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C is A's enclave and B's exclave.
C is A's enclave and B's exclave.

In human geography, an enclave is a piece of land which is totally surrounded by a foreign territory. If another country has sovereignty over it, it is also called an exclave of that other country.

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 right, completely surrounded by another one, and therefore not exclaves. Three such sovereign countries exist:

See also List of countries that only border one other country.

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.

  • The most typical country of this kind is The Gambia, prevented only by a 50 km shore strip on the Atlantic Ocean from being an enclave of Senegal.
  • The Sultanate of Brunei, within Malaysia. Brunei consists of two unconnected coastal parts. The smaller district of Temburong can be viewed as an exclave of Brunei, as well as an enclave in Malaysia. (although here the 'coastal strip' extends the geographic length of the country).
  • The independent principality of Monaco within France.

Although Portugal, South Korea 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 mainland 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 four other tiny parts of the USA can't be reached overland except by entering Canada: Point Roberts in northwestern Washington, the Northwest Angle in Minnesota, a peninsula bordering Lake of the Woods, Elm Point, a small piece nearby where the coastline of the Lake of the Woods dips slightly south over the border, and a similar unnamed sliver of land just west of Elm Point. 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: Exclave

True enclaves

This refers to those territories where a country is sovereign, but which cannot be reached without entering another country. The best-known example was West Berlin, before the reunification 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, such as Steinstücken, 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 to 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 the 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 Roetgen 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 Principality of Andorra.
  • In the eastern part of Belarus, the Russian exclave of San'kovo-Medvezh'e is made up of two villages.
  • The villages of Ormidhia and Xylotymvou 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. Barxudarli and Yuxari Askipara in north-eastern Armenia. The other one, Kaki, 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 called Artsvashen in north-western Azerbaijan.

Outside Europe, enclaves are to be found in Asia :

Three sets of islands, surrounded by the territorial waters of another country, can be found elsewhere:

The life in such areas varies greatly from one 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. These territories may be called "practical enclaves," "pene-enclaves" or "quasi-enclaves" and can be found along many borders, particularly those that are not heavily defended. They will only be attached to the motherland via an extremely small or thin slice of land. Here are some examples:

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.


Embassies and military bases are usually exempted from the juristiction of the host country i.e. the laws of the host nation the embassy is in do not typically apply to the land of the embassy or base itself. This exemption from the juristiction of the host coutry 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 ceded to 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.

Examples of this include:

See also

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