can think of that a small country might have an issue with, we're going to try and talk some of those things over, as well as just learn about each other's nations.
CORNISH: Before I let you go, do you have any advice for listeners who want to start their own micronation?
BAUGH: Absolutely. First off, use your imagination. It's not necessarily all an imaginary thing, but it does require you to think outside the box when you're starting your own country. Learn about what other nations do. You know, learn a little bit of history - how countries have started and eventually stopped and, you know, what makes a nation. And then, of course, you know, build it from what you know. You know, your flag should represent you and your country - your coat of arms, all that kind of thing.
CORNISH: Well, Kevin Baugh, thank you so much for talking with us. Best of luck with the conference.
BAUGH: Thank you very much. It's been my pleasure.
CORNISH: Kevin Baugh - he's the conference organizer of MicroCon 2015. He's president of the Republic of Molossia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.