‘Empire’ has become something of a dirty word in geopolitics. It’s easy to see why with all the conquering and colonizing they committed in the past. Today no nation officially considers itself an empire, but does that mean they no longer exist?
According to Wikipedia, an empire is defined “as an aggregate of nations or people ruled over by an emperor or other powerful sovereign government.” As far as I can tell, this still describes plenty of nations in our modern world, so here’s my list of the ten remaining empire across the globe.
Not many people of Denmark when thinking of empires, but with their continued holding of Greenland, they certainly qualify. Greenland was originally colonized by Norse people in the 11th century, but it was ceded to Denmark in 1814. Despite this long history of colonization, 88% of Greenland’s 56,000 population is Inuit people. Greenland was granted more autonomy in 2009, but it is still under the umbrella of the Kingdom of Denmark.
9. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia controls the majority of land in the Arabian Peninsula, and despite their list of human rights abuses like not allowing women to drive, or honour killings, they are a stable nation that is held together by the tremendous wealth provided by nation owned oil reserves. Saudi Arabia was conquered by the al Saud clan in between 1902-1932, when they successfully took the the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina - the two most hallowed locations in the Islam faith. Saudi Arabia is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world, and certainly the most influential.
It’s not what it once was, but France continues to control holdings across the globe. At one time they had the second largest empire in the world behind the British, and their influence stretched across every continent in the world. Today, most of their holdings are confined to small islands in the Americas, Africa, and Oceania, but they continue to hold influence over French Guiana in South America.
Yes Canada. Canada’s prominence is often forgotten for many reasons. It was part of the British Empire. It has a small population. It has an international reputation of being a peaceful nation. It’s next door neighbours to the United States of America. These reasons, however, do not disqualify Canada for being an empire.
Canada has the second largest land mass of any country in the world, and it is also home to a diverse group of people, and I’m not just talking about multi culturalism. It is home to many indigenous, First Nations, and Inuit people. This is all becoming a discussion in modern day Canada as many people are questioning the nation’s role in governing these incredibly varied and distinct groups. This isn’t even counting Quebec, which accounts for the vast majority of French Canadians and is now considered as a unique nation within Canadian borders.
There are also a few countries which have offered to join the Canadian Empire such as Scotland and the three Western coastal states of Washington, Oregon, and California. Okay, these aren’t too serious, but there’s been serious consideration about the Turks and Caicos joining the confederation.
6. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Today, the sun does set on the British Empire, but it still governs a non-contiguous group of nations and people. Despite giving up major colonies like Canada, India, and Australia over the past century, the UK still claims governance over Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The British haven’t held onto their holdings without bloodshed. Northern Irish Nationalists fought for independence up until the 1998, and in 1982 they waged a short-lived war with Argentina over the ownership of the Falkland Islands.
Even its imaginary status as an empire may be taken away soon enough, though. Scotland had a failed independence referendum in 2014, and after the UK voted ‘yes’ to Brexit, the issue is being revisited. Questions about Northern Ireland are also coming to light. Will it stay in the UK? Will it join the Republic of Ireland? Will it be independant? Who knows?
I’ve always been interested in the history of India, but I’ve had a hard time grasping the content. I usually passed thought it was because its figures’ names were unfamiliar, or I had a difficult time grasping the timeline, but recently I realized something: Saying, “history of India,” is as is as complex as saying, “history of Europe.” It is a nation with a diverse group of ethnicities, cultures, and languages, not to mention its staggering population of 1.3 billion people.
To put these things in perspective, there are four different languages in India with a higher number of first language speakers than the entire population of the United States - the world’s third most populous nation.
India claimed independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, and today it has the world’s third highest GDP. India has been making a lot of news lately in regards to making considerable efforts towards renewable energy and seems poised to be a major global player in the next few decades.
4. Germany and the European Union
Germany has been in the business of consolidating power in Europe for a very long time. From the Kingdom of Germany, to the Holy Roman Empire, to Bismarck's Unification of Germany, to some small peckered fuckwit deciding to do some horrific bullshit, to the modern day EU.
With its completely open borders, shared currency, and free trade, the EU really resembles what we’d consider a single cohesive nation. If we were to consider the EU as one nation, it would have the second highest GDP in the world, and the third highest population.
Germany is the most populous, wealthy, and influential member in the EU, and they’re often considered a first among equals. The most prominent example of Germany’s key role in the EU is its relationship with Greece. Before Trump and Brexit, the biggest crisis hitting the West was the Greek Debt Crisis. Remember that? What a simple time.
ANYWAY, when Greece was having that debt crisis (they still are by the way) and questions about whether or not it should leave the European Union arose, it wasn’t France, Spain, or Italy they were having discussions with, it was Germany. This is not to say Germany has complete control over the affairs of other European countries. These other countries still elect their own leaders, and pass their own policies, but Germany acts as the economic cornerstone of the European Union, and as such, they have considerable influence over it.
No other nation in the world is in the business of classical empire building like Russia. Russia is by far the largest landmass in the world, and it’s composed of 92 separate federal subjects mostly made up of oblasts and republics. It should go without saying that these are comprised of diverse culture and identities.
In 2013 they were accused of meddling in the affairs of Ukraine, and this resulted in the annexation of Crimea in 2014. This led to economic sanctions imposed by Western nations, especially the United States. As a result they allegedly used cyber spy networks to influence the 2016 US election. You mean when your nation’s president is a former KGB spy you might develop a sophisticated spy network? Nah, they probably didn’t interfere.
Today Russian President Vladimir Putin in considered by many to be the most powerful man in the world.
China is the world’s most populous country, as well as its second largest economy. China is a single party nation, and in addition to its provinces, it also governs over the two ‘autonomous regions’ of Xinjiang and Tibet, both of which are widely populated by unique ethnic majorities - the Uyghurs and Tibetans respectively.
China also has considerable interests and investments in Africa. This is leading to a huge influx of Chinese workers throughout the continent, and its leading people to ask whether this is the newest face of colonialism.
China is rapidly modernizing and people are flocking to its urban centers. Of the world’s 15 most populous cities, 5 of them are in China.
1. United States of America
Was there ever any doubt? The United States of America currently has the strongest economy the world has ever seen, as well as having the third highest population and the fourth largest landmass (debatably the third highest ahead of China).
The most staggering thing about America is it military prowess. America spends more on its military than the next eight countries combined, so it should be no surprise that they have military bases on every continent in the world. They are also the cornerstone of the biggest military alliance the world has ever seen. During the Cold War, the US were the architects of NATO. This agreement hinged on America’s military prowess, and solidified its place as a global superpower.
Like Canada, the US is also home to a diverse group of indigenous, First Nations, and Inuit people, and the country also enjoys governance over five inhabited territories, including Puerto Rico, which has a higher population than 22 American States.
And let’s talk about the individual states. American states are very different from one another, and if someone from California steps foot in Alabama, they’ll probably feel like they’re in a who other country. Or how about Kansas and Hawaii? Each state has an identity and culture all its own.
There has been recent speculation around America’s current world standing, but it doesn’t look like they’ll be losing any territory or their vice grip as the world’s economic leader any time soon, so they’ll likely continue being the modern world’s strongest empire for the foreseeable future.