Republic of Minerva – Tonga - Atlas Obscura

Republic of Minerva

A failed utopia, shut down by a more legitimate nation. 


Although many utopian societies seem doomed from the outset, the Republic of Minerva was up against a unique challenge: Creating a libertarian micronation on reclaimed reefs in the Pacific Ocean, when the land already had an owner.

Situated 250 miles from Tonga, the Republic of Minerva was conceived by wealthy Nevada real estate mogul Michael Oliver. According to Oliver, his organization the Ocean Life Research Foundation had raised $100 million to create a utopian society on Pacific reefs. Oliver’s plan was to create a micro-nation without taxes, welfare or economic intervention, that lived chiefly off of tourism and fishing.

In 1971, Minerva’s construction began by bringing barges of sand to the reefs to raise them out of the ocean. Oliver then led a conference of neighboring states in which he delcared his intentions, only to find out that Tonga had issued a claim over the land. At that point, Oliver and his organization jumped the gun a little bit. Ignoring other claims to Minerva, Oliver issued a declaration of independence and created a coin currency for his new nation and was all set to launch into his experiment in nation building.

Unfortunately, the King of Tonga did not accept the new country’s legitimacy, and issued a document laying official claim to the reefs. Within months, representatives from Tonga made it clear they were in control of the reefs, and Oliver and his followers left without a fight.

Since that time, a few other groups have tried to set up shop on the islands of Minerva, only to be rebuffed once again by the Tongan government. Almost all of the land brought to the reefs has since been reclaimed by the Pacific Ocean.

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September 15, 2016

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