Aría

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Aría was an American micronation that existed from late 2001 to late 2003, and was among the largest micronational states of the pre-digital era. Aria was founded in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland in the autumn of 2001, initially with the intent of forming something like a liberal democracy, but within a short period the state became a monarchy ruled at least in principle by an autocratic emperor.

From virtually its inception, Aria was characterized by vigorous expansion and international imperialism. This included the establishment of numerous colonies and provinces, often through wars of conquest; the self-conscious spread of Arian culture as a means of imperial management; the use or threat of military force to extract favorable policies from neighboring states; and the imposition of Arian political structures on subject populations. During most of its history, Aria had seven provinces: Renaldi, Nicholia, Cristalia, Anjela, Atricia, Andrea, and Tylendaria. The last of these, Tylendaria, was admitted to the empire in January 2002, and from that time on the form of the Arian state remained essentially unchanged (though Aria briefly admitted an eighth province during its zenith and, during its republican phase, had effective control of at most five of the original seven provinces).

The actual date on which Aria was established has been lost, but it likely occurred in or near October 2001. The initial form of the country was an alliance between various adolescents who sought, within a legal framework, to defend and advance their own rights, and part of the admission process for the country's first four provinces was the signing or verbal assent to the Constitution of Rights, a document officially drafted on November 29, 2001 (which makes it the earliest verifiable occurrence from Arian or Maryland civilization history). The January 2002 admission of the Province of Atricia without reference to the Constitution of Rights is generally agreed upon as the point that Aria fully transitioned from a benevolent exercise in human rights to a formal empire (though it should be stressed that even when the Constitution was nominally honored there was no point in the history of pre-republican Aria that its principles were ever fully enacted).

Aria existed within the Maryland civilization, an interconnected group of adolescent micronations spread across North America but with collective cultural roots in the region of Baltimore, Maryland (this civilization actually preceded the creation of Aria, though the civilization's pre-Aria history is almost entirely unknown). During its imperial era, Aria was by far the predominant cultural, political, military, and economic power of this civilization, exerting preponderant influence on every state within the shared geopolitical realm. The other Maryland civilizations alternately admired or resented the Arian Empire, but all accommodated it. At the empire's zenith in 2002, it ruled seven provinces spread across the American states of Maryland, Tennessee, and West Virginia, with additional territories in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and California. A network of land-line telephones and e-mail accounts connected the far-flung parts of this enormous political entity in the time before social media, but communication was unavoidably delayed and this limitation did somewhat hamper Aria's control of its outer realms, especially the territories in Colorado and California (which were autonomous in all but name for the entirety of Arian history).

Aria was ruled for the majority of its history by the imperial House of Vontres, whose high-handedness and unpopularity led to the Arian Revolution in the summer of 2002. The successful--but spontaneous--overthrow of the Vontres family by a coalition of commoners and aristocrats had the unintended side-effect of destabilizing the Arian government, as the Arians threw out their imperial family without determining who would replace them. Potential arrangements included the ascent to the throne of any of a number provincial aristocrats, the institution of a democracy, or even the election of a more pliable member of the Vontres family, such as Powell (who would eventually become emperor) or Thomas (who would not). The result was a power vacuum. Aria's outer possessions, always loosely held, defected quickly in the days that immediately followed the Revolution. Far more consequential was the loss of the empire's informally held satellite states, all of whom were officially independent but whose sovereignty was, in practice, constrained by the heavy degree of Arian influence over them. The Arian relationship with these states was tense and prone to frequent sparring, with the other states' compliance maintained only through constant displays of Arian military strength. The descent of the empire's central government into chaos rendered it incapable of holding its neighbors in line, and the dependencies broke away at once. Aria would always be the single greatest power within the Maryland civilization, but it would never again be able to exert unchallenged hegemony over the other members of the civilization.

The Arian Empire, and the international order it maintained, collapsed with stunning quickness in the mid-summer of 2002. The sudden and unanticipated fracturing of its international empire led Aria to a crisis of national confidence at home, such that weakness abroad and weakness in Maryland became feedback loops that spurred and exacerbated one another. The Arian government remained in a state of total disarray throughout the summer, capable neither of reining in the empire's wayward allies nor keeping the lid on long-simmering class tensions at home, and when a massive peasant revolt erupted in the Westminster Cluster itself the state was unable to effectively address it. In August 2002, Aria lost control of Atricia, its richest and most populous constituent province, to the peasant army. This event so shocked contemporaries that even the Province of Andrea, whose rivalry with Atricia was ancient and notorious, hastily fielded an army to attempt to save their neighbors, though to no avail. News of the Fall of Atricia was greeted throughout the Maryland civilization with dismay and disbelief. Aria, for all its faults, represented civilization and the incontrovertible ability of adolescents to establish nation-states, and Aria's obvious inability to maintain dominion over even its most central possessions made plain to the world at large that the greatest empire of the Maryland civilization was on the verge of state failure. This was obvious, too, to the Arians, who formally acknowledged what had happened on August 24, 2002, when the provisional government freed the remaining provinces and in all but name declared the Arian Empire to be extinct.