Science fiction and fantasy stories can inhabit worlds that we are familiar with, even though they have no basis in reality: Narnia, Middle-Earth, Westeros, Tatooine, etc. Then there are fictional nations inserted into movies, TV, comics, and other pop culture media that are vaguely reminiscent of real places, but the name is made up to avoid offense. You might remember a few of these.
In the 1933 Marx Brothers’ movie Duck Soup, the character Rufus T. Firefly (played by Groucho) is made dictator of the nation of Freedonia in order to secure a substantial loan from a society matron who fancies him. However, the name Freedonia was in use before the movie, as a euphemism for a free nation, often the U.S. It was also used afterward for an experimental micronation in the 1990s.
2. Lower Slobbovia
Al Capp invented the nation of Lower Slobbovia in 1946 for his comic strip Li’l Abner. Meant to be a euphemism for Siberia, the inhabitants of that arctic region lived in waist-deep snow at all times. In the years since, Lower Slobbovia has come to mean “any place considered to be remote, poor, or unenlightened.”
In 1940, the Three Stooges parodied Adolf Hitler in the short You Nazty Spy! Moe, a handyman, became the dictator of a country called Moronica. Moe dons a greasepaint mustache and takes over the country.
Moronica is part of Starvania, which is an entire fictional continent, featured again on a map in the 1949 Three Stooges short Malice in the Palace. As you can see in the map above, it has plenty of nations, each one named with a joke in mind. In this version, Moronica has been replaced by Oomphola. The “face” of the continent is not so grim by 1949.
The Republic of Elbonia is referred to in the comic strip Dilbert. It is an Eastern European nation that is slowly emerging from under communist rule, although conditions are still dismal and jobs are scarce. In fact, political tension split Elbonia in two, with North Elbonia returning to a communist system and South Elbonia remaining under a dictatorship. The country is covered in a waist-deep layer of mud, and mud is their biggest export. Dilbert’s company outsources work to Elbonia to save money.
6. Grand Fenwick
Leonard Wibberley wrote a series of books about the goings-on in a fictional European duchy named Grand Fenwick. The first book, The Mouse That Roared, was made into a movie in 1959. In the story, Grand Fenwick is a tiny Alpine nation with few resources and little money, but it managed to win a war against the U.S. because no one took their invasion seriously (although the aim was to lose and receive foreign aid to rebuild). That movie was followed by The Mouse on the Moon in 1963, in which Grand Fenwick beat both the Americans and the Russians to the moon.
7. San Sombrèro
The nation of San Sombrèro (autoplay sound) is a Central American country that exists only in a travel guidebook. The 2006 book San Sombrèro: a Land of Carnivals, Cocktails and Coups, is a parody of travel guides, filled with stereotypes in a somewhat-believable format, but with jokes nestled in every section. San Sombrèro raised the literacy rates by jailing or deporting illiterate people. The nickname “the Venice of Central America” is attributed to coastal cities that are sinking. The screenshot above is from a video of San Sombrèro’s national anthem “La Bababumba,” which features quite a bit of twerking. The Jetlag travel guides also include a the European fictional country Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry and the Asian nation Phaic Tan: Sunstroke on a Shoestring.
8. San Serriffe
San Seriffe sounds like a lovely place to visit, a tropical island nation in the Indian Ocean. It was cooked up by the British newspaper The Guardian in 1977 for April Fool’s Day. But after reading the seven-page special report, you have to say, what a country! You can get an overview of the island’s geography, history, and culture. Every facet of this country is typographical, just like its name. The capital city is Bodoni, the major islands are Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse, and the country is ruled by General Maria-Jesu Pica.