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Articles in Borders

GeoCurrents Editorial: Recognition for Iraqi Kurdistan and Somaliland

By Martin W. Lewis | September 16, 2015 | 13 Comments

(Note: GeoCurrents is a non-partisan blog devoted to providing geographical information, particularly in reference to current global events. On rare occasions, however, opinion pieces are posted on the site. This is one of those occasions. As I regard this issue as extremely important, this post will remain at the top of the GeoCurrents page for at least the next week.)
Now …

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten: An Island Divided

By Claire Negiar | April 7, 2014 | 9 Comments

(Note: Today’s post is by Claire Negiar, a Stanford senior, soon to graduate. Claire will be writing a few posts over the coming weeks, many of them focused on France and French dependencies.)
Saint Martin. Sint Maarten. A crossroad between North and South, split between France and the Netherlands, Saint Martin has known a different fate in the aftermath of decolonization …

Russian Envelopment? Ukraine’s Geopolitical Complexities

By Martin W. Lewis | March 24, 2014 | 16 Comments

The current issue of Time magazine features an article by Robert Kaplan that emphasizes the geographical aspects of what he refers to as “endless chaos and old-school conflicts,” especially in regard to Ukraine. In general, I appreciate Kaplan’s insistence on the abiding importance of geography and I am impressed by his global scope of knowledge, although I do think that …

Robin Wright’s Audacious Remapping of the Middle East

By Martin W. Lewis | October 1, 2013 | 42 Comments

I was taken aback this past Sunday (September 29) by Robin Wright’s colorful map of a politically re-divided Middle East in the New York Times, which illustrated her article “Imagining a Remapped Middle East.” The map, entitled “How 5 Could Become 14,” shows a hypothetical future division of Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia into 14 potential new countries …

Growing Tensions over the Paracel Islands

By Chris Kremer | July 22, 2012 |

Mounting tension in the South China Sea has been amply documented in the mainstream media. However, reporting often does not adequately cover the situation’s geographical complexity, as the geopolitical tussles work out differently for the Sea’s various archipelagos, isolated islands, and reefs.

Greater Turkey Vs. Greater Iran

By Martin W. Lewis | November 24, 2011 | 24 Comments
Map of Greater Turkey and Greater Azerbaijan

 Visions of a Greater Iran, discussed yesterday, come into conflict with other imaginings of geopolitical enlargement, particularly that of “Greater Turkey.” Harsh debates are posted under maps of hoped-for state expansion. The following exchange, accompanying a YouTube clip proselytizing for Greater Iran, typifies the more civil end of the argument spectrum:
 Azerigull: Long live Greater Iran, Empire of Iran. To all …

The Dream—or Nightmare—of “Greater Iran”

By Martin W. Lewis | November 22, 2011 | 24 Comments
Pasa Map of Iranian People

When the term “greater” is attached to a country name, it usually indicates that certain extreme nationalists want the boundaries of the state to expand. The Wikipedia article on “Greater Iran” is one exception, framing the issue on cultural and historical grounds without reference to geopolitical ambition. Still, links in the article lead to sites promoting “Pan-Iranism,” defined as “an …

The Complex and Contentious Issue of Afghan Identity

By Martin W. Lewis | November 19, 2011 | 26 Comments
Map showing different definitions of the term

“Afghanistan” is an oddly constructed place name. It is usually said to be a Persian word meaning “land of the Pashtuns.” The widely used suffix “stan” is Persian for “place of” or “land of,” cognate with the English “stead” (as in “homestead”) and ultimately with “stand.” “Afghan” is usually considered synonymous with “Pashtun.” From the Pashtun perspective, “Afghanistan” is an …

The Congo Pedicle and Its Challenges to Zambian Development

By Martin W. Lewis | September 20, 2011 | 3 Comments
Wikipedia Map of Congo Pedicle Road

Namibia’s Caprivi Strip is not the only African panhandle to result from European imperial attempts to reach water-bodies. Cameroon, for example, has a northern protuberance that connects to the much-diminished Lake Chad. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s southern panhandle—officially the “Congo Pedicle”—falls in the same category. The agents of Belgium’s King Leopold II were

International Boundaries, Peace Parks, and Elephants in Southern Africa

By Martin W. Lewis | September 19, 2011 | One Comment
Map of Elephant Distribution and International Boundaries in Southern Africa

Over the past century, a number of “international peace parks” have been established, designed both to demonstrate amity between neighboring countries and to facilitate the preservation of wildlife, habitat, and natural beauty. The first such “transboundary protected area,” as peace parks are more prosaically labeled, was inaugurated by Sweden and Norway in 1914, an inauspicious

Geopolitics, Wildlife, and Tourism: Botswana’s Tuli Block

By Martin W. Lewis | September 12, 2011 | 2 Comments
Tuli Block on Google Earth

Geopolitical conflicts often prove as harmful to wildlife as they do to humankind. Occasionally, however, discord between states can turn a border zone into a “no-man’s land” where wildlife can thrive. The prime example of such an unintentional reserve is the so-called Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North from South Korea, a 2.5-mile (4 km) wide

India’s Second Most Dangerous Border?

By Martin W. Lewis | May 26, 2011 | 3 Comments
Map of the India-Bangladesh Border

The May 21-27 issue of The Economist describes the line separating India from Pakistan as “the world’s most dangerous border,” an assessment difficult to deny. But India’s 4023-kilometer (2,500-mile) border with Bangladesh is perilous as well. The Indo-Bangladeshi boundary is in some respects more barricaded than that between India and Pakistan. Half of the

The Iran-Pakistan Border Barrier

By Martin W. Lewis | May 13, 2011 |
Google Earth Image of Iran-Pakistan Barrier

One of the world’s most heavily fortified borders stretches between Iran and Pakistan. The Iran-Pakistan Barrier, currently under construction by the Iranian government, features a three-foot thick (.91 meters), ten-foot high (3.05 meter) concrete wall extending across 700 kilometers of forbidding desert terrain. The actual wall, however, is merely one part of an elaborate system

International Land Borders, Hard and Soft

By Martin W. Lewis | May 11, 2011 | 6 Comments
Map of the variety of international land borders

On the standard world political map, all boundaries between sovereign states are the same, simple lines separating one country from another. In actuality, borders vary tremendously. The four-kilometer-wide “demilitarized zone”— sandwiched between two hyper-militarized zones—that splits North from South Koreas does not even remotely resemble the stroll-over border between Germany and France. Such border disparities

Map of Landlocked Countries

By Martin W. Lewis | November 7, 2010 | 4 Comments

Many students are surprised at how few of the world’s sovereign states are landlocked, without access to the sea. The map above depicts the landlocked realm, leaving out the micro-states that cannot be seen at this scale of resolution. Luxemburg is visible on the map – although just barely – but Andorra, San Marino, and

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