A fictional country is a country that is made up for fictional stories, and does not exist in real life. Fictional lands appear most commonly as settings or subjects of literature, movies, or video games. They may also be used for technical reasons in actual reality for use in the development of specifications, such as the fictional country of Bookland, which is used to allow EAN "country" codes 978 and 979 to be used for ISBN numbers assigned to books, and code 977 to be assigned for use for ISSN numbers on magazines and other periodicals. Also, the ISO 3166 country code "ZZ" is reserved as a fictional country code, thus no Internet top-level domain will ever end in ".ZZ".
Fictional countries appear commonly in stories of early science fiction (or scientific romance). Such countries supposedly form part of the normal Earth landscape although not located in a normal atlas. Later similar tales often took place on fictional planets.
Jonathan Swift's protagonist, Lemuel Gulliver, visited various strange places. Edgar Rice Burroughs placed adventures of Tarzan in areas in Africa that, at the time, remained mostly unknown to the West and to the East. Isolated islands with strange creatures and/or customs enjoyed great popularity in these authors' times. By the 19th century, When Western explorers had surveyed most of the Earth's surface, this option was lost to Western culture. Thereafter fictional utopian and dystopian societies tended to spring up on other planets or in space, whether in human colonies or in alien societies originating elsewhere. Fictional countries can also be used in stories set in a distant future, with other political borders than today.
Superhero and secret agent comics and some thrillers also use fictional countries on Earth as backdrops. Most of these countries exist only for a single story, a TV-series episode or an issue of a comic book. There are notable exceptions, such as Marvel Comics Latveria and DC Comics Qurac and Bialya.
Writers may create an archetypal fictional "Eastern European", "Middle Eastern", "Asian", "African" or "Latin American" country for the purposes of their story.
Such countries often embody stereotypes about their regions. For example, inventors of a fictional Eastern European country will typically describe it as a former or current Soviet satellite state, or with a suspense story about a royal family; if pre-20th century, it will likely resemble Ruritania or feature copious vampires and other supernatural phenomena. A fictional Middle Eastern state often lies somewhere on the Arabian peninsula, has substantial oil-wealth and problems with radical Islam and will have either a sultan or a mentally-unstable dictator as a ruler. A fictional Latin American country will typically project images of a banana republic beset by constant revolutions, military dictatorships, and coups d'état. A fictional African state will suffer from poverty, civil war and disease.
Modern writers usually do not try to pass off their stories as facts. However, in the early 18th century George Psalmanazar passed himself off as a prince from the island of Formosa (present-day Taiwan) and wrote a fictional description about it to convince his sponsors.
Some larcenous entrepreneurs have also invented fictional countries solely for the purpose of defrauding people. In the 1820s, Gregor MacGregor sold land in the invented country of Poyais. In modern times, the Dominion of Melchizedek and the Kingdom of EnenKio have been accused of this. Many varied financial scams can play out under the aegis of a fictional country, including selling passports and travel documents, and setting up fictional banks and companies with the seeming imprimatur of full government backing.
Fictional countries have also been created for polling purposes. When polled in April 2004, 10% of British people believed that the fictional country of Luvania would soon join the European Union. In a similar event, two thirds of Hungarians polled in March 2007 demanded that absolutely no asylum be granted to immigrants from the fictional country of Piresa.
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