DK People & Places: Political World

The world today is divided into 193 independent nations, differing from each other in size, shape, population, people, language, government, culture, and wealth. World maps are always changing, as new countries emerge from colonial rule or old ones divide or fall apart. Fifty years ago, there were only 82 independent nations, the rest being colonies or dependencies waiting to gain their independence.


Every part of Earth’s land surface belongs to or is claimed by one country or another, with the exception of Antarctica, where territorial claims have been set aside by international treaty (a formal agreement).


Largest country: Russian Federation 6,592,800 sq miles (17,075,400 sq km)

Smallest country: Vatican City 0.17 sq miles (0.44 sq km)

Longest border: US–Canada 5,526 miles (8,893 km)

Country with most neighbors: China (14), Russia (14)

Oldest country: Denmark, AD 950

Youngest country: East Timor, 2002

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley