October 18, 1993 12:00 PM

IN THE MAIN SQUARE, THE ARMY IS ready. (Well, four-fifths of it is ready; one man called in sick.) A black Mercedes drives up, while-and-blue flags fluttering, and a beefy middle-aged man steps out. The soldiers snap to attention and present arms. “Good day, Your Excellency,” someone shouts. His Excellency beams magnanimously. Giorgio Carbone, who prefers to call himself Giorgio I, Prince of Seborga, is among his people.

The former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia aren’t the only countries reeling from separatist fervor. In Seborga, a hilltop village in northwestern Italy looking west into Monaco, nonviolent revolution is in the mimosa-scented air. Carbone—sorry, Prince Giorgio—is spearheading a gentle but generally serious effort to make Seborga’s 1.98 square miles and 350 inhabitants an independent constitutional monarchy—and one of the world’s smallest nations.

“The Italian government knows we deserve freedom and that we’ve had enough of their rule,” says Giorgio, 57, who grows mimosas (the flowers, not the cocktails) for export on 40 acres of land. “We’re just demanding that what was ours once will be ours again.” Seborga did in fact enjoy a precarious—and frequently violated—sovereignty from 954 A.D. until the mid-1700s, when it was sold to Sardinia.

Now, under the self-anointed prince’s energetic leadership, Seborga is issuing passports and license plates (none of which are recognized anywhere else) and has bought Ruritanian uniforms for the five-man army. Giorgio is also trying to buy the village’s 10th-century castle. There’s even some loose talk about reopening the town mint, which last saw duty in 1686.

So far, Seborga’s insurrection has drawn little official attention but has attracted quite a few tourists who like to photograph a more than willing Giorgio. Even if he does win his quixotic campaign, though, there will be no Carbone dynasty. “I don’t expect to marry and produce an heir,” says Giorgio, who lives with his 74-year-old mother, “although I love all my female subjects equally.” Spoken like a true founding father.

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