Strange Capital Cities

Strange Capital Cities

I can't help but see the title of this article as a cryptic clue. Capitalist Ice? It's been a very crosswordy sort of holiday.

Anyway, this article will be about weird cases of capital cities around the world. Now, if you think that the argument about how many countries there are is full of exceptions and asterisks then it would appear that the number of capital cities is even worse.

As a citizen of the UK I'm used to the idea that the capital city is the biggest city in the country (now). But there are 36 countries where the capital city is smaller than at least one other city in the country. However populous countries are much more likely to have this quirk, with 4 out of the top 5 biggest countries by population having a smaller city as capital. (Namely 1. China, 2. India, 3. USA and 5. Brazil all do, while only 4. Indonesia has its largest city as its capital.) The smallest capital city in the world is Ngerulmud in Palau at only 271 people. This is 41 times smaller than the population of Palau's biggest city Koror.

While talking about these smaller countries there are quite a few other anomalies. There are three former city states where the capital city is the the entire country: Monaco, Singapore and Vatican City. The border of each of these Capitals is identical as the borders of their countries. There is currently only one city which has no Capital City (although many countries have gone through such as a state, including France) which is the island state of Nauru. It may be worth mentioning that Nauru doesn't really have any cities as such with only around 9000 inhabitants and an airport that stretches almost the entire length of the island.

 Nauru

Nauru

Bolivia has two capital cities: its parliament is in La Paz, but its Supreme Court is in Sucre. However South Africa beats it to the title of the most Capitals at three, by nature of its government having three branches each in a different city.. Cape Town contains the seat of Parliament making it the legislative capital, Pretoria is the seat of the President (along with his Cabinet) which makes it the administrative capital, while finally Bloemfontein has the seat of the Supreme Court. While not internationally recognised, Johannesburg contains the Constitutional Court of South Africa, which makes it almost on par with the other Capitals. Messy.

Off the top of your head can you name the Capital of Canada? For a major Western political player I feel I should have been able to, but no. The Capital is Ottawa which is the 4th biggest in Canada (barely). There was a large dispute between Toronto and Montréal for which should be the capital city. In 1857 Queen Victoria settled the (mostly nationalistic) quarrel by proclaiming Ottawa as the Capital City since it was almost exactly the midpoint of the other two cities on a map. This compromise has stood ever since.

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