The world is a pretty big place. Most of the surface is covered by water, but some 30% of the total area is made up of land. That land is inhabited by over 6 billion people and over the course of history those people have fought over the land, defending their rights and their borders. Those borders have been drawn around countries, and they vary greatly in size. The largest country has a population of over a billion people, and most people will instantly know what country that is*.

The other side of the list is not quite as familiar to most people. The least populated countries are not often in the news, and we remember because of impact or repetition. Here's the list of the ten least populated countries in the world, with an estimation of their population as it was around 2008. You might not know a lot of the countries on this list, but I bet you heard of the number 1 before!

10. Dominica – Caribbean – population 72,660

An island nation in the Caribbean. The closest other islands are Guadeloupe in the north and Martinique in the south, both overseas areas of France. Dominica was named after the day it was discovered by Christopher Columbus. That day was a Sunday, Domenica in Italian.

9. Marshall Islands – Pacific – population 62,000

A group of Micronesian islands with a rather turbulent history. During World War II the islands and atolls turned into a battleground between Japanese and American troops. After World War II the USA used the Marshall Islands as the testing ground for testing the detonation of many nuclear devices. It also included the largest nuclear explosion detonated by the USA ever, effectively wiping one of the islands from the map entirely.

8. Saint Kitts and Nevis – Caribbean – population 52,000

This is a two island state in the Caribbean and it was among the first places for the European discoverers to set up settlements. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who originally gave the island now known as Nevis the name San Martin. That name however has accidentally been transferred to another island.

7. Liechtenstein – Europe – population 35,446

This small country lies between Switzerland and Austria. It's a monarchy with Prince Hans Adam II as the ruling monarch. The country has the highest GDP per person in the world, and is widely considered a tax haven. It is also one of the few countries in the world without an army (it shares that characteristic with several others on this list).

6. Monaco – Europe – population 32,965

Monaco is the place where the rich and famous come to show off their yachts and sports cars. The small country is surrounded by France and borders on the Mediterranean and has a total area of just two square kilometers. The city of Monaco is as big as the entire country. Monaco is famous for the casino and for two important racing events, the Monte Carlo Rally and the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. Monaco is a constitutional monarchy under the rule of Prince Albert II.

5. San Marino – Europe – population 30,167

San Marino is the oldest independent country in the world after the stonemason Marinus declared independency from the Roman Empire in 301 AD. San Marino's official name is "Serinissima Repubblica di San Marino - The most serene republic of San Marino", but in everyday life they depend a lot on using services from Italy, as it is a landlocked enclave situated in Italy. San Marino is famous for a Formula One Grand Prix organized in its name in the nearby Italian city Imola.

4. Palau – Pacific – population 20,000

Palau is an island nation consisting of several small islands in the Pacific Ocean. It's one of the youngest independent nations in the world since they became independent from the USA in 1994. In the second world war the islands were the scene of intense fighting between Japanese and allied forces. Currently economy depends a lot on tourism, and the Palauan government focuses on preserving their environment in many different ways. The islands have been home to several seasons of the television reality series "Survivor".

3. Nauru – Pacific – population 14,019

A small island in the Pacific close to the Marshall Islands. Just like many other Pacific islands it has seen a turbulent history with German, Japanese and American rule. The country has gained independence since 1968. It used to have a rich phosphate mine, but the mine is depleted now leaving the land without natural resources to capitalize on. The landscape is recovering from the mining operation, but the people of Nauru still suffer from one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.

2. Tuvalu – Pacific – population 12,373

This island nation in the Pacific became independent in 1978. The concerns about rising sea levels due to climate change are especially of concern for Tuvalu, as the highest elevation of the country is just 4.5m above sea level. A rise in sea level could effectively wipe the entire country off of the world map. The internet top-level domain of Tuvalu is the .tv extension, a domain that's increasingly popular for video websites.

1. Vatican City – Europe – population 826

Vatican City is by far the smallest country in the world. It is a city state inside the city of Rome and it is home to the Holy See, but the two are not the same. The Pope however is the head of the Holy See and as such is automatically elected to be the absolute monarch of the State of Vatican City. Citizenship is not defined by birth (which would be rather odd, given the celibacy vows), but by the fact whether you have been appointed to work in the Holy See. The majority of the population consists of the clergy and the Swiss Guard.

So now you know. These are the ten countries with the smallest population in the entire world. Combined they are home to only about 0.005% of the total world population. Even a small city may have more inhabitants than these ten combined.

* The country with the largest population in the world is China with over 1.3 billion inhabitants