Christiania began in 1971 when a group of hippies and free-thinkers squatted in an area where there was an abandoned military barracks. They aimed to build a community run by and for the people. It proclaims itself as an autonomous company. However it does pay taxes to the city of Copenhagen.
At present it is a type of cooperative community without home ownership with 1500 resdients. Nils Vest is a filmmaker who has lived in Christiania since it was first founded. He says:"If you have this ability to administer yourself, then you also bear responsibility for your surroundings, and that's something that's lost in the large cities today," "We want to keep up some of the virtues of the village where people know each other and feel dependant and feel responsibility for each other,"
The secret to a peaceful coexistence is that people actually take responsibility for the area themselves. Another resident Thomas Ertmann says:"They don't expect a guy from the government of the city to come and fix things. We do it ourselves,"
However city authorities want to swing the ax at Christiania.from the Copenhagen City Council says:"The land is owned by the state and the state can do anything about it if they want more housing to be built there," Residents pay their taxes to the state, and a service fee to Christiania, but they do not own the houses they live in. I just wonder however what will happen when the issue goes to court. The residents have been in the area since 1972, forty years, that may very well give them some ownership rights given the state did not try to evict them it would seem! But I do not know how Danish law functions so perhaps it makes no difference.
Says resident Thomas Ertmann:"The houses are owned by Christiania and you live there and rent it from Christiania and you can't sell it on, because we don't want speculation and interest and money in this place," The Copenhagen City Council wants to change the rules by forcing residents either to buy out or move out. The courts are at present in the process of deciding the issue. Although peaceful coexistence and tolerance are cornerstones of the community beliefs they also refuse to bow to Big Brother at least not without a big fight.