9 countries that ceased to exist in the 20th century

Map of ceylon 1692WikimediaA map of former Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka.

There’s nothing quite like the bragging rights of a new, exotic stamp in your passport. However, that won’t be happening with the following countries, which, as of astonishingly recently, no longer exist.

Whether they won independence, lost wars, got adopted by other countries, or simply got forgotten, here are 9 countries that ceased to exist in the 20th century.

Neutral Moresnet, 1816 to 1920

After Napoleon’s fall in 1815, Europe had to rethink its borders.

This small piece of land, less than 1.5 square miles that used to be wedged between present-day Germany and Belgium, fell through the cracks when Europe’s borders were redrawn, and became a “co-dominium,” meaning that Belgium and then-Prussia shared custody of it: both had their eye on a profitable zinc mine.

The tiny territory was Dutch-Prussian prior to Belgium’s 1830 independence, briefly German when annexed during World War I, and finally formally annexed by Belgium in 1920. Today, it essentially amounts to the Belgian city of Kelmis.

Neutral Moresnet postcardWikipediaA postcard of Neutral Moresnet, around 1900

Republic of Salò, 1943 to 1945

Also known as the Italian Social Republic, Salò was essentially a Nazi satellite state in Italy, and run by Mussolini. Or rather “run” by Mussolini, as it was really only officially recognised by Germany, Japan and the rest of the Axis powers, and depended heavily on German troops to maintain control. While it claimed Rome as its capital and Northern Italy as its territory, it really centered around the small town of Salò, which is near Lake Garda and east of Milan. The rickety regime came to an end in 1945, on what’s now known as Liberation Day, when, thanks to the Allied forces, every last German was removed from the country.

Tibet, 1912 to 1951

Free Tibet ProtestersWikimedia/Medill DCMany believe that Tibet should become an independent country once more.

Of course Tibet has a history predating 1912 by thousands of years, but 1912 marks the year it officially became a recognised independent country, proclaimed as such by the Dalai Lama. Under a chain of Dalai Lamas, Tibet was a peaceful country, until Communist China invaded in 1951, occupying Tibet until it rebelled in 1959, leading China to annex it. Ever heard the chant “Free Tibet?” Tibet is still gunning for its independence to this day, and has many outspoken advocates.

United Arab Republic, 1958 to 1971

Mostly a political union between Egypt and Syria that hoped to thwart Israel, among other things, the UAR didn’t last long, as Syria seceded from the republic after only three years (the fact that Egypt and Syria don’t even share a border didn’t help with cohesion). While Egypt continued to be known as the United Arab Republic for another decade, it was dissolved in 1971.

Sikkim, 1642 to 1975

Yak infront of lake SikkimShutterstockSikkim, today.

Once a tiny Himalayan monarchy (the kingdom of Sikkim was established in 1642 when Phuntsog Namgyal was crowned the first king of Sikkim), Sikkim was absorbed into India as its 22nd state in 1975. Before becoming part of Northern India, Sikkim sat along the Silk Route to China and was bordered by Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India’s West Bengal state.

Ceylon, 1505 to 1972

1870s ceylon photographWikimedia/Charles T. ScowenA photo of Ceylon in the 1870s

This South Asian country, better known as Sri Lanka, has a pretty international history, having been a trading hub for Arabs in the 7th century AD, before the Europeans shooed them off. After that Ceylon was ruled by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British from 1815 until 1948, when Ceylon gained its full independence.

In 1972 it changed its name to Sri Lanka.

Czechoslovakia, 1918 to 1993

Once a sovereign state in Central Europe (surrounded by Austria, Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary), having declared its independence from the now also defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, what was Czechoslovakia peacefully split into two countries — the Czech Republic and Slovakia — in 1993.

After the Austro-Hungarian collapse in 1918, Czechoslovakia was created by combining Austro-Hungarian leftovers, mostly Czech and Slovak lands. It was one of the more prosperous European countries, as well as one of the few with a peaceful, functioning democracy, at least until WWII, when it became occupied by Germany, before being occupied by the Soviets until that nation too disappeared. Czechoslovakia thrived once more, but
since the Czechs and Slovaks had separate histories, cultures and values, their amicable split was somewhat inevitable.

East Germany, 1949 to 1990

Wikipedia/Frits WiardaThe Berlin wall, which separated East Germany from West Germany.

The wall that dissected Berlin and divided East Germany from West Germany was created after WWII, when the Soviets founded the German Democratic Republic in response to the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany by the US, UK and France in 1949. The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall meant the end of East Germany, essentially a Soviet satellite state, which was absorbed into the democratic Federal Republic of Germany when it reunified in 1990. East Germans had previously lived under strict communist rule, which ceased to exist in Germany along with East Germany.

Yugoslavia, 1918 to 1992

Like Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia was a remnant of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, created after WWI by combining bits of other countries, mostly Hungary and Serbia, and by throwing together a smorgasbord of around 20 different different ethnic groups, along with their different cultures, traditions, and values. A kind of democratic monarchy, it was annexed by Germany in WWII until Nazi Germany collapsed, which is when Josip Tito, leader of the partisan army during WWII, took over, creating a socialist Yugoslavia under his dictatorship in 1946. Yugoslavia remained socialist until 1992, when it split into Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

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