What is ‘Listenbourg’? The new EU country going viral

The Listenbourg flag (Listenbourg / Gaspard Hoelscher)
The Listenbourg flag (Listenbourg / Gaspard Hoelscher)

In times like these, a healthy dose of escapism is the best way to go – a practice which French Twitter users took seriously by conjuring a fictional country at the edge of the Iberian Peninsula.

Listenbourg, which borders Portugal and Spain, is a fabricated nation imagined by Gaspard Hoelscher.

In just a few days, the fake European republic made headlines across the world and an entire infrastructure was posed to support Hoelscher’s idea.

But how exactly does one begin a nation – and why was this one so successful?

How did Listenbourg become a country?

Hoelscher, named ‘gaspardooo’ on Twitter, invented the country on Sunday, October 30, with a photoshopped map highlighting the non-existent land in the Atlantic, in an apparent attempt to test the stereotype of Americans having poor geographic knowledge.

In the original post, he wrote: “I’m sure Americans don’t even know the name of this country ptdrrr.” More than 95,000 likes and 6,900 retweets rolled in.

To another user asking who was not aware of Listenbourg’s existence, Hoelscher replied: “They don’t even know how to place France so I’ll let you imagine for Listenbourg.”

The joke was quickly co-opted by the meme-storm and satirical posts popped up discussing its government, tourism, and economy.

Various accounts were started to take on roles in Listenbourg’s government, as well as a subreddit and an updated satellite map image.

With Hoelscher at the helm, as president and founder, a cabinet was formed to join him, according to the official government website.

Along with the red-and-white flag with a gold eagle emblem, a national anthem was posted on YouTube.

The Minister of the Interior has also begun discussions of identification and documentation for Listenbourg citizens.

Although some big names have tried legitimising the trend, such as far-right French thinker Eirc Zemmour, various ministers have rejected political input, instead forming their own “extreme-centre party”.

Its history, however, was rejected by Wikipedia, as a page entry for the Republic of Listenbourg was taken down.

Now with its established government departments and multiple news outlets, its popularity is not slowing.

Fox News, who in 2014 misplaced Ukraine’s Donbas region in Pakistan, ran with the headline ‘French make fun of Americans by creating a country’.

So, while some celebs have been spotted abroad in Listenbourg, it may be some time before we see some real-life accounts.