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An Interview With the President of Molossia, America’s Smallest Neighbor

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Every man is said to be the king of his own castle, but what about the nation surrounding it?

For Kevin Baugh, this question was answered long ago.

Claiming self-determination under the United Nation’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he formed his own country with the purchase of a few acres of land in the Nevada desert, not too far from Reno. Officially designated as a micronation, an entity claiming independence without reciprocation from the international community, and boasting, of all things, a navy complete with its own academy, the Republic of Molossia fits no standard definition. This seems to be just fine with Molossians, who have no qualms about deriving immense enjoyment from their unique category of sociopolitical limbo.

While some might scoff at the idea of Baugh’s creation, others do not. Over the last ten years, Molossia has been prominently featured in media outlets ranging from the Chicago Tribune to TechTV. Perhaps it is the micronation’s emphasis on tourism that has attracted so many curious minds; a trip there will get you a personalized tour from the president, whose office, needless to say, is occupied by Baugh. Molossia boasts a plethora of attractions, ranging from the gorgeously manicured Norton Park to an extensive, fully functioning outdoor model railroad system, as well as too many things to mention in-between. Should one wish to buy souvenirs, United States currency can easily be exchanged for Molossia’s monetary unit, the Valora, which is a modified poker chip tied to the value of cookie dough.

Yes, you read that correctly. This is the sort of delightful zaniness that makes Molossia such a fascinating place. From my perspective, it can be viewed as a lighthearted, yet serious, satire on modern geopolitics. As President Baugh told me in a Wikinews interview a few years ago, he and his compatriots take great pride in their “little country, and display all the trappings of a full-fledged nation, including our flag, boundary markers, signs….stamps, national anthem, navy and even a space program….Our goal is to exercise complete sovereignty over our country without annoying the United States.” Who could possibly argue with this?

Recently, President Baugh, or His Excellency, as he prefers for formal reference, took the time for yet another interview with me. Speaking about anything and everything from the self-styled Emperor Norton I, an eccentric nineteenth century San Franciscan who declared himself ruler of the United States, to Chinese holidays, which Molossia has incorporated into its culture, His Excellency the president characteristically left no stone unturned in explaining the ins and outs of America’s smallest, and undoubtedly friendliest, neighbor.

Tell us a bit about the history of your micronation. How did it come to be founded? How do you manage to sustain it?

Molossia was founded in 1977, when my best friend James and I saw the movie, The Mouse that Roared. We were quite taken by the idea of a tiny country accomplishing such amazing and amusing things, and decided to start our own nation. James was the King, and I was the Prime Minister. Time passed and James moved on, but I stayed with the idea, and carried it along with me everywhere I went until we settled in Northern Nevada. Having actual land really made the dream come alive, and in 1998 I raised the Molossian flag for the first time over our sovereign territory. Since then we have worked to build a great, albeit tiny, nation here in the desert. We founded the Intermicronational Olympic Games in 2000, a tradition that has carried on since. We started the first Intermicronational Exposition, and also created the Norton Awards for Excellence in Micronationalism. We now average about 20 tourists visiting us a year, and have our own online radio station, a post office, small phone system, money, stamps, Navy and even a space program.

Molossia has developed a unique culture in its own right. Could you tell us a bit about this?

Well, Molossian culture is a mix of several sources. Above all, we value the lifestyle of the western U.S., especially as it pertains to living in a wide open place, such as we do. Life here is fairly relaxed and easygoing, and we do most things together as a nation and as a family. In addition, we actively seek to embrace complementary elements of other cultures. The town of Steinsdorf on the Molossia Railroad is, of course, German. Our national hero, Emperor Norton, comes from San Francisco. Cookie dough, our national treat, is adopted from the United Provinces of Utopia, a micronation with whom we once associated. We have also adapted various Chinese holidays, such as Chinese New Year, as well a couple of British ones. All of this has made our nation unique and our culture active and enjoyable.

What is the political structure of Molossia?

Officially, Molossia is a republic, complete with a constitution and National Assembly. However, things are in such disorder over the border from us, that I had no choice but to suspend the constitution and declare martial law. It’s unfortunate, but the security of my nation is paramount, and the best way to ensure that is to rule by decree. So far, no one has complained, and anyway, I’m a rather benevolent dictator.

What are Molossia’s chief economic activities?

In keeping with other small countries, Molossia thrives on selling stamps, coins and on tourism. We also gain income from our Naval Academy, selling honorary naval commissions. We unfortunately lack the resources for other exports, although we are always looking for opportunities.

Can one visit, live in, or apply for citizenship in Molossia?

We welcome visitors to our nation; as I mentioned we get about 20 a year. However, our country is too small to allow for new immigrants, thus we are not accepting citizenship applications at this time.

How has the outside world reacted to your presence? Have you generated much media attention? What does the United States government have to say about your legal status?

We receive a good deal of media attention each year and have been featured on television, on the radio, in newspapers and magazines and in books. Several short films have been made about Molossia and have been shown at film festivals around the world. Molossia is a rather popular place, on a small level, and we certainly enjoy the attention. The United States, however, ignores us, which is probably best.

How do you see your micronation faring in the future? Does the horizon look bright, or are there storm clouds gathering, as there are for many, if not most, countries across the globe?

I see a very bright future for Molossia, indeed. We are solid economically and always improving our infrastructure. Because we are small, we can accomplish projects and initiatives quickly and thus take better care of our citizens. We are a positive, optimistic people and can do anything we put our minds to.

Does the Molossian government have an official position on the current political strife which your one and only neighbor is facing? What can America stand to learn from the Molossian model?

Molossia doesn’t really have a position regarding other governments, although we always wish the best for all peoples around the world. I think that a small nation such as ours has much to offer its citizens, simply because we are small. We can respond quickly and efficiently to our citizens’ needs, much more so than a large bureaucracy can. This is, I think, a lesson large nations such as the United States can learn, bigger is not always better. Nevertheless, we wish them well, and hope that their future will be as bright as we believe ours to be.

Thank you for your time, Mr. President.

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About Joseph F. Cotto