countries that no longer exist

Lost in Time: Visiting Countries That No Longer Exist

The beauty of travel is that it teaches you about different destinations that you often won’t learn from a book. Local cultures and traditions sometimes tend to blur political boundaries, and you get a tapestry of traditions that have influenced a country’s rich history.

Travelling to countries that no longer exist, for example, can be a fascinating and enlightening experience. When most people think of countries that no longer exist, they probably imagine the lost tribes and civilizations of centuries gone by. While that is a reasonable assumption, we don’t have to look very far back in time to find them. Many countries rose to power and ceased to exist during the 20th century. Others existed a lot longer yet met the same fate. 

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Countries that no longer exist thanks to changes in the 20th century

Political conflicts and wars often change boundaries, resulting in independent states emerging while others are absorbed. Such events trigger the ascent and fall of countries and whole empires. The 20th century saw much turmoil that forever changed boundaries in Europe and many other places worldwide. 

Some countries on this list might be familiar, while others are straight out of history books. Travellers back in the 1960s and 1970s would have had an opportunity to visit some of these countries. On the other hand, those born after the 1990s now have a chance to travel to countries that didn’t exist before they were born. This means that grandparents and their grandchildren could have visited the same place but in different countries. How is that for multigenerational travel chat? 

Austria-Hungary (1867-1918)

The Austrian Empire was a significant player in the European scene, lasting from 1867 to 1918. While relatively short in existence, it evolved into the Austro-Hungarian Empire and played an essential role in the outbreak of a world war. As the story goes, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by a Bosnian Serb national triggered the outbreak of World War I.

countries that no longer exist
Today Hungary is an independent country

As the empire ended on the losing side of the battle, it was split up at the end of the war into the European countries we know today as Austria and Hungary. However, the empire also included parts of the Czech Republic, Poland, northern Italy, Romania and the Balkans.

Ceylon (1505-1972)

Ceylon’s history as a trading hub with Arab and European influences dates back to 1505. Ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British, it finally became its own independent country in 1948. In 1972, Ceylon got a new name and became what we know today as Sri Lanka. This explains why Sri Lanka is a relatively unknown country to many. As tourism expands, more people learn about this relatively young nation and its centuries-old history.

countries that no longer exist
Ceylon on of the countries that no longer exist

Czechoslovakia (1918-1993)

Created after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Czechoslovakia was clumped together using Czech and Slovak lands. It was a relatively prosperous country that, like other parts of Eastern Europe, came under German occupation during WWII and then Soviet control.

In 1993, after a nationwide protest known as the Velvet Revolution, Czechs and Slovaks split peacefully into individual countries, each with its own history and culture. So today, you can add two new countries to your list that didn’t exist a generation ago. 

East and West Germany (1945-1990)

In the not-so-distant past, there were two Germanies. East and West. After the fall of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, the country was split into zones between the Allied forces. The zone under British, French and U.S. control formed West Germany (officially the Federal Republic of Germany). At the same time, East Germany (officially the German Democratic Republic) came under Soviet rule. Tensions grew, splitting families into two countries as the Cold War entered the stage.

countries that no longer exist
Today there is only one Berlin (source: Canva)

While Western Germany prospered, the people in the communist state of Eastern Germany didn’t fare so well. The decades took their toll, as they did in the rest of Europe. The changing political climate, failing economy, and the winds of change finally led to the famous fall of the Berlin Wall and Germany’s subsequent reunification.

Neutral Moresnet (1816 to 1920)

If you’ve never heard of Neutral Moresnet before, don’t worry, you’re not alone. This minuscule country, smaller than New York’s Central Park, remained its own governing body for over a century. Neutral Moresnet, which separated the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and Prussia, had a very valuable zinc mine. After the zinc ran out and other attempts at prosperity failed, Neutral Moresnet became part of Belgium after WWI.

Newfoundland (1907-1949)

Newfoundland was the last province to join modern-day Canada. Before that, like the rest of the country, it too, became a British colony. However, it briefly became a self-governing independent nation in 1907. Economic challenges of the Great Depression played a role in Newfoundland, eventually joining Canada in 1949. Today, Newfoundland is a fascinating place to visit. Stunning landscapes, rich culture and friendly people are just some of the reasons you should go there if you’re visiting Canada. You’ll discover a totally unexpected place to love.

countries that no longer exist
Countries that no longer exist: Newfoundland

Ottoman Empire (1299-1922)

Like other grand empires, the Ottoman Empire’s end was inevitable. Like the Roman and Byzantine Empires preceding it, the Ottoman Empire ruled for centuries. It covered vast parts of the world, even crossing continents. Once stretching as far north as part of the kingdom of Hungary, Russia and the Balkans, down to the Persian Gulf with parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the Ottoman Empire ended in 1922.

countries that no longer exist
Countries that no longer exist: Ottoman Empire

While the empire’s decline didn’t happen overnight, its power gradually deteriorated. If the Ottoman Empire hadn’t sided with the losing side in WWI, its demise might have occurred later. As with other countries on this list, the war’s end meant that the Ottoman Empire was split up and eventually abolished once the Turks won their independence in 1922. A new country, Turkey, emerged, and today, it is a popular tourist destination.

Prussia (1525-1947)

Prussia became a Dutchy in 1525 before becoming a kingdom. Ruled by the House of Hohenzollern, Prussia extended over large parts of modern-day Germany and Poland as well as parts of Lithuania, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Prussia enjoyed great military success during the 18th century under Frederick II. Fighting in many European wars, Prussia eventually suffered defeat during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s, which weakened the kingdom and its territories.

Prussia became part of the newly unified Germany during the 19th century, with its capital in Berlin. While the end of WWI ended the Prussian monarchy, the end of WWII marked its abolishment. Today, Prussia is one of those countries that no longer exist, and many have forgotten about it.

Interested in learning more about countries that no longer exist? Check out:

Sikkim (1642 to 1975)

I must say that I have a very vague recollection of Sikkim from my class on Indian history, but most people have probably never heard of it. The monarchs of Sikkim ruled independently from the 17th century until Sikkim joined India in 1975. That doesn’t seem like it was long ago.

Sikkim was once one of the largest monarchies with strong political power. The monarchy had a colourful and tumultuous history over the centuries, including ties to the British Empire. While there were many conflicts in its history, the merging with India after a referendum was a peaceful affair.

Soviet Union (USSR) (1922-1991)

If you were born in the 1990s, you probably aren’t as familiar with the Soviet Union as those born in previous generations—unless you watch a lot of movies. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics lasted from 1922 to 1991, and its collapse brought us 15 new countries. The fall of the Soviet Union also marked the collapse of communist rule, ending its iron grip on Eastern and Central Europe. Enter new ideas, modernize, and open up to the world. Hello, 15 new countries.

countries that no longer exist
USSR of the countries that no longer exist

These new countries became Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, KyrgyzstanLatvia, Lithuania, Moldovia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. As the Soviet Union ruled for decades and travel was restricted within its boundaries, most people born in that time had very little (if any) knowledge of these countries and their histories. 

Tibet (1912-1951)

Tibet’s history goes back over a thousand years. However, it became an independent country in 1912. Tibet stayed independent under the rule of the Dalai Lama until the Chinese occupation ended its independence in 1951. Today, it’s part of Communist China, with many people fighting for free Tibet.

United Arab Republic (1958-1971)

One of the less talked about countries that no longer exist is the United Arab Republic. The UAR was a short-lived dream of then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Egypt and Syria’s union meant to unite the two countries into a pan-Arab state based on nationalism and solidarity. Physical separation and conflicting views ended the union with Syria’s departure three years later. Egypt retained the moniker until Nasser died in 1971.

countries that no longer exist
Countries that no longer exist: the United Arab Republic

Yugoslavia (1918-1992)

Yugoslavia was like Frankenstein’s monster, patched together with different and ill-fitting pieces of ethnic groups and cultures. Much like Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia was formed after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of WWI. While it also fell under Hitler’s rule during WWII, the country avoided Soviet occupation and marched straight into Communism under the socialist dictatorship of Marshal Josip Tito.

countries that no longer exist
Gorgeous Montenegro, once part of Yugoslavia

Unlike Czechoslovakia, the cultural, ethnic tensions and religious differences finally took their toll. The breakup of Yugoslavia was a violent affair, with more than 100,000 dead during the Yugoslav wars. Out of that came new countries we know as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro, including the independent region of Kosovo.

Bonus: the British Empire (1497-1997)

The British Empire, once referred to as the empire “where the sun never sets,” was, at its height, the largest ever to exist. During its domination, the British are said to have invaded nine out of 10 countries in the world. That’s a pretty impressive run for a relatively small island nation that ended up invading all but 22 nations.

countries that no longer exist
Countries that no longer exist: British Empire 1921 By Vadac. – Own work., Public Domain

Some date the start of the empire around 1497 when the first British surveyors reached the New World on behalf of the crown. Others date it back to the early 1600s. Either way, it’s still a very long time. The height of the British Empire was around 1921. It then gradually started to decline as the 20th century went on. The official handover of Hong Kong to China marked the official end of the British Empire.

I decided to include this as part of the countries that no longer exist, even though this is an empire. With the fall of the British Empire, many nations regained their independence. As pieces of the empire chipped away, the geographical boundaries and political alliances shaped new countries while rediscovering others. For that reason, the British Empire deserves a spot on this list.

Additional countries that no longer exist or have new names

Identifying all the countries that no longer exist, have different names, or have been merged with others is challenging because there are so many of them. This list highlights the last 100 years, but it’s not by any means a complete list. Here are a few other countries that no longer exist that are worth noting.

  • Abyssinia became Ethiopia
  • Basutoland is now known as Lesotho
  • Bengal became part of India and Bangladesh
  • Burma is now known as Myanmar
  • East Pakistan became Bangladesh
  • Gran Colombia once included Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela
  • New Grenada is now known as the Republic of Colombia
  • North Yemen and South Yemen united in 1990 as Yemen
  • Rhodesia became Zimbabwe
  • Siam is now known as Thailand
  • Southwest Africa became Namibia
  • Tanganyika united with Zanzibar to form Tanzania
  • Zaire is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Zanzibar united with Tanganyika to form Tanzania

Does visiting countries that no longer exist impact your travel experience?

While visiting countries that no longer exist may not mean much to some, it is essential to others. It’s not always about what the country is called but more about its history and culture. Wars and conflicts often result in new boundaries, which aren’t always created to everyone’s liking, especially the present-day residents of the area.

Even today, many culturally distinct nations across the world are part of a larger country (like Scotland and Wales). Many still fight for independence (like Tibet and Catalonia), while others enjoy an autonomous status (like Greenland and Curacao). Travel lets us learn first-hand about the people we meet and their cultures. Things aren’t always taught in school but make up a considerable part of the local identity.

So, while visiting a country can be an experience, learning more about its history can further enrich that experience. That is why I travel and love learning about the places I visit. How the maps will change in the future is anyone’s guess. We might see some countries disappear and others emerge on the stage.  


Countries that no longer exist are those that have ceased to exist through political annexation, unification with another country, a division into smaller states or dissolution.

Determining the exact number of countries that no longer exist is difficult. However, historians estimate that there have been hundreds of countries that have disappeared over time.

Famous countries that no longer exist include the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Ottoman Empire.

Absolutely. You can see traces of countries that no longer exist in landmarks, cultural traditions, and even museums. Some countries also left a lasting impact on the region’s geography, language, and culture.

There are many reasons why countries disappear over time. This can include annexation or unification with another country, social and economic conflicts, natural disasters, economic collapse, and changes in the political landscape.

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