Top 15 Lost Republics

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The term republic simply means a system of government with no hereditary leader, or monarch at its head, usually pertaining to a nation state with such a government in place. Republics may be organized as a federal system or as a centralized government and may be controlled by large-scale democracy, as with most modern governments, or by a smaller, elite group, as with earlier class based democracies. The one requirement is that no one person commands the nation, rather a portion of, if not all of its citizens.

Interestingly, however, many nations with a heredity monarch have also been described as republics. For example, during the renaissance England was referred to as a republic. Constitutionally (under magnicarta) the rule of the monarch was subject to the approval of the barons who formed the backbone of the early parliamentary system. The many republics that formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were arguably not true republics but rather vassal states to a central dictatorship, so they are not included in this list either.

This article concerns its self with republics of the past that did not survive into the present day. In many cases they have been superseded by, or absorbed into modern republics but were once independent, often powerful nations in their own right.

15. United States of Belgium


In 1789, as a reaction to the centralization of power, a large-scale revolt began in the Austrian Netherlands (present day Belgium). This revolution began in Brabant where an act was signed declaring the independence of the region. Later, several other territories in the Austrian Netherlands followed suit. After defeating the Austrian army these states signed a charter forming a political alliance under the title of the United States of Belgium. The revolution and political restructuring was inspired by the neighboring Dutch Republic, which had ousted its Spanish leaders and formed a similar union over a hundred years sooner. The republic was short lived. It was conquered by Austrian forces under a year later.

14. The Republic of the Rio Grande


In 1840, following the Texas Revolution and during repeated attempts by Mexico to regain its lost territories, a second rebellion began. This time it was a large area immediately to the south of Texas that made the decision to break away from Mexico and form it’s own government. Three renegade Mexican states, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas met on January that year in Laredo and created the Republic of the Rio Grande. Laredo would be their Republic’s temporary capital. However, despite support from the Republic of Texas, the rebellion did not last out the year. The Republic of the Rio Grande was reabsorbed into Mexico in November 1840.

13. The Republic of Hawaii


After deposing it’s monarchy, the Pacific nation of Hawaii established a provisional government before declaring its self to be a republic 1894. Hawaii was annexed into the United States in 1898 and officially became a state in 1959.

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the U.S conduct regarding the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. At first the U.S government refused to acknowledge the power change but later changed tack to support the revolutionaries. A number of armed American troops were landed at Hawaii, making it impossible for the Royalists to win back sovereignty of the island nation. The U.S government has issued a formal apology for interfering in what was an internal power struggle.

12. The Republic of Cospaia


When Pope Eugene IV sold a portion of the Papal State to Florence in 1440, the official papers accidentally left out a tiny portion of land. The inhabitants of this area were quick to declare independence as the Republic of Cospaia, a tiny hamlet state consisting of three square miles. Cospaia became a center for tobacco sales in Italy and earned a reputation as a smugglers state. It was invaded by Florence and Papal State in 1826.

11. The Republic of Indian Stream


Indian Stream was the smallest constitutional republic to have ever existed in North America. Named for one of it’s three rivers, Indian stream occupied a small territory between the U.S state of New Hampshire and the Canadian province of Quebec. It was home to around three hundred citizens under president Luther Parker and partially recognized as independent between 1832 and 1835.

The jurisdictional problem of what the Americans called ‘the so called Indian Stream territory’ began with the Treaty of Paris which determined the boundary between Canada and the United States. The treaty defined this as being the most north-western head of the Connecticut River. The problem was that there were three tributaries of the river in the area, any one of which could have been the intended boundary. As a result, both the U.S and the British claimed the area to be their own.

The people of Indian Stream, or ‘streamers’, were remarkably brave. So brave in fact that they invited invasion by the British Empire by invading a nearby Quebec town. This international incident was precipitated by the arrest of a ‘streamer’ by a Canadian Sheriff. The ‘streamer’ had run up large debts in the nearby Canadian hardware store and was to be sentenced to a debtor’s prison. In response, the Indian Stream militia crossed the border to rescue him. Only the threat of invasion by the British caused the small republic see sense. In 1836 the Republic of Indian Stream relinquished its sovereignty to the U.S and became part of the state of New Hampshire.

10. The Republic of Yucatan


Between 1840 and 1848, the Yuctan Peninsular under Mexico, including the present day Mexican states of Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo, declared their independence from the central Mexican government a total of three times. Each time this was in defiance of Mexican President Santa Anna’s refusal to adhere to the Mexican federal constitution and to respect the rights of Yucatan under a later treaty. During these periods of rebellion the breakaway state went by the name of the Republic of Yucatan and was successful in defending its self from Mexican attacks.

The first two times the Republic of Yucatan agreed to rejoin Mexico were the result of political restitution between the two countries. Mexico promised to abide by the constitution and return Yucatan’s privileges as a constitutional Mexican state. However, both times the Mexicans broke their promises forcing the people of the Yucatan to raise their own flags once again.

In 1847, during the last period of Yucatan independence, the ‘Caste War’ broke out. This was a revolt by the native Maya peoples of the Yucatan against the ruling class of Hispanic Europeans. So desperate was the situation faced by the Yucatan government that they wrote off to several major world powers, including the U.S, England and France, offering sovereignty over the Yucatan to whoever offered sufficient support to crush the revolt. The only nation willing to take up this offer was Mexico, and the Republic of Yucatan was once again annexed into Mexico in August 1848.

9. The Republic of Vermont


The U.S state of Vermont declared it’s independence in 1776, ignoring British land claims that had separated it between the jurisdictions of New York and New Hampshire. It was this defiance that later hindered attempts by the people of Vermont to join the United States as official land borders stated that it should not exist. In fact many within the U.S government held the opinion that Vermont should be dissolved and its lands divided between its neighbor states.

Despite remaining independent from the U.S until 1791, Vermont had always intended to become a member state since the defeat of the British. Many of it’s official documents, including its constitution, referred to Vermont as a state, rather than as a republic. Coins minted in Vermont also featured the phrase ‘the fourteenth star’ in anticipation of it’s acceptance into union. Officially, however, the stare was named the Republic of New Connecticut. It was the colloquial name that would catch on. The name Republic of the Green Mountains was shortened to the French ‘les monts vert’ or Vermont.

In 1791, Vermont officially became a member of the United States.

8. The Republic of Texas


The Republic of Texas had a short but tumultuous existence, beginning as a breakaway region of Mexico in 1836 and culminating in it’s annexation by the United States only ten years later.

Texas began it’s revolt against Mexico in a battle for reforms and the decentralization of the Mexican government, but won it’s victory as a newly formed, independent republic. A peace treaty with Mexico saw it gain more territory than either the original Mexican state or the modern U.S state. Texas originally occupied an area covering the entire of its present day borders plus parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. Although many major powers recognized the sovereignty of Texas, Mexico did not. A dispute over the lines drawn by the peace treaty between the two nations caused Mexico to continue it’s attempts to bring Texas to heel. Mexico believed that the agreed border followed the Nueces River, whereas Texas believed it to be the Rio Grande. This would later spark the Mexican-American War, when Texas became a U.S state.

During it’s brief existence, the Republic of Texas was a center of conflict. Besides the internal power struggle to determine the nations policies, Texas was also under almost continual attack by the embittered Mexicans. In a foolish and entirely racist move the Texas Army attacked the native Comanche people, invading their heartland and declaring that they were no longer welcome on Texas. The Comanches retaliated, sacking several towns and sweeping across the nation in a war that brought the young Republic to it’s knees. Bankrupt, both morally and financially, and facing another invasion from Mexico, Texas turned to the neighboring U.S for help. Texas was annexed into the United States, handing over several of it’s northern territories to the federal government in return for the settling of its debts.

7. The Commonwealth of England


After a long and bloody civil war Oliver Cromwell, a hard nosed republican, transformed the Kingdom of England into a republican commonwealth. The royalist army was defeated, the king had his head cut off and parliament was granted full power over the realm, with the help of the ‘council of state’. However, the people of England were not yet ready to go without a king, they felt all naked, defenseless and downright strange without a rich obnoxious snob lording it over them. So they turned to Cromwell, offering him the crown of England. Cromwell, of course, rejected and told them that the whole war would have been for nothing if they had gotten rid of one king just to create another. However, he did eventually accept the lesser title of Lord Protector, a sort of ‘dictator for life’ position which he used to invade Ireland and Scotland on a somewhat tyrannical Crusade.

After Cromwell’s death in 1658, the title of Lord Protector passed to his son, proving that this was more a monarchy than originally intended. But after a year the true monarchy was reinstalled and Charles II was invited to reclaim his father’s throne.

6. Czechoslovakia


The Republic of Czechoslovakia was formed as a breakaway region of Austria. Campaigns were successful in several of the Austrian Empire, leading to independence and democracy in 1918. The Republic of Czechoslovakia was comprised of four former Austrian territories, the Czech lands of Bohemia and Silesia, Slovakia, and Carpathian Ruthenia. Parts of Bohemia formerly under German control also joined.

In 1938, Czechoslovakia became a target of the blossoming Nazi Empire. After annexing Austria, Nazi Germany demanded control over the Sudaten-lands, the Czechoslovakian border region between Germany and Bohemia. In attempt to prevent an inevitable war, several world leaders agreed to Germany’s demands in the historic Munich Agreement. The government of Czechoslovakia was not consulted. With the hand over of its border defenses in the Sudaten-lands, Czechoslovakia was open to German invasion. Facing a rapid invasion the Eastern half of Czechoslovakia declared Independence, proclaiming themselves to be the Slovak Republic in 1939. Bohemia, now occupied by German forces, became a protectorate of Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, the newly spawned Slovak Republic faced invasion from Hungary who saw the tiny state as an easy target. Facing enemies on two fronts the Slovak government were forced to accept German authority and became a vassal state of the Nazi regime.

Following the second world war, Czechoslovakia was reunited as a free republic once more, with the exception of it’s easternmost tip which was granted to the Ukraine. Between 1948 and 1990 Czechoslovakia became a Socialist Republic under the guidance of the U.S.S.R. It was then restructured into a Federal Republic before it’s separation, in 1992, into the separate nations of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The former Czechoslovakian region of Carpathia remains part of Ukraine.

5. The Dutch Republic


By the late sixteenth century the low countries, a series of small nation states in present day Holland, had been dominated by Spain. The Habsburg family, the most powerful in Spain, had acquired the crowns of almost all of the low countries through a series of profitable wars and marriages. Charles Habsburg and his son, Phillip II of Spain, controlled a total of seventeen Dutch provinces and imposed a series of crippling taxes and genocidal religious laws upon their people. Enter William of Orange, that’s the province of Orange-Nassau, not the fruit. William led a campaign of revolution against his Spanish rulers. This was as much of a religious war as it was a political revolution. William was a protestant and was tired of watching his protestant brethren being tied to stakes, burned alive and generally persecuted.

The Dutch Republic was born, as a union between seven free Dutch states. William was named Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic and was heralded as a protestant hero. He was later invited to take the throne of England and continued to fight Catholics, in the form of the Spanish and French, in Europe, the Americas and Ireland.

The Dutch Republic lasted for over two hundred years, a time that is often referred to as the ‘golden age’ of the Netherlands, owing to its naval and trade successes. In 1795 it was invaded by Napoleons army and renamed as the Batavian Republic. It later became the French controlled Kingdom of Holland and was annexed into France. Following the French occupation the country became the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as it remains today.

Otherwise known as the Republic of the United Netherlands, the Dutch Republic influenced the formation of the United States of America, the constitution of which is said to have been largely based on that of the Dutch.

4. The Republic of Ragusa


The Republic of Ragusa, or Republic of Dubrovnik as it is sometimes known, was a small republic in Southern Dalmatia, present day Croatia. Essentially a city state, the people of Dubrovnik controlled a small stretch of coastline along the Adriatic. It was a major contender to the naval might of Venice and a major competitor to the Venetian’s trade empire. Ragusa was invaded by Venice in the fourth crusade, in the early thirteenth century, but regained it’s independence by the mid fourteenth century.

Following it’s freedom from Venice, Ragusa officially accepted the sovereignty of the Hungarian monarchy but continued as a free member of the Hungarian Empire. Following the Hungarian period, Ragusa formed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire.

The relationship with the Ottomans proved to be a beneficial arrangement for Ragusa. They officially paid homage to the Sultan and paid him an annual tribute. In exchange they were given protection and allowed access to the black sea trade routes that had once made Venice and Genoa rich. Ragusa became a full protectorate of the Ottoman Empire in 1684.

Ragusa was a grand republic for hundreds of years. It may have been small but it commanded an epic trade fleet, which kept the citizens of Dubrovnik wealthy and powerful. The fact that the Republic spent as much time paying homage to various monarchs as it did living the life of a truly free republic does not diminish the achievements and long history of this forgotten nation.

As the spice trade became dominated by far-voyaging ships from Portugal and Spain, the Black Sea became less important in the Spice and Silk trades from the East. As a result Ragusa went into decline. It was eventually conquered by the French under Napoleon in 1808. It now the southernmost tip of Croatia.

Despite being a republic, Ragusa was ruled by the aristocracy. There was no monarch and power was shared, but the common citizens had few rights and were considered to be a subordinate class.

3. The Most Serene Republic of Venice


As the Western Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire, shrunk back towards its capital in Constantinople, Romanised civilizations in Northern Italy were left defenseless to the barbarian peoples of the steppe. For the sake of mutual defense, several communities in the Venetian lagoon banded together. The result was the formation of the city-state of Venice, later to become the Most Serene Republic of Venice.

The Republic of Venice formed part of the Byzantine Empire. As a kingdom of the Empire it did official homage to Byzantium, a relationship that would exist until the very end of the Empire. However, as a republic Venice gained independence and became a center of commerce and diplomacy. It’s ship building industry brought great wealth, as did the import of spices and silk from the East into Europe. Later, Venice used its wealth and ship building capabilities to become a great naval power that dominated the Adriatic. Venice established colonies along the coast of present day Albania and Croatia and as far as Crete in the Mediterranean.

Although known primarily as a merchant city, Venice participated greatly in the crusades and controlled the largest navy in the Mediterranean. In the early fifteenth century, the republic focused on expanding into Northern Italy, reaching as far as the Alps and the borders of Austria and Switzerland. It enjoyed independence for a thousand years before Napoleon invaded in 1797. During this time it had been one of the richest, most powerful and most influential nations in Europe.

Clearly, Venice was more than just a port. In fact it was a small Christian empire, the true heir of the Byzantines. When it’s ally Byzantium was overrun by the Ottoman Empire, Venice continued to fight for Christian supremacy in Greece, the Balkans and the Aegean.

2. The Most Serene Republic of Genoa


The Most Serene Republic of Genoa can, in many ways, be seen as a counterpart to the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The two shared the same title, were both historic centers of trade and commerce, and shared opposite sides of Northern Italy. Like Venice, Genoa occupied comparatively little territory on the mainland but had several colonies in the Mediterranean. In terms of scale the Genoese had the Venetians beat. They controlled the large island of Corsica, several islands in the Aegean including Lesbos and Samos, and Tabarka on the coast of Tunisia. But unlike the Venitians’ small Adriatic/Ionian Empire, the Genoese went much further than the confines of the Mediterranean. They conquered lands in the Black Sea, including the Crimean Peninsular and Georgia.

Genoa was a major figure in the Crusades, providing naval might and earning a considerable profit from the business of transporting soldiers and supplies from Europe to the East. It also made powerful allies in the Spanish, by supporting the conquest of Sardinia by the Spanish Kingdom of Arragon – a move which also proved to be very profitable.

In the late 14th century, however, after a brief war with the Republic of Venice, Genoa went into decline. The expansion of the Ottoman Empire cut the republic off from it’s lands in the Black Sea and eventually the Aegean. Genoa its self was occupied by the French and only saved from complete domination by their Spanish allies. But after a brief revival, the Republic fell from grace once again and was forced to sell it’s remaining possession, the island of Corsica, to the French. Like most European nations, Genoa was conquered by Napoleon in 1797. Napoleon briefly changed the name of Genoa to the Ligurian Republic but later annexed it as part of France. After the defeat of Napoleon, Genoa was given to the Kingdom of Sardinia, the kingdom it had once helped to invade.

1. The Roman Republic


The Roman Republic has been described as the greatest republic in history. Whilst it in no way lives up to the advancements of present day republics, Rome was certainly the most successful government of it’s type for a period of several hundred years, in terms of scale, military might, and technological advancement.

Rome began it’s life as a kingdom and was later structured as an Empire, but the republican period saw the greatest expansions. By the end of its life, between 44 and 27 BC, the Roman Republic controlled the entire of present day Italy, France, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Portugal, Israel, Lebanon and Syria, plus most of Spain, parts of Turkey and parts of North Africa, including Tunisia, and the Mediterranean islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Cyprus and the Republic of Malta.

The Roman government was carefully structured so as not to allow any one individual too much influence. However, by the end of the first century BC powerful militants had amassed such power that establishing an Imperial structure would be the only way to restore stability. Opinion varies on when exactly the Roman Republic completely reformed into the Roman Empire, but the installation of Julius Caesar as dictator of Rome in 44 BC was surely the turning point.