Dear Jerry:

Geography was never my strong suit. Still, I always perceived there to be thousands of countries in the world. Just so you understand, I am not one of those imbeciles who thinks New Mexico is a country. I just thought our huge world globe included an enormous quantity of small obscure nations.

I polled my colleagues, friends, and neighbors on this issue. The variety of answers was astounding. Given how much we enjoy your “Ask Jerry” trivia quizzes, I may morph your response into a geographical trivia contest for our next party. Though you are welcome to elaborate accordingly, here are my two main questions.

Is the number of countries in the world really that complicated a question? How many countries are there?

Dan D., Victoria B.C.


Dear Dan:

No, the number of countries in the world is not complicated. However, with some interpretation, the total number ranges from 193 to 197. While the United Nations includes 193 members, we can add four “quasi-countries” to that number.

More specifically, let’s begin with those unquestionable 193 countries. Then, some would add two “permanent observers” of the United Nations. One is Vatican City (also known as The Holy See). Another is the State of Palestine.

Now at 195, let’s proceed further. Some, though not all, nations recognize two additional entities. One is Taiwan; it is an island, it is officially the Republic of China (ROC), and it is not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Another is Kosovo.

Concerning your geographical trivia quiz, the global door is wide open with thousands of possibilities. Figuring a general audience without historical expertise, here are six starters. For readers who wish to test themselves, answers appear at the conclusion of this quiz.

1. Among the 197 countries in the world, what is the smallest in land area?

2. What is the smallest country in population?

3. In land area, what is the largest country in the world?

4. In population, what is the largest country in the world?

5. Based on per capita income, what is the wealthiest country in the world today?

6. What is the oldest country in the world?

Here are answers to the six trivia questions.

1. Vatican City. It consists of 108 acres. That is one-eighth the size of Central Park in New York City.

2. Vatican City. It has approximately 800 citizens.

3. Russia. It contains 6.6 million square miles.

4. China. It has 1.4 billion citizens.

5. Luxembourg.

6. San Marino. Surrounded by Italy, it was founded in 301 B.C. and became independent in 1631 A.D.

Regarding world geography, this is simply the CliffsNotes version. Formerly, that would be “Cliffs Notes.” Originally, that would have been “Cliff’s Notes.”

Jerry Romansky is a syndicated columnist. Readers are invited to write in English or Spanish: Ask Jerry, Post Office Box 42444, Washington DC 20015. E-mail and (because of spam situation) write the name of your newspaper in subject heading. Questions of popular interest are answered in the column. Unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.