San Marino: A Tiny Titan – Enduring Legacy of the World’s Oldest Republic

Italy has never been devoid of narratives. The ancient Roman civilization, which indelibly shaped European history, found its genesis here. Following the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Italy descended into a prolonged state of fragmentation spanning nearly 1,400 years. Despite reunification, Italy still harbors two diminutive “microstates.” One of these is the Vatican, nestled northwest of the capital city of Rome, while the other is San Marino, ensconced upon Mount Titano in northeastern Italy, encompassing a mere 61.2 square kilometers.

Remarkably, this nation, boasting just over 30,000 denizens, has maintained visa-free relations with China since 1985, thereby securing the distinction of being the world’s inaugural country to do so. However, given its encirclement by Italy and its lack of independent air or rail facilities, traveling to San Marino necessitates passage through Italy, rendering the notion of “visa-free” merely theoretical.

Yet, San Marino’s picturesque landscapes, replete with historic vestiges, and its temperate climes impart an allure of their own. Upon traversing the visa threshold and setting foot here, one is promptly enchanted by the ineffable charm of this diminutive realm.

San Marino lays claim to the title of the world’s oldest republic. Its inception harks back to the era of the Roman Empire. During the 1st century AD, amidst the Empire’s sprawling dominion centered around Italy, spanning Europe, Asia, and Africa, the propagation of polytheism elicited discontent among the Jewish populace in Palestine. Following several futile uprisings, they espoused Christianity, championing the ethos of “equality” rooted in Judaism. However, the espousal of “monotheism” inherent in Christianity clashed with the polytheistic fabric of the Roman Empire, precipitating the persecution of Christians in its nascent stages.

In 301 AD, amid the propagation of Christianity within the Roman Empire, a Christian mason named Marino found himself pursued by the reigning Roman Emperor. Seeking refuge, Marino and his adherents sought sanctuary upon Mount Titano near Rimini, where they erected a church amidst the rugged terrain. In homage to Marino, this locale was christened “San Marinolis,” denoting the realm of Saint Marino, gradually evolving into the sovereign entity of San Marino.

Despite nominal subjugation to the Roman Empire during this epoch, owing to transportation limitations and communication constraints, San Marinolis functioned autonomously, emerging as a sanctuary for countless Christians. Subsequently, with the issuance of the Edict of Milan during the waning days of the Roman Empire, Christianity attained legal recognition, marking a pivotal juncture. In 392 AD, Christianity was enshrined as the state religion of the Roman Empire. Marino’s erstwhile clandestine church, though no longer clandestine, remained under the purview of the Roman Empire. In 395 AD, Emperor Dioscia I partitioned the Empire into eastern and western realms, with Rome serving as the nucleus and religious epicenter of the Western Roman Empire, thereby vesting dominion over San Marinolis within the Western Roman Empire’s ambit. This state of affairs endured until the Empire’s demise in 476 AD, precipitating Italy’s fracturing.

The encroachment of Germanic forces imperiled San Marino’s security, prompting fervent fortification efforts by devout adherents atop the mountains, compelling both the pontiff and external powers to acknowledge the fiefdom’s autonomy. As the 11th century heralded the ascendancy of prosperity across northern Italy, manifold fiefdoms metamorphosed into city-states, with San Marino mirroring this trend, evolving into an autonomous city-state.

In 1243 AD, San Marino bifurcated administrative and ecclesiastical authority, instituting a dual governance framework. This paradigm shift marked the genesis of the modern republican ethos, obviating the autocratic monopoly of power. Consequently, San Marino is lauded as the harbinger of republican governance.

Subsequently, in pursuit of national security imperatives, San Marino promulgated its inaugural corpus of written law and constitution, mandating conscription for its citizenry, thereby transmuting San Marino into a polity where every denizen is a soldier. Thus, amid the advent of new maritime routes and the concomitant decline of Italian city-states, as the theater of European power play shifted, San Marino withstood Austrian incursions, preserving its independent status, emerging as an oasis amidst the war-torn landscape of the Apennine Peninsula.

In 1870, Italy concluded its secessionist saga, effectuating national unification. Owing to its wartime support and the valor of Italian patriot Garibaldi, San Marino earned the appellation of Italy’s ally, securing Italy’s recognition of San Marino’s independence.

Subsequent to the ratification of a bilateral friendship pact between Italy and San Marino, the two nations embraced currency interoperability and reciprocally established consular missions. Consequently, San Marino metamorphosed into a “state within a state” under Italy’s aegis, with Italian serving as its official tongue.

During the maelstrom of World War II, a conflagration engulfing China, the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, and Japan, San Marino, cognizant of its diminutive stature, steered clear of the intercontinental conflagration. Amidst the crucible of World War I, while global powers clashed, San Marino remained steadfastly neutral. Despite initially asserting neutrality upon the outbreak of World War II, San Marino was reluctantly drawn into the fray due to an inexplicable aerial bombardment.

At that juncture, Italy aligned itself with the Axis powers, pitting itself against Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Amidst the Allies’ retaliatory onslaught, British bombers inadvertently violated San Marino’s borders, subjecting it to aerial bombardment. Consequently, June 26, 1944, stands etched as the darkest day in San Marino’s annals. British aerial sorties rained down upon this diminutive enclave, unleashing a fusillade of 243 bombs, claiming 60 lives and injuring hundreds.

Though the UK promptly tendered apologies and pledged compensation amounting to 80,000 pounds, it’s worth noting that San Marino’s populace numbered a mere 20,000 at the time. The pugnacious San Marino Congress, aggrieved by the loss of its citizenry, deemed it imperative to retaliate, thereby resolving to declare war on the Allies.

However, this stratagem risked misconstrual, possibly painting San Marino as a partisan of the Axis powers. Hence, the congressmen concocted a stratagem — declaring war on both the Allies and the Axis powers!

Therefore, on July 5, 1944, San Marino declared war on the Allies and the Axis Powers at the same time, and even Japan and China as far away as Asia were listed as belligerents. Who would have thought that this was the first declaration of war China had received since World War II.

Of course, San Marino’s declaration of war is more like a diplomatic gesture. After the declaration of war was passed, almost no one paid attention to it. Neither side cared about this small country that could not be found if the scale was slightly larger. On the other hand, the “Rock Guard” of San Marino’s national defense force trains at home every day – there are only about two hundred people in total and more than a dozen guns, vowing to fight to the end for the dignity of ancient San Marino.

It is a pity that history did not give these warriors the opportunity to die for their country. Later, the German and British troops actually fought a battle on the soil of San Marino. However, both sides were busy fighting each other, leaving the host aside. As a result, the defeated German troops became prisoners of war and were sent to prisoner-of-war camps. The British troops who won the battle were stationed in San Marino for two months, and then withdrew after signing a peace agreement with San Marino.

San Marino celebrates Archon Day with a ceremony.

Although San Marino was involved in World War II, it was generally an internationally recognized neutral country. The purpose of its foreign policy is to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and independence, and is willing to develop relations with all friendly countries.

On May 4, 1971, China and Saint Petersburg reached an agreement to establish diplomatic relations, and on May 6, diplomatic relations at the consular level were officially established. On July 15, 1991, diplomatic relations were upgraded to ambassadorial level.

On the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Saint Paul in 2021, President Xi Jinping and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi exchanged congratulatory messages with the Consul and Foreign Minister of Saint Paul respectively. China and San Marino jointly issued the “Joint Press Release for the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between China and San Marino” and issued the “Commemorative Envelope for the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between China and San Marino”.

China and Saint Petersburg have started direct trade exchanges since 1988. From January to October 2023, the bilateral trade volume was US$14.826 million, a year-on-year increase of 17%; China’s export volume was US$10.1824 million, a year-on-year increase of 21.4%; the import volume was US$4.6336 million, a year-on-year increase of 8.5%.

On March 2, 1992, San Marino officially joined the United Nations and joined the International Monetary Fund in September of the same year. Currently, it is a full member of 24 international organizations, including the International Court of Justice, the World Health Organization, the World Tourism Organization, and the International Red Cross, as well as a member state of the Council of Europe. Since entering the 21st century, San Marino has accelerated the process of establishing diplomatic relations with countries around the world and has now established diplomatic relations with 151 countries.

GDP per capita ranks among the top in the world
If you are tired of the hustle and bustle, it may be a good choice to relax in this paradise for a day.

This is a mountaintop country and a cliff kingdom. Although its land area is pitifully small, it is extremely wealthy – San Marino’s per capita GDP exceeds US$50,000, which is even higher than that of many European developed countries such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. .

Since the 1960s, San Marino has gradually transformed from an agricultural country to a country with developed industrial and service industries. Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the economy, mainly clothing, machinery manufacturing, electronic equipment, chemicals, construction, and winemaking. The tertiary industry is developing rapidly, accounting for 40% of the employed population. Especially tourism. Relying on a variety of ancient buildings, this tiny place receives up to 5 million tourists every year. The income from tourism contributes more than 50% of San Marino’s GDP.

In addition, stamp issuance is also an important source of San Marino’s national income. San Marino is world-renowned for its innovative and advanced postal service, stamps and ancient coins. It issued commemorative stamps and stamped envelopes for the first time in Italy in 1894, making it a major industry in the country. All 10 post offices across the country sell commemorative stamps and collectible coins, and since 1979, named postmarks have been used within the country.

However, due to the lack of natural resources, San Marino imports all its energy from Italy. Before the birth of the euro, San Marino’s currency was mainly the San Marino lira, which was equivalent to the Italian lira. With the birth of the euro, San Marino, which is highly dependent on Italy, joined the euro zone and became one of the few non-EU countries to use the euro.

San Marino is a very wealthy country – all citizens of San Marino enjoy publicly funded medical care. Compared with other European countries, this is truly free medical care. There is no need to pay insurance, as long as you are a citizen of the country. The locals in San Marino are very well educated. There are 7 college students in every 10 people, and the 16-year free compulsory education system is implemented; the San Marino government also distributes welfare benefits every year based on the status of family members.

San Marino is also one of the famous “tax havens” in Europe. Its simple tax system and low tax rates have attracted many international companies to register in the country.

In recent years, San Marino’s economic situation has been relatively stable, the unemployment rate has decreased, and the GDP in 2022 will be 1.6 billion euros, a year-on-year increase of 4.6%. However, San Marino’s institutional model will be difficult to replicate for most countries.

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