23 interesting facts about Nauru

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No capital city and a devastating phosphate mine are just two of the most interesting facts about Nauru, one of the world’s smallest countries.

Several interesting facts about Nauru result from its size
Several interesting facts about Nauru result from its size (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Nauru
Capital city: Yaren District (de facto)
Population: 11,000
Area: 21 sq km
Major languages: Nauruan, English
Time zone: UTC+12
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Nauru

1. Nauru is a small oval-shaped island located in Oceania in the western Pacific Ocean.
– Source: Britannica

2. The origins of Nauru’s first inhabitants remain unknown. By the time Europeans arrived in the 18th century, Nauruan society consisted of 12 ancestral tribal groups, each with a chief.
– Source: Britannica

3. Nauru does not have an official capital city. However, its government offices are located in the Yaren District.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

4. Nauru was initially named Pleasant Island by British navigator Captain John Fearn as he sailed past on his way from New Zealand to the China Seas in 1798.
– Source: BBC News

5. Nauru’s flag consists of a blue background representing the Pacific Ocean, a single horizontal yellow stripe representing the Equator and a 12-pointed white star which represents the location of the island (to the south of the equator and west of the international date line), independence and the 12 original tribes of Nauru.
– Source: Britannica

The national flag
Nauru’s flag (Shutterstock)

6. By population, Nauru is the world’s second-smallest sovereign country after Tuvalu. Technically, Vatican City is smaller but is not a UN member state.
– Source: World Bank

7. By land area, Nauru is also the world’s second-smallest sovereign nation after Monaco. Furthermore, it is the smallest country in the Pacific Ocean, the smallest country outside of Europe, the world’s smallest island country and the world’s smallest independent republic.
– Source: World Bank

8. Nauru is one of just 22 countries that does not have an army.
– Source: The Atlantic

9. Nauru is probably the least visited country in the world. There were not even enough visitors to make it onto the most recent World Tourism Organization report. Some estimates suggest that only around 200 tourists make it to Nauru every year.
– Source: UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)

10. Nauru has the fattest population in the world. In 2017, a report ranked Nauru as the world’s most obese nation with 88.5% of its population over 18 years old classified as obese.
– Source: World Health Organisation

Obese people in Nauru
Nauru as the world’s 2nd most obese nation (Lorrie Graham/AusAID:CC 2.0)

11. Nauru has the second smallest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the world after only Tuvalu.
– Source: World Bank

12. Nauru only has 30km of roads. Only Tuvalua has less when it comes to the total length of the roadway.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

13. Despite its tiny size, Nauru has a 5km stretch of railway. It serves the phosphate mine and carries ore to dryers before its loaded onto ships.
– Source: The Commonwealth

14. In 1963, and then again in 1970, there were discussions about moving the entire population of Nauru to an island off Queensland in Australia because scientists considered Nauru would be uninhabitable by the mid-1990s. The Nauruans opposed the idea and chose to remain.
– Source: The Conversation

15. Phosphate mining has devastated the centre of Nauru turning it into a barren wasteland with 15m-high serrated coral pinnacles sticking up from the ground. A century of mining stripped between 80% and 90% of the land area.
– Source: The Commonwealth

16. As such, many indigenous birds have either disappeared or become rare, due to loss of habitat.
– Source: The Commonwealth

The island's barren interior
Nauru’s interior is barren (Lorrie Graham/AusAID:CC 2.0)

17. Phosphate mining resumed in 2005 when a secondary phosphate deposit was discovered. The government estimates that this secondary deposit will last around 30 years.
– Source: BBC News

18. Nauru was technically once the wealthiest country (per capita) in the world thanks to its rich, deep phosphate mines.
– Source: New York Times

19. Nauru has been used by Australia as an asylum-seeker detention camp since 2001. The conditions and treatment of the asylum-seekers is deeply controversial and has been found to be unlawful by the International Criminal Court with widespread allegations of human rights abuses and overcrowding.
– Source: The Guardian

20. Nauru has never won a medal at the Olympic Games since it’s debut in 1996.
– Source: The Telegraph

20. During the 1990s Narua became a money-laundering haven selling banking licences and passports, including diplomatic passports which confer immunity for up to $30,000 each. Customers included the Russian mafia and al-Qaida.
– Source: The Independent

21. Nauru has also raised supplementary income by recognising breakaway and disputed countries. A state aiming for sovereignty can only be taken seriously if it is recognised by other UN member states (the more, the better). In 2009, Nauru recognised Russia-backed Abkhazia and South Ossetia in exchange for $50m in Russian aid. Other controversial examples have included Kosovo and Taiwan.
– Source: The Guardian

22. Naura has historically suffered from extremely high rates of unemployment. In 2004 it was estimated to be 90%. In 2011, it was down to 23%.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

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