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"Enclave" redirects here. For other uses, see Enclave (disambiguation).

An enclave is defined in international law as any portion of a state that is entirely surrounded by the territory of another state.[1] It follows from this definition that for an area to be considered an enclave, it must not be a sovereign state and it must not be entered or exited without the need to enter the territory of another state, either by land, sea or air. Enclaves, which were quite numerous in past centuries, are now very uncommon. The concept of enclave is applicable at both the international and sub-national level.

Somewhat abusively, the word enclave has progressively come into common usage to denote also any non-sovereign or sovereign territory, generally a small coastal territory, that is partly surrounded by one or several larger states. Thus, coastal territories such as Gibraltar, Ceuta, Monaco, Kaliningrad, Cabinda, etc., which can all be easily entered or exited by air or sea without the need to enter the territory of another state, are nevertheless called enclaves.[2] The expression "true enclave" is often used to denote territories that correspond to the strict definition of an enclave.

An exclave is defined as a portion of a country geographically separated from the main part by surrounding alien territory.[3] Basically, an exclave is the enclave seen from the viewpoint of the main part. Thus, in Fig. 1 at right, C is an enclave from the viewpoint of A but an exclave from the viewpoint of B, the main part. The word exclave is much less common than enclave, which tends to be the generic to denote both concepts.

In Fig. 2 at right, C is again an exclave of B, but is not an enclave, because it has boundaries with more than one entity.

Origin and usage

The word enclave is French and first appeared in the mid-15th century as a derivative of the verb enclaver (1283), from the colloquial Latin inclavare (to close with a key).[4] Originally, it was a term of property law that denoted the situation of a land or parcel of land surrounded by land owned by a different owner, and that could not be reached for its exploitation in a practical and sufficient manner without crossing the surrounding land.[5] In law, this created a servitude[6] of passage for the benefit of the owner of the surrounded land.

Later, the term enclave began to be used also to refer to parcels of countries, counties, fiefs, communes, towns, parishes, etc. that were surrounded by alien territory. This French word eventually entered the English and other languages to denote the same concept although local terms continued and continue[7] to be used. In British administrative history, subnational eclaves were usually called detachments or detached parts, and national enclaves as detached districts or detached dominions.[8] In English ecclesiastic history, subnational enclaves were known as peculiars (see also Royal Peculiar).

The word exclave, modeled on enclave,[9] is a logical extension of the concept of enclave.


Enclaves may be created for a variety of historical, political or geographical reasons. Some areas have been left as enclaves by 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 removed. The governments of India and Bangladesh have been pressed to resolve the complex system of enclaves along their border – persons in these enclaves have complained of being effectively stateless.[10] In 2011, India and Bangladesh signed a leasehold agreement regarding the Tin Bigha Corridor.

Many exclaves today have an independence movement, especially if the exclave is far away from the mainland.

True enclaves

Template:See A true enclave is a territory over which a nation is sovereign, but that cannot be reached without passing through territory of the one and only foreign nation that surrounds it. Two examples include Büsingen, a true enclave of Germany, and Campione d'Italia, a true enclave of Italy, both surrounded by Switzerland.

An historical example was West Berlin before the reunification of Germany, which was a de facto West German enclave, being enclaved by East Germany. (Also, 12 small enclaves of West Berlin, such as Steinstücken, were separated from the city, some by only a few meters.) All of Berlin was ruled de jure by the four Allied powers; however, the East German government and the Soviet Union treated East Berlin as an integral part of East Germany.

Most of the true national-level enclaves now existing are in Asia and Europe. While subnational enclaves are numerous the world over, there are only a few national-level enclaves in Africa, Australia and the Americas (each such enclave being surrounded by the territorial waters of another country).

Enclaved countries

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

The principality of Monaco is not an enclave, although it only borders France, because it also possesses a coastline and territorial waters; thus, it is not completely surrounded by another country. Similarly, The Gambia is not an enclave.

Historically, four of the Black homelands or Bantustans of South Africa were granted nominal independence, unrecognized internationally, by the Nationalist government from 1976 until their re-absorption in 1994. Others remained under government rule from 1948 to 1994. Being heavily partitioned, various parts of these Bantustans were true enclaves.

The USA's constitutional principle of tribal sovereignty treats federally-recognized Indian reservations as quasi-independent enclaves.

The same would apply for Indian Reserves in Canada and Aboriginal reserves in Australia.[dubious ]

Temporary enclaves

Template:See The Scottish Court in the Netherlands, at Camp Zeist near Utrecht, was temporarily declared as sovereign territory of the United Kingdom under Scottish law for the duration of the trial of those accused in the Lockerbie bombing, and was therefore an exclave of the United Kingdom, and of Scotland, and an enclave within the Netherlands. It was also so during the appeal of the man convicted. The court was first convened in 1999, and the land returned to the Netherlands in 2002.

Related constructs and terms

True exclaves

In Fig. 1 above, C is both a true enclave and a true exclave. In Fig. 2 above, C is a true exclave of B, but it is not an enclave, because it has boundaries with more than one entity.

Subnational enclaves and exclaves

Template:See Sometimes, administrative divisions of a country, for historical or practical reasons, caused some areas to belong to one division while being attached to another.

Enclaves within enclaves

It is possible for an enclave of one country to be completely surrounded by a part of another country that is itself an enclave of the first country.

  • The Dutch municipality of Baarle-Nassau has seven exclaves in two exclaves of the Belgian municipality of Baarle-Hertog.
  • The complex of enclaves at Cooch Behar district includes 24 second-order enclaves and one small third-order enclave called Dahala Khagrabari #51: a piece of India within Bangladesh, within India, within Bangladesh.
  • Nahwa of the United Arab Emirates is surrounded by Madha, an exclave of Oman within the U.A.E.
  • The Portuguese town of Estremoz is made up of two civil parishes (freguesias): the small Santo André and the big Santa Maria. Santo André corresponds to the old town (located inside the medieval walls), but excluding the citadel, which is an enclave inside the old town; the citadel belongs to Santa Maria, which also includes the entire new town (outside the walls) and the vast rural area around it. Thus, Santa Maria has an enclave (Santo André, the old town) with a second-order enclave inside it (the citadel).[12]

Ethnic enclaves

An ethnic enclave is a community of an ethnic group inside an area in which another ethnic group predominates. Ghettos, Little Italys, barrios and Chinatowns are examples. These areas may have a separate language, culture and economic system.

  • Nagorno-Karabakh is arguably an ethnic enclave. It is a predominantly ethnic Armenian area inside Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh War which lasted from 1988 to 1994 resulted in the area self-proclaiming its independence, but this has never been recognized by the international community, which tends to describe the current situation as a frozen conflict.
  • Székely Land is a Hungarian ethnic enclave within Romania, with its people calling themselves székely. Originally, the name Székely Land denoted an autonomous region within Transylvania. It existed as a legal entity from medieval times until the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, when the Székely and Saxon seats were dissolved and replaced by the county system. Along with Transylvania, it became a part of Romania in 1920, according with the Treaty of Trianon signed on 4 June 1920 at the Grand Trianon Palace in Versailles, France. In 1938–1940, during World War II, post-Trianon Hungary temporarily expanded its territory and included some additional territories that were formerly part of pre-war Kingdom of Hungary, under Third Reich auspices. It was later reduced to boundaries approximating those of 1920 by the peace treaties signed after World War II at Paris, in 1947. The area was called Magyar Autonomous Region between September 8, 1952 and February 16, 1968 a Hungarian autonomous region within Romania, and today there are territorial autonomy initiatives to reach a higher level of self-governance for this region within Romania.
  • The 2008 film Silent Light depicts a Mennonite Flemish sect living within the Mexican state of Chihuahua, who speak a dialect called Plautdietsch.[13]
  • There are several Serb enclaves in Kosovo where the institutions of Kosovo aren't fully operational due to disputes.

"Practical" enclaves, exclaves and inaccessible districts

Template:See Pene-enclaves and pene-exclaves are regions that are not conterminous with the main land region, that are not entirely surrounded by alien land or alien territorial waters, and that have land access only through a second country. Hence, they are enclaves or exclaves for practical purposes, without meeting the strict definition.

Many pene-exclaves partially border the sea or another body of water, which comprises their own territorial waters (i.e., they are not surrounded by other nations' territorial waters). Alaska is the largest pene-exclave in the world. Because they border their own territorial waters in addition to a land border with another country, they are not true exclaves. Still, one cannot travel to them on land without going through another country.

  • Kaliningrad Oblast is a federal subject of Russia (an oblast), a pene-exclave situated on the Baltic coast.
  • Cabinda (also spelled Kabinda, formerly Portuguese Congo) is a pene-exclave and a province of Angola on the Atlantic coast.
  • Oecusse, a district on the northwestern side of the island of Timor, is a pene-exclave of East Timor.
  • Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish pene-exclaves on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco.
  • The Northwest Angle in Minnesota is geographically separated from the rest of the state (and United States) by Lake of the Woods and is only accessible on land through Canada.
  • Point Roberts, Washington, is an unincorporated community in Whatcom County—located on the southernmost tip of the Tsawwassen Peninsula, south of Delta, British Columbia, Canada—that can be reached by land from the rest of the United States only by traveling through Canada.

Inaccessible districts are regions that are conterminous with the main land region but that are only easily accessible by going through a second country.

  • The Spanish village of Os de Civís can only be accessed through the independent Principality of Andorra, as it is virtually isolated from the rest of Spain by mountains.
  • The Kleinwalsertal Alpine valley in Vorarlberg, Austria can only be accessed by road from Germany, being separated from the rest of Austria by inaccessible high mountains traversed by no roads.
  • Jungholz is a village, also in Austria (in Tyrol), which is surrounded by German territory except for one single point on the summit of Sorgschrofen, where it touches the rest of Austria. As with Kleinwalsertal, road access is only through Germany.

Conversely, a territory that is an exclave but does not function as one (instead functioning as an adjacent part of the main nation) is deemed a "quasi-exclave".(Robinson 1959)

Subnational "practical" enclaves, exclaves and inaccessible districts

  • Although the Jervis Bay Territory, which occupies a coastal peninsula in Australia, is not part of the Australian Capital Territory, the laws of the ACT apply to it. It is administered by a department of the ACT government as an exclave of the ACT.[14]
  • A strip of land around the southern edge of the Beecroft Peninsula in Australia is a pene-exclave of the Australian Capital Territory. This area on the northern side of Jervis Bay, opposite the Jervis Bay Territory, is part of the ACT. At the tip of the pensinsula, this pene-exclave surrounds most of the grounds of the Point Perpendicular lighthouse, making those grounds a pene-exclave of the State of New South Wales.[15]
  • The Romanian village of Nămoloasa (Galaţi county) can be accessed only through Vrancea County (where there is a bridge over the Siret river) because it is separated by the Siret River river from the rest of Galaţi county.
  • The southern part of the Province of Venice, Veneto, can be reached directly from the rest of the province only by boat. By land it can be reached only traveling through the Province of Padua because territorial continuity with the main part of the province exists only through some unconnected islands and islets.
  • It is physically impossible to drive from the northern half of County Leitrim in the Republic of Ireland to the southern half; the land area of the county is almost squeezed in two by Lough Allen on the west and the border with County Cavan on the east. The River Shannon (apart from where it forms part of the border between the two counties) runs within Leitrim from the Cavan border to Lough Allen, and there are no bridges over this Leitrim portion of the river, therefore making it impossible to cross from one side of the Shannon in Leitrim to the other without leaving the county. The best one can do is by travelling the R200 from the Leitrim side of the county border, passing into County Cavan into the village of Dowra and then taking the R207 and passing over the Shannon and back into County Leitrim, which involves a journey of 2.6 km (1.6 miles) outside of the county. Travelling around the west side of Lough Allen involves substantial travel though County Roscommon.[16]
  • In the United States:


Embassies and military bases are usually exempted from the jurisdiction of the host country, i.e., the laws of the host nation in which an embassy is located do not typically apply to the land of the embassy or base itself. This exemption from the jurisdiction of the host country is defined as extraterritoriality. Areas of extraterritoriality are not true enclaves as they are still part of the host country. In addition to embassies, some other areas have extraterritoriality.

Examples of this include:

Land owned by a foreign country

Some areas of land in a country are owned by another country and in some cases it has special privileges, such as being exempt from taxes. These lands are not enclaves and do not have extraterritoriality since, in all cases, there is no transfer of sovereignty.

Examples of this include:

  • Two cemeteries on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, United States, one on Ocracoke Island and one on Hatteras Island in the town of Buxton, are owned by the United Kingdom. Both contain the graves of British seamen whose bodies washed ashore after World War II U-Boat attacks that occurred on 10 April (San Delfino – one body) and 11 May 1942 (HMT Bedfordshire – 5 bodies).[28] Four graves are at Ocracoke and two at Buxton; three of the bodies were never identified, one of which could be that of a Canadian seaman.[29] The plot of land at Ocracoke "has been forever ceded to England" and is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.[30] The plot was leased to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for as long as the land remained a cemetery.[29] The graves on Hatteras Island are maintained by the U.S. National Park Service.[31]
  • The Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay and about 25 square feet (2.3 m2) of land around it in Hawaii, United States, the place where James Cook was killed in 1779, is owned by the United Kingdom.[32][33][34][35] An historian on the occasion of the 50th anniversary recorded in 1928 that the white stone "obelisk monument [was] erected to the memory of Captain Cook, about 1876, and on land deeded outright to the British Government by Princess Likelike, sister of King Kalakaua, about the same year, so that that square is absolute British Territory."[36] Hawaii was a sovereign nation at the time. According to a recent writer, "The land under the monument was deeded to the United Kingdom in 1877 and is considered as sovereign non-embassy land owned by the British Embassy in Washington DC. … the Hawaiian State Parks agency maintained that as sovereign British territory it was the responsibility of the UK to maintain the site."[37]
  • Tihuinza in Peru. Land owned by Ecuador without sovereignty.
  • The land under the John F. Kennedy memorial at Runnymede, United Kingdom, is widely thought to have been granted to the United States of America by the John F. Kennedy Memorial Act 1964[38] (an Act of the UK Parliament). However, the Act grants to the United States "an estate in fee simple absolute", which is a form of title under English law, and the site remains under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.[39]

National railway passing through foreign territory

Changes in borders can make a railway that was previously located solely within a country traverse the new borders. Since railways are much more expensive than roads to rebuild to avoid this problem, the criss-cross arrangement tends to last a long time. With passenger trains this may mean that doors on carriages are locked and guarded to prevent illicit entry and exit while the train is temporarily in another country.

Borders can also be in the "wrong" place, forcing railways into difficult terrain.

Border changes

Examples include:

  • Salzburg to Innsbruck (Austria) (passes Rosenheim, Germany). A railway line within Austria exists as well, but trains take about 1.5 hours longer than across German territory.
  • Trains from Neugersdorf, Saxony to Zittau pass Czech territory at Varnsdorf, while Czech trains from Varnsdorf to Chrastava pass through German territory at Zittau, and then a small part of Polish territory near the village of Porajów.
  • Trains from Görlitz to Zittau, Germany, pass the border river Neisse several times (see Oder–Neisse line); the train station for Ostritz, Germany, lies in Krzewina Zgorzelecka, Poland.
  • Belgrade–Bar railway crosses into Bosnia and Herzegovina for 9 kilometres (5.6 mi), between stations Zlatibor and Priboj (both in Serbia). There is one station, Štrpci, but there are no border crossing facilities and trains do not call at the station.
  • The Knin - Bihać railway between Croatia is Bosnia is split by the Croatian-Bosnian border several times. Similarly, the Savski Marof - Imeno railway was split by the Slovenian-Croatian border several times.
  • The local trains on the Burgenlandbahn in Austria cross the area of Hungary at Sopron. During the era of the Iron Curtain, the trains had their doors locked as they traversed Hungarian territory.
  • The line from Ventimiglia to Limone Piemonte, Italy, via Breil-sur-Roya, France.
  • The Hochrheinbahn (Upper Rhine Railway) from Basel via Waldshut to Schaffhausen is part of the Deutsche Bahn network, and is mostly in Germany, but the two ends are in Switzerland and it is only connected with the rest of the German railway network via Switzerland. At both Basel and Schaffhausen the railway has extraterritorial status, it is possible to travel by train to and from the rest of Germany without going through Swiss customs. See Basel Badischer Bahnhof.
  • Similarly, during the Cold War, underground lines in West Berlin ran under parts of East Berlin. Ghost stations (German: Geisterbahnhöfe) were stations on Berlin's U-Bahn and S-Bahn metro networks that were closed during this period of Berlin's division.
  • The Belgian Vennbahn (now closed) lies on a narrow strip of Belgian territory running through Germany, creating five German exclaves.
  • The railway between France and Monaco briefly leaves France to enter Monaco before entering France once more. This takes place underground for around 150 metres.
  • The former Soviet Central Asian Republics have numerous examples.
  • SemikhodyChernihiv line of Ukraine passes through Belarus territory.[40]
  • DruzhbaVorozhba line of Ukraine passes through Russian territory.[40]
  • In 2009, Russia and Kazakhstan agreed to transfer ownership of a crossborder section of line.
  • LučenecVeľký Krtíš line in Slovakia passes through Hungary from Ipolytarnóc to Nógrádszakál.
  • In Korea, the division into North and South at the 38th parallel, and later the cease fire line at the DMZ cut some railways into fairly useless dead-ends.

Inconvenient borders

  • Bolivia is landlocked and has no access to the sea, but a rail route runs through Chile from La Paz to the port of Arica on the Pacific Ocean.
  • Due to inability to agree in 1963 on a shorter route through easy terrain, the iron ore railway in Mauritania originally had to use a longer route through a tunnel near Choum to avoid the territory of Spanish Sahara.
  • A similar problem may exist in Guinea, where 20 km long tunnel(s) through a hillspur at Naigaya (elevation 411 metres (1,348 ft)), Sicourou, Bokariadi and Feraya might be avoided by crossing the border into Sierra Leone at Yana (elevation 87 metres (285 ft)).[41]
  • Senegal is practically and inconveniently divided in two by the sovereign territory of Gambia. The easiest way to travel from northern Senegal to the southern Casamance region is through Gambia via the Trans-Gambia Highway, with a connecting ferry being the only way to cross the Gambia River. The fare for the ferry crossing is a source of contention between the two countries.[42]
  • The shortest and straightest route for a proposed east-west high-speed railway in Austria through Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck would pass under some mountains belonging to Germany.[43]
  • In 2013, the shortest railway route from coal mines at Tete to a port at Nacala passes through Malawi. A route through all-Mozambique territory is roundabout.

Border shifts

Borders have occasionally been shifted for the purpose of avoiding an inconvenient arrangement. An example is the Gadsden Purchase, in which the United States bought land from Mexico on which it was planned to build a southern route for the transcontinental railroad. Owing to the topography of the area, acquisition of the land was the only feasible way to construct such a railroad through the southern New Mexico Territory.

Highway of one state passing through another state's territory

This arrangement is less common as highways are more easily re-aligned, as noted above. Examples include:


Border infrastructure

Several bridges cross the rivers Oder and Neisse between Germany and Poland. To avoid needing to coordinate their efforts on a single bridge, the two riparian states assign each bridge to one or the other; thus Poland is responsible for all maintenance on some of the bridges, including the German side, and vice versa.[47]

The Hallein Salt Mine crosses from Austria into Germany. Under an 1829 treaty Austria can dig under the then-Kingdom of Bavaria. In return some salt has to be given to Bavaria, and up to 99 of its citizens can be hired to work in the Austrian mine.[48]

Neighbourly cooperation

  • The new Tijuana International Airport south of San Diego airport is a cooperative affair between California, USA, and Baja California, Mexico. The runway, control tower, emergency services, etc. are shared; however, passengers and freight are handled at separate facilities north and south of the runways.
  • The twin town of TornioHaparanda or HaparandaTornio lies at the mouth of river Tornio, Tornio on the Finnish side and Haparanda on the Swedish side. The two towns have a common public transportation, as well as cultural services, fire brigade, sports facilities etc.
  • The Basel Badischer Bahnhof is a railway station in the Swiss city of Basel. Although situated on Swiss soil, because of the 1852 treaty between the Swiss Confederation and the state of Baden (one of the predecessors of today's Germany), the largest part of the station (the platforms and the parts of the passenger tunnel that lead to the German/Swiss checkpoint) is treated administratively as an inner-German railway station operated by the Deutsche Bahn. The shops in the station hall, however, are Swiss, and the Swiss franc is used as the official currency there (although the euro is universally accepted). The Swiss post office, car rental office, restaurant and a cluster of shops are each separately located wholly within a surrounding station area that is administered by the German railway.[49] The customs controls are located in a tunnel between the platforms and the station hall; international trains which continue to Basel SBB usually have on-board border controls.
  • See Polish-German river bridges, above.

See also




External links


  • Rolf Palmberg's Enclaves of the world
  • Jan S. Krogh's Geosite
  • Rob Robinson's Enclaves Site
  • 'Tangled Territories' 2005 review article on exclaves and enclaves in Europe published in hidden europe magazine
  • Barry Smith's Baarle Site
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