Student Article #15: For the Joy of Sharing

Weird Borders

By Gurubaran Magesh
Class 5 Student, Bangalore

Foreword by Venkat
The best tools to capture the attention are exaggeration, miniaturization or something unusual. These not only carry some entertainment value but also trigger curiosity. That is how art binds with creativity, innovation or the spirit of inquiry. Gurubaran in his usual peppy style brings some entertainment and curiosity into learning some geography and history through (as you must have read already) weirdly shaped (international) borders. This article is a treat to read and inspiring especially to those who dread the subject of geography. Kudos to young Gurubaran on this one!

Be entertained and enlightened on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of four bizarrely shaped international borders as Gurubaran describes with a touch of humor!

Gurubaran Magesh is a 5th grader living in Bengaluru. He has strong interests in Geography (mainly political), Maps and Railways and Urban planning.

Weird Borders

You have probably heard of the term “borders”, the lines that separates two countries. Sometimes  they are like a scribble that a 2-year-old drew. Sometimes borders extend from their country like a pan’s handle (maybe the ones who made their border wanted to fry something in their country).  Lets look at some weird borders.

Afghanistan

First, we have our neighbour, Afghanistan where we find the Wakhan corridor which makes no sense. It’s a 350 kilometres and a width of 13 to 65 kilometres. However, is reason lies in the past. In the 19th century both the British and Russians wanted to expand their territory into the Wakhan corridor region and to solve a dispute between Russia and UK, they both used Afghanistan as a buffer state in-between them but Afghanistan’s border didn’t exactly match up with the Russian British border so they extended Afghanistan 350 kilometres east to fill the gap and now it remains, but separates Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Namibia

Next, we move to Africa where we find Namibia in which the Caprivi strip is located. This strip shape extends like a pan handle from Namibia. In the 19th century, Germany used to control Namibia and Germany wanted access to the Indian ocean. So, she sold the island of Zanzibar near Tanzania and bought a long strip of land (called as Caprivi Strip named after German Chancellor of that time, Mr. Leo Van Caprivi) from the British, which gives Germany access to the Zambezi river which connected to the Indian ocean.

However, this purchase became useless as in the middle of the Zambezi river is Victoria falls, the largest waterfall in the world, which does not allow any ship to reach the Indian ocean in one piece!!!

Spain

When you think of Spain, you imagine it to be in mainland Europe. It is not entirely true because of the tiny pieces of Spain in Africa. Let me explain. You see Spain used to control posts of Morocco and western Sahara. Spain gave Morocco independence in 1900s but still held on to few tiny pieces called as plazas de soberanía. These include the cities of Ceuta and Malila and a few scattered islands.

The most interesting of it is a small peninsula with a big name Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera. This place has the shortest border in the world, where Spain borders Morocco which is only 74 meters long.

Sweden & Finland

The island of Märket lies in between Sweden and Finland. You see in the 17th century Sweden and Russia (which used to control Finland) divided the island in half.  About 50 years later when Finland was independent, it built a lighthouse on a hill which was on the Swedish side. After knowing about this, Sweden was furious with Finland. Finally, after a 100 years, the governments of both countries signed an agreement to change the border to the zigzag pattern we have today so that either side did not lose land.

As you see the borders of the world may cause problems that can only be solved by guru of borders: Master Gurubaran himself! 🙂

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