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A landlocked country is a country entirely enclosed by land, or whose only coastlines lie on closed seas.[1][2][3][4] There are 48 landlocked countries in the world, including partially recognized states. No landlocked countries are found on the continents of North America, Australia, and Antarctica. The general economic and other disadvantages experienced by landlocked countries makes the majority of these countries Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs).[5] Nine of the twelve countries with the lowest HDI scores are landlocked.[6]

History and significance

Historically, being landlocked has been a disadvantageous position. It cuts the country off from sea resources such as fishing, but more importantly cuts off direct access to seaborne trade which makes up a large percentage of international trade. Coastal regions tended to be wealthier and more heavily populated than inland ones. Paul Collier in his book The Bottom Billion argues that being landlocked in a poor geographic neighborhood is one of four major development "traps" by which a country can be held back. In general, he found that when a neighboring country experiences better growth, it tends to spill over into favorable development for the country itself. For landlocked countries, the effect is particularly strong, as they are limited in their trading activity with the rest of the world. He states, "If you are coastal, you serve the world; if you are landlocked, you serve your neighbors."[7] Others have argued that being landlocked may actually be a blessing as it creates a 'natural tariff barrier' which protects the country from cheap imports. In some instances this has led to more robust local food systems.[8][9]

Landlocked developing countries have significantly higher costs of international cargo transportation compared to coastal developing countries (in Asia the ratio is 3:1).[10]

Countries thus have made particular efforts to avoid being landlocked:

  • The International Congo Society, which owned the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo, was awarded a narrow piece of land cutting through Angola to connect it to the sea by the Conference of Berlin in 1885.
  • The Republic of Ragusa once gave the town of Neum to the Ottoman Empire because it did not want to have a land border with Venice; this small municipality was inherited by Bosnia and Herzegovina and now provides limited sea access, splitting the Croatian part of the Adriatic coast in two. Since Bosnia and Herzegovina is a new country, railways and ports have not been built for its need. There is no freight port along its short coast line at Neum, making it effectively landlocked, although there are plans to change this. Instead the port of Ploče in Croatia is used.
  • After World War I, in the Treaty of Versailles, a part of Germany, designated "the Polish corridor", was given to the new Second Polish Republic, for access to the Baltic Sea. This was also the pretext for making Danzig (now Gdańsk) with its harbour the Free City of Danzig. This gave Poland a short coastline, which was soon enlarged as the small fishing harbor of Gdynia grew into a large one. Until the dissolution of Austria-Hungary in 1918 at the end of World War I, Austrians, Hungarians and that empire's other nationalities had served in that country's navy, but since then, Austria and Hungary have both been landlocked countries.
  • The Treaty of Versailles also required Germany to offer Czechoslovakia a lease for 99 years of parts of the ports in Hamburg and Stettin, allowing Czechoslovakia sea trade via the Elbe and Oder rivers. Stettin was annexed by Poland after World War II, but Hamburg continued the contract so that the part of the port (now called Moldauhafen) may still be used for sea trade by a successor of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic.
  • The Danube is an international waterway, thus landlocked Austria, Hungary, Moldova, Serbia, and Slovakia have secure access to the Black Sea (the same access is given to southern parts of Germany, itself not landlocked, and eastern parts of Croatia, which is also not landlocked). However oceangoing ships can not use the Danube, so cargo must be transloaded anyway and a lot of overseas import into Austria and Hungary use land transport from Atlantic and Mediterranean ports.
  • The Mekong is an international waterway so that landlocked Laos has secure access to the South China Sea (since Laos became independent from French Indochina).
  • It is possible that one of the causes of the Paraguayan War was Paraguay's lack of direct ocean access (although this is disputed, see the linked article)
  • Countries can make agreements to allow free transport of goods through neighbour countries. For example the TIR Treaty allows sealed road transport without customs checks and charges, mostly in Europe.

Losing access to the sea is generally a great blow to a nation, politically, militarily, and particularly with respect to international trade and therefore economic security:

  • The independence of Eritrea and Montenegro, brought about by successful separatist movements, have caused Ethiopia and Serbia respectively to become landlocked.
  • Bolivia lost its coastline to Chile in the War of the Pacific. The Bolivian Navy still trains in Lake Titicaca for an eventual recovery, and the Bolivian people annually celebrate a patriotic "Dia del Mar" (Day of the Sea) to remember its territorial loss, which included both the coastal city of Antofagasta and what has proven to be one of the most significant and lucrative copper deposits in the world. In the 21st century, the selection of the route of gas pipes from Bolivia to the sea fueled popular uprisings.
  • Austria and Hungary also lost their access to the sea as a consequence of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919) and the Treaty of Trianon (1920) respectively. Previously, although Croatia had a limited constitutional autonomy within the Kingdom of Hungary, the City of Fiume/Rijeka on the Croatian coast was governed directly from Budapest by an appointed governor as a corpus separatum, to provide Hungary with its only international port in the periods 1779–1813, 1822–1848 and 1868–1918.
  • When the Entente Powers divided the former Ottoman Empire under the Treaty of Sèvres at the close of World War I, Armenia was promised part of the Trebizond vilayet (roughly corresponding to the modern Trabzon and Rize provinces in Turkey). This would have given Armenia access to the Black Sea. However, the Sèvres treaty collapsed with the Turkish War of Independence and was superseded by the Treaty of Lausanne which firmly established Turkish rule over the area.
  • South Sudan was part of Sudan until 9 July 2011 when it gained independence following a referendum where over 95% voted for separation from Sudan (North Sudan). This made South Sudan lose access to the Red Sea and becoming the world's newest landlocked country.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea now gives a landlocked country a right of access to and from the sea without taxation of traffic through transit states. The United Nations has a programme of action to assist landlocked developing countries,[11] and the current responsible Undersecretary-General is Anwarul Karim Chowdhury.

Some countries have a long coastline, but much of it may not be readily usable for trade and commerce. For instance, in its early history, Russia's only ports were on the Arctic Ocean and frozen shut for much of the year. The wish to gain control of a warm water port was a major motivator of Russian expansion towards the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, some landlocked countries can have access to the ocean along wide navigable rivers. For instance, Paraguay (and Bolivia to a lesser extent) have access to the ocean by the Paraguay and Parana rivers.

Several countries have coastlines on landlocked seas, such as the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea. Since these seas are in effect lakes, and do not allow access to wider seaborne trade, countries such as Kazakhstan are still considered to be landlocked. (The Caspian Sea, however, is connected to the Black Sea via a man-made canal between the Volga and Don rivers.)

List of landlocked countries

Country Area (km²) Population Cluster
 Afghanistan 647,500 31,108,077 South Asia
 Andorra 468 84,082 Western Europe
 Armenia 29,743 3,254,300 Caucasia
 Austria 83,871 8,414,638 Central Europe
 Azerbaijan[a] 86,600 8,997,400 Caucasia
 Belarus 207,600 9,484,300 Eastern Europe
 Bhutan 38,394 691,141 South Asia
 Bolivia 1,098,581 10,907,778 South America
 Botswana 582,000 1,990,876 Southern Africa
 Burkina Faso 274,222 15,746,232 Central Africa
 Burundi 27,834 8,988,091 Central Africa
 Central African Republic 622,984 4,422,000 Central Africa
 Chad 1,284,000 10,329,208 Central Africa
 Czech Republic 78,867 10,674,947 Central Europe
 Ethiopia 1,104,300 85,237,338 Central Africa
 Hungary 93,028 10,005,000 Central Europe
 Kazakhstan[a][b] 2,724,900 16,372,000 Central Asia
 Kosovo[c] 10,908 1,804,838 Eastern Europe
 Kyrgyzstan 199,951 5,482,000 Central Asia
 Laos 236,800 6,320,000 Southeast Asia
 Lesotho[d] 30,355 2,067,000 Southern Africa
 Liechtenstein 160 35,789 Central Europe
 Luxembourg 2,586 502,202 Western Europe
 Macedonia 25,713 2,114,550 Southeastern Europe
 Malawi 118,484 15,028,757 Southern Africa
 Mali 1,240,192 14,517,176 Central Africa
 Moldova 33,846 3,559,500 Eastern Europe
 Mongolia 1,566,500 2,892,876 East Asia
 Nagorno-Karabakh[c] 11,458 138,000 Caucasia
   Nepal 147,181 26,494,504 South Asia
 Niger 1,267,000 15,306,252 Central Africa
 Paraguay 406,752 6,349,000 South America
 Rwanda 26,338 10,746,311 Central Africa
 San Marino[d] 61 31,716 Southern Europe
 Serbia 88,361 7,306,677 Southeastern Europe
 Slovakia 49,035 5,429,763 Central Europe
 South Ossetia[c] 3,900 72,000 Caucasia
 South Sudan 619,745 8,260,490 Central Africa
 Swaziland 17,364 1,185,000 Southern Africa
  Switzerland 41,284 7,785,600 Central Europe
 Tajikistan 143,100 7,349,145 Central Asia
 Transnistria[c] 4,163 537,000 Eastern Europe
 Turkmenistan[a] 488,100 5,110,000 Central Asia
 Uganda 241,038 32,369,558 Central Africa
 Uzbekistan[b] 447,400 27,606,007 Central Asia
  Vatican City[d] 0.44 826 Southern Europe
 Zambia 752,612 12,935,000 Southern Africa
 Zimbabwe 390,757 12,521,000 Southern Africa
Total 14,776,228 475,818,737
Percentage of World 11.4% 6.9%
a Has a coast on the saltwater Caspian Sea
b Has a coast on the saltwater Aral Sea
c Disputed region with limited international recognition
d Completely landlocked by exactly one country

They can be grouped in contiguous groups as follows:

If it were not for the 40 km of coastline at Muanda, DR Congo would join the two African clusters into one, making them the biggest contiguous group in the world.

There are the following 'single' landlocked countries (each of them borders no other landlocked country):

If Transnistria is included then Moldova and Transnistria form their own cluster.

If the Caucasian countries are counted as part of Europe, then Europe has the most landlocked countries, at 19. Kazakhstan is also sometimes regarded as a transcontinental country, so if that is included, the count for Europe goes up to 20. If these countries are included in Asia, then Africa has the most, at 16. Depending on the status of the three transcontinental countries, Asia has between 9 and 14, while South America has only 2. North America and Australia are the only continents with no landlocked countries (not including Antarctica).

Doubly landlocked country

A landlocked country surrounded only by other landlocked countries may be called a "doubly landlocked" country. A person in such a country has to cross at least two borders to reach a coastline.

There are currently two such countries in the world:

Uzbekistan has borders with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan that border the landlocked but saltwater Caspian Sea, from which ships can reach the Sea of Azov by using the man-made Volga-Don Canal, and thence the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the oceans.

There were no doubly landlocked countries in the world from the Unification of Germany in 1871 until the end of World War I. This is because Uzbekistan was part of the Russian Empire, and thus part of a country that was not landlocked; while Liechtenstein bordered Austria-Hungary, a country which had an Adriatic coast until it was dissolved in 1918. Upon the dissolution of Austria-Hungary Liechtenstein became a doubly landlocked country. There were again no doubly landlocked countries from 1938 until the end of World War II, as Nazi Germany had incorporated Austria, which meant that Liechtenstein bordered a country with a coast. After World War II Austria regained its independence and Liechtenstein became doubly landlocked once more. Upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan became the second doubly landlocked country.

Landlocked by a single country

There are only three countries that are landlocked by a single country – that is, they are enclaves.

The three countries are:

Landlocked by two countries

There are seven landlocked countries that are surrounded by only two mutually-bordering neighbors:

To this group could be added two de-facto states with no or limited international recognition:

See also

Geography portal


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