There are 195 countries in the world (or 194 depending on who you ask). Obviously, we all know that Russia is the largest. However, I never really knew what the smallest country was so I set off to find the answer.
What Qualifies As a Country?
Apparently, there are 8 accepted criteria for determining if an entity is an independent country. Here they are:
- Has space or territory that has internationally recognized boundaries
- Has people who live there on an ongoing basis
- Has economic activity and an organized economy
- Has the power of social engineering such as education
- Has a transportation system for moving goods and people
- Has a government that provides public services and police power
- Has sovereignty
- Has external recognition by other countries
I am outlining these criteria because I couldn’t believe the answer to this simple question of what the smallest country is.
And The Smallest Country Is…..
…..the Vatican City. Wait, what? A city can be a country? Well, I guess so.
The Vatican City is actually a country inside of Rome, Italy. It is surrounded by a wall and is only the size of a golf course. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See or the seat of the Catholic Church. If you want to think of it as the government of the Catholic Church, go right ahead.
The Vatican City was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty and has quite a few unique features. Here are just a few:
- There isn’t a single street address
- It is ruled by Pope Benedict XVI
- There are no permanent citizens
- The city is guarded by the smallest and oldest regular army in the world
- The ATM’s in the city actually can be read in Latin
- It has it’s own post office
- It has the highest crime rate of any country at 1.5 cases per person
If you look back at all of the criteria for being a country, the Vatican City meets all of them. However, they do rely on Italy for some of the major ones such as transportation. I mean, no country is perfect!
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Did the answer surprise you? It really surprised me when I found out the answer. I was sure it was going to be some island in the Pacific but I guess I was wrong! Now, if I am ever on Jeopardy and this question comes up….