What’s an enclave?

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An enclave is a country or group wholly enclosed by another nation. They can cause administrative and political problems, often formed when national borders are drawn. Examples include Lesotho and Vatican City. Enclaves can be exclave, and agreements are usually reached between parent and surrounding nations.

In geography, an enclave is a country wholly enclosed by another nation. More commonly, an enclave is also an exclave, meaning it is actually the satellite of a larger parent state. Enclaves can be formed for a variety of reasons but often lead to administrative and political problems and attempts are often made to eliminate them. The term is also used to refer to a religious or ethnic group grouped within a larger one, as is the case in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

The word comes from the Old French enclaver, which means “to enclose.” This word comes from a Latin word, clavis, which means “key.” Many enclaves were formed when official national borders were drawn, sometimes resulting in pockets of people of different nationalities trapped within another country. This has often led to political upheaval, as people within the enclave could be cut off from their mother nation. In some cases, an enclave may be occupied by people with a different ethnic, religious or political background from the surrounding country, which can lead to tensions.

Two of the best-known examples of enclaves are Lesotho, which is enclosed within the borders of the Republic of South Africa, and Vatican City, an independent entity within Italy. West Berlin is a historical example of an enclave, as it was located entirely within East Germany. West Berlin is an excellent illustration of the most common type of enclave, which usually consists of a small village or town of a separate nationality located within another country.

In many former colonies, enclaves exist in large numbers. India, for example, has over 80 Bengali enclaves within its border. Several islands are also enclaves, as they are surrounded by another nation’s territorial waters. Many of these island enclaves have been seized for political or military gain, and the occupying nation is reluctant to cede the land.

When an enclave is an exclave, agreements are usually reached between the parent nation and the country surrounding the enclave. These agreements ensure that the citizens of the enclave are not completely cut off, and typically include measures to protect the airspace and the ability to pass freely between borders. In some cases, citizens of an enclave may lobby to be absorbed into the surrounding nation, especially if the enclave is small and the residents have adopted the language and culture of their neighbors.

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