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The Countries of the World

Independent Nation States in the U.N. (193)

Afghanistan
Albania
Algeria
Andorra
Angola
Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belarus
Belgium
Belize
Benin
Bhutan
Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Botswana
Brazil
Brunei
Bulgaria
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cambodia
Cameroon
Canada
Cape Verde
Central African Republic
Chad
Chile
China
Colombia
Comoros
Congo
Congo (DRC)
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cuba
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Djibouti
Dominica
Dominican Republic
East Timor
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Estonia
Ethiopia
Fiji Islands
Finland
France
Gabon
Gambia
Georgia
Germany
Ghana
Greece
Grenada
Guatemala
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Ivory Coast
Jamaica
Japan
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kiribati
Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan
Laos
Latvia
Lebanon
Lesotho
Liberia
Libya
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mali
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritania
Mauritius
Mexico
Micronesia
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar
Namibia
Nauru
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Niger
Nigeria
North Korea
Norway
Oman
Pakistan
Palau
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Paraguay
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Qatar
Romania
Russia
Rwanda
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Samoa
San Marino
Sao Tome and Principe
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Serbia
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
Somalia
South Africa
South Korea
South Sudan
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Suriname
Swaziland
Sweden
Switzerland
Syria
Tajikistan
Tanzania
Thailand
Togo
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia
Turkey
Turkmenistan
Tuvalu
Uganda
Ukraine
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Vanuatu
Venezuela
Vietnam
Yemen
Zambia
Zimbabwe

Independent Nation States not in the U.N. (1)

Vatican City

Dependencies (55)

American Samoa (US)
Anguilla (GB)
Aruba (NL)
Bermuda (GB)
Bonaire (NL)
Bouvet Island (NO)
British Indian Ocean Territory (GB)
British Virgin Islands (GB)
Cayman Islands (GB)
Christmas Island (AU)
Cocos Islands (AU)
Cook Islands (NZ)
Coral Sea Islands Territory (AU)
Curaçao (NL)
Falkland Islands (GB)
Faroe Islands (DK)
French Guiana (FR)
French Polynesia (FR)
French Southern Lands (FR)
Gibraltar (GB)
Greenland (DK)
Guadeloupe (FR)
Guam (US)
Guernsey (GB)
Heard and McDonald Islands (AU)
Hong Kong (CN)
Isle of Man (GB)
Jan Mayen (NO)
Jersey (GB)
Macau (CN)
Martinique (FR)
Mayotte (FR)
Montserrat (GB)
Navassa (US)
New Caledonia (FR)
Niue (NZ)
Norfolk Island (AU)
Northern Mariana Islands (US)
Pitcairn Island (GB)
Puerto Rico (US)
Reunion (FR)
Saba (NL)
Saint Barthelemy (FR)
Saint Helena (GB)
Saint Martin (FR)
Saint Pierre and Miquelon (FR)
Sint Eustatius (NL)
Sint Maarten (NL)
South Georgia (GB)
Svalbard (NO)
Tokelau (NZ)
Turks and Caicos Islands (GB)
U.S. Minor Pacific Islands (US)
U.S. Virgin Islands (US)
Wallis and Futuna (FR)

Antarctica (1)

Antarctica

Other Areas (4)

Kosovo
Northern Cyprus
Palestinian Authority
Taiwan

Total: 254

While working on the Peakbagger.com web site, a common need was a definitive list of the countries in the world. While it may seem like a straightforward task to come up with a list like this, the complexity of the modern political world is very difficult to unravel in a consistent manner. In the end, I came up with a list of 254 countries (and country equivalents) that together contain every square inch of the earth's land surface in a complete and non-overlapping coverage. This list was used to assign peaks to countries, come up with country high point lists, and so on. Since this list is used quite a bit, I thought it important to explain and justify how it came about and where the magic number 254 comes from.

To cover the entire earth, four different flavors of "country" are needed, as follows:

  • Independent Nation-States: Real, recognized, and undisputed countries that (except for one) are all members of the United Nations.
  • Dependencies: Territories, colonies, possesions, or other separate areas administered or controlled by an independent nation-state as a separate political entity.
  • Antarctica: A special territory not part of or controlled by any other country.
  • Other Areas: Any other tract of land that politically can not be classified as an independent nation-state or a dependency. This category is used for countries that fall into a gray area or have special status.

Independent Nation-States

Most independent nation-states are members of the United Nations, whose membership stands at 193 since the admission of South Sudan in 2011. The only independent nation-state that is not a U.N. member is the Vatican City. Therefore, there is little argument that there are 194 independent nation-states in the world.

Dependencies

Figuring the number of dependencies is a much more difficult task. While the old colonial empires have been greatly reduced, there are still a large number of dependencies scattered about the globe, many of them small islands or island groups. Most of these are formally organized into official dependent territories, but there are many small islands offshore from an independent nation-state whose status is unclear.

Any enumeration of dependencies must include some judgement calls. The political status of a place is the most important factor--if the administration of a political entitiy is special in some significant way, such as limited self-government, then that is a clear sign that it is a dependency. The other important factor is how far offshore from the controlling country the dependency is--any place that is a whole ocean away from the home country or more is usually a dependency and not part of the home country.

A list of the world's dependencies could have anywhere from 40 to 70 members, depending on how you decide to classify places. I went through and made a bunch of judgement calls and came up with a list of 55 dependencies that I am pretty happy with. Below is a list of the nine "controlling countries" that politically control dependencies, with the number of dependencies controlled and a list of them.

Total Dependencies, by Country:

Controlling NationNumberDependencies
Australia 5 Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island
China 2 Hong Kong, Macau
Denmark 2 Faroe Islands, Greenland
France 12 French Guiana, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Guadaeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna
Netherlands 6 Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten
New Zealand 3 Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau
Norway 3 Bouvet Island, Jan Mayen Island, Svalbard
United Kingdom 15 Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, Monteseratt, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia, Turks and Caicos Islands
United States 7 American Samoa, Guam, Navassa Island, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, U.S. Minor Pacific Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands
Total 55  

To see a list of all the indivual judgement calls I made in coming up with this list, you can look at my List of Dependencies with Commentary.

Antarctica

Another issue is Antarctica. Seven nations (Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom) have pie-shaped territorial claims in the continent, but by general international agreement Antarctica is considered international territory and not part of any country. The claims are not recognized by most other countries, and in my list I am including Antactica as its own entity, neither an independent nation-state nor a dependency.

The British and French Antarctic Territories include peri-Antarctic islands (north of 60° S) in addition to their pie-shaped continental claims. For the purposes of this classification, the British and French territories are deemed to exist, but only include these northern islands (South Georgia and the South Sandwiches for the British dependency, the Kerguelen group and others for the French). All land south of 60° S, including the South Shetlands, South Orkneys, Balleny Islands, Scott Island, and Peter I Island, is considered part of Antarctica. The Antarctic territories of the other five Antarctic claimnants are considered non-existent.

Other Areas

There are several areas that fall into the gray area between an independent nation-state and dependency. Again, the number of such places could be as large as 15 or 20 depending on the judgements made. I have decided to minimize the number of these areas and have come up with a list of only four:

  • Kosovo: This area has declared independence and many nations have recognized it as a new nation-state. However, Serbia still considers it an integral part of their territory, and they, too, have the support of many nations. Until the situation is resolved one way or the other, Kosovo will be classified as an "Other Area".
  • Northern Cyprus: Still politically separate from the nation of Cyprus in the south, but still not recognized as an independent country except by Turkey. Could almost be thought of as a dependency of Turkey, but leaving it as an "Other Area" seems best.
  • Palestinian Authority territory in the West Bank and Gaza: These territories do not yet consititue an independent nation-state, nor is it correct to call them a dependency, despite effective Israeli control over some of the land. Without making any political statement, the West Bank and Gaza together are simply classed as an "Other Area" of undefined status.
  • Taiwan: Not a U.N. Member and not generally acknowleged as independent byt the international community, but still not part of de-facto mainland China.

In addition, there are many areas that are in dispute between two or more nations, including some that no one nation really controls. Most of this disputed land is under the de-facto control of one country or another despite the disputed status. For example, Morocco controls the Western Sahara, Russia the southern Kuril Islands, and India and Pakistan have a line of control in Kashmir. No political statement is intended by these statements, and the borders are simply drawn by what the reality is on the ground.

The few small areas that are not under the control of any nation, mostly tiny islands such as the Paracel and Spratly Islands, are simply ignored. They are too tiny to merit separate entries in a list of countries. The same goes for slivers of disputed no-man's land that may exist between countries.

Summary

By this methodology, there are therefore 254 "countries" in the world: 194 independent nation-states, 55 dependencies, Antarctica, and 4 other areas.

 


 

Appendix: Dependencies or Not?

The following list shows all independent nation-states that have dependencies, plus those with offshore territories where there might be some question as to whether or not those territores are dependencies or not. All the dependencies and quasi-dependecies are classified as "Included" as politically part of the home country, or as distinct "Dependencies". The basic call is between including the area as part of the main country or calling it a separate dependency. Where there is some question as to the status of an area, or where a judgement call was made, commentary has been provided.

My approach to dependencies could be called somewhat conservative--when in doubt, I tend to lump offshore islands with the home coutnry, which has the effect of reducing the total. A more liberal approach might, for example, treat the five small French islands near Madagascar as separate from Reunion, or treat every minor islet owned by the U.S. in the Pacific as separate. The number of dependencies could thus easily increase up to perhaps 70, if one were to use a different approach from mine.


Australia

Includes: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Torres Strait Islands, Lord Howe Island, Ball's Pyramid, and Macquarie Island. All of these islands are pretty much uninhabited, administered by individual Australian states, and 920 miles or closer to the Australian mainland. Although some sources consider some of them to be separate dependencies, I feel best including them as part of metropolitan Australia.

Dependencies: These territories are all either more politically distinct than the included ones listed above, or more offshore.

  • Christmas Island: 950 miles away, and ethnically and politically distinct.
  • Cocos Islands: 1310 miles away and politically similar to Christmas Island.
  • Coral Sea Islands: Offshore and uninhabited, but a separate and distinct territory administered from Norfolk Island.
  • Heard and McDonald Islands: Although uninhabited and "offshore" to some degree, they are 2370 miles from the mainland, further away than any other island group in the world discussed here that is considered offshore, and administered directly from Canberra instead of as part of a state.
  • Norfolk Island: Has limited home rule, so it is definitely its own dependency.

Brazil

Includes: Fernando de Noronha, Atol das Rocas, Martin Vaz, Trindade, and the Saint Peter and Paul Rocks. All are very small mid-Atlantic islands realtively close to Brazillian shores.


Chile

Includes: Easter Island, Sala y Gomez, Juan Fernandez, San Ambrosio, and San Felix. Although some of these islands are a long way offshore (up to 2180 miles), Chile's long coastline, the lack of any other islands or neighboring countries, and the low population of the groups all argue against calling these areas separate dependencies.


China

Dependencies:

  • Hong Kong: Although now part of China and contiguous to it, the cultural, political, and economic distinctness of this recently acquired territory force me to call it a distinct dependency for now, rather than included as part of metropolitan China.
  • Macau: Similar to Hong Kong, and the same arguments for separate dependency apply.

Colombia

Includes: Malpelo in the Pacific, plus San Andres, Providencia, and small cays offshore in the Caribbean.


Costa Rica

Includes: Coco Island, 305 miles offshore.


Denmark

Dependencies:

  • Faeroe Islands: Might be considered offshore, but are largely self-governing.
  • Greenland: Clearly a spearate dependency.

Ecuador

Includes: The Galapagos (Archipelago de Colón), 575 miles offshore.


Finland

Includes: The Aland Islands. The ISO gives the Alands its own country codes, and this province enjoys more autonomy than other parts of Finland. However, the islands are geographically right offshore, and still send representatives to the Finnish parliament. The status of the Alands falls into the gray area between separate dependent and integrated province, and it is really a judgment call. For the purposes of this web site, they are treated as part of Finland.


France

Includes: Corsica.

Dependencies: All of the following areas are overseas territories, overseas departments, or territorial collectivities, and they can not be considered "offshore" from France in any real way. Some of these dependencies are politically part of mainland France and send deputies to the French legislature, but their extreme geographic remoteness argues strongly for listing them separate from the mother country.

  • French Guiana
  • French Polynesia: Includes Clipperton Island, sometimes considered a separate dependency.
  • French Southern and Antarctic Lands: Includes Kergeulen, Crozet, Saint Paul, and Amsterdam, but not the unrecognized Antarctic claim.
  • Guadaloupe: Includes Saint-Barts and Saint-Martin (northern half).
  • Martinique
  • Mayotte
  • New Caledonia
  • Reunion: Includes 5 small islands near Madagascar: Bassas de India, Europa, Glorieuses, Juan de Nova, and Tromelin. Sometimes these islands are treated as separate dependencies, but they are all uninhabited and administered from Reunion.
  • Saint Barthelemy (separated from Guadaloupe in 2007)
  • Saint Martin (separated from Guadaloupe in 2007--includes only northern half of island)
  • Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
  • Wallis and Futuna

India

Includes: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 605 miles away, south of Myanmar.


Japan

Includes: The Izu-Shoto, Volcano, Bonin, and Ryuku Islands. Although extending quite a ways out from the home islands, these island groups form nearly continuous arcs stretching away from the mainland, with no large water gaps between individual islands.  Politically they are an integral part of Japan; the Volcano and Bonin islands are even part of Tokyo.


Mexico

Includes: Revillagegedo, Alijos, Clarion and Gualalupe Islands in the Pacific.


Morocco

Includes:

Western Sahara. This is a tough judgement call--Morocco is firmly in control of the productive part of the territory, and considers it an integral part of the country. However, the OAU, UN, and other international organizations give some form of recognition to Polisario, fighting for indepence for the Western Sahara. For now, the area seems best to be treated as part of Morocco and not a separate dependency.

Netherlands

Dependencies: The former Netherlands Antilles has now been enitrely broken up into its six separate island groups--Arbua was granted separate dependency status in 1986, and the remaining five islands of the Netherlands Antilles became separate in 2010. Although Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius are politically part of the Netherlands mainland, thier geographic separation is why they are treated as separate dependencies, similar to French overseas departments.

  • Aruba
  • Curaçao
  • Bonaire
  • Saba
  • Sint Eustatius
  • Sint Maarten (southern half)

New Zealand

Includes: Chatham Islands, Auckland Islands, the Snares, Campbell Island, Antipodes Islands, Bounty Islands, and the Kermandec Islands. All of these small archipelagos are within 500 miles of the main islands of New Zealand, and only the Chatham Islands are populated.

Dependency: These three island groups are politically distinct from New Zealand, and much further afield than the small nearby groups.

  • Cook Islands
  • Niue
  • Tokelau

Norway

Dependencies:

  • Bouvet Island: This tiny, uninhabited South Atlantic island is not offshore Norway, so I consider it a separate country.
  • Jan Mayen: Uninhabited and 545 miles offshore, but usually considered poltically distinct.
  • Svalbard: Inlucdes Bear Island.

Portugal

Includes: The Azores, 850 miles offshore, and Madeira, 495 miles away. Both are almost always considered an integral part of Portugal.


Russia

Includes: East Prussia (Kaliningrad Oblast), 225 miles away through Belarus, Lithuania, or Latvia, and offshore via the Baltic, is politically indistinguishable from the rest of Russia.


South Africa

Includes: The tiny Prince Edward Islands, 1065 miles offshore to the southeast in the Indian Ocean.


Spain

Includes: The Canary Islands, the Balearics, and Spanish North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla). All are integral parts of the metropolitan Spain.


United Kingdom

Includes: Shetland Islands, Orkney Isalnds, the Hebrides, and Rockall, a tiny islet quite a ways off in the North Atlantic.

Dependencies: There are tiny remnants of the once-mighty British Empire scattered about the globe. All of the following territories are well offshore and administered as separate entities, except for Guernsey, Jersey, and Man, which are distinct politically but are quite close offshore of the U.K.

  • Anguilla
  • Bermuda
  • South Georgia (British Antarctic Territory): Includes the South Sandwich Islands, but not any parts of Antarctica (see section on Antarctica).
  • British Indian Ocean Territory: Includes the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia.
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Guernsey: Includes Alderney and Sark. Separate politically from the U.K. depsite being offshore.
  • Jersey: Separate politically from the U.K. despite being offshore.
  • Isle of Man: Although just offshore the U.K., it has clear and distinct separate political status.
  • Montserrat
  • Pitcairn Islands: Includes Ducie, Henderson, and Oeno Islands.
  • Saint Helena: Includes Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, and Gough Islands.
  • Turks and Cacios Islands

United States

Includes: The 50 states, including Alaksa and Hawaii, plus the District of Columbia.

Dependencies: The United States still controls several areas as dependencies:

  • American Samoa
  • Guam
  • Navassa Island: An uninhabited island between Cuba and Haiti, admnistered by the Coast Guard.
  • Northern Marianas
  • Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Minor Pacific Islands: The United States controls several tiny islands in the mid-Pacific area. Often treated as separate dependencies by many sources, it makes sense to combine them into one dependency rather than to clog up the list with all these minor islands. Included are Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands

Venzuela

Includes: Margarita and other offshore Caribbean Islands, plus Aves, way off to the north.




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