Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stalin's Exclaves and Enclaves of the Post-Soviet Union

Exclaves and Enclaves are geographical oddities that sometimes matter and sometimes do not. Most of the time they are along the lines of Carter Lake, Iowa: made by physical geographic changes and have little to moderate impact in the grand scheme of things. However, sometimes exclaves and enclaves are made by human forces and designed to divide and conquer. Such is the case with Joseph Stalin's designs in both the Caucasus and Central Asia. Little pockets of land were transferred under the fake claim that they would protect national minorities. These pockets of land have managed to tie down international relations to varying degrees with pain, strife, and war merging from them.

Armenia and Azerbaijan

What the map says

Post-ethnic cleansing map with true borders

One look at the complex series of exclaves and enclaves in the Caucasus may lead one to ask: how does this work? The answer is simple: it doesn't. Years of ethnic tension, Soviet oppression, and population mass-exiles and resettlements resulted in the bloody Nagorno-Karabakh War from 1988 to 1994. While the war is most well known for the de facto independence of Nagorno-Karabakh and occupation of the part of Azeribajian between the two Armenian states, there were other long changes as well. The little Armenian enclave of Artsvashen fell into Azeri control while Azeribajian lost all three of enclaves to the Armenians. Ethnic cleansing was conducted to ensure control.

Armenian territory in Azerbaijan (Azerbaijian occupied)

Azerbaijani territory in Armenia (Armenian occupied)

Azerbaijani territory between Armenia, Turkey, and Iran
Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic

De Facto Armenian territory in Azerbaijan
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

The enclaves are smaller pawns with Nagorno-Karabakh's status diplomatic war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, most likely these smaller regions, except for undisputed Nakchivan Autonomous Republic, will go from de facto occupied to de jure annexed in any peace deal.

Central Asia

Unlike the Caucasus, Central Asia's geopolitical cartographic Stalinist game has not lead to overt violence, just pointless moves by governments over small tracts of land. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan were given a landscape of confusion that only the mad mind of Stalin that could come up with.

Coming Anarchy's map of Central Asian exclaves

Uzbek territory in Kyrgyzstan

Tajik territory in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz territory inside Uzbekistan

Tajik territory in Uzbekistan

These exclaves and enclaves will most likely will not switch control. Lack of any real ethnic complaints combined with limited resources to fight over and Russian oversight will ensure violence will not appear any time soon.

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