- South Sudan
South Sudan declared independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, after a violent war with the ethnically Arab north that lasted decades. Almost 99 percent of voters supported independence in a referendum, and the new country was swiftly recognized by the international community. The United States played a key role in South Sudan's journey to statehood.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008. The country had been administered by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombed Serbia and forced then-President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his troops from the ethnically divided province.
- Montenegro and Serbia
The single nation of Serbia and Montenegro, formed after the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991, changed into the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2003, and finally into the two separate states of Serbia and Montenegro in 2006.
It was Montenegro that ultimately ended the relationship, with a referendum on May 21, 2006, when just over 55 percent voted to separate from Serbia. On June 3, Montenegro declared independence. A few days later, Serbia followed suit.
- East Timor
East Timor, now also known as Timor-Leste, achieved independence on May 20, 2002, but the country had effectively voted for independence years before, when a referendum delivered a vote that clearly rejected the proposed “special autonomy” within Indonesia. After that referendum, there was brutal violence in the region, with pro-Indonesian militias attacking Timorese, and a special U.N. force had to be deployed to the country.
Palau, geographically part of the larger Micronesia island group in the western Pacific Ocean, is the least populated country on this list, with a little over 21,000 people living on about 250 islands. It became independent on Oct. 1, 1994, 15 years after it had decided against becoming part of Micronesia because of cultural and linguistic differences.
The United Nations established Eritrea as an autonomous region within the Ethiopian federation in 1952. However, when Ethiopia, under Emperor Haile Selassie, annexed the region in 1962, it sparked a civil war that lasted 30 years. In 1991, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) ousted the Ethiopian forces, and on April 27, 1993, the country declared independence after a referendum.
- The Czech Republic and Slovakia
On Jan. 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia was separated by parliament into two countries: The Czech Republic and Slovakia. After the “Velvet Revolution” ended one-party Communist rule, it was the “Velvet Divorce.”
Immediately after the split, there appeared to be some trepidation: The New York Times noted “wide regret” over the end of the nation that was formed after World War I. However, the contemporary view is that the split was a (relative) success: “The split was really smooth,” Slovakian journalist Pavol Mudry told the BBC in 2013.
October 2, 2017 at 3:05 PM EDT