If Russia is the world’s biggest country, straddling two continents and taking up almost an eighth of the world’s total area, at the other extreme is Vatican City, the world’s smallest country. Despite being an enclave within Rome, in a formal sense, it is a country in itself, with a total area of less than half a square kilometer!
This city state is an enclosure within Rome, and carries out its own foreign policy, albeit through the Holy See, and mints its own coins, like any other sovereign country. Despite Rome being the capital of the Holy Roman Empire for centuries, the Vatican came into existence as a separate nation-state only as late as the interregnum of the two World Wars.
It does have a President; however, the kind of elections of the kind we get to see in most democracies do not take place. It has a form of government that is described as an ecclesiastical monarchy, whose power is vested in the Pope, or the Bishop of Rome, as he is formally addressed. He is also the authority that appoints the body that runs the government’s day-to-day functions –the Pontifical Commission, a single-chambered legislative House.
While all these can be of interest to the student of political science, the tourist is not going to be disappointed on a visit to the Vatican. The walled area that makes the nation’s borders is in itself a tourist attraction. In addition, there are other places to see, such as St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square.
Also of interest will be the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Library and Vatican Museums, considered among the most prized museums in the world for their collection of the rarest artifacts relating to Roman Catholic history.
The Vatican also enjoys another convenience. It is perhaps the only nation in the world to have total documentation of its entire population. This is because the nation’s population stands at 900! These are not people born in the nation state, but those who are given citizenship for the tenure of their work in the state.