In political geography, the term enclave refers to a territory that is completely surrounded by a foreign country but is part of another detached country. Büsingen, for example, is a small piece of Germany surrounded by Switzerland near their border near Schaffhausen.
The term exclave refers to a territory that belongs to another country but is not connected to it by land and is surrounded by another country or countries. Nakhichevan, for example, is a large territory that is separated from Azerbaijan by Armenia and Iran.
The meanings seem similar but an exclave is not necessarily an enclave. Büsingen, for example, is an exclave of Germany and an enclave within Switzerland. But Nakhichevan, on the other hand, is surrounded by two Armenia and Iran. It is therefore an exclave of Azerbaijan but is not an enclave of any one country.
C is A's exclave, and B's enclave
C is A's exclave, but is not an enclave of B or D
The word enclave comes from the Latin word inclavatus meaning 'shut in’ or ‘locked up’ and has been used in a general sense for many centuries. It seems, however, to only have appeared in the jargon of diplomacy during 1868. The term exclave is a comparatively modern word that complements its alternative aspect of enclaves.
Enclaves may be created for a variety of historical, political or geographical reasons:
The definition of enclave used above most accurately refers to what are termed “true enclaves” where an outlying territory is completely surrounded by land of another state. There are more than 260 true enclaves in the world today.
In popular parlance, however, the term enclave is often used more loosely to describe any small piece of land surrounded in whole or in part by another country. In this way many small territories have been described as enclaves. These include Gibraltar, Ceuta, Hong Kong, Macao and Kaliningrad.
There are, of course, many different combinations of border and land configurations around the world that may prompt the use of the word. The following diagram helps to identify examples of most types.
Examples of Enclaves and Other Border Situations
Diagram Showing Enclaves and Various Border Situations (improved from Peter Smaadik)
Enclave Type, Example and Description
An enclave of
Joined to the rest of
An exclave of
Like Llivia but has sea access. It is not an enclave or an exclave, but a fragment of
Like Nakhichevan but has sea access. It is not an enclave or an exclave, but rather a fragment of
A land-locked country surrounded by
Two Prussian provinces (
Has no practical land access between it and its homeland due to mountains so the neighbouring state needs to be traversed.
Territory shared with
Jointly administered by the
Isla Martin Garcia
Counter Enclaves and Counter-Counter Enclaves
Even more curious than the concept of enclaves are counter enclaves and counter-counter enclaves. These occur when pieces of the host country exist within the enclaves themselves.
There are 32 counter enclaves (Baarle, Cooch Behar and Nahwa) and 1 counter-counter enclave (Cooch Behar) in the world today adding complexity to the lives of their residents and respective governments. These situations typically develop when traditional land ownership rights are elevated to the status of national boundary matters.
D is B's counter enclave
E is B’s counter-counter enclave
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In many ways the study of enclaves helps us understand elements of international relations, geopolitics and history in microcosm. veral examples below help to convince that issues relating to enclaves are long-standing and mainstream rather than ephemeral and deserve closer attention. Although these examples relate to large and well-known situations, the questions and issues that they raise are valid for other, smaller enclaves.
Why does Gibraltar remain staunchly British after more than 300 years despite it being the focus of long standing tension with neighbouring Spain? It may in part be because of political pressure as demonstrated by the 2002 referendum that saw more than 99 per cent of the population expressed their wish to remain British. But will this be respected by both governments in the long term or will it be sacrificed on the altar of international relations within the European Union? Or will the territory be let go for economic reasons as the port continues to decline in military significance?
Other perhaps philosophical questions also arise. Does Gibraltar’s 1,700 km of separation matter? Why can’t a fragment of territory be considered to have the same status as a piece directly connected to its homeland? Do host countries have any intrinsic rights to territories within their borders? Is Spain’s territorial claim strong when one considers that it has only held the territory for 200 years since 711?
Ceuta and Melilla
A similar puzzling situation exists across the Straits of Gibraltar with the Spanish ports of Ceuta and Melilla. These have been Spanish beachheads on the North African coast since 1668 but will they ever become Moroccan? It doesn’t seem likely in the near future given the events of 2002. This saw Spain sending its navy to defend their tiny uninhabited island of Perejil that lies just 250 metres off the Moroccan coast. But will ethnic Moroccan numbers grow in the territories due to the slow withdrawal of Europeans and the unwelcome influx of North African immigrants? Will this tire the Spanish desire to retain these last European colonies on the African continent?
Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea comprises much of the former German province of East Prussia. It has been Russian since 1945 despite being separated from the rest of that country by more than 350 km. In the post Cold War situation, these factors might suggest a drift towards Germany or to independence. Yet the economic, political, social, and cultural ties with the homeland are strong, and there seems to be no sign of separatism.
This is in no small part due to soviet policies that disenfranchised ethnic Germans and subsidised Russians to relocate there and to eventually assume the majority of the population.
Hong Kong and Macao
In contrast to many other enclaves, Hong Kong was transferred back to China in 1997 (as was Macao two years later) in a fairly ordered fashion after centuries of colonial rule. Should this be regarded as a good outcome for the nearly seven million people involved, or for the respective governments, or for both? Were the views of people considered and do they matter?
Political and Social
Living in an enclave can be very inconvenient for the residents and governments of both countries. Feelings of isolation from their homeland can be strong but more practical matters such as mail and telephone services, power supply and passage rights need to be resolved if a reasonable quality of life is to be achieved. This is only often at great cost which are even higher in some situations where border security matters are of major importance.
As such, governments are often motivated to remove enclaves. This is relatively easily done if the residents are in support. More often, however, the residents of enclaves remain very patriotic to their homeland due to shared ethnic heritage and entrenched property rights. In these situations the removal of enclaves is very difficult and has been rarely achieved.
Enclaves influence the bilateral relations between their homelands and surrounding states disproportionate to their smallness of territory and population. The importance of enclaves in international relations is far beyond their relative weight in terms of population and land.
The enclaves in Western Europe (Baarle, Llívia, Vennbahn, Campione D’itàlia and Büsingen) have previously suffered the range of problems associated with enclaves. Today they are comparatively peaceful places and create no serious political or administrative problems for their homelands and surrounding states. In most cases they have been in existence for very long periods of time and this has allowed most issues to be resolved. This has been helped by post WWII Europe where counties have worked collectively to resolve conflicts and progress political and economic development.
Enclaves elsewhere are often newer and can suffer significant issues usually related to an inability for governments to agree about border treaties. This causes their inhabitants to be at worst enclosed inside, at best seriously impaired in their usual life.
The five Uzbekistan enclaves within Kyrgyzstan were created in 1991 when the Soviet Union disintegrated. They contain more than 40,000 people and are separated from their homeland by just a few kilometres. But the political relations between the two countries appears to be deteriorating as they embark on programs to increase border security and lay minefields to deal with possible military incursions. Access between the residents of the enclave and their homrland seems destined to be more restricted.
Even more critical is the plight of the more than 60,000 people who live in the Cooch Behar enclaves (106 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 92 Bangladeshi enclaves in India). These were created when British India was partitioned during 1947 but decades of dialogue between the countries since this time have provided few benefits to the residents. In addition to the expected obstacles, the enclaves suffer from a lack of law enforcement, electricity and other public services leading to poverty, violence and social malaise.
Economy and Trade
Being detached from the rest of its country, an enclave finds itself subject to a range of potential economic problems such as restricted access to markets, tariffs and time delays that can affect its development and trade. Despite this, enclaves have managed to prosper. Hong Kong, for example, became a doyen of free trade; and small enclaves in Western Europe, such as Baarle-Hertog, Llívia and Campione have benefited from tourism and tax advantages.
On the other hand, almost 200 enclaves in Cooch Behar remain poorer than their non enclave counterparts and have few basic services such as electricity. Even central Asia’s fertile and populous Fergana valley enclaves are doing worse that their immediate neighbours. Spanish Ceuta and Melilla and Russian Kaliningrad appear to be struggling along but perhaps only with the substantial federal subsidies and preferential treatment that they receive. Efficient transit to markets in their homelands is usually a major factor influencing economic development within the enclaves. Kaliningrad’s 350 km distance from the rest of Russia via two or three other counties’ tariffs and border controls, for example, has been difficult to resolve. So too has the separation that Nakhichevan and its 200,000 residents endure from the rest of Azerbaijan.
Are Enclaves Unusual?
Perhaps – when considering that the territory can only be reached crossing another state. Or that they have so many obvious inconveniences for governance and economic life. But perhaps not when considering that there are more than 260 true enclaves in the world and an even greater number of other enclave types and sub national situations.
One would think that governments would be happy to get rid of them by exchanging or selling them, or simply give them up. Yet this is often not the case and many enclaves prove to be extremely resilient, even in the face of war, changing borders, or economic systems. Moreover, one might assume that governments would at least avoid creating new enclaves. Yet even this is the not always true. They might not like it, but new enclaves and exclaves were growing in numbers during the 1990s. The break up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia brought into existence more than twenty enclaves in Europe and Asia when sub national borders suddenly became international. This has often led to considerable tension as the newly independent states try to consolidate their national security, identity and economy.
And more enclaves seem likely in Palestine.
The geo-political intricacies of the world’s enclaves and complex border situations provide interest, even amusement, for many. This is often manifested by a growing number of people visiting enclaves to experience their quaintness and sometimes to enjoy shopping or tax advantages.
But they also prompt study by the more serious minded - not least to understand the circumstances that enclave residents and governments face and perhaps to identify means of improving matters. Questions that need further investigation include:
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The following is a list of all the true enclaves in the world known at the time of writing. Each is presented with the best available information to describe the enclave’s location, area, population, economy, history and current issues. This compilation unashamedly seeks to provide good maps to enable the reader to locate the enclave, understand their proximity to the homeland and to show detail within the territory. Where available, photographs are provided to assist the reader appreciate the nature of the enclave.
3.1 Baarle (Belgian and Dutch enclaves)
3.2 Vennbahn (German enclaves within Belgium)
3.3 Büsingen (German enclave within Switzerland)
3.4 Campione D’itàlia (Italian enclave within Switzerland)
3.5 Llívia (Spanish enclave within France)
3.6 Cyprus (Cypriot enclaves with United Kingdom territory)
3.7 Sastavci (Bosnia-Herzegovinian enclave within Serbia and Montenegro)
3.8 San'kova-Medvezh'e (Russian enclave within Belarus)
3.9 Krakhoba, Uryanoba (Russian enclaves within Azerbaijan)
3.10 Artchvašen (Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan)
3.11 Upper Askipara, Azatamut, Karki, Tatly (Azerbaijani enclaves within Armenia)
3.12 Sarvan (Tajikistani enclave within Uzbekistan)
3.13 Vorukh, Western Qalacha (Tajikistani enclaves within Kyrgyzstan)
3.14 Sokh, Shakhimardan, Qalacha, Dzhangail, Tayan (Uzbekistani enclaves within Kyrgyzstan)
3.15 Barak (Kyrgyzstani enclave within Uzbekistan)
3.16 Madha, Nahwa (Omani and United Arab Emirates enclaves)
3.17 Cooch Behar (Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves)
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4.1 Island Enclaves
Island enclaves occur when islands are completely surrounded by the territorial waters of a surrounding country. Three examples are known:
4.2 Near Enclaves
There are many examples of territory that nearly form enclaves and by definition these could include most of the types of enclaves and border situations that occur over the next few pages. A unique example, however, is:
The term exclave refers to a territory that belongs to another country but is not connected to it by land and is surrounded by another country or countries. Examples include:
4.4 Coastal Fragments
Some territories cannot be reached from the country to which they belong except by traversing international waters. These are fragments of their homeland rather than enclaves as they are not surrounded on all sides by a foreign country. Examples include:
4.5 Enclaved Countries
Some countries are completely surrounded by a single other country and can be called enclaved countries. They cannot be exclaves because they are not fragments of anywhere else. Three examples exist:
4.6 Countries that are Nearly Enclaves
Some countries are almost enclaves within a surrounding country but have a small coastal section. Examples include:
Although Portugal, South Korea and Ireland border just one other country, their coastlines are long enough not to be considered near-enclaves.
4.7 Shared Enclaves
It is possible that enclaves can be shared between two or more countries though there has only been one known example in modern times:
4.8 Practical Enclaves
Practical enclaves are those parts of a country that cannot be easily reached from the rest of that country by road due to obstructions like mountains, lakes or watercourses. Though not detached from their homeland, they are more easily reached by entering the neighbouring country. These situations are more common where borders are not heavily defended. Examples include:
4.9 Neutral Territory
Neutral territories belong in part or whole to neighbouring countries who keep full sovereignty over their respective parts. Special regimes are often applied by the countries concerned or by another party (such as the United Nations). Neutral territories are typically demilitarized zones in areas of potential conflict. Examples include:
Condominiums are territories governed jointly by two or more states. Examples have included:
Extraterritoriality occurs when areas such as embassies and military bases are made exempt from the jurisdiction of the host country. They are not true enclaves as they remain a sovereign part of the host country. Examples of extraterritoriality other than embassies and bases include:
4.12 Land Owned by a Foreign Country
Some areas of land in a country are owned by another country. The host nation’s laws apply within these areas so they do not have territoriality. Nonetheless, some do have special privileges such as being exempt from taxes. Examples include:
4.13 Sub national Enclaves
Sometimes historical or practical reasons have caused the internal administrative divisions to become enclaves. Examples include:
4.14 Ethnic Enclaves
Ethnic enclaves are communities of an ethnic group inside an area where another ethnic group predominates. These areas may have a separate language, culture and economic system but remain legal parts of the surrounding area. Examples include:
4.15 Notable Former Enclaves
Many examples have existed in the past. Examples include:
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APPENDIX – THE WORLD’S TRUE ENCLAVES - STATISTICS
Name of enclave
Km to Home
Dhekelia Power Station
Isla Martin Garcia**
Total World (262)
Adapted from Vinokurov
* Unconfirmed at time of writing
** Enclaves by way of being entirely surrounded by the territorial waters of another country
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