The seven newest countries in the world

New country, South Sudan, Sudan, Kosovo, Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, ethnic cleansing, Montenegro, Yugoslavia, Palau, Eritrea, Timor-Leste, East Timor, independence, referendum, UN1. South Sudan

The newest country in the world has just turned three. Congratulations! They gained their independence from Sudan after a referendum returned a result of 98% in favour of a split. It all came about because the Sudanese government refused to allow the people in the south of the country certain voting rights, so following two long, bloody civil wars, six years of autonomy began in 2005, followed by that historic referendum.

Kosovo, map2. Kosovo

Following the end of World War II, Kosovo became an autonomous region of Serbia. As time progressed, the Albanian population of this 10,000sqkm region increased and calls for independence led to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic revoking their autonomous status. A war between Kosovo and Serbia began in 1998 with Milosevic orchestrating a vicious ethnic cleansing of Albanian Kosovans. The following year the UN stepped in and in 2008, Kosovo was recognised as an independent nation.

Serbia, map3. Serbia

In June 2006, Serbia was officially recognised as a nation in its own right, after Montenegro declared itself as an independent nation. The two were awkwardly conjoined following the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the union was broken after three years of existing together.

Montenegro map4. Montenegro

As an independent country, Montenegro is technically two days older than Serbia as it officially ceded from its partnership with the Balkan state on 3 June 2006, with Serbia announcing its position as the successor state to Serbia & Montenegro two days afterwards. The referendum to cede was a narrow affair with just 55% in favour of a split.

East Timor, Timor Leste, map5. Timor-Leste

Owned by Portugal since World War II, the country formerly known as East Timor declared independence in 1975. Nine days later it was invaded by Indonesian forces and became part of Indonesia for a further 27 years. These were not a happy 27 years as hundreds of thousands of citizens lost their lives in the battle for independence, even after a referendum returned a huge result in favour of becoming their own nation. In 2012 the country was deemed stable enough for the UN to end its peacekeeping mission.

Palau, map6. Palau

Palau is a tiny group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean. In 1978 there was a vote on whether to become its own independent nation or join the newly created Federated States of Micronesia. The citizens decided on independence, but it was a further 15 years until it was ratified in 1993 and they were officially recognised.

Eritrea, map7. Eritrea

This west African country had been owned by Ethiopia since the 1950s as an autonomous region, but were desperate for independence, as the following 30 years of struggle showed. Finally, in 1991, rebel forces claimed victory and two years later they claimed independence via a referendum. Their relationship with their neighbours and former owners has continued to be a tense one, with border disputes requiring the intervention of the UN.