Freetown Christiania

The famous Danish Freetown Christiania was founded in 1971 when a group of hippies took over abandoned military barracks and their surrounding along the Copenhagen Christianshavn canals, and developed it to an alternative society with own set of rules, independent of the government. This social experiment that included collective ownership has over the years developed and established its semi-legal status. Today the enclave’s user rights have been terminated by Danish state.

One of the main streets in Christiania, Copenhagen

One of the main streets of Christiania

After the military moved out, the area was only guarded by a few watchmen and there was sporadic trespassing of homeless people using the empty buildings. On September 4th 1971, inhabitants of the surrounding neighbourhood broke down the fence to take over parts of the unused area as a playground for their children.

Although the takeover was not necessarily organised in the beginning, some claim this happened as a protest against the Danish government. At the time there was a lack of affordable housing in Copenhagen.

On the 26th of September 1971, Christiania was declared open by Jacob Ludvigsen, a well-known provo (a Dutch counterculture movement in the mid-1960s that focused on provoking violent responses from authorities using non-violent bait) and journalist. Ludvigsen wrote an article in which he and five others went on exploration into what he termed: ‘The Forbidden City of the Military’. The article widely announced the proclamation of the free town. In 1971, Ludvigsen co-authored the Christiania’s mission statement:

“The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.”

The spirit of Christiania quickly developed into one of the hippie movement, the squatter movement, collectivism and anarchism, in contrast to the site’s previous military use.

Flag of Christiania

Flag of Christiania

Today, the commune is partially self-governing, and its members pay taxes to the state, but it still applies own rules such as: no cars, no stealing, no guns, no bullet-proof vests, no hard drugs. The stands on the infamous Pusher Street, where until 2004 one could buy hash openly at, are gone today, but the cameras are still not allowed here. On top of that, the ban on smoking in public spaces is not respected here.

Christiania has its own flag, and even its own currency; the Løn.

The approximately 850 citizens of Christiania work as artisans. Also, the famous Christiania Bikes are produced here. The inhabitants drive also meditation centra, cafés, restaurants, and a couple of music night clubs. Many houses that were built, painted and decorated by their first inhabitants, became historical objects.

Christiania is unique; one of its kind in the world, and for many people became a symbol of Danish liberal lifestyle. The Town can only be entered through its two main entrances.

See other: Posts on Micronations

Nelson’s Eye and the Battle of Copenhagen

The Battle of Copenhagen (Danish: slaget på Reden) was an engagement which saw a British fleet under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker fight and strategically defeat a Danish-Norwegian fleet anchored just off Copenhagen on 2 April 1801. Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson led the main attack. Copenhagen is often considered to be Nelson’s hardest-fought battle which was won much to his credit. The battle is perhaps best known for his famous ‘mistake’ to miss Admiral Parker’s orders using the telescope with his wrong eye.

Nicholas Pocock’s The Battle of Copenhagen

At 1:00 pm Admiral Parker held the back rank in order to engage in a flank attack. He would have been able to see little of the main battle owing to gun smoke, though he could see the signals on the three grounded British ships, with the Bellona and Russell flying signals of distress and the Agamemnon a signal of inability to proceed. Parker was under the impression that Nelson might have fought to a stand-still at the frontine and was unable to retreat without orders. Retreating without orders was unforgivable for a British Naval officer since the Articles of War demanded that all ranks do their utmost against the enemy in battle.

At 1:30pm Parker told his flag captain, “I will make the signal of recall for Nelson’s sake. If he is in condition to continue the action, he will disregard it; if he is not, it will be an excuse for his retreat and no blame can be imputed to him.” Nelson ordered that the signal be acknowledged, but not repeated. Supposedly he turned to his flag Captain, Foley, and said “You know, Foley, I only have one eye — I have the right to be blind sometimes,” and then, history would have us believe that while holding his telescope to his blind eye, Nelson said “I really do not see the signal!”. Nelson’s second-in-command, Rear Admiral Thomas Graves, repeated the signal, but in a place invisible to most other ships while keeping Nelson’s ‘close action’ signal at his masthead. It remains unclear whether Rear Admiral Graves used this cloak and dagger approach on Nelson’s orders, deliberately flying the signal flags to retreat in a place where almost no other ship could see. Only captain Riou, who could not see Nelson’s flagship, the Elephant, followed Admiral Parker’s signal to retreat. Riou withdrew his force, which was then attacking the Danish Tre Kroner fortress. Riou exposed himself to heavy fire and was killed in the retreat.

However, it was at this time that the battle swung decisively to the British, as their superior gunnery took effect. The guns of the dozen southernmost Danish ships had started to fall silent owing to the damage they had sustained, and the fighting moved northward. According to British eyewitness accounts, much of the Danish line had fallen silent by 2pm.

The decisive crush was made at the time when Nelson ‘ignored’ Admiral Parker’s signal. Since then The Battle of Copenhagen would be mentioned in history as the naval battle that was won because Nelson ‘held the telescope to his wrong eye’ and in doing so missed Parker’s signal.