Special Report

23 Countries That No Longer Exist and the History Behind Them

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11. Newfoundland

Well known as part of the Canadian province Newfoundland and Labrador, Newfoundland was likely visited by Leif Eriksson in the 11th century. The island is rich in history, having long been settled by the Dorset, a Paleo-Eskimo culture. Over the centuries, various cultures visited the island, which is located off the east coast of the North American mainland. These cultures included the Basque, Portuguese, Spanish, French and English. In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland as England’s first New World colony under Royal Charter for Queen Elizabeth I, making it England’s oldest colony. In 1713, under the treaty of Utrecht, the French gave up control of the north and south shores of the island to the British. As time progressed, immigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland and France created a fish-exporting society. Newfoundland was organized as a colony in 1825, became self-governing, and held dominion status from 1907-1949 — which included Labrador becoming part of the dominion in 1927 — voting in 1949 to join the Canadian Confederation as the 10th province.

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12. Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire lasted from 1299 through the early part of the 20th century, and was one of history’s longest lasting empires. It was also one of the largest empires in world history, controlling at its peak parts of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa. For centuries, the empire easily expanded until its peak in 16th century, during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. At the time the empire provided regional stability and was the source of important achievements in the arts, science, medicine, and architecture. With time, however, the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution strengthened Europe, leaving the empire much weakened economically and militarily. Through revolts and wars the empire was losing territories and influence. After World War I, the Ottoman Empire came to an end with the Treaty of Sevres.

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13. Prussia

Prussia was a state on the southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea. It originated in 1525 and was ruled by the House of Hohenzollern. Under the dynasty, Prussia expanded its size and sovereignty with military might to control many regions around it. It had considerable influence across Europe, and of course over Germany. With Berlin its capital since 1701, Germany was unified in the 19th century with Prussia at its core. Prussia became so associated with militarism that Napoleon was quoted as saying, “Prussia was hatched from a cannon ball.” Deciding to eradicate militarism, the Allies after World War II moved to abolish it. Present-day Poland occupies most of what was Prussia.

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14. Rhodesia

Located in South Central Africa, Rhodesia is now divided into Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Named after British colonial administrator Cecil Rhodes, Rhodesia was administered by the British South Africa Company, which sought to mine its deposits of gold, copper, and coal in the 19th century. From 1965 to 1979, Rhodesia was a self-declared, independent nation that was an unrecognized state. Following a brutal civil war between two nationalist organizations, the world recognized Rhodesia’s independence in 1980. The country took on the name Zimbabwe.

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15. Roman Empire

Few empires have influenced the world more than the Roman Empire, which dominated most of Europe, northern Africa and the western part of Asia for about 500 years. The empire emerged from the Roman Republic beginning in 27 B.C. after Octavian defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra and Octavian took the title of Augustus. The western portion of the empire lasted until it was invaded by Germanic tribes in 476. The eastern part of the empire, called the Byzantine Empire, lasted until 1453, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople. The causes of the decline of the Roman Empire have been the subject of historical debate for hundreds of years. The empire proved to be too vast to govern, and over time, its rulers became corrupt.