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  • Exclaves! June 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    A strange post today – just for a change… Beach has recently been troubled by the Kaliningrad Oblast, a peculiar bit of Russian territory that stands several hundred kilometres to the west of the Russian frontiers. Now an exclave of Russian life on the borders of Poland and Lithuania, Kalingrad would be just the kind of place that Beach would visit had he several thousand roubles to burn. But he doesn’t and so he started thinking about other exclaves around the world instead.

    For Beach’s purposes an exclave is a bit of territory belonging to one country that is detached from said country. Beach does not include here islands so Puerto Rico is out, for example. Nor does he include territories far from the mother or father-land. Gibraltar, the British part of Spain, is not an exclave by this definition.

    So other instances? Well, Beach is trying to run up a list: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com But for now Point Roberts in Canada is US territory with no attachment to the US and makes the grade as does Alaska: both, of course, have land connections only with Canada, the nicest of possible neighbours. (It is surely no accident that Canada and Switzerland both appear in this list: they are probably two of the very few countries in the world that would allow these administrative peculiarities to survive over generations).

    Another exclave in Africa this time would be the three Spanish possessions Ceuta and Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, territories surrounded by Morocco and the Med: the ultimate answer to Spanish claims that Britain give Gibraltar ‘back’.

    Staying with Spain there is the small town of Llívia that is a Spanish town (or perhaps better a Catalan town) surrounded by French territory.

    Let’s remain with European settlements, where these sorts of screwed up borders usually lead back to medieval anomalies or eighteenth-century treaties. Take, for example, Campione d’Italia an Italian town surrounded by Swiss territory.

    Likewise there is Büsingen am Hochrhein a German village in Swiss territory. Allegedly both the German and Swiss police answer 9111calls there though the Swiss police arrive more quickly: sounds suspiciously like a morality tale and Beach’s source for this was in French…

    Beach once had a student, Carlos, from Kabinda (aka Cabinda), Angolan territory outside of Angola. It borders the Democratic Republic of Congo and there have long been grumblings about self determination there. The single greatest political act in this proto-nation’s history was the shooting up of a football bus from Togo (sigh).

    Moving to the Pacific Oekusi-Ambenu is a district of East Timor in West Timor: there is something quite Leerish about some of those marvellous places.

    Then what about, in Asia? The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, a part of Azerbaijan is sandwiched between Armenian and Iran: gulp… In central Asia there are lots, of course, of de facto ethnic exclaves over which much blood has been spilt. Beach’s sad memories here of conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s: a man with a shotgun walks down the road to avenge his son…

    Long live the exclaves! Screw symmetry!!


    9 June 2012: Radko, an old friend of this blog is first up: I hate to do this to you but Kaliningrad area is very much like Gibraltar is British a Russian territory. I don’t see where would you draw the line in terms of distance. Why is several hundred kilometers distance a qualifier for exclave but couple thousand isn’t? Kaliningrad, or Konigsberg as it was known prior 1945, was founded by Premysl Otakar II from the Premyslid dynasty and the town remained capital of Prussia until after WW2.’ Beach has a defences here, not entirely convincing though. Gibraltar is not treated as heartland territory by the British, whereas Kaliningrad is. Perhaps in truth Beach is put off including Gibraltar and other imperial possessions of France and the UK because they are overseas? Chris writes in with this comment: Do you count all the French départements et territoires d’outre-mer? Beachcombing, wouldn’t, see comments about Gibraltar (above). But Radko’s criticism stings him. Maybe these need to be taken into account too?   The great Mike Dash writes in on an Arabian enclave. My favourite example, I think, is Nahwa. This is an enclave of the Sharjah, which is of course one of the United Arab Emirates, inside the Omani enclave of Madha. What makes it interesting is that Madha is itself an enclave inside the UAE. Nahwa is not a very exciting place, otherwise, and consists of one village. I gather the proper name for these rather rare arrangements (there are a couple more along the Dutch-Belgian and Indian-Bangladeshi borders) is “counter-enclave.”

    Olaf gives us some more exclave opinions: ‘I just read your entry on exclaves, a subject that also fascinates me greatly, probably because my family originally hails from Kaliningrad Oblast, albeit from a time it was still part of East Prussia, itself an exclave of Germany at the time! But the reason I’m writing is to mention that no list of Exclaves is complete without the Indian-Bangladeshi border region at Cooch-Behar, aka. “The Mother of all Exclaves”, featuring, according to Wikipedia, 102 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh and 71 Bangladeshi ones inside India, plus 32 conter-exclaves (exclaves within exclaves) and the lovely Dahala Khagrabari, an Indian exclave within a Bangladeshi exclave within an Indian exclave within Bangladesh, the world’s one and only counter-counter-exclave. This blog post (in Spanish) features a photo of said counter-counter-exclave in it’s entirety, plus maps of the region:  It would appear that India and Bangladesh have signed a treaty in 2011 agreeing to exchange many of the exclaves and higher-order-exclaves, including Dahala Khagrabari. Now while it surely is to the advantage of the people living in these territories, I feel an exception should be made for this unique patch of swamp, since no country would lose much by not having it. Indeed I think a case could be made that it should become a world heritage site. It surely would attract a healthy tourist trade from folks who love quirky little thing like this.’ Stephen D visits Holland/Belgium and Pakistan/Bangladesh: ‘For the ultimate in Euroexclaves and enclaves use Google Maps for a look at the Netherlands/Belgium border, or more accurately borders (about 30) between Hoogstraten and Weelde, with particular attention to the jigsaw around Baarle-Nassau and baarle-hertog. Query: in Big Mistake I, that part of Belgium was German-occupied, the Netherlands were neutral. However did they manage? And for the ultimate in world exclaves…

    Query, is there a simple term  for an exclave within an exclave within an exclave?’ KMH rounds off with this thought (watch out Canada and Switzerland): I like your sentiment for enclaves, but I believe they have an unfortunate history of ultimately being lost to the mother country. No examples at this time, but you might come up with instances of the opposite situation, where the foreign land or water becomes property of the mother country, thus physically uniting the enclave with its parent. Thanks to all!

    27 Sep 2014: NH with two brilliant exclaves, Belgium/Holland and particularly love Turkey in Syria