It is impossible to figure out how many countries currently grace the planet. The final number will depend on the definition of the term “country.” We can be positive that 192 countries make up the United Nations as of today. However, it is unclear whether the so-called Principality of Sealand falls under the category of sovereign and independent states. Sealand is located on HM Fort Roughs, a former military installation in the North Sea, about six miles off the coast of Suffolk, England. The facility was built by the British during World War II, mostly for defense against German mine-laying aircraft. In 1967, the fort was occupied by a former British Army Major who has claimed it to be a legitimate and independent state ever since. Sealand’s claims are not recognized by any country though the self-proclaimed principality has its flag, coat of arms, area, armed forces and government.
Some member states of the United Nations have their own peculiarities worth mentioning about. For instance, there are a number of states composed by several parts. Russia is one of the states. The Kaliningrad region constitutes a frequently cited example. But just a handful of people seem to know about the Russian village of Dubki, Russia’s other enclave, which is surrounded by foreign territory.
We are not talking about countries consisting of thousands of big or small islands e.g. Indonesia, otherwise known as the Country of a Thousand Islands. Any country with access to a sea or an ocean has insular possessions. We are talking about countries with territories wholly within the boundaries of other countries.
The United States of America is one of the most notable examples. America’s huge state of Alaska is separated from other U.S. states by the territory of Canada. However, neither Americans nor Canadians have any problems whatsoever in crossing their state borders. In fact, there is no “border” in a larger part of the huge boundary (especially the one separating Alaska from Canada) dividing the United States and Canada.
The situation is much worse when a median country is at loggerheads with a separated country. It was the case when Pakistan comprised two parts, West Pakistan and East Pakistan, separated by northern India. Two states were formed following independence of British India – India, a predominantly Hindu country, and Pakistan, a largely Muslim country consisting of the above two parts. The only transportation routes between West Pakistan and East Pakistan were by air or by sea because the relations between India and Pakistan had always been tense. In the end, the nationalist sentiments proved stronger than the religious ones, and the Bengali population of East Pakistan took up arms and fought for independence from the Pashto population of West Pakistan. As a result, Bangladesh appeared on the map.
Surrounded by foreign land
At times the territory of a small country is separated by another country into more or less equal parts which have the same area and populated by the same number of people. A sultanate of Brunei is one of the examples. Brunei, located on the northwestern coast of Borneo, is separated in two by Malaysia.
The situation is quite different in most cases. One part of a separated country is smaller then the other one both in terms of area and population. Cabinda, an enclave of Angola on the west coast of Africa, is one of the examples. Cabinda is separated from the rest of Angola by the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. East Timor, a recently formed state on the Island of Timor is another example. An enclave of East Timor in located around the city of Okusi, in the eastern part of the island owned by Indonesia.
There are still two enclaves of Uzbekistan located in Kyrgyzstan, which, in turn, has an enclave of Tajikistan on its territory too. An enclave of Tajikistan also exists in Uzbekistan. An enclave of Spain is located near the city of Latur de Carole in France. Four small enclaves of Belgium are situated in the southern part of the Netherlands.
Croatia is arguably the strangest case of separation in two. A very narrow strip of Bosnia and Herzegovina divides the Adriatic part of Croatia. Meanwhile, a very long peninsula stretches from the southern part of Croatia toward the north. Theoretically, a bridge could be built on the peninsula for connecting the southern and northern parts of the country.
The village of Dubki, Russia’s enclave in Estonia
Russia has its own well-known example of an enclave i.e. the Kaliningrad region, which is separated from the remaining part of Russia by the territories of two foreign countries, Belarus and Lithuania, respectively. The Kaliningrad region will be isolated from the rest of Russia even if the Russian Federation and Belarus should ever become a single state.
Russia ’s other enclave is a lot smaller in terms of area, and less known both inside and outside the country. The small enclave comprises the village of Dubki and vicinity; it is located on the cape extending into the Lake of Pskov. The enclave is surrounded by the territory of Estonia. One can only reach the enclave by crossing the border between Russia and Estonia. The Kaliningrad region is accessible by ships sailing to and fro between the Russian ports and the port of Kaliningrad. Likewise, the village of Dubki can be reached by boat or ferry carrying passengers and cargo across the lake.
Where is the center of Russia?
Reports on the discovery of a center of Russia are published by the Russian press on a regular basis. It is reported that the exact location of the center was either marked or will be marked on the ground. The center is allegedly located in the village of Tura in Evenki Autonomous District of the Krasnoyarsk Region. The geometrical center of Russia is undoubtedly an effective claim. It could be used as good grounds for allocating funds and sending an expedition to the location. However, we had better answer the following question first: Does the center of our motherland really exist? The issue of the center of Russia is more complex than it seems. Strictly speaking, the issue may remain debatable until the end of time.
It is understood that the center of gravity of a complex geometrical figure stands for a geometrical center of the figure. To find out the center of Russia, we may as well try and cut out Russia’s area from the globe (a model of the earth). It is important that the globe be made of a material of the same kind e.g. cardboard or plastic of the same thickness. However, the above procedure would be good for determining the center of San Marino or Lesoto – the countries with clearly defined boundaries and no access to the sea. On the contrary, Russia has a long maritime boundary and thousands of islands scattered around the seas and oceans.
There is also a problem of interpretation. Take the White Sea as an example. Should we deem it to be an entirely Russian territory? Are we supposed to file its entire area under the area of Russia? Then we come up with a figure whose center of gravity will swing about by tens or even thousands of kilometers, depending on a way we choose to interpret the notion of the figure.
All in all, does the hypothesis about the center of gravity of a figure hold water in terms of a geometrical center? The hypothesis may be right for dealing with simple figures yet it is likely to prove wrong in case of countries whose shape looks rather remarkable. For instance, the center of Norway, which is shaped like a saber, would lie somewhere in Sweden. Would the people of Norway and Sweden agree on such an interpretation of the center of Norway? What would be considered the center of the United States should we bear in mind Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands? It might as well lie somewhere in the Pacific.
Anybody is free to pick any point on the map of the Russian Federation as the center of this country provided there is no way one can accurately determine its center. I would suggest that the village of Mikhailovskoe of the Pskov region be deemed the center of Russia.
Translated by Guerman Grachev