NOT MY PRESIDENT

Meet the leaders of the world’s imaginary nations

Disappointed by your country? It’s not too late to start your own.

Around the world, “micronations”—tiny self-declared countries with no recognized sovereignty—are a growing trend, complete with fictional folklore, systems of government and regalia. Every two years, they gather at MicroCon, a global general assembly styled after the United Nations.

Part political fantasy, part absurdist theater, the various micronations’ leaders show varying degrees of commitment. Some, like Molossia’s president Kevin Baugh, pay careful attention to realistic detail, while other “heads of state” seem to rule mostly in their imagination.

MicroCon 2015
MicroCon 2015 attendees disperse after a group portrait in the Anaheim Central Library. (Matt Roth)

Photojournalist Matt Roth has spent the last few years following micronations’ founders and heads of state at MicroCon, at home and around the US. While micronations have flourished around the world, most of the attendees to MicroCon are American.

Roth’s pictures celebrate the quirkiness of the micronationationalist community. But beyond the flags, uniforms, and regalia, he also explores the reasons why people found their own micronations. The day jobs of these leaders run the gamut from the training manager for the US National Guard like Molossia’s president Kevin Baugh to a stage manager at Disney Land, like Shiloh’s king Timothy Miller.

“I’m curious about the concept of identity and how it shapes and motivates people,” Roth tells Quartz. “They’re motivated by being a Queen, President, Duke, or Sogmo [a Abenaki Native American term for “chief,” used by the micronation of Sandus]. It’s a big part of their identity. It’s who they are.”

“I’m asked about their sanity all the time, but none of the sovereigns I’ve met are crazy, or delusional. Do they really want to secede? I think they all know that’s way too much work,” he adds.

Republic of Molossia (Dayton, Nevada)

The Republic of Molossia is a micronation founded by Kevin Baugh near Dayton, Nevada. While Roth describes many ostensible micronations as just “teenage boys who claim sovereignty over their bedrooms,” Molossia has its own stamps and currency.

Roth notes that the Molossian flag isn’t wildly original however—in fact, it’s just an upside version of Sierra Leone’s. “The desert weather isn’t kind to flags, so president Baugh needed a flag that was easy and cheap to replace,” he explained.

The Republic of Molossia
President Baugh of Molossia sits in the Office of the President — which he built. (Matt Roth)
The Republic of Molossia
President Baught stamps a passport with the official Molossian stamp. (Matt Roth)
130812_Republic_of_Molossia_0580
A collection of Molossian postage stamps. (Matt Roth)

Ruritania (Stone Mountain, Georgia)

Ruritania was founded by then-teenager Queen Anastasia (full name Queen Anastasia Sophia Maria Helena von Rubenroth Elphberg of Ruritania) more than 50 years ago, in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

MicroCon 2017
Queen Anastasia of Ruritania sits in her office at the Ruritarian Embassy in Stone Mountain, Georgia on June 23, 2017, after an open house. She founded Ruritania more than 50 years ago. “I found being the queen of Ruritania was helpful because [when things became hard] you couldn’t just crawl in a hole and die. The queen has responsibilities.” (Matt Roth)

Überstadt (Mountlake Terrace, Wash.)

Überstadt was founded by its King Adam, and some of his friends from high school in a Seattle suburb. Its chief values are a cashless economy, strong environmental laws and direct democracy.

The Micronation of ‹berstadt
Citizens of Überstadt (L-R) Baroness Rosewood, Kara Oberstadt, the family matriarch, dressed in a judge’s robe, Prince Aaron, High Chancellor Michael Oberstadt, who participates when he has to, but won’t wear regalia, and King Adam I, are joined by Dorian Grimes, right, the dictator of The Republic of Dorian on July 13, 2015 Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Matt Roth)

Sandus (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

Sandus is the domain of William Soergel, who designated himself with the title of Sôgmô, an Abenaki Indian term for “chief” or “ruler.” By day a history student, Soergel has also written a complex history on the political theories and traditions that guide his micronation.

Micronation: The State of Sandus
The honorable Sôgmô of The State of Sandus, William Soergel, poses in his College Park, Maryland apartment. He was hosting a housewarming dinner and celebration of his micronation’s harvest festival, Lamas on Aug. 1, 2015 in College Park, Md. He has since moved to Michigan. (Matt Roth)

Calsahara

A portmanteau of “California” and “Sahara,” the Calsahara micronation is 120 acres in the southern California desert. It was colonized in October of 2017 by Westarctica, a micronation run by Travis McHenry, center.

The Westarctica Annexation of Calsahara
Grand Duke Travis McHenry leads his Westarctican Royal Guard and King Timothy Miller of Shiloh, visible on the left, on a bloodless invasion and annexation of the micronation of Calsahara on Oct. 29, 2017. Travis McHenry led both Westarctica and Calsahara at different points in his life, and the annexation merges both countries. (Matt Roth)

MicroCon

Roth has visited the biennial gatherings of micronationalists, MicroCon, for several years. It is an opportunity for various micronationalists to don their ceremonial garb and share the story of their micronations with others. At the last one he visited in 2017, Queen Anastasia hosted a meet and greet at the Ruritania Embassy in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

MicroCon 2017
King Andrew I, the thirteen-year-old ruler of Briarwood poses with his grandfather JoDee Benoit, while attending MicroCon 2017 in Stone Mountain, Georgia, as the last stop on their summer road trip on June 23, 2017. Briarwood claims over 30 citizens, and is named for the street in his hometown of Bourbonnais, Illinois (Matt Roth)
MicroCon 2017
President Michael Bannister of the Commonwealth of Boshka with the Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Portia Lianne during the MicroCon 2017 open house at the Ruritarian Embassy in Stone Mountain, Ga. on June 23, 2017. (Matt Roth)
MicroCon 2017
The Honorable Lieutenant Junior Grade Spencer MacGillivray, RSN, left, and King Max I, (Max Pollack) of the Kingdom of Jupiter talk during MicroCon 2017 at an open house at the Ruritarian Embassy in Stone Mountain, Ga. on June 23, 2017. (Matt Roth)
MicroCon 2017
Prince Arthur from the House of Homestead addresses attendess during MicroCon 2017 at the Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library in Tucker, Ga. on June 24, 2017. (Matt Roth)
MicroCon 2017
Olivia Pam princess of Aigues Mortes, center, and Prince Jean-Pierre Pichon, right, meet with MicroCon 2017 hostess Queen Anastasia of Ruritania, sitting, during The MicroCon 2017 Gala in Dunwoody, Ga. on June, 24, 2014. (Matt Roth)
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