The 50 Vinar will be available March 1, 2012. This is a 2 grain 6 millimeter .999 gold coin!
It is likely the smallest independent nation in the world. Vilenjak certainly is the smallest in population. Covering an area of only 43 hectares, it has just 3 residences and a population of 12 or 20, depending on which figure is most accurate.
Independence is more of a protest but then again independence is always a protest against the present situation. You see, Vilenjak has always been an enclave due to terrain rather than national borders. With its mountainous terrain, you must enter Vilenjak via it’s southern neighbor where a small one lane bridge too one across the creek at its southern border.
In the early 1970s (most say 1972), heavy spring rains and snow melt caused flooding not seen in anyone’s lifetime. The bridge (or only exit from Vilenjak to the rest of the world) was washed away. Requests to their government officials to replace the bridge eventually resulted in a final bureaucratic decision: We shall not finance the construction of a bridge to a foreign nation, effectively creating a border crossing with such minimal traffic it is not worthy of a border checkpoint. By building a bridge the government felt it would be contributing to illegal entry of people and goods to their nation. The people of Vilenjak were not happy, demanded the reconstruction of the bridge by a certain time or they would proclaim themselves an independent nation and no longer pay taxes to the various taxing entities of their country. The demand and subsequent claim of independence was ignored but a couple of regional newspapers carried the story when Vilenjak became a nation in 1975.
Vilenjaki had enjoyed a double life. They traveled either side of the border as if they were citizens of both countries without trouble, so while the southern communities continued the relationship with Vilenjakis, when taking the road back to the country claiming Vilenjak, the border guards told them they would be arrested for tax evasion upon entry.
So, whatever happened to the bridge? In 1978 Vilenjak had the cash to build a makeshift bridge. Vehicles can pass over but the one lane wooden structure cannot handle trucks. Even so, when snowmelt does not trap Vilenjakis, the bridge connects the one lane bricked road, more of an over-glorified driveway, to the narrow two lane concrete road that proceeds over the flood plain to a higher elevation roadway a kilometer further south.
Vilenjak’s road meanders down the middle of the narrow valley to two homes facing one another on opposite sides of the road, then meanders to the third home and ends at the back of the canyon-like valley where a spring-fed pond backs up to a steep mountainside. Cattle grazing and crops growing is the scenery along the short journey in this finger shaped country.
One might wonder how their previous government viewed their claim to independence. Simply put, they did nothing. Local officials tried to serve papers for tax bills past due but wading across creeks to serve papers was not in their job description, we suppose. There is an account their valley was to be auctioned to the highest bidder by local officials, but nobody knows if this really happened. Municipal offices have recorded no ownership changes. Possibly the winning bidder(s) learned Vilenjak’s fate and realized the property would be more trouble than it is worth.
All this leaves Vilenjak as a “no man’s land”, independent by default, although not reluctantly. So, is Vilenjak a nation. Vilenjakis say so. Others, citizens nearby, seem to think so, but the signs are not so clear cut. With a nation comes a government and written laws. There are systems for justice and the collection of taxes. Vilenjak does not appear a nation in this regard but they explain it this way: “We (all 3 families) determine our own fate, collectively making decisions and funding our own services when required. As neighbors, we needn’t written rules or enforcement because our desire to be good neighbors negates a need for the structure of most government. We continue informally on the same path people in an isolated community always follow. We rely and look to each other for all we need. It works and we are happy and content as out situation affords.”
Vilenjak did get an offer to ‘buy’ their independence for 464,000 Euros but claim the price was excessive just as their property taxes had been. The offer was made also to the town to the south but the item, while brought up in town business, was tabled and dismissed with a ‘thank you for the offer, but no thanks’ letter.
What is everyday life like for Vilenjakis? The answer is not very different from the past. The three well maintained older homes and out buildings are certainly middle income. There is a small dairy, farmland and a 6,000 square foot greenhouse. Vilenjakis have easy, unrestricted access to the town to the south. The kids are schooled, the people shop and attend Church in the nearby town as well as sell their products there. It has been this way for decades. The biggest change is they are not permitted entry into the nation they reportedly belong to. Their relatives that live in the nation claiming them can visit Vilenjak.
What has changed is Vilenjak has not paid taxes to the nation claiming their territory and if they enter their home country, they face arrest on tax evasion. Vilenjak claimed independence as more of a protest and took steps to publicize this. Finally, the Vilenjakis are just outside the authority of their former country because law enforcement would have to enter a foreign country to reach Vilenjak. This, it seems, is a can of worms nobody wants to open.
Vilenjakis claimed independence, created a flag and then produced coins and paper money they claim is legal tender in the 100+ acre finger shaped valley. They even produced a monthly news sheet that is a far cry from a newspaper as it is so tiny. In fact, it doubles as an advertising flyer for what is ‘in season’ in Vilenjak. The loss of the bridge (not replaced by a makeshift one), resulted in a couple of serve yourself, honor system produce stands next to the creek.
People from town still come to Vilenjak in summer to enjoy a picnic by the pond and get in some sunbathing and swimming. Folks still visit for fresh eggs, fresh flowers, milk, produce and some other items ranging from fishing lures to blankets and knick knacks. You might say Vilenjak is almost like a tiny farmers market.
So, you may be wondering where Vilenjak is. The answer is along the border of Croatia and Slovenia. The nearest town has 261 people.
So, why was the bridge not reconstructed by the Government? Reasons vary: No funds in the budget; bridge does not connect to a national or local highway or roadway; the bridge would create an illegal entry into the nation; and there are no records demonstrating the government funded the previous bridge. With no political influence in the local or area government and certainly at the national level, a new bridge was not to be built. Vilenjakis reasoned that with no voice in their local, area and national government and having to fund construction of a makeshift bridge themselves deserved the declaration of independence and the refusal to pay any taxes levied by their former government authorities.
When Vilenjakis declared independence in 1975, it was decided local coins could help raise funds for a permanent bridge. The coin would not only be for collectors but a symbol of freedom and hard work to scratch out a survival without any assistance from outside the tiny valley. It was decided the most collectible metal is gold and plans were set in place for a tiny 50 Vinar coin to be produced in pure gold.
The locals looked at Slovenia's initial attempt at coins in 1990. They looked at gold coins produced by Lipa Holding, Inc., including the 10 Lip and 50 Lip coins. A Lip, also known as Lipa and Lipe, meaning Lime Tree in English, was divided into 100 Vinar. The locals used the gold content of these coins to determine the weight of their 50 Vinar coin, which is approximately 2 grains of gold and about 6.35 millimeters square. The denomination was selected because it allowed the average person to purchase a gold coin without a substantial outlay of cash.
As one might suspect, they need to sell thousands and thousands of coins to fund the building of a permanent bridge over the creek at the only opening to the valley.