Friday, July 24, 2015

San Marino

No, not the one in California. Back in the 19th century, before nationalism reared its ugly head and the world found this new way to express its tribal instincts and put up borders to keep others out, there was no such land as Italy, nor had there ever been. After the fall of the Roman Empire, there was the Lombard empire of the Visigoths, then the Frankish empire of Charlemagne, then the Holy Roman Empire, and inside these empires there were city-states like Venice and Genoa and Florence and Milan, or the Islamic kingdom of Sicily which extended as far north as Naples. That had all fallen apart by the end of 15th century, after which the French and the Spanish and the Austrians fought over it, the squabble ending when Napoleon marched in and took the lot, declaring the northern half of Italy a kingdom, and bestowing that name. The unification of Italy begins with the defeat of Napoleon, and ends with the successes of Garibaldi and Cavour, as late as 1871, but doesn't really become meaningful until after the First World War. It could be argued, and this is the point of my long introduction, that Italian unification has still not been completed, for within its borders there is the Holy See known as the Vatican City, and there is also San Marino, given independence within the Papal states in 1631, its separateness respected by Napoleon, and today an independent nation with its own seat at the UN, but not yet a place in the EU.

Where actually is it? Land-locked close to the Adriatic, on the eastern side of Italy, on virtually the same latitude as Florence, inland from Rimini. And how does it survive? Like all the other tiny little countries of the world (San Marino is just 24 square miles, half the size of Manhattan) which are too small to produce much worth the selling, it lives on tourism and its status as a tax haven, and does so remarkably well; San Marino has the eighth highest GDP per capita of any country in the world.

Marks for: 301 (the year in which the city was founded, by decree of the Emperor Diocletian, as what is now the oldest surviving independent republic in the world)

Marks against: 83,427 (the number of dollars per capita of GDP that San Marino is behind Qatar in the league of world's wealthiest nations)

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