The nearest international border to Carson City, Nevada, is neither 239 miles to the north in New Pine Creek, Canada, nor is it 541 miles south, near Tijuana. It’s only about 30 minutes east of the city and a left off U.S. Route 50. There, on a small plot of land ensconced in Dayton Valley, sits the heart of the self-proclaimed Republic of Molossia, a micronation complete with customs office, currency, navy, postal service, rocket program—and president.
“When I first heard of it,” says photographer Amy Lombard, “I was like, ‘Wow, only in Nevada.’” And for Lombard, that was a big part of the appeal. “I’m one of those people who’s in Nevada way more than anyone should be. I’m always getting sent out there for stories.” Drawn to under-the-radar and misunderstood aspects of American culture, she filed the micronation away as another of the state’s quirky hidden treasures, marking it down as a place she’d need to visit some day.
“Sometimes people take things very, very seriously, and that’s totally fine. Obviously, the president of Molossia takes it seriously, and has put lots of time and money into creating this micronation, but he just has such a good sense of humor about it. It’s so rare to meet someone with such imagination.”
President Kevin Baugh cofounded the Republic of Molossia on the 26th of May, 1977, together with King James Spielman, originally calling the country (then situated in Portland, Oregon) the Grand Republic of Vuldstein. Spielman’s reign was short, and eventually, the “portable” country was left entirely under then–Prime Minister Baugh’s capable control, following him from place to place. In 1995, Molossia laid claim to land in the State of Nevada, U.S.A.—a place Baugh liked because it is “nice and dry, and there are not too many bugs.” By 1999, after a series of name and governmental changes, the Republic of Molossia stabilized as a military dictatorship under the command of now-President Baugh.
As a military dictatorship, Molossia is an anomaly among other micronations of the world. “Most [other micronations] have kings or dukes and queens and emperors—you would never believe how many emperors there are out there,” the president says. “I just wasn’t feeling the whole royalty thing, so I declared Molossia to be a military dictatorship.” Hence, the snazzy uniform: “Of course, a cool uniform is required when you’re a military dictator, you know a sash and medals and a big hat,” Baugh says. “I get more medals every year. You’ve gotta have the sunglasses and the whole nine yards.”
For example, the Molossian currency is tied to the relative value of a certain cookie dough. “Yeah, we don’t go with a silver standard—nothing worthless like that,” President Baugh laughs. “The ‘valora’ is tied to something valuable: chocolate-chip cookie dough.” The country also follows its own set of rules and has banned things like walruses and onions.
Today, President Baugh feels that they’ve checked all the boxes: “We’ve got a bank and our post office, and we’ve got my office, our trading post, and our tiki hut, and of course the customs shack. We’ve kind of got everything that we need.
“We do have a space program; we launch rockets periodically. It’s fun; it’s something to do,” he says. “We were actually the first micronation to launch a rocket that had a living thing inside of it. We chose Mexican jumping beans because they’re nice and safe and already inanimate. We didn’t want to kill anything in case the rocket crashed.”
“We consider ourselves an independent country,” he says, “but we do like to laugh and have a lot of fun.”
Currently, you don’t need a visa to enter Molossia, although the President will give you a hard time if you don’t bring a passport. (“I mean, come on, who comes to a foreign country without a passport?!”) But the country does see its fair share of citizenship requests. “About two or three times a week, we do get enquiries from folks who would like to come move to our country. They’re actually serious; most of them are frankly from the Middle East and they want to move anywhere. By now, I estimate that our population would have zoomed up to somewhere around 5,000 or so. It’s actually kind of unfortunate and sad that so many folks are living in a situation where they just happen to see this random place on the Internet and they think ‘Man, I want to move there,’ without even really knowing anything about us.”
It’s a political science enthusiast’s dream. “A lot of micronationalists are actually young folks; they’re usually lacking in resources, but not in ideas.” Baugh adds that while few micronations are actual political protests, an interest in politics and international relations is crucial: “I get approached on a regular basis by people who want to start their own micronation and they always ask for advice. I say, ‘Learn about other countries, learn about other cultures, learn some history. Because once you get done with putting up that flag and you’ve given it a name, what are you going to do with your country?’ It helps to know how countries work to know how to keep your country active and engaged and interesting and maybe make a difference.”
See more of Amy Lombard’s work at amylombard.com.
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