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  • # How Many Countries are There?

  • How many countries are there?

  • Easy: just grab a map and start counting, yes? No.

  • Not all maps are created equal -- borders will differ depending on who you got the map

  • from.

  • So if individuals disagree, then surely a committee will save the day. Go to the United

  • Nations, find the room where countries sit -- each with a little name tag -- start counting

  • and get an answer. Now of course, countries come and countries go, but at the time this

  • video was made the answer is 193.

  • Fastest video ever, right? Except: you know this isn't over. The United Nations list is

  • less a complete class roster than a club membership that doesn't include everyone.

  • Take, Vatican City who is a country but is too cool for school when it comes to being

  • a member of the United Nations.

  • And while Vatican City's exact situation iscomplicated he's straightforward compared

  • to other non-United Nations countriesor places -- the terminology is going to have

  • a be a bit, unclear here.

  • Take Kosovo, who want's to join the UN club, but membership requires none of these five

  • countries to reject you. And while the United States, The United Kingdom and France think

  • Kosovo is a country, Russia and China think she's just a rebellious part of Serbia and

  • so veto her membership. As for everyone else, just over half recognize Kosovo as independent

  • and Kosovo, adorably, has a website where she thanks each one in their own language.

  • But Kosovo, is not there only otherplace that wants to be considered a real country.

  • There's Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. Which might,

  • or might not, be part of Moldova, Azerbaijan or Georgia depending on who you ask. Two of

  • thesecountries, no UN members recognize as countries, and other two have only five

  • supporters. Though all four of these... places recognize each other as countries. There's

  • also The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Northern Cyprus each with their own supporters.

  • At this point you might be thinking 'OK, srsly, what's the deal? I don't care who these guys

  • think are countries, are these places countries or not?' If I fly to one for a Holliday, will

  • it *look* like a country when I get there? The answer is, 'maybe'.

  • These... countries are all autonomous, to some extent, with governments that issue passports

  • though these may be of rather limited use and depending on which ones you're visiting

  • they may have more or less control of the territory they claim as theirs. You won't

  • always find a clear border.

  • What makes many of these places... fuzzy is they're *usually* born of conflict in the

  • recent-ish past.

  • That answer is probably less helpful than you want so think of it like this: while The

  • United States is clearly a country now, in 1776, not so much. Then she was just an idea

  • in minds of rebel scum. She wasn't recognized as a country instantly and without diplomatic

  • effort to change that Young America would never have made it on her own. Much like what

  • happened a century later when she got her own rebel who, unlike elder sister, failed

  • in the diplomacy department soyeah.

  • And so it goes today with many of the maybe countries in the world. Maybe they're future

  • United States and maybe they're future Confederacies -- but in the moment it's hard to say -- because

  • these things can take decades to settle.

  • By the way, these maybe-countries are super awkward for countries to deal with. While

  • your tiny island nation might not want to get involved in the affairs of distant lands

  • you still have to decide to send a diplomat, or not -- meaning even inaction forces you

  • to pick a side in *every territorial skirmish in the world*.

  • A notably awkward case being: Taiwanerrr, sorry, Chinese Taipei which is *totally* part

  • of China and no one would ever think otherwiseIs China gone?

  • OK: by any reasonable definition, Taiwan is a separate country and has been for years,

  • but China won't let go and insists you call her Chinese Taipei and don't forget who makes

  • all your clothing and utensils and TVs and phones and computers and everything.

  • So almost all countries -- including the mighty United States -- plays along even though they

  • unofficially acknowledge Taiwan's independence and do things that wouldn't make any senses

  • otherwise -- like sending aircraft carriers to protect one part of China from another

  • part of China.

  • Thus the innocent question 'how many countries?' has led us straight to a big 'World War III:

  • Press Here to Start' button which is getting depressing so lets move on to...

  • Ohhhh, right.

  • ::sigh::

  • No more politics: on to higher ideas: The Olympics. Surely from their perch among the

  • gods they have a disinterested view of the countries below. "How many are there, Olympics?"

  • Two hundred and four? Huh.

  • So Olympics is a bitspecial. She defines Puerto Rico as a 'country' even though it's

  • unambiguously part of the United States as well as Bermuda and Aruba which are connected

  • to the UK and The Netherlands along with a bunch of other places that are happy to play

  • in her Olympic Games as Nations but make no claims to independence.

  • Presumably, Olympics includes these to bump up the number so she can say 'more than 200

  • countries compete!' Though even her inflated list doesn't include Vatican City -- because,

  • given his demographics, divine intervention would be required to take home a gold.

  • And Vatican City brings us right back to the core of the difficulty with this question:

  • a consistent definition of 'country' is impossible because your checklist needs to both include

  • Vatican City the least country-like country that's still a country -- and that also exclude

  • the Anti-Vatican City: Hong Kong: -- the most country-like country that isn't.

  • Also don't forget from previous episodes the seemingly endless territories which look and

  • act like independent countries, but just sort of aren't.

  • And this isn't even brining up the various Nutters who plant a flag on an Island, or

  • an oil rig, start printing currency on their fancy inkjet and declare Deludtopia a new

  • nation.

  • So with no checklist to follow where does that leave us? The best answer to the question

  • 'how many countries' for the forceable future is probably to say 'around 200' and leave

  • it at that.

  • An answer with more significant figures implies more agreement than there really is -- because

  • ultimately, what makes a country a country is if other countries think that country is

  • a country.

# How Many Countries are There?

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B1 country vatican city vatican kosovo united olympics

How Many Countries Are There?

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    VoiceTube posted on 2013/11/03
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