Americans around the country are enjoying parades, barbecues, and other bits of traditional Americana that mark the celebration of the Fourth of July. While we all know that the U.S.’ Independence day is tied to the ratification of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, ours is just one of the many similar days that are celebrated around the globe. In the interest of educating our fellow Americans while you’re either preparing the picnic or waiting for the fireworks, here’s a look at some of the other festivities from around the world, with photos from each country’s most recent Independence Day and the year they became independent states.
Afghanistan — August 19, 1919
Though Afghanistan was never a full part of the British Empire, Afghanistan marks the signature of the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919, which ended Britain’s control of Afghanistan’s foreign affairs. The previous arrangement had been signed to prevent Russia to one side and Persia to the other from taking total control of the country.
Bangladesh — March 26, 1971
Until 1971, Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan, with Islamabad in the West controlling both territories. That year, East Bangladesh declared its independence, launching a war that would eventually see India intervene on their behalf.
Cambodia — November 9, 1953
In 1863, France established it’s control of Cambodia as a colony in Southeast Asia. During Japan’s expansion in World War II, the country — also known as Kampuchea — was taken over. Following the war, France was determined to reestablish its dominance of Indochina, particularly in Vietnam. Rather than allowing this, however, Cambodia declared its independence in 1953, which France begrudgingly accepted.
India — August 15, 1947
Indians fought alongside British soldiers in both World War I and World War II, earning accolades despite their status as a colony of the United Kingdom — frequently called “the Crown Jewel of the British Empire.” During the interwar period, Mohanddas Ganhdi famously lead protests as the independence movement gained steam over the course of the years. Following WWII, Britain finally relent and grant India its independence, splitting the country between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Indonesia — August 17, 1945
The Dutch East Indies, as they were called during their time as a colony, were seized by Japan amid World War II, taking control of the colony’s resources such as sugar and rubber. After Japan was defeated, the Indonesians rather than returning to their status as a possession of the Netherlands declared their independence. The Netherlands didn’t recognize Indonesian independence until 1949, after years of bloody fighting.
Malaysia — August 31, 1957
Another British colony, Malaysia was among the United Kingdom’s possessions who demanded their freedom following the Second World War. While the U.K. was willing to let some of its colonies go, Malaysia was held onto due to the threat of communist takeover. It was only after the communists’ defeat that London ceded control of the peninsula to the Malaysians.
Mexico — September 16, 1810
Contrary to the mistaken belief of many in the United States, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s version of the Fourth of July. Instead, it’s a celebration of kicking France out of the country. Mexico’s actual Independence Day comes in September, celebrating the end of its being a Spanish colony.
Nigeria — October 1, 1960
Prior to gaining independence, Nigeria — like India — was a British colony whose soldiers fought alongside its possessor in World War II. After the war, a series of new constitutions saw greater and greater autonomy granted to Nigerians to govern their own affairs. Full independence in Nigeria came fifteen years later in 1960.
Pakistan — August 14, 1947
Pakistan shared India’s history up until the years immediately preceding independence. Muhammad Jinnah and other Muslim intellectuals in the colony argued that they needed their own country so as to avoid subjugation in an independent India. The United Kingdom agreed, partitioning the two countries in a move that despite its intentions saw massive fighting and forced migration as the two populations moved across the new borders.
Philippines — June 12, 1898
The Spanish-American War between the slumping Spanish Empire and the United States saw the U.S. wrest control of the Philippines from Madrid, nominally granting the Filipinos their independence. However, due to the prevailing thoughts at the time, the natives were deemed unfit for self-rule just yet, leading to its status as an American ‘territory’ for the next few decades. Despite numerous uprisings, it took until 1946 for full independence to be granted to the archipelago. The Philippines still, however, celebrates their independence day to mark when they declared their liberation from Spain.
Poland — November 11, 1918
For 123 years, Poland had been split between the Russian Empire, Prussia, and Austria. In 1918, following World War I, the disparate territories were finally reunited, reestablishing a sovereign Poland. Though the holiday was not celebrated during communist rule, the day was revived following the shift to democracy.
Sri Lanka — February 2, 1948
Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka was one of Britain’s South Asia colonies alongside India. Unlike India, however, it didn’t gain its independence until 1948, becoming the Dominion of Ceylon with the British monarch still technically head of state. The country became a republic, and changed its name the current Sri Lanka, in 1972.
Ukraine — August, 24, 1991
In 1991, without a shot being fired directly between the two competitors, the Cold War came to an end. The Soviet Union, suffering under the weight of its military spending and facing an economic collapse, sought to dissolve. Ukraine, which had been seen as the breadbasket of the USSR, declared its independence in 1991 along with 13 other former Soviet states, giving up its thousands of nuclear weapons in exchange for an agreement that its borders would be guaranteed.