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In human geography, an enclave is a piece of land which is totally enclosed within a foreign territory. If another country has sovereignty over it, it may also be called an exclave if:

C is A's enclave and B's exclave.
C is A's enclave and B's exclave.
  • it is an enclave of the foreign territory which surrounds it
  • it is an exclave of the country which has sovereignty over it

Exclaves may also exist on a subnational level when a subdivision exists outside of its parent division. (See the section subnational enclaves)

The word 'enclave' crept into the jargon of diplomacy rather late in English, in 1868, coming from French, the lingua franca of diplomacy, with a sense inherited from late Latin inclavatus meaning 'shut in, locked up" (with a key, late Latin clavis). The 'exclave' is a logical extension created three decades later.

Enclaves may be created for a variety of historical, political or geographical reasons. Some areas have been left as enclaves simply due to changes in the course of a river.

Since living in an enclave can be very inconvenient and many agreements have to be found by both countries over mail addresses, power supply or passage rights, enclaves tend to be eliminated and many cases that existed before have now been solved.

In English ecclesiastic history subnational enclaves were known as peculiars. See also Royal Peculiar.


Enclaved countries

Lesotho (shown in green) is completely surrounded by South Africa.
Lesotho (shown in green) is completely surrounded by South Africa.

Some enclaves are countries in their own rights, completely surrounded by another one, and therefore not exclaves. Three such sovereign countries exist:

Coastal countries

Some countries may be enclaved inside another one, except for a small coastal section which allows them to have access to open waters. However, this access is more of a corridor.

Although Canada and the Republic of Ireland, for example, border just one other country, they have enough access to international waters not to be considered near-enclaves.

Coastal fragments

Some territories cannot be reached from the country they belong to except by international waters. These are considered detached fragments of their motherland rather than enclaves, since they do not meet the criterion of being enclosed on all sides by foreign territory. Some examples:

Many countries have coastal fragments that can't be directly accessed from the main land except by boat or aeroplane. An extreme example of this is Alaska, detached from the Lower 48 of the United States of America by Canada, but at least two other tiny parts of the USA can't be reached by foot except by entering Canada: Point Roberts in north-western Washington, and the Northwest Angle, a peninsula bordering Lake of the Woods in Minnesota. The far south coast of Croatia, part of the Dubrovnik-Neretva county, is separated from its mainland by a tiny corridor in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

See also: List of international enclaves, and the list in the Exclave article.

True enclaves

Here, we consider those territories where a country is sovereign, but cannot be reached without entering another country. The best-known example was West Berlin, prior to the re-unification of Germany, which was de facto a West German exclave within East Germany, and thus an East German enclave (many small West Berlin land areas were in turn separated from the main one, some by only a few meters). De jure all of Berlin was ruled by the four Allied powers; this meant that West Berlin could not send voting members into the German Parliament, and that its citizens were exempt from conscription.

From the numerous enclaves that used to exist in Europe, only the following ones now remain:

  • The town of Baarle in southern Netherlands is made up of the municipality of Baarle-Hertog, a group of 22 Belgian enclaves within the Netherlands; and of the Dutch municipality of Baarle-Nassau, which itself has 3 enclaves in Belgian soil and a small one inside one the Belgian enclaves.
  • Büsingen, Germany is an exclave in the canton of Schaffhausen, northern Switzerland. Germany also has a group of 5 enclaves created by a railway track between the towns of Rötgen and Monschau (south of Aachen) that was granted Belgian sovereignty.
  • The town of Campione, in Italy, is enclaved in the canton of Ticino, Switzerland, although in practice it is administered as part of Switzerland. It is part of Swiss customs, uses the Swiss Franc, and its inhabitants don't have to pay any income tax to Italy, but it is under Italian sovereignty.
  • The Spanish town of Llivia, an exclave in southern France, a few kilometers east of the Principalty of Andorra.
  • In the eastern part of Belarus, the Russian exclave of San'kovo-Medvezh'e is made up of two villages.
  • The highway which crosses the town of Palanca in eastern Moldova has recently been exchanged to Ukraine for an area of the same size, creating an enclave.
  • The villages of Ormidhia and Xylotimbou in Cyprus, surrounded by the British Sovereign Base Area of Dhekelia. Inside this base, the Dhekalia Power Station also belongs to Cyprus although it's surrounded by British land and is even divided in two by a British road.
  • In Armenia, there exist three exclaves of Azerbaijan. Two of them are villages in north-eastern Armenia. The other one is located north of the region of Nakhchivan (which is a detached fragment of Azerbaijan stuck between Armenia, Iran and Turkey).
  • Reciprocally, there exists one Armenian exclave, a village in north-western Azerbaijan.

Outside Europe, enclaves are to be found in Asia :

  • Madha is an Omani territory enclaved in the United Arab Emirates which in turn hosts the tiny territory of Nahwa, an UAE enclave within Madha.
  • In the Indian district of Cooch-Behar , there are 92 exclaves of Bangladesh. Similarly, there are 106 exclaves of India inside Bangladesh. 21 of the Bangladeshi exclaves are embodied in Indian exclaves. 3 of the Indian exclaves are embodied in Bangladeshi exclaves. The largest Indian exclave, Balapara Khagrabari , embodies one Bangladeshi exclave, Upanchowki Bhajni , which itself embodies an Indian exclave called Dahala Khagrabari .
  • The Fergana Valley, a region where Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan meet, has a large number of enclaves. Barak, a small Kyrgyz village is surrounded by Uzbekistan. The Tajik village of Sarvan is in Uzbek territory and the Tajik village of Vorukh and a small piece of land near Kairagach are embodied in Kyrgyz land. The Uzbek towns of Sokh and Shakhimardan and the two tiny Uzbek territories of Qalacha and Khalmion , north of Sokh are all surrounded by Kyrgyz territory.

Two set of islands, surrounded by the territorial waters of another country, can be found elsewhere :

The life in such areas varies a lot from one enclave to another. Whereas in modern times European enclaves are usually legally well-defined and their population is often free to move from one country to another, Asian enclaves often result from disagreement over border treaties. This causes their inhabitants to be at worst enclosed inside, at best seriously impaired in their usual life.

Practical enclaves

Some territories, while not geographically detached from their motherland, are more easily reached by entering a foreign country, because of their location in a hilly area, or because the only road available enters that foreign place before coming back to the mother country. Those territories may be called "practical enclaves" and can be found along many borders, particularly those that are not heavily defended. Here are some examples:

  • The Austrian municipality of Jungholz is surrounded by German territory virtually everywhere, except at one point: the top of a mountain.
  • The Kleines Walsertal , a valley part of Vorarlberg, Austria, can be reached by road from Oberstdorf , Bavaria, only.
  • The Swiss village of Samnaun could initially only be reached by road from Austria. Thus in 1892 the village was excluded from the Swiss customs territory. The exemption was maintained even when in 1907-1912 a road was built to the Engadine valley.
  • For similar reasons the Italian Livigno valley near the Swiss border is excluded from EU VAT area.
  • Some villages in eastern Estonia can only be reached by a road which ventures inside Russian territory. One can drive on the road without any visa, but it is forbidden to stop before coming back to Estonia.

Subnational enclaves

Sometimes, administrative divisions of a country, due to historical or practical reasons, caused some areas to belong to a division while being attached to another one. There are countless examples; here are some:

Ethnic enclaves

Ethnic enclaves are communities of an ethnic group inside an area where another ethnic group predominates. Jewish ghettos and shtetls, barrios and Chinatowns are examples. These areas may have a separate language, culture and economic system. There is also a Hungarian ethnic enclave in Transylvania in Romania. Historically, there also was a Jewish settlement within Kaifeng, China with outside reports dating back to the 12th century. However, after World War II, the culture was determined to be almost entirely assimilated. Native American reservations in the United States enjoy limited national sovereignty, and are generally located completely within the confines of a U.S. state.

See also

External links

  • Enclaves of the world
  • Jan S. Krogh's Geosite

Last updated: 02-07-2005 02:18:17
Last updated: 02-11-2005 17:47:38