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Ruritania is a fictional country, originally located in central Europe as a setting for novels by Anthony Hope, such as The Prisoner of Zenda (1894). [1] [2] Nowadays the term connotes a quaint minor European country, or is used as a placeholder name for an unspecified country in academic discussions. The first known use of the demonym Ruritanian was in 1896. [3]


Hope's setting lent its name to a literary genre involving fictional countries, which is known as Ruritanian romance.

Fictional country

Jurists specialising in international law and private international law use Ruritania and other fictional countries when describing a hypothetical case illustrating some legal point. [4] Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer cited Ruritania as a fictional enemy when illustrating a security treaty between Australia and Indonesia signed on 8 November 2006: "We do not need to have a security agreement with Indonesia so both of us will fight off the Ruritanians. That's not what the relationship is about," he said. "It is all about working together on the threats that we have to deal with, which are different types of threats." Similarly, a British court, when contemplating a publication ban relating to a childhood sexual assault case, referred to the country of origin of the child as "Ruritania", further explaining, "The boy was described in the judgment as having 'dual British and Ruritanian nationality'." [5]

Economist Ludwig von Mises discussed currency reform for Ruritania and its "rurs" in the expanded edition of The Theory of Money and Credit (1912), chapter 23. He also references it in Human Action . Murray Rothbard, a former student of von Mises, also mentions the fictional country in his own works. [6]

Ruritania as in the central and southeastern Europe

Ruritania has also been used to describe the stereotypical development of nationalism in 19th-century Eastern Europe, by Ernest Gellner in Nations and Nationalism, in a pastiche of the historical narratives of nationalist movements among Poles, Czechs, Serbians, Romanians, etc. In this story, peasant Ruritanians living in the "Empire of Megalomania" developed national consciousness through the elaboration of a Ruritanian high culture by a small group of intellectuals responding to industrialization and labor migration.

Author and royal historian Theo Aronson, in his book Crowns in Conflict (1986), used the term to describe the semi-romantic and even tribal-like conditions of the Balkan and Romanian cultures before World War I. Walter Lippmann used the word to describe the stereotype that characterized the vision of international relations during and after the War. [7]

Vesna Goldsworthy of Kingston University, in her book Inventing Ruritania: the imperialism of the imagination (Yale University Press, 1998), addresses the question of the impact of the work of novelists and film-makers in shaping international perceptions of the Balkans in the framework of an anti-Western type of modernism which has received much criticism from other academics. Goldsworthy's theories consider stories and movies about Ruritania to be a form of "literary exploitation" or "narrative colonization" of the peoples of the Balkans.

While discussing how new revolutionary leadership consciously or unconsciously may inherit certain elements of the previous regime Benedict Anderson in his book the Imagined Communities mentions among others examples " Josip Broz's revival of Ruritanian pomp and ceremony." [8]

During the Suez Crisis in 1956 'Ruritania' was used as a euphemism for Egypt during discussions of the crisis on BBC Radio 4's programme Any Questions?, in order to circumvent the terms of an agreement preventing the broadcast of details of events prior to their discussion in parliament. [9]

See also

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  1. Manguel, Alberto; Guadalupi, Gianni (1987). The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 336–337. ISBN   0156260549.
  2. Daly, Nicholas (2020). Ruritania: A Cultural History, from the Prisoner of Zenda to the Princess Diaries. Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0198836605.[ page needed ]
  3. "Definition of RURITANIAN". Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  4. For example, ″[t]he question whether A obtained good title to a camera which he bought in Ruritania is governed by Ruritanian law, even if the camera had been delivered on hire purchase terms or under a conditional sale to A's seller in England.″: Briggs, Adrian (2019). The Conflict of Laws (4th ed.). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. p. 286. ISBN   9780198838500.
  5. Cobain, Ian (11 October 2014). "Culture Books Publishing Ex-wife of well-known performer obtains injunction against book to protect son". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  6. "One method of the birth of a State may be illustrated as follows: in the hills of southern “Ruritania,” a bandit group manages to obtain physical control over the territory, and finally the bandit chieftain proclaims himself “King of the sovereign and independent government of South Ruritania”; and, if he and his men have the force to maintain this rule for a while, lo and behold! a new State has joined the “family of nations,” and the former bandit leaders have been transformed into the lawful nobility of the realm." pp. 16–17, 2009 edition published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, ISBN   978-1-933550-48-0
  7. Lippmann, Walter (1921). Public Opinion. See Chapter X.
  8. Benedict Anderson (1991). Imagined Communities . New York & London: Verso Books. p. 160. ISBN   0-86091-329-5.
  9. Begins 08m15s.