One of Nicolas Sarkozy’s lesser known titles is Prince — sorry — Co-Prince of Andorra, the mountainous micro-nation wedged between Spain and France (his fellow ruler is the Bishop of Urgell). One of those pint-sized geo-political anomalies which dot Europe like chocolate chips, Andorra keeps largely to itself and rarely troubles headlines.
Ruling the pocket principality, you might think, is hardly a two-man job, a thought that also occurred to Russian adventurer Boris Skossyreff in 1934, who on July 6 of that year declared himself King Boris I of the newly created Kingdom of Andorra (which — quelle co-inky-dink — he’d just created).
Like little known King Otto of Albania, actually a German circus performer who apparently claimed the throne of Albania for almost a week in 1913, Skossyreff had taken advantage of unrest, confusion and poor communications to install himself as a monarch just because he damn well could. In his brief reign, Boris designed his own flag (above), printed up 10,000 copies of his constitution, declared war on the Bishop of Urgell and laid out a surprisingly forward-thinking plan for his Pyrenean eyrie based on the Monégasque model of casinos and tax breaks. Just two weeks into the Skossyreff Dynasty, however, it all went royally tits up and King Boris was unceremoniously carted off by Spanish police.
Skossyreff’s life before and after (and indeed during) this short-lived adventure is a matter of dispute and conjecture. He was possibly born this day in 1896, or five months or even two years later. His birthplace was probably Vilnius (in present day Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire), his family most likely minor Russian nobility. After the Russian Revolution he claimed asylum in Britain and apparently worked in espionage for the Foreign Office. He allegedly moved to the Netherlands and was ennobled by the Dutch queen (actually this is the least likely of his claims, although he did have a Netherlands passport).
After his Andorran interlude Skossyreff’s story gets hazier still (I’ll stop with the qualifying adverbs; just assume that any “fact” recorded here is to be treated with suspicion). The outbreak of World War II found him in a French internment camp, though despite reports he didn’t die there in 1944, but was sent to Siberia after the war, in 1948, returning to Germany in 1956. Whether the Soviets objected more to his status as a White Russian or as an Andorran absolutist remains unrecorded. Settling into life as a commoner in West Germany, Skossyreff died without issue in 1989.
My blog roll list is growing longer. Logic tells me I should place some sort of “ok, that’s about as long as it should be” limitation on its length, but fortunately I’m choosing to ignore logic and focus on the quality angle and that’s why I’ve added you to my links, after reading your post here and also browsing some of your other entries.
As I was reading this post, time slowed, blurred, transported me back to my childhood because in those days I used to read an amazing, enthralling, fantastic, publication entitled “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!” I praise you for turning up such delightful stories laced with facts and interwoven with the kind of things that always appeared in Ripley’s “Believe It or Not!” I always chose to want to believe it. And in reading your delightful posts I still hold on to that feeling. 🙂
Thanks for posting this all of these more-than-unusual reports.
Amazing things! 🙂
Hi and belated thanks for your comment. I am getting round to a blogroll myself one of these days (believe it or not…)
Fascinating story about Prince Boris and King Ottto of Albania. My fellow Hungarians have always been good in adventures: Count Moric Benyovszky became King of Madagascar, Baron Ferenc Nopcsa almost became Prince of Albania, Count Gyula Cseszneky for almost 2 months was Regent of Pindus and Grand Duke of Macedonia, Count Laszlo Almasy played similar roles in Africa as well as Count Lajos Koenigsegg in Somalia.
Thanks for the tips – I’m always happy to receive pointers for more strange flowers…
Having been in Andorra for a few days in 1970, aged 13, Boris the First is welcome to it! Ghastly place (or was; it may be better now…)