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For other uses, see Independence (disambiguation).

Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over the territory. The opposite of independence is a dependent territory. Independence does not necessarily mean freedom.

Whether the attainment of independence is different from revolution has long been contested, and has often been debated over the question of violence as a legitimate means to achieving sovereignty.[1] While some revolutions seek and achieve national independence, others aim only to redistribute power — with or without an element of emancipation, such as in democratizationwithin a state, which as such may remain unaltered. Nation-states have been granted independence without any revolutionary acts.[citation needed] The Russian October Revolution, for example, was not intended to seek national independence (though it merely transformed government for much of the former Russian Empire, it did result in independence for Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia). However, the American Revolutionary War was intended to achieve independence from the beginning.

Autonomy refers to a kind of independence which has been granted by an overseeing authority that itself still retains ultimate authority over that territory (see Devolution). A protectorate refers to an autonomous region that depends upon a larger government for its protection as an autonomous region. The dates of established independence (or, less commonly, the commencement of revolution), are typically celebrated as a national holiday known as an independence day.

Sometimes, a state wishing to achieve independence from a dominating power will issue a declaration of independence; the earliest surviving example is Scotland's Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, with the most recent example being Azawad's declaration of independence in 2012. Declaring independence and attaining it however, are quite different. A well-known successful example is the U.S. Declaration of Independence issued in 1776.

Historically, there have been three major periods of declaring independence:


Causes for a country or province wishing to seek independence are many. The means can extend from peaceful demonstrations, like in the case of the Indian independence movement, to a violent civil war.


Continent No. Oldest Country Newest Country
Continents vide couleurs.png
54  Egypt (1922)[a]  South Sudan (2011)
35  United States (1776)[b]  Saint Kitts and Nevis (1983)[c]
44[d]  Japan (660 BC)[e]  East Timor (2002)
50[d]  France (481)[f]  Montenegro (2006)
 Kosovo (2008)[g][3]
14  Australia (1901)  Palau (1994)[h]
8 de facto condominium international


  1. ^ Unilateral recognition of independence by the United Kingdom but continued British military occupation.
  2. ^ Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain declared.
  3. ^ Independence from the United Kingdom.
  4. ^ a b Part of Transcaucasian Region, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Physiographically, Armenia falls entirely in Western Asia, while Georgia and Azerbaijan are mostly in Asia with small portions north of the Caucasus Mountains divide in Europe.
  5. ^ Victory of Emperor Jimmu, and the capital established in Yamato.
  6. ^ Kingdom of the Franks becomes the first Christian State after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
  7. ^ Partially recognized de facto self-governing entity. It is recognised by 108 UN members the Cook Islands, Niue and Taiwan. Claimed by Serbia as the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija under UN administration.
  8. ^ An independent state in free association with the United States.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Benjamin, Walter (1996) [1921]. Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 236–252. ISBN 06-749-4585-9. 
  2. ^ David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence in World Context, Organization of American Historians, Magazine of History, Volume 18, Issue 3, Pp. 61-66 (2004)
  3. ^ "Kosovo" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-16. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 

Article note[edit]

The dates of independence, as they have been ported into many articles from the CIA World Factbook are defined as follows:

For most countries, [the given date is that] when sovereignty was achieved...For the other countries, the date given may not represent "independence" in the strict sense, but rather some significant nationhood event such as the traditional founding date or the date of unification, federation, confederation, establishment, or fundamental change in the form of government, such as state succession.
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