AskDefine | Define enclaves

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  1. Plural of enclave

Extensive Definition

In political geography, an enclave is a country or part of a country mostly surrounded by the territory of another country or wholly lying within the boundaries of another country, and an exclave is a part of a country which is geographically separated from the main part by surrounding "alien" territory. Many entities are both enclaves and exclaves, but not all are simultaneously both.

Origin and usage

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 word exclave is a logical extension created three decades later.
Although the meanings of both words are close, an exclave may not necessarily be an enclave or vice versa. For example, Kaliningrad, an exclave of Russia, is not an enclave because it is surrounded not by one state, but by two: Lithuania and Poland; it also borders the Baltic Sea. On the other hand, Lesotho is an enclave in South Africa, but it is not politically attached to anything else, meaning that it is not an exclave.
In British administrative history, subnational enclaves were usually called detachments. In English ecclesiastic history, subnational enclaves were known as peculiars (see also Royal Peculiar).
A country almost surrounded by another but having access to the sea is not considered to be an enclave. For this reason, The Gambia is not an enclave of Senegal.

Usage in other fields

In medicine, an exclave is a detached part of an organ, as of the pancreas, thyroid, or other gland.


Enclaves may be created for a variety of historical, political or geographical reasons. Some areas have been left as enclaves by 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 removed.
Many exclaves today have an independence movement, especially if the exclave is far away from the mainland.

True enclaves

See List of enclaves and exclaves.
This refers to those territories where a country is sovereign, but which cannot be reached without entering one particular other country. One 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.
Most of the enclaves now existing are to be found in Asia, with a handful in Africa and Europe. While administrative enclaves are found frequently elsewhere, there are no nation-level enclaves in Australia or the Americas.

Enclaved countries

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

Related constructs and terms

"Practical" enclaves and exclaves and inaccessible districts

Some territories, attached to the motherland by a thin slice of land or territorial water, are more easily accessible by traveling through a foreign country. These territories may be called "practical exclaves" or "pene-exclaves".
Areas that are not geographically separated from the rest of the mother country, but do not have adequate transportation links between the territory and its mother country without going through a foreign country are called inaccessible districts.
Conversely, a territory that is an exclave but does not function as one (instead functioning as a contiguous part of the main nation) is deemed a "quasi-exclave".

Subnational enclaves and exclaves

Sometimes, administrative divisions of a country, for historical or practical reasons, caused some areas to belong to a division while being attached to another one.

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.


Embassies and military bases are usually exempted from the jurisdiction 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 jurisdiction of the host country 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:

National railway passing through foreign territory

Changes in borders can make a railway that was previously located solely within a country criss-cross the new borders. Since railways are much more expensive than roads to rebuild to avoid this problem, the criss-cross arrangement tends to last a long time. With passenger trains this may mean that doors on carriages are locked and guarded to prevent illicit entry and exit while the train is momentarily in another country.
Examples include:
Also, borders have occasionally been shifted for the purpose of avoiding this sort of arrangement. The best-known example is the Gadsden Purchase, in which the United States bought land from Mexico on which it was planned to build a southern route for the transcontinental railroad. Owing to the topography of the area, acquisition of the new land by New Mexico and Arizona would have been the only feasible way to construct such a railroad in the South.

National highway passing through foreign territory

This arrangement is less common as highways are more easily re-aligned as noted above. Examples include:

Border infrastructure

Several bridges cross the frontier rivers separating Germany and Poland. They can share the cost of maintaining these bridges, but it would be foolish to share the work. So they have divided the bridges between them, making each country totally responsible for some of the bridges, even though one end of each bridge is on the other's territory.
enclaves in Danish: Enklave og eksklave
enclaves in Modern Greek (1453-): Περίκλειστο και αποσπασμένο έδαφος
enclaves in Hungarian: Enklávé és exklávé
enclaves in Norwegian: Enklave og eksklave
enclaves in Norwegian Nynorsk: Enklave og eksklave
enclaves in Finnish: Enklaavi ja eksklaavi
enclaves in Chinese: 飛地
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