Map courtesy of Google.

Map courtesy of Google.

So here’s the deal. There’s a little piece of Russia between Poland and Lithuania. The area is known as Kaliningrad Oblast. It’s not a “territory,” or a “special administrative region,” or a “protectorate.” It’s straight-up, 100% legit, a full-fledged part of Russia.

It’s just not, you know, attached.

Little bits of extra territory like this – not islands, but pieces of land hanging out with other countries – are called exclaves. And they’re hardly unique to Russia.

Spain has a town inside of France that’s “separated from the rest of Spain by a corridor about 1.6 km (1.0 mile) wide.” (Thanks, Wiki.) And at the risk of sounding obscene, there’s a little bit of Italy in Switzerland.

Why am I fascinated by exclaves?

There’s something so oddly casual about them. It’s like Russia – already the largest country in the world – managed to slip one by on the map-makers when they weren’t looking. “Hey, it’s no big deal, don’t worry about it. Poland and Lithuania, they’re totally cool. It’s just a million Russians hangin’ out with our western brothers and sisters. Forget about it.”

And I’m not the only one who’s raised an eyebrow on discovering this little easter egg on their world map. This drawing sums up my feelings perfectly.

But lest I be accused of showing unfairness toward the Russians (hi, Vlad!) I should point out that the United States has an exclave of its own. No, I mean besides Alaska.

Take a minute to read about the Northwest Angle, a chunk of Minnesota (1,500 square kilometers, population: 120) just chillin’ above the 49th parallel. She and Canada, they’re having a fine time up there.

But hey, listen, it’s totally cool. Really. Don’t worry about it.


6 responses to “Exclaves!

  1. Fascinating. I had no idea about this! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Russia doesn’t give up territory easily…..They took that city/area from Germany after WW2, expelled the German population, and by god they weren’t going to give it back.

    Just be thankful we sold you Alaska and don’t question our “territories.” 🙂

  3. Reminds me of when Berlin was divided, as was Germany, but of course Berlin, including West Berlin, was in East Germany. I always thought that must have been awkward.

    “there’s a little bit of Italy in Switzerland.” Be prepared for a bunch of Italians to protest: “Hey, what do you mean little?!” 🙂

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