Borders are geographic boundaries of political entities or legal
jurisdictions, such as governments, sovereign states, federated
states, and other subnational entities. Borders are established
through agreements between political or social entities that control
those areas; the creation of these agreements is called boundary
Some borders—such as a state's internal administrative border, or
inter-state borders within the Schengen Area—are often open and
completely unguarded. Other borders are partially or fully controlled,
and may be crossed legally only at designated border checkpoints and
border zones may be controlled.
Borders may even foster the setting up of buffer zones. A difference
has also been established in academic scholarship between border and
frontier, the latter denoting a state of mind rather than state
2.1 Natural borders
2.2 Geometric borders
2.3 Fiat borders
2.4 Relict borders
3 Maritime borders
6 Cross-border regions
8 Images gallery
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this
section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material
may be challenged and removed. (May 2013) (Learn how and when to
remove this template message)
The purpose of the
Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China was to stop people and
militaries from crossing the northern border of China.
In the past, many borders were not clearly defined lines; instead
there were often intervening areas often claimed and fought over by
both sides, sometimes called marchlands. A special case in modern
times was the
Saudi Arabian–Iraqi neutral zone
Saudi Arabian–Iraqi neutral zone and Saudi–Kuwaiti
neutral zone from 1922 until 1981 and 1970 respectively. In modern
times, marchlands have been replaced by clearly defined and demarcated
borders. For the purposes of border control, airports and seaports are
also classed as borders. Most countries have some form of border
control to regulate or limit the movement of people, animals, and
goods into and out of the country. Under international law, each
country is generally permitted to legislate the conditions that have
to be met in order to cross its borders, and to prevent people from
crossing its borders in violation of those laws.
Some borders require presentation of legal paperwork like passports
and visas, or other identity documents, for persons to cross borders.
To stay or work within a country's borders aliens (foreign persons)
may need special immigration documents or permits; but possession of
such documents does not guarantee that the person should be allowed to
cross the border.
Moving goods across a border often requires the payment of excise tax,
often collected by customs officials. Animals (and occasionally
humans) moving across borders may need to go into quarantine to
prevent the spread of exotic infectious diseases. Most countries
prohibit carrying illegal drugs or endangered animals across their
borders. Moving goods, animals, or people illegally across a border,
without declaring them or seeking permission, or deliberately evading
official inspection, constitutes smuggling. Controls on car liability
insurance validity and other formalities may also take place.
In places where smuggling, migration, and infiltration are a problem,
many countries fortify borders with fences and barriers, and institute
formal border control procedures. But some borders are merely
signposted. This is common in countries within the European Schengen
Area and on rural sections of the Canada–United States border.
Borders may even be completely unmarked, typically in remote or
forested regions; such borders are often described as "porous".
Migration within territorial borders, and outside of them, represented
an old and established pattern of movement in African countries, in
seeking work and food, and to maintain ties with kin who had moved
across the previously porous borders of their homelands. When the
colonial frontiers were drawn, Western countries attempted to obtain a
monopoly on the recruitment of labor in many African countries, which
altered the practical and institutional context in which the old
migration patterns had been followed, and some might argue, are still
followed today. The frontiers were particularly porous for the
physical movement of migrants, and people living in borderlands easily
maintained transnational cultural and social networks.
A border may have been:
Agreed by the countries on both sides
Imposed by the country on one side
Imposed by third parties, e.g. an international conference
Inherited from a former state, colonial power or aristocratic
Inherited from a former internal border, such as within the former
Never formally defined.
In addition, a border may be a de facto military ceasefire line.
Political borders are imposed on the world through human agency.
That means that although a political border may follow a river or
mountain range, such a feature does not automatically define the
political border, even though it may be a major physical barrier to
Political borders are often classified by whether or not they follow
conspicuous physical features on the earth.
A photograph of the France–Italy border at night. The southwestern
end of the
Alps separates the two countries.
Natural borders are geographical features that present natural
obstacles to communication and transport. Existing political borders
are often a formalization of such historical, natural obstacles.
Some geographical features that often constitute natural borders are:
Oceans: oceans create very costly natural borders. Very few countries
span more than one continent. Only very large and resource-rich states
are able to sustain the costs of governance across oceans for longer
periods of time.
Rivers: some political borders have been formalized along natural
borders formed by rivers. Some examples are: the Niagara River
Rio Grande (Mexico–USA), the Rhine
(France–Germany), and the
Mekong (Thailand–Laos). If a precise
line is desired, it is often drawn along the thalweg, the deepest line
along the river. In the Hebrew Bible,
Moses defined the middle of the
river Arnon as the border between
Moab and the
settling east of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:16). The United States
Supreme Court ruled in 1910 that the boundary between the American
states of Maryland and West Virginia is the south bank of the Potomac
Lakes: larger lakes create natural borders. One example is the natural
border created by
Lake Tanganyika, with the Democratic Republic of
Zambia on its west shore and
Burundi on the
Forests: denser jungles or forests can create strong natural borders.
One example of a natural forest border is the Amazon rainforest,
Brazil and Bolivia from Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and
Mountain ranges: research on borders suggests that mountains have
especially strong effects as natural borders. Many nations in Europe
and Asia have had their political borders defined along mountain
ranges, often along a drainage divide.
Throughout history, technological advances have reduced the costs of
transport and communication across the natural borders. That has
reduced the significance of natural borders over time. As a result,
political borders that have been formalized more recently, such as
those in Africa or Americas, typically conform less to natural
borders than very old borders, such as those in
Europe or Asia, do.
Geometric boundaries are formed by straight lines
(such as lines of latitude or longitude), or occasionally arcs
(Pennsylvania/Delaware), regardless of the physical and cultural
features of the area. Such political boundaries are often found around
the states that developed out of colonial holdings, such as in Africa
and the Middle East.
A generalization of the idea of geometric borders is the idea of fiat
boundaries by which is meant any sort of boundary that does not track
an underlying bona fide physical discontinuity. Fiat boundaries are
typically the product of human demarcation, such as in demarcating
electoral districts or postal districts.
A relict border is a former boundary, which may no longer be a legal
boundary at all. However, the former presence of the boundary can
still be seen in the landscape. For instance, the boundary between
East and West Germany is no longer an international boundary, but it
can still be seen because of historical markers on the landscape, and
it is still a cultural and economic division in Germany.
Main article: Maritime boundary
The Strait of Dover viewed from France, looking towards the United
A maritime border is a division enclosing an area in the ocean where a
nation has exclusive rights over the mineral and biological
resources, encompassing maritime features, limits and zones.
Maritime borders represent the jurisdictional borders of a maritime
nation and are recognized by the United Nations Convention on the
Law of the Sea.
Maritime borders exist in the context of territorial waters,
contiguous zones, and exclusive economic zones; however, the
terminology does not encompass lake or river boundaries, which are
considered within the context of land boundaries.
Some maritime borders have remained indeterminate despite efforts to
clarify them. This is explained by an array of factors, some of which
illustrate regional problems.
The United States–Mexico border: San Diego–Tijuana.
A border wall on a beach separating United States - Mexico
The presence of borders often fosters certain economic features or
anomalies. Wherever two jurisdictions come into contact, special
economic opportunities arise for border trade.
Smuggling provides a
classic case; contrariwise, a border region may flourish on the
provision of excise or of import–export services — legal or
quasi-legal, corrupt or legitimate. Different regulations on either
side of a border may encourage services to position themselves at or
near that border: thus the provision of pornography, of prostitution,
of alcohol and/or of narcotics may cluster around borders, city
limits, county lines, ports and airports. In a more planned and
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) often tend to cluster
near borders or ports.
Even if the goods are not perceived to be undesirable, states will
still seek to document and regulate the cross-border trade in order to
collect tariffs and benefit from foreign currency exchange
revenues. Thus, there is the concept unofficial trade in goods
otherwise legal; for example, the cross-border trade in livestock by
pastoralists in the Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia sells an estimated $250
to $300 million of livestock to Somalia,
Djibouti every year
unofficially, over 100 times the official estimate.
Human economic traffic across borders (apart from kidnapping) may
involve mass commuting between workplaces and residential settlements.
The removal of internal barriers to commerce, as in France after the
French Revolution or in Europe since the 1940s, de-emphasises
border-based economic activity and fosters free trade. Euroregions are
similar official structures built around commuting across boundary.
Borders between Israel,
Mount Hermon region. The
Blue Line between Israel and
Lebanon – marked by black asterisk.
Disengagement Israeli front line with
Syria (1974) - marked by blue
asterisk. Disengagement Syrian front line with Israel (1974) - marked
by red asterisk.
Political borders have a variety of meanings for those whom they
affect. Many borders in the world have checkpoints where border
control agents inspect persons and/or goods crossing the boundary.
In much of Europe, controls on persons were abolished by the 1985
Schengen Agreement and subsequent
European Union legislation. Since
the Treaty of Amsterdam, the competence to pass laws on crossing
internal and external borders within the
European Union and the
Schengen Area states (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and
Liechtenstein) lies exclusively within the jurisdiction of the
European Union, except where states have used a specific right to opt
out (United Kingdom and Ireland, which maintain the Common Travel Area
The United States has notably increased measures taken in border
control on the
Canada–United States border
Canada–United States border and the United
States–Mexico border during its
War on Terrorism
War on Terrorism (See Shantz 2010).
One American writer has said that the 3,600 km (2,200 mi)
US-Mexico border is probably "the world's longest boundary between a
First World and
Third World country".
The Swiss–Italian border
Historic borders such as the Great Wall of China, the Maginot Line,
Hadrian's Wall have played a great many roles and been marked in
different ways. While the stone walls, the
Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China and the
Hadrian's Wall in Britain had military functions, the entirety
of the Roman borders were very porous, which encouraged Roman economic
activity with neighbors. On the other hand, a border like the
Maginot Line was entirely military and was meant to prevent any access
in what was to be World War II to France by its neighbor, Germany;
Germany ended up going around the
Maginot Line through Belgium just as
it had done in World War I.
Macro-regional integration initiatives, such as the
European Union and
NAFTA, have spurred the establishment of cross-border regions. These
are initiatives driven by local or regional authorities, aimed at
dealing with local border-transcending problems such as transport and
environmental degradation. Many cross-border regions are also
active in encouraging intercultural communication and dialogue as well
as cross-border economic development strategies.
In Europe, the
European Union provides financial support to
cross-border regions via its
Interreg programme. The Council of Europe
has issued the Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation,
providing a legal framework for cross-border co-operation even though
it is in practice rarely used by Euroregions.
There has been a renaissance in the study of borders during the past
two decades, partially from creation of a counter narrative to notions
of a borderless world that have been advanced as part of globalization
theory. Examples of recent initiatives are the
Border Regions in
Transition network of scholars, the International Boundaries
Research Unit at the University of Durham, the Association of
Borderlands Studies based in North America, the African
Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE) and the founding of smaller
border research centres at Nijmegen and Queen's University
The following pictures show in how many different ways international
and regional borders can be closed off, monitored, at least marked as
such, or simply unremarkable.
Borders of the World
Wagah border crossing between India and
Pakistan along the
Tijuana, Mexico and San Ysidro, California, United States. A
straight-line border surveyed when the region was thinly populated.
A sign showing the limits of the
Frontier Closed Area, a 28-km² area
along the Hong Kong-side of the 30-km-long border between Hong Kong
and mainland China.
The bridge over the
Anarjohka in Karigasniemi, on the border of
Finland with Norway
The border between
Argentina (Puerto Iguazú) and
Brazil (Foz do
Iguazú) on the Iguazú River.
Peace Arch at the Canada–United States border, the longest
common border in the world.
A sign at the Polish-Czech border near Králický Sněžník,
indicating that only citizens of the
European Union and of five more
states may cross. When the Schengen rules became applicable in 2007,
the sign became obsolete.
A typical Schengen internal border (near
Kufstein between Germany and
Austria): the traffic island marks the spot where a control post once
stood; it was removed in 2000.
Border flower pot between Burghausen,
Germany and Ach in Austria.
A border within a closely built-up area – near
Germany and the Netherlands: Germany starts at the red line drawn in
Border between the
Netherlands and Belgium next to a street café in
Baarle Nassau and Baarle Hertog. Some European borders originate from
former land ownership boundaries.
The metal strip within the building of the Eurode Business Centre
marks the border between the
Netherlands and Germany, in
The border between the
Netherlands (right) and Germany (left) is
located in the center of this residential road, and, nowadays,
Italy/Switzerland border stone at Passo San Giacomo. Some borders were
broadly defined by treaty, and surveyors would then choose a suitable
line on the ground.
Guadiana International Bridge
Guadiana International Bridge at the Portugal-Spain border, whose
limits were established by the Treaty of
Alcañices in 1297. It is one
of the oldest borders in the world.
Treriksröset cairn located at the point where Sweden, Norway and
The gate that borders
East Nusa Tenggara
East Nusa Tenggara in
Indonesia and East Timor.
The marker between the United States and Canada in Waterton-Glacier
A road crossing the
Republic of Ireland-United Kingdom border
Republic of Ireland-United Kingdom border from the
British side. This border is entirely open: the only indication that
one is crossing into the
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland is a speed limit sign in
kilometres per hour (signs in the United Kingdom are in miles per
A train crossing the China–Russia border, travelling from Zabaykalsk
in Russia to
Manzhouli in China.
The winding border between
Pakistan and India is lit by security
lights. It is one of the few places on Earth where an international
boundary can be seen at night.
Boundary (real estate)
List of countries and territories by land and maritime borders
List of countries that border only one other country
List of international border rivers
List of countries and territories by land borders
List of bordering countries with greatest relative differences in GDP
(PPP) per capita
List of land borders with dates of establishment
List of national border changes since World War I
^ Mura, Andrea (2016). "National Finitude and the Paranoid Style of
the One". Contemporary Political Theory. 15: 58–79.
^ Robinson, Edward Heath. Reexamining Fiat, Bona Fide and Force
Dynamic Boundaries for Geopolitical Entities and their Placement in
DOLCE Applied Ontology 2012 7: pp. 93–108
^ Smith, Barry, 1995, "On Drawing Lines on a Map" in A. U. Frank, W.
Kuhn and D. M. Mark (eds.), Spatial Information Theory. Proceedings of
COSIT 1995, Berlin/Heidelberg/Vienna/New York/London/Tokyo: Springer
^ VLIZ Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase, General info; retrieved 19
^ Geoscience Australia, Maritime definitions[permanent dead link];
retrieved 19 November 2010
^ United States Department of State, Maritime boundaries; retrieved 19
^ Valencia, Mark J. (2001). Maritime Regime Building: Lessons Learned
and Their Relevance for Northeast Asia, pp. 149–166., p. 149, at
^ a b Pavanello, Sara 2010. Working across borders – Harnessing the
potential of cross-border activities to improve livelihood security in
Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa drylands Archived 2010-11-12 at the Wayback
Machine.. London: Overseas Development Institute
^ Murphy, Cullen. Roman Empire: gold standard of immigration. Los
Angeles Times, June 16, 1907 (accessed here June 20, 2007)
^ Murphy 2007
^ Perkmann, M, Building governance institutions across European
borders, Regional Studies, 1999, Vol: 33, pages: 657–667,
^ D. Newman & A. Paasi, `Fences and neighbours in the post-modern
world: boundary narratives in political geography', Progress in Human
Geography, 22 (2), 186–207, 1998; D. Newman, "The lines that
continue to separate us: Borders in our borderless world", Progress in
Human Geography, Vol 30 (2), 1–19, 2006.
Border Regions in Transition IX Conference, North American and
Border Regions in Comparative Perspective: Markets, States
Border Communities, (January 12–15, 2008) Victoria, BC Canada
and Bellingham, WA United States.
^ International Boundaries Research Unit, University of Durham.
^ Association for Borderland Studies.
Nijmegen Centre for
^ Centre for International Borders Research (CIBR) Queen's University
Border Stories – A website devoted to stories from both sides of the
U.S. Mexico Border
Talking Borders online audio archive at Queen's University Belfast
The World in 2015: National borders undermined? 11-min video interview
with Bernard Guetta, a columnist for Libération newspaper and France
Inter radio. "For [Guetta], one of the main lessons from international
relations in 2014 is that national borders are becoming increasingly
irrelevant. These borders, drawn by the colonial powers, were and
still are entirely artificial. Now, people want borders along
national, religious or ethnic lines. Bernard Guetta calls this a
"comeback of real history"."
Mura, Andrea (2016). "National Finitude and the Paranoid Style of the
One". Contemporary Political Theory. 15: 58–79.
Said Saddiki, World of Walls: The Structure, Roles and Effectiveness
of Separation Barriers. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2017.
Media related to
Border at Wikimedia Commons
Look up border in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Collection of pictures of European borders, mainly intra-Schengen
Institut Européen des Itinéraires Culturels homepage
Border Ireland – database of activities and publications on
cross-border co-operation on the island of Ireland since 1980's
Gallery of 1100 borderpoints in the world
BNF: cb11954113g (data)