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Q: History of Europe ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: History of Europe
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: mdavidw-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 09 Aug 2006 04:44 PDT
Expires: 08 Sep 2006 04:44 PDT
Question ID: 754184
What is the oldest country in Europe?

Request for Question Clarification by scriptor-ga on 09 Aug 2006 05:49 PDT
Dear mdavidw,

I have done some research, and it became clear that without a more
precise definition of what atributes would, in your eyes, make a
country the oldest, it won't be possible to provide an answer. Could
you please provide your definitions?


Clarification of Question by mdavidw-ga on 09 Aug 2006 06:52 PDT
Is it possible to formulate the answer(s) based on varying criteria or
use the most widely accepted criteria? I don't want the answer to be
dertermined in terms of "my eyes." I would like to know what is
generally accepted as the correct answer. Does this make sense? I will
accept more than one answer. Let me know if you have any more
questions. Thank you!

Clarification of Question by mdavidw-ga on 09 Aug 2006 07:08 PDT
P.S. When I say, "oldest", I'm not refering to the age of the population.
Subject: Re: History of Europe
Answered By: politicalguru-ga on 09 Aug 2006 09:00 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear Mdavidw, 

As Scriptor has said, "old" is an adjective that has to be explained
and better defined. There could be several definitions of old:
- longest surviving with the same system of government
- longest surviving as one political unit 
- with the oldest average population (though this is not a historical
definition, so I guess you didn't mean that)
- longest surviving civilisation

I actually hope that some debate on my answer will therefore develop
in the comments section, because although I try to give the best
possible answer, it is quite possible that others will come with other
candidates and alternative explanations.

So, there are several candidates to the throne. 

As it happens, national ideologies add some reconstructed history to
the issue. A famous political scientists/sociologist by the name of
Benedict Anderson wrote  in 1991 a book whose title describes this
phenomenon better than anyone else: "Imagined Communities". People
forge themselves a history and a national myth, relating themselves to
historical communities, but they are not necessarily really continuous

For example, Bulgaria, according to some sources, claims to be founded
in the 7th century and therefore a very old country indeed. However,
the modern country of Bulgaria just refers to this Bulgaria of
antiquities, but was since conquered and occupied by the Ottoman
Empire, by the Germans and the Soviets. Not only that, but the borders
have also changed since.

The relatively new Republic of Macedonia (or FYROM, which means
"Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", and was the provisional name
of the country, as horrible as it sounds) has the same problem. While
its national founding myth relates to Alexander of Macedon (and
therefore to the Greek Antiquity era), there is no continuous line
between ancient Macedon and modern (FY)ROM, which was founded in 1991
- it was part of the Roman Empire, the aforementioned Bulgarian
Kingdom, the Ottoman Empire and Yugoslavia. In fact, it took up the
name FYROM (instead of Macedonia) in order to avoid a dispute with
Greece, also claiming to be descendant of that mythical Macedon.

So don't tell that to the Macedonian or the Bulgarians, but theirs are
not the "oldest" countries in Europe. The "oldest" countries
maintaining the same borders and government are much-much smaller.
We're talking about two contenders.

The second runner-up might be Andorra, a tiny principality in the
border between Spain and France. It has been founded in 880 and its
borders haven't changed since 1288.

But the winner is... San Marino, an even tinier republic located as an
independent enclave inside Italy. It claims to exist in the same form
and borders since the early 4th century, and there is certainly
documentation to support the idea that since the 1290s it has even
exactly the same form of government (though it claims also to be the
oldest republic, since its foundation).

By the way, there are only two other European states that are smaller
than San Marino. One is Monaco and the other is the Holy See (the
smallest country in the world). Monaco, too, had had the same regime
(that of the Garimaldi family) since the 1290s, but, alas, they had a
short period of French occupation in the 18th century and besides,
their foundation was slightly after that of Andorra.

The Icelanders among Google Answers fans might be crossed now, for not
having been mentioned. Their country is certainly part of the
oldies-club (though it hasn't been always independent) - their
relatively young island has been inhabited by the Norse in the 9th
century, and there might have been some settlement even beforehand.
<> . But then again,
other Island states have a much older history:

All of these nations are pretty small, especially the alleged winner,
San Marino. The only "large" country in Europe that can claim such a
relatively long history within the same borders is Portugal - it has
been founded 1128, and established its current borders in a process
that lasted until the late 15th century.

And this is without mentioning another old nation, the Armenians:
"Archaeologists refer to the Shulaveri-Shomu culture of the central
Transcaucasus region, including modern Armenia, as the earliest known
prehistoric culture in the area, carbon-dated to roughly 6000 - 4000
BC. However, a recently discovered tomb has been dated to 9000 BC."
(Wikipedia, <>). Don't
forget that according to the Armenian national myth, Noah had parked
his Arch in Armenia.

By the way, regarding geological history of what is Europe, the
Bulgarians claims - again - to have something really old: "You would
probably know or you will learn and appreciate with your own eyes once
    * one of the oldest geological formations in Europe;"

I hope this answers your question. Please contact me if you need any
clarification on this answer before you rate it.
mdavidw-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
This is a great answer. It fits in with my criteria which I originally
did not want to define. That being, that the country should be
continuous in it's existence. At least without long interruptions. My
friend, who is Bulgarian(yes, I showed him this answer oops =)),
defines the issue as being a sovereign group of people living in the
same area. He feels it doesn't matter if the people were conquered for
a long period of time. San Marino fits both of our criteria.

BTW - The Rhodopi mountains are magnificent. =)

Subject: Re: History of Europe
From: mikewa-ga on 09 Aug 2006 04:53 PDT
You will probably need to define your term "oldest country" Does it
have to have kept the same borders/ Can it ever have been under the
control of another nation? Has the name changed? etc.. etc. Depending
on the criteria, at least six countries all claim to be oldest
Subject: Re: History of Europe
From: politicalguru-ga on 30 Aug 2006 02:26 PDT
Thank you for the rating and the tip. Bulgarians are cool people, are they not?

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