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International nations around the world

Updated on June 19, 2012

THE INTERNATIONAL ANTHEM

The tune of God Save the Queen (or King) is based upon a keyboard piece written in 1619 by the English composer Dr John Bull. But despite its origin it has been used as a national anthem by various other countries besides Britain. Germany's national anthem between 1870 and 1922. Heil Dir im Siegerkranz ('Hail to the Conqueror's Crown'), was sung to the same tune. So was the Swiss song Rufst du, mein Vater/and ('Hail to You, my Fatherland'), which often did duty as an anthem until 1961.

When Switzerland officially adopted a new anthem. In the United States, immediately after the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the old British anthem was often used with new words-such as 'God save George Washington' and 'God save the Thirteen States'. Another version, which began 'My country, 'tis of thee', was written in 1831 - and shared the honours with The Star-Spangled Banner as the US national song until 1931, when Congress officially chose the second song as the American anthem.

Other nations to use the tune of God Save the Queen for their anthems were Denmark. Sweden, Russia and several German states. But the only other independent country still to do so is Liechtenstein.

THE KINGDOM THAT VANISHED

In 1771 the kingdom of Poland was larger in area than any other European country except Russia. and had a bigger population than any other European country except France. But within 25 years it had vanished from the map. In 1772 Russia. Prussia and Austria between them annexed about one-fifth of Poland. Twenty years later Russia took over half what remained, and all three powers shared in a final carve-up in 1795. It was not until 1918. in the aftermath of the First World War. that an independent Poland surfaced again.

The number of states in the USA could increase at any time from 50 to 54. The reason is that Texas could still exercise an option granted after it broke away from Mexico and became. in 1845. part of the USA. Congress decreed that the new state could divide itself into as many as live states whenever it chose. So far. though. the Lone Star State has remained intact: the second largest US state after Alaska.

Yugoslavia is one country with two alphabets, three religions, four principal languages. live main national- ities, and six republics. The alphabets are the Roman (used in English) and the Cyrillic (the alphabet used in Russia). The religions are Roman Catholicism, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Islam. The four languages are Serb, Croat. Slovene and Macedonian although the first two are often grouped together as Serbo-Croat.

The five nationalities are Serbs. Croats. Slovenes. Macedonians and Montenegrins. The repub- lics are Slovenia. Croatia. Bosnia-Herzegovina. Serbia. Montenegro and Macedonia. In addition. Yugoslavia has a common border with seven other countries: Italy. Austria. Hungary. Romania. Bulgaria. Greece and Albania.

Although the United States and the Soviet Union are divided by a wide gulf politically. they are, at their closest point. only 4km (2.5 miles) apart. This is the distance between two islands in the Bering Strait: Big Diomede. which is Russian: and Little Diomede. which is American. The two islands are also. however. a whole day apart- because the International Date Line runs between them.

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