These are the stories of fifty countries that once existed – however briefly – but have now have been erased from the map. Varying vastly in size and shape, location and longevity, they are nonetheless united by one fact: all of them endured long enough to issue their own stamps.
Some of their names, such as Biafra or New Brunswick, will be relatively familiar. Others, such as Labuan, Tannu Tuva and Inini, are far less recognizable. But all of these lost nations have fascinating stories to tell, whether they were as short-lived as Eastern Karelia, which lasted only a few weeks during the Soviet–Finnish War of 1922, or as long-lasting as the Orange Free State, a Boer Republic that celebrated fifty years as an independent state in the late 1800s. Their broad spectrum reflects the entire history of the 19th and 20th centuries, with its ideologies, imperialism, waves of immigration and conflicts both major and minor.
The motifs and symbols chosen for stamps have always served as a form of national self-presentation, an expression of the aims and ambitions of the ruling authorities. Drawing on fiction and eye-witness accounts as well as historical sources, Bjørn Berge’s witty text casts an unconventional eye on these lesser-known nations, teasing out informative anecdotes and fascinating facts. At a time when issues of sovereignty and statehood are filling the media once again, this is a different kind of history book that will intrigue anyone keen to understand what makes a nation a nation.