Republic of Minerva

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The Republic of Minerva was one of the few modern attempts at creating a sovereign micronation. The architect was Las Vegas real estate millionaire and political activist Michael Oliver, who went on to be involved in other similar attempts in the following decade. Oliver formed a syndicate, the Ocean Life Research Foundation, which allegedly had some hundred million dollars for the project and had offices in New York and London. They anticipated a libertarian utopia of light industries, commercial activities and fishing as part of the economy of the new nation.

The Minerva Reefs at latitude 23 deg. 23 min. South, Longitude 178 deg. 58 min. West in the Pacific Ocean was the site chosen for the Republic. The Minerva Reefs were named after the whaling ship Minerva, wrecked on South Minerva after setting out from Sydney in 1829. Prior to the Minerva Republic, the Minerva Reefs were also notorious due to an October 1962 shipwreck in which a group of Tongan islanders were stranded on the reef for three months.

In 1971, barges loaded with sand arrived from Australia, bringing the reef level above the water and allowing construction of a small tower and flag. The Republic of Minerva issued a declaration of independence in letters to neighboring countries and even created their own currency. In February 1972, Morris C. Davis was elected as Provisional President of the Republic of Minerva.

The declaration of independence in January 1972 was greeted with great suspicion by other countries in the area. A conference of the neighbouring States (Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Nauru, Western Samoa, Cook Island) met on 24 February 1972 at which Tonga made a claim over the Minerva Reefs.

On June 15 1972 King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga issued a declaration stating that the Kingdom of Tonga sought to extend jurisdiction into the territory of Minerva, and sent an expedition to claim back the land. The Minervan flag was hauled down, and the atoll was later formally annexed to the Kingdom of Tonga, formally known in Tongan as Teleki Tonga and Teleki Tokelau. Tonga's historical claim was formally recognized by the South Pacific Forum in September 1972. Meanwhile, Provisional President Davis was fired by founder Michael Oliver and the project collapsed in confusion.

In 1982, a group of Americans led again by Morris C. "Bud" Davis tried to occupy the reefs, but were forced off by Tongan troops after 3 weeks. In 2003, a group called the Principality of Minerva staked a claim as the Minervan government-in-exile.

References

  • Erwin S Strauss, How to start your own country (Breakout Productions, Port Townsend, 1999)
  • Olaf Ruhen, Minerva Reef (Halstead Press, Sydney, 1963)
  • Public International Law, VII.A.4: Menefee, Republics of the Reefs
  • South Seas: The Minerva Ploy, Newsweek, Oct. 23, 1972
  • South Sea Reef Proclaimed a Republic by 3 Americans, New York Times, Jan. 30, 1972

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References