Chaitanya's Random Pages

March 2, 2011

Short and interesting land borders

Filed under: geography — ckrao @ 11:54 am

Recently I noticed for the first time that North Korea shares a border with Russia. I had always thought it only borders China to the north and South Korea to the south. This made me look up some of the shorter borders between two countries. The following is a non-exhaustive list of short borders shared by two countries. I have deliberately omitted countries that themselves are small (e.g. Djibouti, Qatar, Swaziland, Luxembourg) that would more obviously have small borders.

Border Border Length (km)
Botswana-Zambia 2
Azerbaijan-Turkey 9
Morocco-Spain 17
North Korea-Russia 19
Croatia-Montenegro 25
Armenia-Iran 35
Afghanistan-China 76
Chad-Nigeria 87
Lithuania-Poland 91
Austria-Slovakia 91
Slovakia-Ukraine 97
Hungary-Slovenia 102
Hungary-Ukraine 103
Afghanistan-India 106


  • The Botswana-Zambia border is particularly interesting since it is the closest thing in the world we have to four countries meeting at a point (i.e. almost a quadripoint). Namibia and Zimbabwe are the other two countries in the area. If you look at a map, Namibia extends out east along a narrow finger of land called the Caprivi Strip that gives it access to the Zambezi River. Its border falls just short of Zimbabwe to the east, while Botswana to the South and Zambia to the north share the 2km stretch of Zambezi River in between.
  • Azerbaijan is one of the few countries to have more than one piece, and its western component shares a tiny border with Turkey.
  • How does Morocco border Spain? Spain has three tiny components on the African mainland (Ceuta, Melilla, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera), all surrounded by Morocco, so the 17km border is the sum of three separate border lengths. The border with Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera is just 85 metres long, and only came into existence after a thunderstorm in 1934 made the former island part of the mainland!
  • Croatia is another country with more than one piece (giving the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina a 26km coastline), and its smaller component has a short border with Montenegro. The same applies to Angola and its 201km border with Congo.

Apart from Azerbaijan, Angola, Croatia and Spain mentioned above, below is a non-exhaustive list of countries that have more than one mainland piece leading in some cases to interesting borders. An exclave is land which is not contiguous with another larger piece of the same country.

  • USA (Alaska)
  • Turkey (European and Asian sections, connected by two bridges)
  • Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast)
  • India and Bangladesh – there are 92 Bangladeshi exclaves within India and 106 Indian exclaves within Bangladesh, occupying less than 120 square kilometres in total. There exists within Bangladesh an Indian exclave with surrounds a Bangladeshi exclave, which itself surrounds an Indian exclave (whose area is less than a hectare)!
  • Belgium and the Netherlands have similarly small exclaves near their border.
  • The area between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan has a number of exclaves of each country. Have a look at how irregular the borders among these countries are if you have not already done so!
  • Oman has two exclaves within the UAE. One of these contains an exclave of the UAE.
  • Armenia also has an exclave in Azerbaijan.

Other countries with more than one piece (though not all continental) are the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Brunei.

A list of islands that are shared by more than one country is here – the largest ones are New Guinea, Borneo, Ireland, Hispaniola, Tierra del Fuego and Timor. I never knew about Sebatik Island off the east coast of Borneo, Usedom shared by Germany and Poland or the tiny ones listed there.

Other interesting borders are formed by panhandles (elongated pieces of land sticking out), some of which are listed here. Of these my most noteworthy would be in India (the seven sister states), north east Argentina, Cameroon, Namibia and southern Myanmar.

Finally, there are a number of countries currently having border disputes. I did not know there are as many as indicated here!


Botswana Zambia 2
Azerbaijan Turkey 9
Morocco Spain 17
North Korea Russia 19
Croatia Montenegro 25
Armenia Iran 35
Afghanistan China 76
Chad Nigeria 87
Lithuania Poland 91
Slovakia Austria 91
Slovakia Ukraine 97
Hungary Slovenia 102
Hungary Ukraine 103
Mozambique Swaziland 105
Afghanistan India 106


  1. Looking at the azerbaijan turkey border it seems that there are also four countries sharing that border

    Comment by pazzajonah — March 6, 2011 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

  2. Yes it looks like it doesn’t it, but if you zoom right it you will find that Iran and Armenia are close but do not quite share a border here. Their 35km-long border is south east of here.

    Comment by ckrao — March 7, 2011 @ 11:00 am | Reply

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