Officially, according to the lists of “legitimate” countries approved by the United Nations, there are 193 countries on Planet Earth.
In addition there are
a number of countries recognised as legitimate, though not by all member states of the UN,
a number more that are not recognised by anyone except themselves and perhaps some others (Crimea was added to this latter list in March 2014),
a number that are recognised by everyone on earth, but just do not happen to be members of the UN,
a number that are not really countries, though they are really countries, it is just that they are part of someone else’s empire, militarily useful but the empire regards them as merely dependent territories, not part of them at all, and so they end up in nowhereland, which is generally a shanty town in the People’s Republic of Poverty.
And finally there are the parts of the world whose existence is barely known, because even Googlemaps require maximum zoom to notice them and the large vessels that circle around them tend to ward off tourists and often they do not even bleep on radar; these are nevertheless owned by somebody, and it turns out usually to be Britain, France or the United States.
The total is thus really 269, but I have also included ten regions of the world which are not actually countries (the EU, the Caribbean, the major oceans), but which are treated as if they were countries by the world’s political, military and intelligence services, and therefore qualify for this encyclopaedia.
The list is completed by the presence of the Netherlands Antilles, even though it no longer exists, because my intention is to track the first quarter of the 21st century, and it still existed until 2010.
On the same terms I have left in both Syria and Iraq, though that may well change in the coming months, and have created holding pages for Catalonia, Palestine, Scotland and Wales, though none are likely to come into existence as independent countries at any time soon.
Except for thse last three, the list is in alphabetical order - it would be far too dangerous to risk any other method! It is not a population survey, nor a tourist guide, however; I am interested in calculating the amount of progress human civilisation has made since we gave up cave-dwelling and began to live in towns and countries. It is self-evident that the account of the world given in this will be out-of-date by the time you start reading it.
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