I’ve been a geography nerd since I can remember. It used to be limited to ordering atlases from the Scholastic Book magazines in elementary school. Now it’s books about the history, politics, and cultures of regions that fascinate me. “An Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist” was right in my sweet spot for geographical books.
Nick Middleton chooses fifty unrecognized states and gives a brief history of what was, what is, and what the states want to be in the future. Some of the states are provinces such as Abkhazia and Catalonia, and some are islands that are owned, and ruled, by an individual or family.
After reading this book it reminded me of how Europe seemed different to me after I had lived in Spain for a year. Countries that I had thought of as one unit were actually conglomerations of smaller states. This helped differentiate to me the differences between a state and a nation. A state is a political unit, a nation a cultural one. Thus, we have some countries that represent both a state and a nation and other times a state only represents half a nation or multiple nations are represented by one state. This has been the issue with many countries and fall-out from colonialism. The colonial overlords created arbitrary borders that split nations or grouped nations together into states that worked for the Europeans.
I look back at my life so far and there’s already been old states that have gone away (Yugoslavia, USSR, German Democratic Republic) and new states that have emerged (South Sudan, East Timor, Kosovo). I’m curious to see what the world will look like in the next decade. Will Catalonia succede from Spain? Will Belgium split into two countries? Will Scotland join the E.U. as an independnet nation? How will Burma resolve their oppression of the Rohingya? Will they be kicked out? Will they be granted some autonomy?
This is why I love geography, especially political geography. It’s always changing it touches on so many interesting elements such as history, language, and culture.