Most obscure country for its size

Try to think of countries that you practically never hear anything about. Obviously, this is completely subjective, as a country can’t be obscure to one of its own citizens, and living in the US is already in effect a partial news blackout concerning the rest of the world. Someone who regularly takes in BBC World Service news is going to be much better informed about other countries than someone who only pays attention to American news. What’s obscure to one person is probably plain as day to another person. Those caveats in mind, what is the biggest country you practically never hear anything about?

I’m thinking of Laos. I was just looking at a map in a news article about persecution of atheists in other countries, and saw to my surprise that Laos was included as a place where “atheists have reduced rights under law.” I went: Wait a minute! I thought Laos was Communist, last I heard? The Pathet Lao were Communist, right? But that was back in the 1970s. I must have missed a lot of Laotian developments since then. I mean, when was the last time you ever heard of Laos? But it’s 91,429 square miles in area, nearly the size of the UK, and its population is an estimated 6.5 million, nearly as much as Libya and more than Denmark. I read the BBC World Service web site frequently, but cannot remember the last time I heard anyone anywhere mention Laos.

I’m gonna go with Oman or Mauritania. Don’t recall ever reading a news report about either.

I’m going with Mali. I know it’s a country in western Africa. Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you a thing about it.


Size-wise? Kazakhstan is roughly the size of Alaska, California, Montana, and Nebraska put together. Other than Borat and occasional news of a space launch from there, I never hear anything about Kazakhstan.

It’s still more talked about than, say, Uzbekistan - you never hear anything about them. Or Kyrgyzstan.

My mind first went to Mongolia, but as I looked at a list of countries arranged by area, it seems that Brazil, which is huge, doesn’t get all that much attention.

Mali’s been in the news quite a bit lately since radical Islamists and Al Queda affiliates have taken over most of the north part of the country and the US is trying to organize an African force to help the national government take it back. Neighboring Chad is much more obscure.

Mali has also produced several internationally successful music acts down the years so gets a lot of coverage, relatively speaking.

Other than the occasional natural disaster, I can’t say I hear much about Indonesia - and it’s the 4th most populous nation in the world.

Going down the list, I feel that Kazakhstan (9), Niger (22), Mali (24) are all on the low side of recognizable, but Mauritania (29) is definitely more obscure than those.

So, I’d second An Gadaí on that one.

I see news about Brazil all the time, though I subscribe to the Miami Herald, which pays a lot of attention to Latin America. Brazil will be hosting the World Cup and the Olympics over the next few years, and will be in the spotlight a lot. At any rate, nearly everyone knows something about Brazil, so I wouldn’t call it obscure.


Half a million square kilometres. I feel if it wasn’t for the movies you’d hear little else about it.

Well, maybe if they stopped closing their damned ports all the time.

Going down the list of countries by population, Tanzania, with 40 million people, is probably the first that I couldn’t tell you anything about. In my head, its basically just Kenya.

Going by land-area seems less interesting. Most of what I care about is stuff that happens to or by people, so the fact that there isn’t much news about large empty countries isn’t that surprising. My entire knowledge of Mongolia, in chronlogical order consists of:

4 billion years ago -1162: Nothing
1162 - 1227 : Genghis Khan
1227 - 2012: Nothing

But the country only has two million people, and is overshadowed by powerful neighbors, so that’s not really surprising.


Awesome sumo wrestlers (the last two or three yokozuna have been Mongolians)!

But apart from brutal empire-builders, innovative tent designs and top sumo wrestlers, what have the Mongolians ever done for us?


Everything I know about Madagascar is: 1) lemurs, yay! and 2) they had one crazy-ass queenback in the day.