Micronationalism in Antarctica
Dernière mise à jour : 18 févr. 2022
Exclusive interview with HE Mr. Yaroslav Mar, Administrative General of AMU
The Antarctic Micronational Union is an inter-micronational organization with a mission to regulate micronational claims and protect the claims of its members against other claimants in Antarctica.
The AMU was born on December 6, 2008, which makes it the oldest active intermicronational organization. It now has 9 members and is recognized as the reference organization for any micronation wishing to have access to a territorial claim on Antarctica.
But why do some micronationalists claim territory in Antarctica? Ideally, this would of course be to found an independent state or be recognized as such. For the Grand Duchies of Westarctica and Flandrensis, the claim relates to a territory not currently administered by any state. It is a "Terra Nullius" which bears the name of "Terre Marie Byrd". A space shunned by everyone covering barely 1,610,000 km2.
The two Grand Dukes appealed respectively to the United Nations and the international community for recognition. So far, only Grand Duke Travis of Westarctica has received polite responses from the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and the Prince of Monaco.
For the other micronationalist claims, it is a different case that arises, because these approaches relate to territories already administered by states in the form of concessions.
The Antarctic Treaty signed on December 1, 1959 in Washington temporarily silences the territorial claims of the signatory states on Antarctica. That being said, the treaty cannot force a state to renounce its rights or claims to sovereignty over the continent. However, the treaty "froze" territorial claims for several decades.
To better understand how these Antarctic micronations position themselves, we interviewed the General Administrator of the AMU, Mr. Yaroslav Mar, Life President of Lostisland.
On what basis do the AMU micronations formulate their territorial claims?
It is probably better to ask the leader of a specific micronation why they decided to claim this or that part of Antarctica, though sometimes it’s obvious: for example, Westarctica has claimed West Antarctica since 2001, because at the time no formal claims had been made in the sector between 90 degrees west and 150 degrees west. In Lostisland’s case, we inherited Alexander Island from the historical Kingdom of Pavlov that existed from 2012 to 2014 and is not to be confused with today’s Empire of Pavlov, also an AMU member. When in 2014 the Republic of Lostisland and the Kingdom of Pavlov merged to form the Federal Republic of Lostisland, it took over Pavlov’s Antarctic claim and seat in the AMU.
In principle, a micronation that wants to join the AMU may lay claim over any part of Antarctica not claimed by an AMU member. In practice, if the claim is exorbitantly large, the application will likely be rejected.
I would also like to touch on another issue here because there seems to be a misunderstanding of the AMU application process. Some people think the job of the AMU is to establish who made the claim first, so it surprises them if we recognize a claim even though another micronation had made an earlier claim to this part of Antarctica. The AMU does not operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and which micronation made the claim earlier is completely irrelevant for us unless it is already a member. What matters is that the applicant nation agrees to abide by the AMU Charter and respect the claims of other members.
" A viable alternative for those who don't want to claim their backyard as sovereign territory. "
What is their interest in developing micronations on these inhospitable and distant lands?
I don’t think we can talk about developing micronations on these lands as no AMU member is physically present in Antarctica, and non-scientific or non-conservation-focused settlement of Antarctica is against the mission and the Charter of the AMU. Thus, a micronation that advocates for actually colonizing Antarctica would not be granted membership.
The original reason for the birth of Antarctic micronationalism is very trivial: Antarctica is one of the few places on Earth that has terra nullius, or nobody’s land, and thus it became a viable alternative for those who don’t want to claim their backyard as sovereign territory. I would say most of us drew inspiration from Westarctica.
What role can AMU member micronations play with NGOs? Have actions or collaborations been carried out?
Eventually, as Antarctic micronationalism progressed, it obtained an ecological dimension. Westarctica, as well as Flandrensis, which is not in the AMU but maintains amicable relations with many AMU members, are both incorporated as NGOs in the US and Belgium respectively and raise awareness of climate change and its potentially devastating effect on the Antarctic continent. Lostisland is not currently registered as an NGO (though we do consider it), but since 2015 we have had a treaty of mutual recognition with the World Humanity Commission: an international NGO primarily based in Africa.
Since its creation, what has been the biggest success of the AMU?
Our biggest success is becoming the undisputed authority in Antarctic micronationalism: although the AMU had many imitations and clones – mainly founded by those who were refused AMU membership – none survived the test of time. With a history going back to 2008, today the AMU is the oldest still active micronational organization, the only micronational organization with dedicated articles on the English and Russian Wikipedia, mentioned in magazines, academic publications, and political science textbooks. I would say that, together with MicroFrancophonie, we’re the most well-known micronational organization.
Are there many entry requests? What is the main motivation for these candidate micronations?
I cannot disclose the exact number of membership applications, but there is definitely a huge interest in AMU membership, although the criteria for joining are strict. In 2020, we admitted two new members, of which one was later dissolved. In 2021, 100% of the applications were rejected. I would say the main reason why micronations want to join the AMU is to become part of a prestigious and renowned organization, which also entails instant recognition of Antarctic claims by all the existing members. Unlike many micronational organizations that merely seek to imitate the UN – so-called YAMOs – the AMU has a very specific purpose that it successfully fulfills: protecting the territorial claims of its members.
As General Administrator, what do you find most challenging and what are your goals for the future of AMU?
Fortunately for the AMU (and for me as the Administrative-General), we have a mature membership. Most of us have known each other for years if not decades, so we don’t engage in petty fights that are so prevalent in micronational organizations with mostly teenage membership. Generally, we don’t even have major disagreements on admitting new members: I believe that we all want the best for this organization and have a similar vision for it, so when one member thinks a particular candidate is not a good fit for the AMU, the rest of us are likely to agree.
The biggest challenge comes not from the inside, but from the outside: as we both know, the micronational community tends to attract many scammers, and this is double as true for Antarctic micronationalism. As such, when a particular scammer decides to have a go at Antarctic micronationalism, I have no choice but to get involved because it casts a shadow on our organization as well. For example, in 2018 a certain Russian scammer founded a copycat of the AMU and offered for sale “Antarctic passports” that he claimed allow for visa-free travel worldwide, as well as houses in Antarctica – which, needless to say, didn’t even exist. I reported him to the Russian police, a police officer visited him and though no charges were pressed, he scrubbed away this clearly fraudulent offer.
I believe that the AMU as it stands already fulfills its goals: we certainly don’t aim to become the world’s largest micronational organization, as we prefer quality over quantity, nor do we want to get involved in matters not pertaining to Antarctic micronationalism. If some members decide to implement ecological projects within the framework of the AMU, personally I would welcome it and the AMU Charter provides for this opportunity, but participation in such projects would remain strictly optional: our core mission is to publicize and protect the territorial claims of our member states. This is what our organization excelled at throughout these 13 years, and I have no doubt that we will remain the authority of Antarctic micronationalism for years and decades to come.