The founder and president-for-life of one of the world's smallest unrecognized nations has died. Eli Avivi—who gained fame when he declared independence from Israel in 1971 and created the 3.5-acre micronation of Achzivland, populated by himself and his wife—died Tuesday, with his sister citing severe pneumonia, reports the BBC. He was 88. Avivi was well known among travelers, particularly hippies who ventured from all over the world to visit Achzivland on the Mediterranean Sea near Israel's border with Lebanon. Avivi arrived at the site, once the Palestinian fishing village of al-Zeeb, four years after it was conquered during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Avivi, who'd fought with the Jewish navy, took up residence in a lifeguard hut, per Haaretz, and was eventually joined by his wife, Rina, before Israel sent bulldozers to turn the area into a national park.
The couple declared independence, destroying their Israeli passports, as they fought the plan. A subsequent court case and 1972 rock concert made Achzivland famous the world over before Avivi secured a deal in which he paid Israel for access to the site and the sea, whose din would become Achzivland's national anthem. Its similarly themed flag features a mermaid, but it was the micronation’s utopian ideals that attracted hippies and celebrities like Sophia Loren and Paul Newman; those who entered were treated to an Achzivland stamp on their passports, per ABC Australia. While the micronation's future is now in doubt, Avivi previously said he hoped Rina, 71, would continue to live at Achzivland after his death. She said she hoped to make the site a memorial to her husband, whom she called "the best president ever." (The US has its own sovereign nation.)