How Many Countries has the United States Recognised – But No Longer Exist?
Articles,  Blog

How Many Countries has the United States Recognised – But No Longer Exist?


It’s now two and a half centuries since
the United States declared independence. During that time it’s witnessed the
birth of many new countries. However, it has also seen many states disappear. In this video, I’m going to take a look at the countries that United States recognized, but which no longer exist. [MUSIC] Hello. My name is James Ker-Lindsay. Welcome to Independent Thinking. A channel dedicated to international relations, independence and the origins of countries. Tucked away on the State Department website is the Office of the Historian. It’s a fantastic source on the foreign relations of the United States. However, one section in particular grabbed my attention. This is the list of all the countries that the United States has ever recognized. One of the things that really struck me was how many of the countries listed no longer existed. In one way or another, many countries the US had once recognized, had now become extinct – whether by conquest, dissolution or merger. The list represents a fascinating trawl through the major international relations at the past 250 years. Many of the changes are directly tied to some of the main events that help shaped the modern world. For a start, there are the states that disappeared as a result of the process of state formation in the nineteenth century. These effectively centre on two countries:
Germany and Italy. Of the two, the case of Germany was easily the most complex. In fact, in one way or another, Germany accounts for by far the single largest share of states that were once recognized by the United States but have since disappeared. The State Department lists the history of its relations with Germany as extending back to the signing of the Treaty of Amity and commerce with the Kingdom of Prussia on 18 September 1785. However, in the 19th century what is now Germany was in fact a disparate collection of kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities and free states. While the State Department lists the recognition of the short-lived German Federation, which was formed during the 1848 revolutions, but collapsed the following year, the story really begins in the second half of the 19th century as the process of German unification began in earnest. In 1866, following the Austro-Prussian War, Prussia absorbed the Kingdom of Hannover and the Duchy of Nassau – both of which had been recognized by the United States. Then, two years later, in 1868, Prussia led the formation of the North German Confederation. This brought together 21 other states, many of which had also been recognized by the United States. These included the Hanseatic Republics of Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck; the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin; the Grand
Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; the Grand Duchy of Hesse; the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg; the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg and the Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe. The North German Confederation proved to be short-lived. Three and a half years later, in 1871, it too disappeared when it became part of the newly established German Empire. This incorporated three other states that had been recognized by the United States. The Grand Duchy of Baden, the Kingdom of Württemberg and the Kingdom of Bavaria. Although effective recognition ceased when these states joined the Empire, it seems as though some sort of nominal recognition actually continued for another 50 years or so. However this officially came to an end on the 3 February 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson ordered that relations with the German Empire be severed prior to the US declaration of war on Germany, on 6 April 1917. Diplomatic relations with Germany were formally reestablished on December 10, 1921. However this isn’t quite the end of the story with Germany. Relations were again severed when the United States declared war on Nazi Germany in December 1941. When they were reestablished, in 1955, it was with the Federal Republic of Germany – more usually known as West Germany. However, in 1974, the United States also formally recognized the German Democratic Republic – otherwise known as East Germany. This ended when the East was formally incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990 following the end of the Cold War. The second major group of states were the countries that disappeared with the process of Italian unification, which also took place in middle of the 19th century. As had been the case with Germany, the United States had recognized various kingdoms, city-states and duchies on the Italian peninsula as far back as the late 18th century. The longest standing relationship was with the Papal States. Mutual recognition dated back to 1784. However, this ended when the Papal States were incorporated into the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, in 1860, alongside the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Duchy of Parma. Meanwhile, long before this, the Republic of Genoa had also been incorporated into Piedmont-Sardinia, in 1815. Meanwhile, the following year Piedmont-Sardinia also disappeared as a separate state when it united with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, previously known as the Kingdom of Naples, to form the new Kingdom of Italy. This was recognized by the United States
on the 11th of April 1861. Between them, Germany and Italy therefore represents a total of 23 countries that the United States once recognized but no longer exist. However, there are several more cases from Europe. The end of the First World War also saw the end of the Austrian Empire, also known as Austria-Hungary, which had first recognized the United States in 1797. Although Austria-Hungary broke diplomatic relations with the United States in April 1917, the US did not formally reciprocate until the 7 December 1917, when it declared war on the Empire. Relations would never be reestablished as the Empire collapsed at the end of the War. Instead, Washington recognized an independent Austria in 1921, alongside a number of other states that emerged from the remnants of the Empire. One of these new states that emerged with the end of the First World War would in turn become extinct. This was Czechoslovakia. The US recognized it in 1918. However, the country disappeared when it split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on the 31 December 1992 – thus creating two entirely new countries. Then there are two slightly more confusing cases. The first of these is the Kingdom of Serbia and its successor, Yugoslavia. The United States recognized the Kingdom of Serbia in 1881. However, at the end of the First World War, this became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which was renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929. At the end of the Second World War, the Kingdom became the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. However, this then broke apart in the
early 1990s. When it did so, the US chose not to recognize the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – made up of Serbia and Montenegro – as its successor. When formal diplomatic relations between the US and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were eventually established, in 2000, they were on the basis that the Federation was in fact an entirely new state. Moreover, when this split, in 2006, the Republic of Serbia became the successor state and was recognized as such by Washington. However, this was, legally speaking, at least from the US perspective, not in fact the same Serbia that it had recognized 125 years earlier. Interestingly, although the State Department also has the USSR on its list, this is actually a rather confusing case as there doesn’t actually appear to be
any formal state extinction. The United States first recognized
the Russian Empire in 1803. However, relations were interrupted in 1917 after the Russian Revolution. However, it appears that when relations were established with the Soviet Union, in 1933, it was on the basis that it was in fact regarded as a successor state of the Russian Empire. Thereafter, when the Soviet Union collapsed, in December 1991, the US recognized the Russian Federation as a successor state of the Soviet Union. This would actually appear to suggest there is in fact a line of continuity stretching back over two centuries. Therefore, while the USSR is listed separately from Russia, there doesn’t actually appear to have been a lost country, as such. So far, the bulk of countries have been in Europe. Interestingly, there are very few
elsewhere in the world. In large part, this can be explained by the fact that many of today’s countries in Africa and Asia didn’t become independent until after the Second World War – and very few states have become extinct since then. In Asia, the United States and the Kingdom of Korea recognized each other in 1880. However, relations ended in 1905 due to pressure from Japan, which then annexed the country in 1910. On 1 January 1949, the United States recognized the Republic of Korea, known as South Korea. However, this was not regarded as the successor of the Kingdom of Korea. The only other examplefrom Asia is Lew Chew (Loochoo). This is a territory that’s now known
as the Ryukyu Islands. Mutual recognition occurred in 1854. However, diplomatic relations were never established before the island chain was formally annexed by Japan, in 1879. There are also just two examples from Africa. The first of these is the Orange Free State. This was a Boer Republic that was established in southern Africa. Mutual recognition occurred in 1871. However, this came to an end in 1902, when the state was defeated by Britain and added to its colonial holdings in South Africa. The other case from Africa was the Independent State of the Congo, otherwise known as the Congo Free State. This was recognized in 1885. However, the state was annexed as a colony by Belgium, in 1908. Later, the United States recognized the Republic of Congo when it became independent, in 1960. In the Americas there were three examples. The first of these is the Central American Federation. This emerged when a number of territories broke away from Spanish colonial rule at the start of the 19th century. This was recognized by the
United States in 1824. However, in the late 1830s, the Federation began to dissolve – eventually leading to the creation of five new countries that were individually recognized by Washington: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras and Nicaragua. So this just leaves two more countries on the State Department list. And these are perhaps the most interesting of them all. I’m referring to the two countries that became extinct because they actually joined the United States itself. The first of these is Texas. Having broken away from Mexico, it was recognized as an independent state by the United States in 1837. However, this ended just nine years later, in 1846, when it formally joined the United States and relinquished its sovereignty. The second is Hawaii. This is perhaps less well known. The Kingdom of Hawaii was actually recognized by the United States in 1826. However, this ended when Hawaii was formally annexed by the US on 12 August 1898. So, in total, there are actually 33 countries that the United States of America recognized but which no longer exist. Of course, this may not be an entirely authoritative list. If there are any other countries you know about do post them in the comments below. Also, the list doesn’t include states that have merely changed their names – such as Dahomey, which became Benin; Upper Volta, which became Burkina Faso; Swaziland, which became Eswatini; or, more recently, Macedonia which became North Macedonia. Interestingly, in this list, the US still recognizes Myanmar under its old name, Burma. I hope you enjoyed the video. If so, I posted some links to some more videos that you might like. Also, do consider subscribing. I post new content every Friday. Thanks so much for watching and see you again soon. [MUSIC]

14 Comments

  • James Ker-Lindsay

    Thanks for watching. This was really interesting video to put together. As you'll see, things weren't quite as straightforward as they seem. Even the State Department seems to be a little bit unsure on a couple of them. (The USSR didn't become an extinct state. Also, Serbia is a fascinating case.) If you do know of any countries that aren't on the list, do let me know in the comments below. And do check out the website of the State Department's Historian. Well worth a browse. I have put a link in the description.

  • JJ

    It is curious that the US would have recognised the Orange Free State, but not the Transvaal? I imagine that might have been because the Orange Free State took the initiative to recognise them, whereas the Transvaal didn’t? A bit odd considering the Orange Free State was always entirely dependent on Johannesburg. Great video.

  • D D

    Thank you! It would be interesting to hear how many now extinct countries the United Nations have recognised, it's something I've never thought about. I assume that Czechoslovakia, East Germany and West Germany are on that list, but what else?

  • TheConqueringRam

    Greetings from the United States of America! This was a fantastic list that gave some nice background information about these extinct states. Also, I am glad that you mentioned the Orange Free State (or it's neighbor, the South African Republic) and the Kingdom of Hawaii. No one ever talks about those two countries despite having significant impacts on the local histories of their regions. I always forget that the Congo Free State was technically an independent kingdom before the Belgian government annexed it as a colony and I didn't know about the relations between the US and Kingdom of Prussia.

  • Johnny Ray's Digital Nomad Lifestyle

    Great video, and I was in International real estate for over 50 years and saw this first hand, so very interesting for me

  • Autumn

    Taiwan 🇹🇼, Republic of China, is & was never part of communists China. Taiwan never agrees with this foster father. China 🇨🇳 just bully and threaten Taiwan all the time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *