Romance of the Small States

Updated: Mar 12

We generally have a soft spot for the underdogs, and small states are the underdogs of our world.

Malta, the small nation that held off both the Ottomans and the Nazis

Because it is romantic that tiny Malta held off the mighty Ottoman Empire in the 1560s, and then again held off Nazi Germany in the 1940s.

In fact some events that took place at small states have shaped our world. But we also tend not to know much about the small guys because unless you are from these small states, your teachers at school rarely talk about them. We probably have never even heard of some places.

For example, have you ever heard of Niue, a small island country in the South Pacific? It is the world's first dark sky nation and possibly the world's most romantic skygazing spot. On the other hand, do you know about Montserrat's volcano eruption in the 1990s that forced two-thirds of its population to flee?

I, too, didn't know much about many of these microstates. Until a time when I accidentally came across the fact that San Marino, a tiny nation of 34,000 people, is the world's oldest republic. If a country could survive from 301AD until now, surely there are some lessons that we could learn from it.

I have since then devoted my time to learning more about these tiny nations that most may not have even heard of. Small states offer stories that are no less important, or at least, interesting, than the world history that we have learned.

Take Nauru, a small island nation in the Pacific with a population of 12,000. Phosphate mines in Nauru spurred the growth of Australia's agricultural industry for most of the 20th century. Nauru was one of the richest, if not the richest, country in the 1970s. The country even had the spare cash to invest in a musical about Leonardo Da Vinci. But mining activities ceded, and all that is left behind now is damaged land that is beyond repairs. Now the country is bankrupt, and no one remembers the place anymore.

Or think about Bhutan, the place where happiness is valued over economics. It is also a carbon-negative country. Through its policy choices, Bhutan has many lessons to offer, as well as a unique brand that can connect with many of us.

I am passionate to discover more of these lessons. The real gems of this world are often hidden in the least noticeable places. Small states bring unique stories that will surely add diversity to the global cultural map. It may just take a couple more transfers to get there.

Read More: Small States. What are They?