How borders come to be (Geography Now!)

Hey everyone, Barby here. Еver wonderеd why Chile is so long and thin, or how Croatia ended up looking like a work of postmodern art? What is that thing sticking out of Namibia? Huh? What? How? Well, don’t worry. I got you covered. This is how borders come to be. First off this subject – like borders – is ever-changing, so to avoid making an outdated video I’m going to explain the four main ways that borders are created and changed in a more global way. Ready to get this confusion fix-a-macated? Yeah! Now, to no surprise, nature is the straight up OG of border creation. Oceans, mountains, rivers, deserts and lakes. Historically, nature was the leading factor in causing distance between tribes and settlements, which in return created the world’s greatest cultural divergences. Natural borders aren’t without their flaws, though. While mountains and deserts are usually solid throughout the ages, rivers and lakes tend to change and even disappear causing dispute. Some countries keep their borders as they are to avoid conflict. Others want to change their borders according to natural fluctuations which can cause unfavorable losses in land for one of the two sides. Before advanced ships and maritime travel came along, oceans remained the biggest hurdles for people to overcome. Those countries that could sail the furthest were the ones that could expand the fastest, shaping the world for hundreds of years to come. In a perfect world natural borders would be the only borders, but alas. It’s the people who decide. You could argue that countries with more twisty, windy borders that follow natural paths are more at peace with their neighbors. Straight borders, however, are exclusively decided by people, and at many times with conflict, which brings us to… The history of a country and borders is pretty much the history of man. Because history is a pretty long time, the argument of “our ancestors came here first” comes up a lot. But supposed heritage is only one reason to fight for land. Of course factors like nationalism, social conflict and greed have caused countless wars throughout the ages, but let’s look at this example. The Roman empire began, just like many other settlements, on what is now the Italian peninsula in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Great advancements in sailing and warfare, combined with the favorable position, caused the massive expansion of land. In return they gained land through the conquest against many other tribes and people groups, forming many enemies in the process. Some would say that the greed of the Romans eventually caused their downfall. Rapid expansion caused a thin defense in borders, combined with the hostilities of many neighbour tribes and cultures, which in return, caused an inevitable collapse of the regime. These days, an actual hostile takeover of another country is rarely heard of. Such war conflict is just not really profitable any more. Although debatable, democracy over autocracy over the past few centuries has created probably the most diplomatically war peaceful era the world has ever seen. Colonization is virtually now a thing of the past, but its effects are everlasting, one of which being modern-day border anomalies. Colonization is a process by which a central country of power dominates surrounding or distant lands, and its components. It is for those components that colonization exploded in the 1800s. Europe put their eyes and ships on Africa, and east Asia putting flags in the sand all over the continents, and dividing them mostly peacefully amongst each other. What wasn’t peaceful was the relationship with the indigenous people, who weren’t too happy about the foreign invaders. This often resulted in destabilization and even genocide. If peace has come without conflict, then a new border gets decided on. This happens in a few different ways. Either a line is drawn on a map, a natural border is chosen, or a cartographic signature like the global parallels is used. A good example of this is the world’s longest border – – the Canadian-United States border, where the 49th Parallel was chosen as a reference point. Or a line in this case. Although it’s supposed to be a straight line, close up it looks like a toddler drew a line with a crayon. Trying to draw a straight line on a map, without any eyes on the sky, in the 19th century might just do that for you. Trees can also cause very strange borders. Look at Congo, for instance. What is that? That is called a salient or panhandle, because it makes some countries look like a pan. Stupid panhandles! How do they come to be, you ask? Well, the origins are always different but let’s take the Congo Pedicle for example. After becoming one of the most horrible examples of genocidal colonization, King Leopold II decided he wanted a little bit of swampland for hunting, while deciding the Congo borders. The border followed the Luapula River and the Congo Zambezi watershed, but kind of ended nowhere. So, as colony leaders do… Leopold II asked the king of Italy to draw a line where the border should stop, creating this weird protrusion. More strangeness that can happen are enclaves and exclaves. Basically, these are pieces of land that are detached, and not directly connected to the rest of the larger main part of its country. These anomalies are created from some of the weirdest of circumstances. One of the biggest is this spot right here. A province of Russia called Kaliningrad. Two countries apart from the mainland, it was once part of east Prussia, along with Poland, under the name of its capital Königsberg. It was once considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, along the likes of Prague and Vienna. However, now… …Yeah. Anyway! During the end of World War Two, Joseph Stalin took the city over and named it after a Soviet Chairman who died a few months earlier. The war left Kaliningrad in ruins, and became an exclave after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the inclusion of Poland and Lithuania in NATO. Now we’ve reached the most modern form of border extensions, and one with little downsides. In a world where almost all land has been divided by sovereign states, this tactic works perfect in regards to avoiding conflict and developing space. There are three ways of creating lands from water. The first is coastal extension. A truck brings rocks and sands from the mainland, and simply dumps it at the coast. The second is hydraulic reclamation. Giant ships pump up water and sand from the sea floor and spray it at the designated location. The water will wash away, leaving the sand behind. This could be at the coast, or at a spot in the ocean to create a whole new island. The third and oldest way are polders – a Dutch name for land that has been reclaimed from a body of water. There are a few ways this works, but the most common way is building several layers of dikes along the area that needs draining, then using windmills to pump the water out of the area in between the dikes, until it creates dry land surrounded by a river. This river is higher than the land in the middle. Much of the Netherlands has been terraformed this way, making it the only country in the world that is lower than sea level. And that’s it! You may have some more questions, and if you’d like to know more about individual countries, just check out some videos here on this channel. Or, you can check out some more of Vincent’s amazing animations at Mode-7.com. All right. Thanks a lot, guys – Barby out.

Stephen Childs


  1. 4:18 that doesnt look to me like a Kaliningrad more like a Königsberg

  2. right now im in Arizona and maybe you should make videos about individual US states and borders . love your videos

  3. It’s so impressive. Room for improvement: the smoothness. Hey, I’m just trying to be constructive.

  4. I dunno but i find both the topics and the animation is superb

  5. Interesting fact.The Bulgarian national animal the lion and the country has the shape of a lion. Of course if you are Bulgarian thats not very interesting.

  6. big fan of yours. Let me tell you this is your best video ever. Loved the last point, what china is doing in the southeastern china sea

  7. These animations are beautiful! And this channel you guys run is thumbs up & 10/10, I'm learning so many things in a fun way now!
    Thankyou Barby, Brandon, Vincent, Ken, Ally and everyone else at Geography Now for all your amazing work!

    BTW Its almost time for my country's episode, and I hope its a long one even though the Netherlands is a small country, Dont forget to mention the Keizer KarelPlein in Nijmegen!!!
    Its the craziest Intersection in the country, and my favorite one because its a crazy free for all, first come first serve russian-style intersection, I'm not joking and will explain :
    The whole thing is made of slippery cobblestones, there are NO roadmarkings anywere on the roundabout, there's NO speedlimit on the roundabout even though its in the middle of a big city, (WATCH OUT if the weather is nice!) Because there's a nice park in the middle of the intersection… So there will be people running across the road holding onto their joints and blunts for dear lives while they try not to get hit, the people driving onto the roundabout have the right of way and many people are to afraid to drive here, and it just gets crazier and crazier, see why i love it?

  8. Hi Barby, I'm Lorenzo from Italy.
    I like very much your channel 😀
    As I noticed that you like very much territorial anomalies,
    I think can interest you the comunal administrative situation in Trentino (Italy). Exclusively in Trentino (not in South Tyrol/Alto Adige, the other province of the Trentino-Alto Adige special autonomous region), there are many comunal territories detached from the main part. This very often because the comunal territory around the town is at the bottom of the valley and it has no alpine meadows for pasture or woods for wooden.
    Sometimes can also occur that certain cadastral parcels inside a "Comune" belongs to another comune (often 10-20 km far the one from the other) only in terms of property… this for historical motivations.
    For example, to the comune of Fornace, because of Medieval disputes, there were assigned woods and meadows inside the comune of Valfloriana (30 km from Fornace, and at time of course there weren't cars or veichles for getting milky products from cows and for bringing the wooden back to Fornace.. so the people walked for kilometers through mountains and valleys to obtain their assets).
    This is only one of the many possible examples in Trentino.

  9. If only all Youtube videos had the budget and time to be animated this nicely! Great work 🙂

  10. Great video, nice explaination with good graphics. All of this i like ur voice and fast speaking 😱😱😱

  11. Wait. When he is talking about the Roman Empire, the map comes up and one island is missing. See if you can spot which one!

  12. all is true, but Poland has never been a part of USSR, but just a Warsaw-pact nation.

  13. 1:38 That's a Dutch train in the station. Are you implying that the Netherlands recently went to war and has a straight border?

  14. Pleased to hear something 'bout Kaliningrad Region on this channel
    Though it ain't industrial dirt-soaked town,at least not to the extent the animated figures have shown.

  15. You know the blue/yellow cross flag in the video exists for real? It is of the City of Tilburg in the Netherlands. Nice video!

  16. I thought this was going to be sponsored by polytopia, cuz the animation style is almost identical and it's a game about borders.

  17. The only politically-correct way to expand your territory these days is to create a false flag and make it look like the country you want to take over attacked you.

  18. Barby: This is how borders come to be!



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