A quaint Syldavian village in King Ottokar's Sceptre.
"I feel sorry for those Eastern European countries at the Olympics, 'cause they've got rotten national anthems, eh? Here comes Belarus!... Stupid national anthem... Look at this flag! Two bears, fighting over a pineapple. We don't have pineapple in Belarus, where do they get it from?! 'Come to Belarus! Where wild animals will steal your fruit!'"
A Ruritania is a fictional country located in Central Europe or the Balkans — in an area encompassing most of the territory east of Germany and west of Russia. This country is characterized by its small size, backward customs, and forests full of Savage Wolves and bears. It is often the home of the Funny Foreigner.
The name comes from Anthony Hope's 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda, and the concept originated around the same time; the idea itself was at least in part "inspired" by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was viewed by many Europeans as an incompetent backwater. It spurred an entire genre, the Ruritanian Romance (which is derived from Chivalric Romance, not the love story meaning of Romance). At that time and in most early 20th century depictions, Ruritania had a royal house (of which the King actually did something, the Prince was dashing, the Princess was a dazzling beauty, and the headgear was quite frankly ridiculous), which was forever being schemed against by a lot of dastardly usurpers or anarchists and was a source of enormous tension among the Great Powers. That last bit was actually true, unfortunately. A good example is, of course, the original. Although it is worth noting that where most examples of this trope are set in the Balkans or Eastern Europe, the original was wedged between Germany and Bohemia and had a Germanic-style culture.
Between the wars, the typical Ruritania became slightly less primitive. Wolves, bears, and superstitious peasants still abounded, but automobiles had been introduced and the army now had tanks and planes, with which it prepared bloody revenge on its neighbours. The royals were still around, now being schemed against by even more dastardly fascists and communists. When WW2 rolled around, Ruritania was likely occupied by the Germans, or was possibly itself an Axis power. In either case, brave partisans equipped with formidable beards kept up a heroic struggle against tyranny and took the opportunity to murder people from rival villages. After the war, many Ruritanias became Commie Land and continued to be a lurking place for Dirty Communists, either Soviet-backed or home-grown.
With the coming of Hole in Flag revolutions, Ruritania has pretty much reverted to what it started with: ludicrous hair, ethnic strife, poverty, and backwardness. The monarchy is (usually) gone, replaced by a mock democracy run by some unsavoury generals; the Great Powers are now acting through NATO or the UN. Everyone still seems to hate his neighbours, the anarchists may still be around, or they may have mutated into terrorists or plain old gangsters. With any luck, contemporary Ruritania might be a part of the EU, causing more trouble for its finances than Greece, Spain and Ireland taken together.
If the place shows some of the characteristics of Ruritania, but is also full of vampires, werewolves, Mad Scientists, and otherFantasy or Horror genre tropes, you've strayed over the border into Überwald. We hope you brought some garlic and don't leave the hotel room at night.
Not to be confused with Ruri-tania.note You might be thinking of Peaceland there.
Compare Banana Republic, Qurac, and Bulungi.
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Discover's advertising includes a bearded Ruritanian man calling himself "Peggy," who acts to mock their competitors' overseas call centers.
Anime and Manga
Sailor Moon actually named its fake countries D Country, with its Nerd Glasses-wearing princess simply named Princess D, and U Country, with its... vampire ambassador. No doubt D Country is the original home of Master-D. In the anime, there's also the Amethyst Kingdom, where apparently, the concept of money doesn't exist. Fridge Logic much?
Lupin III: A few miscellaneous Ruritanias have been featured on the various Lupin TV series. Notable movie examples below.
The Duchy of Cagliostro from The Castle of Cagliostro. Lupin states that the country is 'Ruritanian' when they first enter it, along with it being the smallest UN nation (population: 3500).
Vespania from Lupin III vs. Detective Conan, contains expected first-world technology, but remains much less developed and less economically powerful than other countries. A new mineral found only in their country is stolen by Lupin.
Meine Liebe is set between world wars in a lovely noble monarchy on an non-existing island in the Bay of Biscay which lives as if it was still XIX or even XVIII century.
Iono the Fanatics is a two-issue Girls Love manga whose whole plot is about an Ordinary High-School Student being pursued by the Loveable Sex Maniac queen of a small and obscure European nation. In fact, it's implied at several points that the queen's obsession with having a massive (several thousand strong) harem of women is partially responsible for the traditional poverty associated with Ruritania — one part the economic drain of having to support hundreds of women who live lavish lifestyles but basically do nothing but lounge around, have sex and otherwise amuse themselves, one part the implcation she's already taken most, if not all, of the women in the country as her courtesans.
Markovia, ruled by Prince Byron Markov, who is also the superhero Geo-Force.
The DCAU has Kaznia/Kasnia.
For a while after the "Our Worlds At War" arc, there was the Soviet breakaway state of Pokolistan, ruled by the human version of General Zod.
Superman - Ruritanias were very common in both The Golden Age of Comic Books and The Silver Age of Comic Books, ranging from simple backdrops for foreign royals to stand in's for Hitler's Germany. The first appearance of Lex Luthor was in a 1940 comic in which he was revealed to be the mastermind behind a war between fascist Toran and peaceful Gallonia.
The Adventures of Tintin feature Syldavia, a kind of Balkan Belgium menaced by Borduria, its warlike neighbour. Borduria stands for Nazism in Tintin: King Ottokar's Sceptre and for Stalinesque Communism in later stories. Syldavia is an atypically detailed version of Ruritania with its own flag, royal dynasty, historical events and even a language created by Hergé. The made-up language, despite being written in Cyrillic script, was remarkably not Slavic but a dialect of Flemish/Dutch with some curious phonetics. In Tintin Destination Moon, it becomes the setting for a fictionalized space program.In Tintin The Calculus Affair, both Syldavia and Borduria are struggling in a secret war for Calculus' device.
In Floyd Gottfredson's classic "The War Orphans" (1944), Mickey helps two kids from a Ruritanian country threatened by the Nazis.
Gottfredson's earlier "Monarch of Medioka" (1937) basically repeats the story of the Prisoner of Zenda with Mickey replacing "Prince Michael."
Romano Scarpa's "Mystery of Tapiocus VI" (1956) finds Mickey helping out the amnesiac king of Mazumia, another Ruritanian country.
In a more modern story, Mickey and Goofy travel the small country of "Schnitzelstein" to catch a thief, but Mickey forgets that he isn't a well-known detective in Schnitzelstein, and cannot simply walk into a police office and demand their cooperation; he gets Goofy and himself wanted as criminals.
Casty's recent "The World To Come" finds Mickey and Eega Beeva engaged in intrigue with the country of Illusitania, which is shown on a map as being located near Medioka and Mazumia.
Another Disney example, Belgravia from Paperinik New Adventures.note There is a real Belgravia, a very upper-class district of London named after its centre-point, Belgrave Square.
TV 21, the comic which tied in to various Gerry Anderson shows, had the country of Bereznik which acted as a recurring source of antagonists. This country was apparently carved out at some point in the 21st century from various real life countries following The Great Politics Mess-Up.
In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic oneshot fanfiction, Adored the Changeling Kingdom is a straight-up allegory to Tsarist Russia. It is a mountainous, winter beset country, overwhelmingly populated by a large and extremely poor peasant population who are ruled over by an extremely rich, but incompetent and inept autocratic monarchy. Queen Chrysalis is essentially the Tsar; incompetent, having little grasp on the reality of her subjects' suffering, living in an extravagant palace.
The Beautician And The Beast has Slovetzia, a communist kingdom Ruritania, ruled by dictator Timothy Dalton. The Nanny introduces Eagleland values to him, like freedom and democracy, the whole country is stunned, adopt Eagleland osmosis and the dictator falls in love with her. The End.
The 1982 film adaptation of Evil Under the Sun is set on an island resort in the Adriatic kingdom of Tyrrania (apparently Albania). The source novel was set in Devon.
Boratnote Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan turns Kazakhstan into a Ruritania as a satire on how first-world citizens view foreign, third-world countries. The country is depicted as a cartoonish backwater, with cars drawn by donkeys and absurdly intolerant local customs. The scenes were actually filmed in a Romanian village. The people of the village didn't take it with much humor when they heard what the actual movie was about. The only real Kazakh in the movie appears in the village as Oksana. The Khazak language featured in the film is all other languages, depending on the speaker. Borat speaks mostly Hebrew with some Polish thrown in. Azamat speaks Armenian.
The Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup (1933) has Freedonia, land of the brave and free! In a clear cut case of Western Imperialism, the wealthy Mrs. Teasdale insists running dog Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) be appointed President in return for half her husband's fortune to avoid an impending liberation by neighboring Sylvania. (It's not clear whether this is the same Sylvania portrayed in the 1929 film The Love Parade, in which Maurice Chevalier plays a Rich Idiot with No Day Job who becomes prince consort to Sylvania's Queen Louise.)
The largely forgotten W.C. Fields classic Million Dollar Legs (1932) takes place in Klopstockia (chief exports: goats and nuts: chief imports: goats and nuts: chief inhabitants: goats and nuts). The country's out of money and the President's own cabinet are plotting against him. American salesman Migg Tweeney, who's fallen in love with the President's daughter, notices a lot of champion-level athletes among the general population. Since his boss plans to give huge financial grants to Olympic gold medal winners, Tweeney arranges to have Klopstockia entered in the 1932 Games. In the opening scene we see that Klopstockia is 56km from Haustpeff. Both this film and Duck Soup were produced for Paramount by Herman Manckiewicz.
In The Smiling Lieutenant, the lieutenant is forced to marry the daughter of the king of a tiny Germanic principality called Flausenthurm.
In Steven Spielberg's The Terminal, Victor Navorski comes from the fictional East European country of Krakozhia. Though the Krakozhian language is actually Bulgarian.
The 1940 film The Son of Monte Cristo takes place in the the Balkan kingdom of "Lichtenburg", where the good Princess Zona (Joan Bennett) suffers from the advances of the unscrupulous dictator, General Gurko Lanen (George Sanders). The eponymous hero (Lewis Hayward) leads the revolution in the guise of "The Torch."
Concordia in the Cold War comedy Romanoff and Juliet, a postage-stamp European nation that has been conquered and liberated so many times that its citizens "are nominally the freest people in the world", and every day is an Independence Day of some sort. (In the original stage version, the country is not named.) Fiercely determined to maintain neutral during the Cold War, the prime minister ended up playing matchmaker between the Russian ambassador's son and the American ambassador's daughter. Concordia is the ass of the UN; at the UN roll-call, all the nations are called in alphabetical order, with a note on the bottom of the page, "P.S. And Concordia." The country could be a parody of Tito's Yugoslavia.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - The Durmstrang students hailing from an unspecified Ruritania showed up for the Triwizard Tournament in a ship bearing the double-headed eagle of the Byzantine Empire. The name Durmstrang comes from Sturm und Drang ("Storm and Stress"), a German literary movement. The students are all young men in neat crewcuts and presented in a very disciplined and proud manner (like archetypal German students), wearing tsigeika coats and karakul hats (which are Slavic). Meanwhile, their headmaster Igor Karkaroff has a Russian-sounding surname, looks like Grigori Rasputin (who was Siberian), and behaves like a stereotypical Russian. At least some of the Durmstrang students have their nationality exactly specified (as Bulgarian).
Austin Powers features a nuclear warhead being stolen from the country "Kreplachistan." Kreplach is a Yiddish word for small dumplings, possibly indicating that Kreplachistan is a disguised Israel.
World Grand Prix competitor Rip Clutchgoneski from Cars 2 hails from the newly independent "Republic of New Rearendia".
The unnamed country in the 1978 UK-Canadian mockumentary drama Power Play. The whole plot starts with a coup that tries to overthrow the local People's Republic of Tyranny that ruled the country until then.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in the fictional Central European country of Zubrowka, the seat of an empire before a conflict (described by director Wes Anderson as a re-imagined amalgamation of WWI and WWII) with its "neighbor to the north" breaks out in late 1932. The Empire of Zubrowka quickly falls due to government and military incompetence, endures a short-lived but "imperious" occupation, becomes the Republic of Zubrowka, and is overtaken by a Communist regime in the 1940's. By the modern day, "the former Republic of Zubrowka" is a quiet Alpine backwater. Zubrowka itself was designed as a representation of Austria, with Lutz, its capital city, intended to be Vienna, Prague, and Budapest "all rolled into one".
Civilization is a 1916 anti-war film set in the nation of Wredpryd, which is obviously (spiked helmets, upturned mustaches, submarine warfare), supposed to be Germany.
Both the 1925 version and the 1934 version of The Merry Widow are set in fictional tiny Eastern European principalities, Monteblanco in 1925 and Marshovia in 1934, countries tiny enough that one widow taking her fortune abroad is Serious Business. See Theatre below for the original opera.
Graustark from the novels of George Barr McCutcheon.
The Duchy of Grand Fenwick, a tiny European country about the size of a small town, in the Mouse books by Leonard Wibberley. It defeats the United States in a war in The Mouse That Roared (which it intended to lose); beats the U.S. and Soviet Union in a space race in The Mouse on the Moon; and disrupts the world's finances in The Mouse on Wall Street. In a medieval prequel, Beware of the Mouse, he gives more background on the founding of Grand Fenwick. Here Grand Fenwick is located between France and Switzerland, and the population is English.
Harry Potter - The Durmstrang Institute of Magic possibly exists in a Ruritania with Eastern European and Germanic overtones. It's never stated exactly where it's located. Some students explicitly hail from Bulgaria or Russia, while former student Gellert Grindelwald has a Hungarian first name and German surname. The name "Durmstrang" is a fairly obvious play on the German phrase "Sturm und Drang."
Genovia in The Princess Diaries book series is a fictitious European Principality, however it is more Mediterranean than Easten European. It's a teeny place (1 mile long, with a population of 50,000) which is supposed to be between France and Italy (reminiscent of Monaco, or, maybe, Seborga) or between France and Spain (like Andorra) in the movies where it's a Kingdom. It's pretty nice, if a bit dull.
1938 novel Biggles Goes To War features two Ruritanias: small, peace-loving Maltovia and bullying larger neighbour Lovitznia. Although a thinly-disguised allegory for the German takeover of Austria, in the novel it is the Maltovians who appear more German and the Lovitznians who have more of the Slav about them. It is left to the reader to decide whether Capt. Johns was inverting the stereotype or subtly pushing a message about the Red Menace...
Mixolydia is a Slavic Ruritania invented by Angela Thirkell for her Barsetshire novels. In the novel "Cheerfulness Breaks In," set in the opening year of World War Two, Barsetshire has to accomodate a number of refugees from Mixolydia, all of whom are various foreigner tropes. We learn that the local religion is Orthodoxy, and they have a long list of hereditary enemies among real-world nations. The name is a word-play on the mixolydian mode or scale in music.
It's awkward but impressive rush to catch up technologically with peoples around while destroying it's own culture make Barrayar sound rather like ninteenth century Imperial Japan as well.
The plot of the Agatha Christie novel The Secret of Chimneys is about the murder of the prince of the Balkanic state of "Herzoslovakia", and the identity of the next in line for the throne. Many plot elements are (probably deliberately) reminiscent of The Prisoner of Zenda.
Ursula K. Le Guin's Orsinian Tales - The fictional Central European nation Orsinia fits this trope perfectly, covering several centuries of imagined history.
"The Loyal Traitor", in G. K. Chesterton's 1930 book Four Faultless Felons, takes place in the mythical Teutonic kingdom of Pavonia (<L., pavo, peacock).
James Hogan's Voyage From Yesteryear has Baluchistan, a tangentially-mentioned (and surprisingly extant, though only as a region in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, and not a state) battleground for the US and USSR.
Agaton Sax - This detective drama spoof featured the Balkan (and appearenly Communist) republics Brosnia and Mercegovina. The eponymous detective starts his career by stopping counterfeiters from wrecking the Brosnian economy. Brosnian criminal mastermind professor Anaxagoras Frank is a regular bad guy, and the author, who loved to play with language, gives us several examples of "Brosnian".
Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies just went ahead and named its version "Ruritania". The ex-king is a minor character who appears at a party and misses his old pen, which had an eagle on it.
Many Michael Moorcock works feature the fictional Central European city-state of Mirenberg to a greater or lesser extent, although it's quite a lot more culturally and artistically sophisticated than the usual Ruritania.
Robert Musil's "Kakania" (from the term "K.u.K.") wasn't so much based on the Habsburg Empire. Rather, it pretty much was Austria-Hungary. He proceeds to describe how strange, unappreciated and unflattering it was. In the end however, he realizes that Kakania/Habsburgia had an underlying order that betrayed a stroke of genius.
The Duchy of Strackenz in Royal Flash (Vol 2 of The Flashman Papers). This is something of a mobius example because, in-story, Anthony Hope based The Prisoner of Zenda on Flashman's account of his exploits in Strackenz.
Andre Norton's first novel, The Prince Commands, took place in "Morvania" in the early 1930s. The Air Force consisted of one barely-flyable plane, and horse cavalry was still a viable force because machine guns were rare and armored cars or tanks not available. The conspirators against the throne included a Communist agitator; the old king had been a brutal tyrant; and the rightful new king, after dodging an assassination attempt, was Faking the Deadand pretending to be a bandit chieftain, rebel, and werewolf. Despite its small size, the place was apparently strategic enough that the main character, newly designated as Crown Prince, had to make state appearances in Paris, London, and Berlin on his way to Morvania (he'd grown up in the U.S., and ignorant of his heritage, too).
Bram Stoker's The Lady in the Shroud features the Land of the Blue Mountains, a very, very thinly-veiled Mary Suetopia version of Montenegro.
Sheri S. Tepper created the Ruritania of Alphenlicht ("elf light"?) for her Marianne trilogy (Marianne, the Magus and the Manticore, Marianne, the Madame and the Momentary Gods and Marianne, the Matchbox and the Malachite Mouse). Alphenlicht is a micronation tucked away somewhere where Iran, Turkey, and the Soviet Union get their borders muddled up in the mountains. It is ruled by a hereditary theocracy of Magi (Zoroastrian priests and the original magicians), and hasthe neighboring micronation of Lubovosk as its dire enemy. Lubovosk used to be part of Alphenlicht but was seized by the USSR and made into a puppet state. It, too, is headed by a Magocracy, an evil branch of the same family.
Subversive Activity is set in 1875 in Maldona, which occupies a small peninsula east of Greece and west of Turkey.
A College Of Magics and When The King Comes Home feature a cluster of small countries that were each a duchy in the old-time Kingdom of Lidia before it fell apart. Most of them (including Galazon, the heroine's homeland in A College of Magics) are still duchies, but Aravill promoted itself to a kingdom (and is considered jumped-up by its neighbours).
The American government textbook American Government by Wilson and Di Iulio contains a hypothetical scenario in which you are asked how you, as a journalist, would deal with inside information about terrorists from Ruritania.
The fictitious travel guide Molvanîa: a Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry is about one of these. Molvanîa itself is probably better known on the Internet as the home country of pop singer Zladko Vladcik (played by the book's co-writer Santo Cilauro) of 'Elektronik Supersonik' fame.
Gerolstein in the Prince Rodolphe tales by Eugene Sue.
The Former Soviet Autonomous Region of Krassnia in The Restoration Game by Ken Mac Leod. The book is mostly set in the present, in which Krassnia is a bit of the Georgia/Chechnya border with its own language and dreams of independence, but has extensive Flashbacks to Krassnia under the Soviets in The Thirties and The Eighties and as part of the Russian Empire in The Edwardian Era. The name is a Shout-Out to an allegory by J.B.S. Haldane, in which the Republic of Krassnia has "materialism" as a state religion, and this very much informs the character of MacLeod's Krassnia.
Avram Davidson's stories of Dr. Eszterhazy are set in the Empire of Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania, the "Fourth largest empire in Europe." It's pre-WWI Austria-Hungary turned up to 11, and a recurring theme in the stories is that any change will likely plunge the whole place into bloody chaos.
Mission: Impossible sent the main characters into various incarnations of Soviet Ruritania on a regular basis. The producers made up a fake Ruritanian "language" (called Gellerese after the show's executive producer) to use on signs; the idea was that it look somewhat Slavic, but similar enough to English that the viewing audience could immediately guess what it meant - and thus such subtle jokes as "zona restrik", "machinawerke", "gäz" and "entraat verbaten" got into an otherwise serious show.
Surprisingly, the utility covers for gas pipelines in Real Life Poland really are labeled "gäz".
The Monk episode "Mr. Monk Falls in Love" involved the country of Zemenia.
Perfect Strangers, of course, has the Mediterranean island nation of Mypos, a takeoff on Greece/Cyprus with elements of Turkey, Armenia and Lebanon as seen by a tourist. Certain aspects of Mypos culture seem to be borrowed from George Papashvily's famous book Anything Can Happen, about his early days in the U.S. as a Georgian immigrant. In fact, one episode was a retelling of Papashvily's epic tale of how he attempted to go into business with some friends, making and selling khinkali dumplings to restaurants.
Often invoked during the Improbable Mission segments of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Colin and Ryan inevitably end up doing a task for the president or prime minster of a country with a name like Allupania or Garfunkistan.
Malcolm in the Middle has Lois's mother hailing from an unspecified Ruritania, full of wacky traditions including intricate sword dancing for the ladies and extreme contests of strength and mind for the men looking to obtain a wife. Not to mention said mother's ability to intimidate Lois just by speaking her native language.
There were some hints at the Ruritania being located in Eastern Europe, and one episode (relating to a St. Grotus day) also strongly implies that said country was actually Croatia (as it took place at a Croatian community center, had a Croatian flag, and it even had poster of Zagreb Cathedral).
Of course, nothing they say or do has any resemblance to the actual country: history, customs or language.
Get Smart had several episodes featuring the Balkan nation of Coronia, which was so much a Ruritania that the episodes it appeared in were a retelling of The Prisoner of Zenda.
NCIS has a country called Belgravia. (See the comics section for derivation.) In one episode the team has to protect the daughter of the Belgravian ambassador.
JAG: In “Washington Holiday” Harm is assigned as naval escort to the daughter of the King of Romania while in DC. While Romania is a real country it has not restored its former monarchy in real-life.
Spoofed in Castle : A murdered spy was supposed to assassinate someone from a country called the Republic of Lovania, but quick Internet search reveals that no such country exists.
Latka Gravas in Taxi is from an unidentified Ruritania. The national dress seen in episodes like "The Wedding of Latka and Simca" places the homeland somewhere in central Europe.
The Monkees episode "Royal Flush" has Davy rescuing the princess of Harmonica from drowning, only to find her uncle, Archduke Otto, is trying to assassinate her before she becomes queen. The trope is played with when he spells the name of the country on the phone, there's a pause and he exclaims "There is so!"
Also, in “The Card Carrying Red Shoes,” a ballerina from the country Druvania falls in love with Peter (or, his “face”).
And in “The Prince and the Paupers,” Davy switches places with his doppelganger, the prince of Peruvia.
And again in "Everywhere a Sheik Sheik," Davy is set to marry the Princess Colette of the fictional middle-eastern nation Nahudi.
In That '70s Show Fes' home country is never identified. Teasers are given that he's anything from Central American to Eastern European. There are multiple times he refers to it as "whatever the hell country I am from."
One episode of the Danish political drama Borgen centres around the visit of the president of Turgisia, a former Soviet republic with a dubious human rights record.
The long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives had an often villainous family, the Alamains, who were royalty from a small European country named Alamania. In an aversion, it's actually implied to be somewhere around France, Germany, and/or Switzerland (and Alemannia is a Real Life alternate name of Germany), but the country is often depicted as so impoverished, autocratic, and corrupt that it might as well be a former Soviet Bloc country.
Family Tree: Luba comes from Moldavia, which is treated as Ruritania. She frequently discusses bizarre beliefs and customs from her home country.
The aforementioned Zladko "Zlad!" Vladcik, who claims to hail from Molvanîa. His songs "Elektronik Supersonik" and "I Am the Anti-Pope" were, In-Universe, Molvanîa's submissions to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
Dilbert has the imaginary Third World country of Elbonia, which according to Word Of God, it represents the American view of any country without cable TV: they wear fur hats and wallow around in waist-deep mud. They're also an entire nation of idiots, who have animals in their government and fight wars over handedness (as in, left vs. right).
There is also the occasional mention of the neighboring country of North Elbonia, which is just like Elbonia but with an even worse government which is downright evil instead of merely stupid.
Bob & Ray - the "funnies in the news" announcer Peter Gorey (Bob, using a Lorre accent: "Een other news, only vun man vas keeled attempting suicide today...") hailed from Lower Schizophrenia.
Space:1889 places an actual Ruritania in the Balkans, in Conklin's Atlas of the Worlds.
In the popular card game Contraband, the most valuable card that players must smuggle past the "Customs Officer" is labelled as the Ruritanian Crown Jewels.
Andorra in Max Frisch's eponymous Andorra. Explicitly stated not to be related to the real-life microstate of Andorra in any way. Then there is also its unnamed, bigger Fascist neighbour, which seems to be closely inspired by Nazi Germany.
The Irving Berlin musical Call Me Madam has the duchy of Lichtenburg — a portmanteau of Liechtenstein and Luxembourg: "too small to be a city, too big to be a town." Its main export is cheese.
Marsovia in The Merry Widow (originally Pontevedro before the operetta was translated into English). By the way, it's a thinly disguised Montenegro.
In Ivor Novello's King's Rhapsody, most of the action takes place in the kingdom of Murania.
Young Frankenstein says outright, in the song "Transylvania Mania," "Whether you're in Ruritania, or a dance hall in Albania."
Half-Life 2 is set in what appears to have been at one time a former Soviet state. No word has been given on the place's true location, and judging by the accents of all the NPCs you meet there, none of them are from there (seeing that many of them were forcibly relocated.) The only true native seems to be Father Grigori.
Strangely though, the gas pumps around City 17 are labeled in Swedish.
City 17, while not acknowledged to be anywhere specific within the game, is modeled after Sofia, capitol of Bulgaria and the Art Director's home town. The plaza in particular is almost identical (besides the Combine locks, checkpoints, cameras, and sense of Orwellian tyranny, of course).
Before the invasion, City 17 was known as Биркутград, or Birkutgrad when translated into English.
The car wrecks are distinctively eastern block, like the trabant.
In the Ace Combat series, the nation of "Belka" is the bad guy country and starts the Belkan War. Half the countries in Ace Combat follow this pattern — Yuktobania, Usea, Estovakia, etc.
Chrome Hounds's fictional nation, The Republic of Morskoj. Its history labels it as a former Soviet satellite that gained its independence when the Soviet Union collapsed, though they remain strong allies with Russia. Of course, they live in the coldest region of the fictional continent the game is set in. Olyena Guba seems to be the remnants of Ruritania past. And it is normally a Morskoj territory.
Infocom's Border Zone is set in the fictional Soviet satellite state of Frobnia, complete with gruff officials demanding papers, run-down Soviet-era block apartments, international Cold War espionage plots, and a faux-Slavic language.
The satirical PC shooter Heavy Weapon revels in this trope, set in an alternate 1984 where the "Red Star" has declared war on the rest of the world, and the player rolls the title vehicle through nineteen faux-Soviet countries.
Act 3 of Metal Gear Solid 4 simply takes place in "Eastern Europe". Although the specific country you're in is never named, it is certainly Prague within the Czech Republic. Notably, though, it's not portrayed as rural at all; the entire mission takes place in a reasonably modern city.
Metal Gear - Outer Heaven, although various supplementary materials state that it is located within the Republic of South Africa. The Galzburg region of the Republic of South Africa, however, does qualify as a ruritania.
The Malden Islands and the Independent Republic of Nogova Island from Operation Flashpoint. Bonus points for them being ex-Commie Lands that recently liberated themselves from Soviet clutches (but had to fight for their own independence once again during the storylines of the game's campaigns).
Operation Flashpoint's Spiritual Successors, ARMA: Armed Assault and ARMA II. The Kingdom of Sahrani Island from the first ARMA game played this trope fairly straight, being a stereotypical Mediterranean-esque monarchy. It's adversary is the aforementioned People's Republic of Tyranny in the northern half of the island, which broke away from the kingdom a few years ago. If you succeed in beating the main campaign, you can defeat the Democratic Republic of Sahrani and help restore the original united kingdom. Also, the conflict in Takistan seen in ARMA II: Operation Arrowhead has any resemblance to the First Gulf War for how it started, the Second Gulf War for what happened to the country, or to Afghanistan for how the local people behave.
Arstotzka of Papers, Please is a Soviet-era Ruritania set among a cluster of other Ruritanias. It has all the features of a Soviet Bloc country of the era, including bureaucracy, constant rule changes, and rampant corruption — but given the constant flood of people trying to sneak in, it's entirely possible the surrounding nations are even worse.
In the Strong Bad Email "secret recipes", Strong Bad claims his family is from "Bumdumbourge". "It's near, uh, Totalslava."
Doug: The country of Yakistonia, home of Fentruck Stimmel.
Rolf of Ed, Edd n Eddy seems to come from one of these, though we never learn what "the Old World" is actually called. We do learn of its wacky customs in one episode, however, which include Folk Songs rife with violence between the singers ("That's my horse!" *SLAP*), "bartering poles", upon which the seller and consumer must balance by their abdomens while conducting business with produce and livestock, and idiots falling into holes being sufficient grounds for a celebration.
Rocky and Bullwinkle had Boris and Natasha's home country of Pottsylvania, an imaginary Soviet satellite where literally everyone is a spy.
There was also an arc featuring a country that was actually called Ruritania.
Thembria from TaleSpin was a mock version of the Soviet Union (which was still around at the time), with its hostile sub-arctic climate, babushka-clad peasantry, an inept centralized government that still insisted it was "glorious" and a moribund economy that resulted in constant shortages of everything. The last of which happened so often that a Running Gag was the Thembrian Air Force never had any actual bullets for shooting down enemy aircraft and would ineffectively wail away with whatever they did have, including bathtubs and lunch meat.
It gets worse; they even ban imagination, because imaginative people do not conform.
The Venture Bros. had an episode featuring the country run by the villain Baron Underbheit. It resembled the generic Eastern Europe country in every way... castles, forests, doomy dooms of gloom... but it is learned in the last few seconds of the episode that it somehow borders Michigan. Baron Underbheit is an expy of Doctor Doom. (As lampshaded by the Monarch)
Short version: Not entirely unjustified thanks to Central and Eastern Europe having a long history of conquering and being conquered, resulting in some odd mixing of ethnic groups, religious affiliations and language families, often within a single empire.
Poldavia (Poldévie) was a fictional country, invented by a French journalist who was a member of a far-right organization in 1929. Its supposed representatives wrote letters to French Senators to ask them to intervene in a Civil War supposed to take place in their country. The prank mainly targeted radical-leftist and anticlerical Senators.
The politician Marcel Déat in an editorial printed on May 4, 1939, wrote that Danzig was not worth fighting a war over and that French farmers had no desire to die for the Poldavians ("mourir pour les Poldèves"). Déat went on to become a prominent fascist politician in Vichy and occupied France.
Sometimes real world politicians are asked about situations in fictional countries as part of a Gotcha test. One example referenced "Freedonia" which at least one Congressman did recognize. Others did not.
In fact, the history of many real-life east-european provinces can explain the mishmash of unrelated cultural elements (German, Slavic, Turkic, Greek, etc.) usualy found in the description of fictional Ruritania. For instance, the real-life province of Bukovina has successively belonged to Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austria, Romania, the USSR and is at the present time cut in half between the Ukraine and Romania.
More specifically the odd empires that formed and encompassed multiple ethnic groups with Austria-Hungary being the most notable example as it included Germans, Hungarians, Slavs, and Romanians.
Then you had the Ottomans that managed to control Turks along with Greeks, Albanians and most of the Southern Slavic Groups.
The Russian Empire is assumed to have been mostly Slavic, but also ended up with regions that were Turkic, Mongol, Korean, Baltic (frequently mistaken for Slavic), Romanian, and even Finnish. Most of it would carry over into the USSR, some parts more willingly than others.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had several varieties of Slavs (Poles, Ukrainians, Belorussians, etc.) Balts (modern day Lithuanians and Latvians), Prussian Germans, a good chunk of Europe's Jews and the odd smattering of Hungarians, Czechs, and Slovaks in those border nations. It's one of many reasons it was seen as a rather progressive empire in its heyday in spite of the unique mess of ethnic identity.
A real life counterpart of Ruritania could be some of the East European unrecognized nations such as Transnistria (officially part of Moldova) or Abkazhia (officially part of Georgia): They have their own governement, money and so on. Still, they don't appear on any official diplomatic map. Or also territories that claim nation status at some point or another (and thus, become the center of the world's attention when civil wars break there). Some have since become independent (eg. Kosovo), others failed to do so (eg. Chechnya).
In relation to the above examples, remember that the Germans used to have quite a Diaspora before Bismarck's grand project for a unified German state in the 1860s, and "Germany" used to be a geographical term that described that lands belonging to the German countries of Prussia, Austria, and the Holy Roman Empire. Many German minorities existed in large parts of Eastern Europe, such as Transylvania, Prussia itself before it was disbanded, and the Sudetenland. These areas easily resemble Ruritanias with their German/Slavic ethnic groups and the tension between them.
Ernest Gellner's history book Nations and Nationalisms explains the origin of nationalism through the hypothetical example of a place called Ruritania (probably based on the Czechs, Serbs, and/or Slovaks), a culturally-distinct province in the equally-hypothetical empire of Megalomania (which is probably meant to be the Austro-Hungarian Empire). Gellner then describes how Ruritania might become an independent nation-state by inventing a national tradition based on various folk cultures (which is what most of them did), or might try to assimilate into mainstream Megalomania. We should note that Gellner was a German-speaking Czech Jew from Prague, and was in a position to certainly know about the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its ethnic makeup.
Surprisingly, the Habsburg/Austro-Hungarian Empire in real life was a subversion of this trope, partly because many Europeans didn't bother looking into the state that much. Among other things, it was also home to the second oldest subway on the Continent (in Budapest) and one of the most comprehensive education systems there as well.
Bosnia around WWI, however, fitted the trope and the page picture to the T. In the middle of the Balkans? Check. Part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Check. A mish-mash of dozens of ethnicities, religions and cultures? Check. Mostly Slavic with a heavy dose of Ottoman and Germanic influences? Yep. A long and bloody history to account for all that diversity? Double check.
It might be well to note some people do take offense. Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination, by author Vesna Goldsworthy, is one attempt to prove how the perceived Ruritania is essentially an offensive "Balkan-sploitation": the various Central and Eastern European peoples are turned into a silly Flanderization, an exotic setting full of funny and silly ethnic stereotypes, where all the many problems are exclusively their own fault, and which contrasts with self-perceived "civilization" and "high culture" of the Western audience.
in Readers Digest they indicated "Translyvania" has elements of this.