SERENE REPUBLIC OF SAN MARINO:
(See the picturesque San Marino flickr.com slideshow. Do take a look before showing the kids.) Even among the unusual array of Europe’s small countries, San Marino–known officially as “The Most Serene Republic of San Marino”–is the odd man out. Born as an independent land way back in the year 301 when a stonecutter named Marinus of Rab founded a monastic community on Mount Titano and pledged never to leave, San Marino has found a way to remain an independent republic for almost two thousand years. San Marino remained an independent city-state while the other city-states around it joined forces over the years and became the nation of Italy. San Marino, all twenty-four mountainous, primarily Italian-speaking square miles of it (some citizens speak Emiliano-Romagnolo, remained an independent city-state even as most of its population left the
country in response to agricultural failures in the late 19th and 20th centuries, “to be free from poverty and misery,” according to the nation’s Museum of Emigration. (As of 2012 the population is around 30,000.) San Marino remained independent, and patriotically proud, even through the mid 20th century rule of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who supported San Marino’s Fascist party as it took control of the nation, calling it “the most Italian Republic,” and built a railway into the country in the 1930s. San Marino remained independent even through World War II when Allied bombs destroyed the
railroad, cutting the 100,000 war refugees the Sanmarinese had taken in
off from the rest of Italy. (The railway was not rebuilt.) San Marino–97% Catholic San Marino, home of the world’s longest-standing constitution, in effect since 1600–remained independent even as it replaced its Fascist government after the War with the world’s first
democratically elected community government, which held office until 1957. Today, San Marino, the world’s smallest republic, whose governmental leadership consists of two “Captains Regent” from opposing political parties chosen every six months by the elected
ruling Council, maintains a tax-free status that attracts a vast amount of Italian wealth to its banking system. The nation has remained independent even after becoming a whole lot less attractive to bankers recently when the Italian government declared an amnesty for all who hid money there, inspiring Italians to remove about a third of all deposits from the banking system, nearly causing San Marino’s economy to collapse.
San Marino’s music is essentially intertwined with into the music of Italy, though it is proud of its own citizens, like (17th century composer) Francesco Maria Marini di Pesaro, make their musical mark. In 2008 San Marino had its first entry into the all-important Eurovision Song Contest–the band Miodio’s song, “Complice.” Watch “Complice” on YouTube. Did the song win the contest? Nah, an the Sanmarinese were disappointed. But San Marino will survive.
Read Josh Levin’s “Big Man, Little Countries” entry on his visit to San Marino.