If you are among history lovers, I bet you always wanted to have in front of you a list of the oldest countries and nations in the world. Well, we decided to make that wish come true. Just to make it clear from the beginning – this won’t be one of those lists of top 100 oldest countries in the world. It will have a more educational purpose of shedding light on the age of the Earth as a whole, and then on its continents and finally, the “age” of countries. So, let’s start.
The age of the Earth was a center of discussion for many, many years. Between the 18th and the 19th century, the first who spoke about the approximate age of the Earth was Arthur Holmes, the geologist. By developing a technique for measuring the age of rocks, Holmes proposed that the Earth is around 1.6 billion years old. In the years after, and still, nowadays, the Earth and its age are continuously questioned and analyzed. According to Live Science, the planet of humans is considered to be about 13.7 billion years old. On the other hand, if we talk about continents, there are lots of debates regarding their age, as well. Some would say that Europe is the oldest one, while others suggest Australia is, because of the latest discoveries regarding evidence of life on land. However, first signs of the civilized world happen to be in the Middle East. So, that’s why when researching this topic the question that arises most often is: Is Iran the oldest country in the world? We wouldn’t say so, and you will find out why, on the pages that follow.
The country’s age can also be measured by the year of its independence. For example, youngest country in the world is currently South Sudan as it became independent in 2011. In contrast, the oldest country in Africa is Ethiopia, which is also the symbol of independence, because apart from the Mussolini’s occupation, it has never been colonized. When we talk about Europe, according to some searches, the oldest country is France or England. However, when it comes to civilizations, that position would be taken by the Greeks. We couldn’t resist asking Wikipedia as well for the oldest countries in the world, and according to it, in the first three places are Greece, Lebanon, and Syria. Speaking of oldness – check out one of our previous articles about countries with the oldest population in the world.
We were also brainstorming about the term “nation.” According to Western tradition, the term nation is mainly connected with the existence of the country as a territory where language, religion, culture, and ancestry seem to be less important parameters. Furthermore, Mariam-Webster describes it similarly. For example, there is Switzerland, where official languages are German, French, Italian, and Romansh and yet citizens of that country are proud to call themselves the Swiss. They are the so-called “nation of will” or “nation by choice.” On the other hand, there is the Eastern tradition claiming that nations are defined without the necessity of having territorial borders. Therefore, we have so-called “stateless nations, ” and the best example is the Roma people. There are never-ending debates about this issue, and many scholars are still writing about it. The terms nation and nationality are difficult to define. From my point of view, the nation exists with the existence of its country. After all, Americans are equating their nationality with allegiance and citizenship, aren’t they?
To create our list of oldest countries and nations in the world, first we had to decide which “indicators of oldness” to choose. Our goal wasn’t to make another list of top 10 oldest countries in the world, nor to rank the oldest countries by age, as there are plenty of those. We first took the suggestions from the Target Map that measured how long are countries (read nations) independent, in other words, the age of their independence and ranked them in that manner. Then, we consulted The World Factbook obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) website, to find out more about the history of these countries and their nations. So, if you want to see the results we got regarding the oldest countries and nations in the world and find out which is the oldest country in the world by age of independence, just click next.
Years of independence: 490
When thinking about the history of Sweden, one of the first things that come to our mind is Michael Hirst and “Vikings”, right? Yes, they shaped the Swedish history between 8th and 11th centuries. During this period, it is believed that Swedes expanded from eastern Sweden to the west, east and south, reaching even North Africa and the Middle East as traders and mercenaries. Their native language is Swedish, which is spoken in some parts of Finland as well. Sweden’s population exceeded 10 million inhabitants.
Years of independence: 511
The total population of Iran, that is up next on our list of oldest countries and nations in the world, is more than 82 million people. The dominant religion is Islam, while the main language is Persian. It has been led by a very conservative elite since the revolution in 1979 until now. The highest power in this country is the Supreme Leader, and today on this position is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Years of independence: 521
We are continuing our list of oldest countries and nations in the world with Spain that has close to 50 million people. If we look at the Spanish Constitution from 1978, we could see that it recognizes several contemporary entities and regions, within the context of the Spanish nation. As it is so-called “plurinational state,” its identity consists of many territorial and ethnolinguistic identities all over the country. One of the distinct local identities in Spain is Catalans, which is widely present in the news these days.
Years of independence: 594
This small country, next on the list of oldest countries and nations in the world has a population of 30, 645 people, out of which 55% are immigrants, according to UN data in 2015. The biggest ethnic group is French with 47%, then Monegasque and Italians with 16%. The official religion is Catholic, but there are also many more because of the diversity of the population, of course.
Years of independence: 722
The total population of Switzerland that ranked 11th on the list of oldest countries and nations in the world is something more than 2 million. In this country, as you are probably aware, there are three main ethnic groups: Germans (65%), French (18%) and Italians (10%). Because of it, some would say Switzerland doesn’t have a unique nation, while on the other hand, it exists even though it is consisted out of three main ethnic groups and many others.
Years of independence: 735
Andorra is one of the smallest states in Europe, and it is situated between Spanish and French border. Its total population is 85,702. There is 49% of Andorran people, 24.6% of Spanish, 14.3% Portuguese and 3.9% French. This multicultural country has one official language, and that is Catalan. However, because of the mixed population other languages are used as well.
Years of independence: 775
This country has a total population of 68 million people. Thai is the ethnic group that is prevailing in this country with 97.5% of the population. The Burmese are a minority with 1.3%. According to the Report of World Factbook, Thailand has higher mortality rate due to the AIDS what can further result in lower life expectancy. Thailand’s population is largely rural, and it is concentrated in the rice-growing areas of the central, northeastern, and northern parts of the country.
Years of independence: 807
According to 2017 Factbook Report, there are around 3 million people in Mongolia, next country on our list of oldest countries and nations in the world. The country has many ethnic groups. However, the majority is Khalkh with 81.9%. Mongols are best known through history for their conquests. In the 13th century, they expended the Mongol Empire over the major part of Eurasia. Besides Mongolia, they also live as minorities in other regions of China and Russia. Wherever they are, they are bound together by a common heritage and ethnic identity. Moreover, their dialects are known as their language – Mongolian. Also, their ancestors are known as Proto-Mongolians.
Years of independence: 870
The total population of Portugal is more than 10 million. They share a common Portuguese culture and speak Portuguese as their primary language. The predominant religion of this country is Christianity, mainly Roman Catholicism. Portuguese people were one of the pioneers of the Age of Exploration when many lands in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania are “discovered.”
Years of independence: 1012
The total population of Hungary is more than 9 million. Hungarians are also known as Magyars, and they are not just an ethnic group, but nation. Many groups of people with Hungarian ancestry live in various parts of the world such as the US, Canada, Germany, France, etc. Moreover, Hungarian people have several subgroups according to their local linguistic and cultural characteristics. Some of them are the Székelys, the Csángós, the Palóc, and the Jász people.
Years of independence: 1037
The total population of Austria is more than 8 million people. The origins of modern-day Austria date back to the time of the Habsburg dynasty when the majority of the country was under the Holy Roman Empire. After the collapse of the Habsburgs, Austria used the name the Republic of German-Austria, which was after forbidden under the two treaties: Versailles and Saint-Germain-en-Laye. So, after that the name changed to Austria.
Years of independence: 1048
On the third place on our list of the oldest countries and nations in the world is Denmark with a total population of 5 million people. Danish people are considered to be among the happiest ones in the world. They enjoy a high standard of living and high values concerning education, health care, protection of civil liberties and democratic governance. Also, Denmark is known for having the highest social mobility rank on the global level.
Years of independence: 1170
Out of 67 million people, French are the largest ethnic group in this country. Throughout history, the French people included populations of Gauls, Ligures, Latins, Franks, etc. In the 19th century, there were many migrations, and the government advocated assimilation through which immigrants were expected to adhere to French values and cultural norms.
Years of independence: 2234
In this very populated country (more than billion people), out of many ethnic groups, the most present one is Han Chinese with 91.6%. Through the history of this nation, there were many dynasties which were predominantly imperial. That fact is evident also by the size of the today’s territory of China. The last dynasty ruled until 1912 when the country was established as a republic.
Years of independence: 2673
The first place on our list of oldest countries and nations in the world goes to Japan! The first time Japan was mentioned is in the Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Moreover, besides influences from the other regions, China influenced the most the shaping of Japan’s history. The two main religions in this country are Shinto (51.82%) and Buddhism (34.9%).