Niall has drawn my attention to the declaration of the result of Montenegro's recent referendum on independence. The Montenegrins have voted "yes" narrowly, which effectively makes both Montenegro and Serbia independent countries. The two countries formed Serbia-Montenegro, the now short-lived name for what was left of Yugoslavia. Following Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia, Montenegro has decided to make its own way in the world.
Leaving aside any in-depth analysis of the impact this will have for the Balkans, I'm much more interested in what happens to our country competition. Niall and I are trying to see who can visit the most countries, and Serbia-Montenegro is on both our lists from our travels in 2001 when we passed through both Montenegro itself and Kosova (an autonomous province of Serbia, which I'd also visited in 1999). My full list is here, and Niall is barely one or two behind.
Niall argues that we should now have two countries on our list – Serbia and Montenegro – on the grounds that the places we visited back then are now going to be two separate countries. And then there's Kosova, which most observers expect to secede from Serbia within the next few years. But I pointed out to him that we went there when it was Serbia-Montenegro and we can only count countries we've actually been to: neither of us have ever set foot in the independent states of Serbia or Montenegro and shouldn't claim we have done.
Niall emailed me in response, suggesting:
But now Monte is independent and let's imagine Kosovo becomes so too. There are now three countries but by your argument we have visited none of them, instead having visited some place that no longer exists. Now we return and go through all three countries again. Hurray, +3 to our totals. Do we now claim we have visited four countries? Even though there are only three and was only one? Four countries from three? Imagine the three countries amalgmated with Macedonia to make one new country, and we revisit it. What chaos now ensues? Then they break up again into something else…
To be honest, I'm a bit confused. What counts as a country you have visited – the territory at the time, or the state of affairs in the current day? How do you count the ones you've been to when they break up, merge or otherwise change their boundaries or indeed entire existences?
What do you all think? Some impartial advice would be gratefully received!