How Many Countries are There? Shout out to CGP Grey

While prepping another post, I was fondly reminiscing discussions I’ve had about countries and borders and their dynamic nature. We love to categorize and hold steady certain ideas, especially when organizing and data-basing data, but that becomes very difficult to maintain when dealing with the fluidity of border locations (or even building or street names… but that’s another post).

So what is the problem with countries? Isn’t there a set amount? It actually depends on who you ask and who defines “country.” Defining a country is a lot harder to pinpoint than one would imagine. The language of ‘state,’ ‘country,’ or ‘nation’ is loosely defined around a place that has borders and its own government. According to the U.S. Department of State and current as of July 21, 2015, there are a total number of 195 independent states. For the United Nations, there are 193 member states and 2 observer states (Vatican City and Palestine) to total to 195. Although they reach the same number of 195, the U.S. recognizes the disputed territory of Kosovo as a country but not Palestine while the United Nations recognizes Palestine but not Kosovo.

To the U.N., Kosovo falls into the category of “State with Partial Recognition” as does Taiwan, Western Sahara, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Northern Cyprus bringing the total number of possible countries up to 201. These ‘states’ also have a differing amount of member countries which recognize them and there are plenty more sort of recognized partial countries. Needless to say, it can get a lot more complicated and there isn’t one true answer which makes political geography interesting and important.

For more information about the various number of countries in the world as well as great videos about continents, borders, political geography, and more, I highly recommend CGP Grey’s channel on Youtube. The way he presents complicated data is not only informative but amusing. So do it now!! Because… reasons.


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