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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 20:03 GMT 21:03 UK


Sci/Tech

Birth of a cybernation

The constitution is in Serbo-Croat, English and French

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

Yugoslavs harking back to a golden age of tolerance and intellectual freedom are creating a virtual country to represent their ideals on the Internet.

Cyber Yugoslavia will be born on 9 September. Anyone can be a citizen and everyone has to have ministerial responsibilities. Word has spread so fast that the online passport office has already been forced to close because it cannot cope with the demand for citizenship.

Four hundred Bangladeshis applied for citizenship in one e-mail. The site clearly states that the country will have no territory and no paper passports will be issued.

"This will never be any kind of state with any kind of territory, the Bangladeshis couldn't understand the process and found it hard to think of ministerial titles," said Slobodan "Simke" Simovic, Minister for Interview with BBC and formerly Minister for Everything Else.

"All we have said is that if citizenship reaches five million we will ask the UN to give us 20 square metres of territory to site our servers, and no-one's going to want to visit that."

Good times

Simke, originally from Belgrade, is now sited in Amsterdam. He developed the concept with another Yugoslav friend who had watched their country disintegrate.

"For us, the only reality that could be real was virtual. The last ten years look like a dream, an illusion. People might say that the site was made by nostalgic ex-Yugoslavs but I don't see us as that.


[ image: The Cyber Yugoslavia crest]
The Cyber Yugoslavia crest
"We spent our youth in a country which at that time was very good if you were young. But nobody wants to make a political statement, we don't want to say that this was a better country. It was a very tolerant and interesting intellectual climate - this site doesn't refer to the country or the politics, it's supposed to be fun."

The constitution is open to change by citizens but states that no-one can become a president, king or prime minister and each minister is equally important.

It suggests titles such as Secretary for Ducks, Secretary of Sunset and Secretary for Swimming. The national flag can vary and the national anthem will be chosen on a weekly basis.

"People are making several types of communities on the Internet, said Simke, "they can be based on money or some type of common interest. We are making a state that has no hierarchy."

Online passports

Only eight e-mails had been sent out to publicise the site, but Cyber Yugoslavia would have more than 5,000 citizens if all the applications were processed. Features such as chat and message boards should be added by 9 September.

"The online passports will be designed so people can add their own photos. It needn't be a photo, it could be an illustration, it could be Mickey Mouse.

"Our concept of the world is not an ethnic or a political one, it is a reminiscence of a piece of history, a time when we felt rather well and the world was a decent place."

Cyber Yugoslavia is one of the most sophisticated and the latest in a long line of cyber states created. The Holy Empire of Reunion Website links to 175 micronations and virtual countries.

Death of Lizbekistan

But as one cybernation is born another is set to die.

Also on 9 September (9/9/99 is a significant millennium bug date), at 9.09pm, Liz Strlingis is set to pull the plug on Lizbekistan.com.

The Australian artist, based in Paris, created the country three years ago as part of a Web project on citizenship.

Lizbekistan features a calculator to see how its currency, the nipple, is trading against others including a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. Princess Liz prints banknotes, stamps and passports, and "citizens" have tried to get them stamped along with their real passports at border controls.

After blowing up the site with a mouse click, Liz plans to open Lizbekdiaspora.com and lizvegas.com.



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