What: Enclave countries of the world
Definition: A country entirely surrounded by just one other country
Countries: Lesotho, San Marino, Vatican City
The world’s three enclave countries
An enclave country is one that is completely surrounded by one other country. There are just three enclave countries in the world: Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa; San Marino, which is entirely surrounded entirely by Italy; and Vatican City, which is also surrounded entirely by Italy.
By default, an enclave country is also landlocked. A landlocked country is one that is only surrounded by land and does not have access to the open sea. Currently, there are 45 landlocked countries in the world as well as five partially recognised states. The vast majority of these countries suffer economically due to the disadvantages generated by an absence of access to the sea.
Lesotho, formerly known as Basutoland, is a small mountainous country in Southern Africa entirely surrounded by South Africa.
King Moshoeshoe I made himself king of what would become Basutoland in 1822, just prior to the first significant contact with Europeans in 1833. Concerned by territorial incursions into Basotho territory by Boer trekkers, King Moshoeshoe formed an alliance with the British Cape Colony. which would later evolve into an 1868 agreement to become a British protectorate.
Lesotho gained independence from the UK in 1966 after 100 years of colonial rule. Today, the country’s full name is ‘The Kingdom of Lesotho’. Lesotho roughly translates as ‘Land of the Sesotho Speakers’.
At 30,360 sq km, Lesotho is the largest enclave country. However, it is by far the poorest of the three enclave sovereign states. It is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 24th poorest by the World Bank when measured by GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP).
San Marino is a country in Southern Europe bounded entirely by Italy. San Marino is the world’s oldest surviving sovereign state and oldest constitutional republic (i.e. not a monarchy), dating back to 301 AD.
The country is named after Saint Marinus, a stonemason who – according to tradition – founded a monastic settlement in 301 AD around which the city, and later the state of San Marino, evolved.
It is the only surviving Italian city-state. Italian city-states existed in Italy at various times from the collapse of the Western Roman Empire to the declaration of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
At 30,360 sq km, San Marino is the second largest enclave country. However, it is the fifth smallest sovereign state – only Tuvalu, Nauru, Monaco and Vatican City are smaller. It is one of the world’s richest countries, ranked 10th richest by the World Bank when measured by GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP).
San Marino is one of just 21 countries that do not have an army or regularly military force. Instead, it relies on Italy for defence.
Vatican City, also known simply as the Vatican or the Holy See, is an independent city-state surrounded entirely by the Italian city of Rome. A city-state is where an independent sovereign city administers a wider contiguous territory. Historically, these have included cities such as Rome, Athens, Sparta and Carthage, as well as Italian city-states such as Florence, Venice, Genoa and Milan. Today, Monaco, Singapore and Vatican City are examples of modern city-states.
Vatican City is the smallest of the three enclave countries, surrounded by a tiny border of just 3.4km (2.1mi). In fact, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world in terms of both its population (~1,000) and area (0.44 sq km). However, as it is not a UN member state, it is often disregarded in rankings.
The Vatican is the residence of the Pope, the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The tiny city-state is all that remains of the extensive Papal States of central Italy, which were steadily conquered by Italian forces during the process of unification in the mid-19th century.
Subsequent popes, unwilling to leave the confines of the city, became “prisoners in the Vatican” until 1929 when Italy’s Fascist government negotiated the Lateran Pacts that created the present city-state.
Like San Marino, the Vatican also does not have an army. However, it does maintain the Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera Pontificia) which is largely ceremonial.
Other notable enclaves
An enclave is not restricted to only sovereign countries. An enclave can also be a territory – or a part of a territory – that is entirely surrounded by the domain of one other state or entity. Enclaves can also exist within territorial waters, so islands can be enclaves.
There are many enclaves around the world. A well-known enclave in Europe is Dubrovnik, which is cut off from the rest of Croatia by cut off from the rest of the country by a tiny morsel of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Another good example are the tiny Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla located on the northern shores of Morocco’s Mediterranean coast. Together they form the European Union’s only land borders with Africa and are the only piece of European territory on mainland Africa. Morocco disputes the Spanish claim and calls them the occupied “Sebtah and Melilah”.
Another example is the enclave of Cabinda, which is separated from the rest of Angola by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The enclave is oil-rich but is also plagued by poverty and ongoing conflicts with rebel separatist groups.
Finally, Bangladesh was once home to the world’s only third-order enclave. Dahala Khagrabari was an Indian enclave surrounded by a Bangladeshi enclave surrounded by an Indian enclave surrounded by another state (Bangladesh). In 2015 Dahala Khagrabari was finally ceded to Bangladesh.
► Interiors, The Economist
► Lesotho country profile, BBC News
► GDP per capita, PPP, World Bank
► Lesotho, CIA World Fact Book
► San Marino travel, Lonely Planet
► San Marino, CIA World Factbook
► Vatican country profile, BBC News
► 10 Things You May Not Know About the Vatican, History Channel
► Ceuta and Melilla: Spain’s enclaves in North Africa, BBC News
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