What is the smallest country in the world?

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This makes for a great trivial question – What is the smallest country in the world? You might decide to look at the population or the actual land area occupied by the country. In this case, the answer is the same both ways: Vatican City.

Vatican City, an enclave inside Rome, may seem like a surprising answer. Its name implies that it is a municipality, not a country. In addition, it houses the headquarters of the a Roman Catholic church. But the Vatican City was declared an independent state in 1929 via the Lateran Treaty, an agreement signed by Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI. The treaty granted sovereignty to Vatican City in exchange for papal recognition of the Kingdom of Italy.

So just how big is this unique country? The Vatican City is just a simple 0.2 square mile (0.52 square kilometers), which is smaller than New York City central park. Nevertheless, it has its own post office, telephone system, radio station, banking system and even its own currency, the euro vatican. About 800 people live here, 75 percent including the clergy.

Although Vatican City is a country of good faith, it is not recognized by the The United Nations (UN), the largest intergovernmental organization in the world. Instead, it is considered a non-member permanent observer, meaning he is welcome to serve in the UN General Assembly and access most UN services and benefits, but he cannot vote. And that’s fine with Vatican City.

Unlike its only other UN counterpart, Palestine, which has repeatedly requested full UN membership, Vatican City has never done so. In fact, it is the only independent nation to have refused UN membership. Experts believe he avoided membership because the pope does not wish to interfere directly in international politics. Moreover, if it were to apply for membership, the UN might question the idea that it is a real country according to the UN definition, which includes the ability to help with global security. Instead, the UN could claim that it is simply a religious organization.

Other small countries

Vatican City is by far the smallest country in the world. Still, that doesn’t mean the runners-up are much taller. According to the World Population Review, the the next four smallest countries per area are:

  • Monaco, a principality on the French Riviera (0.78 square miles or 2 square kilometers)
  • Nauru, an island in the southwest Pacific Ocean (8.1 square miles or 20 square kilometers)
  • Tuvalu, a nation of nine islands in the South Pacific (11.6 square miles or 30 square kilometers)
  • San Marino, a mountainous country in north-central Italy (24 square miles or 60 square kilometers)

If you look at the population, the the next four smallest countries after Vatican City are:

  • Nauru (10,876 inhabitants)
  • Tuvalu (11,931)
  • Palau, an archipelago of 500 islands in the Western Pacific (18,169)
  • San Marino (34,017)

Pitcairn Island has a population of only 50 peoplebut as it is a British Overseas Territory rather than an independent nation, we have excluded it from our list of smallest countries.

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