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The World’s Strangest Borders Part 1: Panhandles


Countries in the world come in
all different shapes and sizes. Some are huge, while
others are tiny. And then some have
very clearly defined shapes, like these, and
others, well, not so much. Borders are a funny
thing and don’t often make sense without some
historical or geographical context. Sometimes borders take on an
exceptionally bizarre look, extending away from the home
country like a tentacle, or an extra limb. This is called a
panhandle, or a salient, and we are going to look at
five of the strangest examples of these from around the world. To begin with,
we’re going to Italy to look at this example,
the province of Trieste. This province extends 48
kilometers, or 30 miles down the coast away from
Italy and into Slovenia. History is the reason why
this situation exists today. Basically this
entire territory used to be a part of the
Austro-Hungarian empire. And outside of Battlefield
1, nobody has ever heard that name in
a very long time because World War I happened,
and Italy took over a bunch of their land after winning. But then Mussolini happened,
and Italy lost World War II and, therefore, lost pretty
much all of that territory that they had won
in the first war. Trieste became an independent
city-state under UN protection in 1947, but that only
lasted until 1954, when the tiny country’s
territory was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia. The part that Italy
occupied in 1954 remains the border of today,
and that is why the border here looks so odd. Next up at number four, we
are going pretty far away, to India, which looks mostly
normal, except for this mesh over here in the east. Zooming in a little closer, we
can see that this side of India and this side of
India is connected by only a very tiny sliver
of land known as the Siliguri Corridor. This awkward situation,
like every other entry on this list from here on
out, came about as a result from colonialism. When India gained independence
from the United Kingdom in 1947, the British decided to
partition India between a Hindu part and a Muslim part. Pakistan became the Muslim
part and, at the time, consisted of West Pakistan
here and East Pakistan here. Pakistan was separated by all
of India from her two halves. And the Northeast
of India was only connected by the
Siliguri Corridor. At one point, the corridor
is not even 27 kilometers, or 17 miles, wide. The Indian state of Sikkim
extends north of the corridor and separates Nepal from Bhutan. And they connects to the
seven other Indian states in the east, with a population
of almost 45 million people between them. So 45 million
Indians are connected to the rest of their country by
a corridor that, at one point, is only 27 kilometers long. We’re going to move slightly
up north to Afghanistan for our next example. Much like how an appendix serves
no clear purpose to humans any longer, the Wakhan
corridor in Afghanistan seems like it makes no sense. It is a part of Afghanistan that
stretches out for a very long 350 kilometers,
or 220 miles, away from the rest of the country. In width, the corridor varies
from between just 13 kilometers to 65 kilometers,
or 8 to 40 miles. The corridor means that
Afghanistan shares a tiny land border with China and
completely separates Tajikistan from Pakistan. It doesn’t make much sense
now, but pushing the clock back over a century explains
why it exists today. In the 19th century, the
Russian and British empires were both competing
for territory here. Russia ruled Central Asia,
and Britain ruled India. To settle a dispute between
either empire gaining more land and influence in
the region, both agreed to respect Afghanistan
as an independent country that would serve as a buffer
region between them. But the borders of
Afghanistan at the time didn’t exactly match
up between the Russian and the British
borders, so they decided to expand Afghanistan 350
kilometers east to fit between the rest of the space. Over a century
later, the corridor remains, but as a border
between Tajikistan and Pakistan. Our next two entries
are both located in Africa, whose
colonial past is obvious when you look at the
continent’s borders. We’re going to start with
the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has not
one, but two, panhandles. The Congo used to be
a colony of Belgium. And the Belgians created
this one on the left called Congo
Central so that they could access their enormous
colony from the ocean. The second down here is
called the Congo pedicle. It cuts between 200
kilometers into Zambia and varies between 70
to 100 kilometers wide. The pedicle is even more
awkward than it looks. Basically, back when the
Congo was a Belgian colony and Zambia was a British
colony, the two sides could not agree on
the colonial borders. The Belgians wanted access
to the rich swamplands here that had a lot of
wildlife they could hunt for their precious trophies. So the two sides got
the King of Italy to intervene and draw
the border for them. Knowing about as
much about Africa as you would expect of a
man in the 19th century before the internet,
the King just drew a line on a
map in front of him and decided that it looked good. And the two other sides thought
that it looked good enough, and, boom, there was the border. And it’s still there today. Finally, and perhaps
most bizarrely, we have the case
of Namibia, which has this absurd protrusion in
the Northeast of the country. This extension is called
the Caprivi strip, and it goes for 450
kilometers or 280 miles away from the rest of Namibia. This bizarre border exists
because, between 1884 and 1915, Namibia was a colony of Germany. In 1890, the
chancellor of Germany named Leo Von Caprivi, for
whom the strip is named after, wanted of the colony’s border
to extend to the Zambezi River here so that Germany
could navigate the river to the African east coast. In a treaty with
Britain, Germany gave up all colonial claims
to the territory of Zanzibar and, in exchange, was
granted the strip, stretching hundreds
of kilometers across the continent. It makes less
sense when you look at an actual ethnic
map of Africa, which roughly looks like this. As you can see, the strip covers
numerous ethnic and linguistic groups that were not taken
into any consideration prior to the decision. Today the existence
of the strip means that Botswana is almost
entirely blocked off from bordering Zambia, other
than a very tiny opening on the Zambezi River here. And Namibia almost borders
Zimbabwe, just 200 meters down the same river. There were a lot of other
strange borders in the world to be covered, but
that’s all for now. Leave your comments below
about what you think are the strangest
international borders. And don’t forget to
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with more content like this. And as always, thank
you for watching.

Stephen Childs

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