Yugoslav nation in cyberspace

DISMAYED BY the nationalist wars that have dismembered their country, a group of dissident Yugoslavs have decided to break away and form their own country - in cyberspace.

Next week will see the launch of Cyber Yugoslavia, where nobody gets harassed because of ethnic differences, and every citizen gets to be a minister: already there is a Secretary for Bad Movies, another for Kitsch and Triviality and another still for The Undersexed. Even before its inauguration on 9 September, Cyber Yugoslavia boasts over 3,500 citizens, and 300 more apply every day.

"We lost our country in 1991 and became citizens of Atlantis," explains the country's webmaster, Zoran Bacic, on the site at www.juga.com "We don't have a physical land, but we do have nationality."

With the Internet once again proving it is the last refuge of the hounded and dispossessed - not to mention those who refuse to lose their sense of humour - adherents to the shattered Yugo-slav dream of democratic pluralism have signed up from across western Europe.

Mr Bacic, for example, lives in the Netherlands. And although one-third of the citizens are Yugoslav, there are plenty of non-Slavic names on the list, such as Arthur R Scott, the Secretary of Mountains. More than 200 citizens come from Britain.

Prominent figures include Milos Vasic, the dissident Belgrade journalist, who is Secretary for Telling Right from Wrong. Other portfolios include Ducks, Babes, Brandy, Tavern Philosophy and Bacchanalias, Coca-Cola, Running Up Stairs, and Everything Else.

Prospective citizens promise to visit the website at least 50 times a year and vote on the ever-evolving constitution.

"When we have five million citizens, we plan to apply to the UN for member status," Mr Bacic writes. "We will ask for 20 square metres of land to be our country. On this land, we'll keep our server."