Landlocked country

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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 47 landlocked countries in the world, including partially recognized states. Of the major landmasses, only North America and Australia do not have a landlocked country inside their respective continents.

Many countries also have constricted access to the sea. If a country's only coastline is on a sea that is almost landlocked, such as the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea, this may allow ocean access to be easily blocked. This may be of strategic importance, with one or two other countries controlling the entrance, and/or be relevant to tides and freshwater content. Areas without a warm water port will be landlocked during the winter months.

An island country can conversely be considered waterlocked[5] as it is entirely surrounded by water, meaning one must cross water to reach land abroad.


History and significance

Historically, being landlocked was regarded as a disadvantageous position. It cuts the country off from sea resources such as fishing, but more importantly cuts off access to seaborne trade which, even today, 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" that a country can be held back by. 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 from their trading activity with the rest of the world. "If you are coastal, you serve the world; if you are landlocked, you serve your neighbors."[6]

Countries thus have made particular efforts to avoid being landlocked:

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 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,[7] and the current responsible Undersecretary-General is Anwarul Karim Chowdhury.

Some countries may 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 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
 Afghanistan 647,500 29,117,000
 Andorra 468 84,082
 Armenia 29,743 3,254,300
 Austria 83,871 8,396,760
 Azerbaijan [a] 86,600 8,997,400
 Belarus 207,600 9,484,300
 Bhutan 38,394 691,141
 Bolivia 1,098,581 10,907,778
 Botswana 582,000 1,990,876
 Burkina Faso 274,222 15,746,232
 Burundi 27,834 8,988,091
 Central African Republic 622,984 4,422,000
 Chad 1,284,000 10,329,208
 Czech Republic 78,867 10 674 947
 Ethiopia 1,104,300 85,237,338
 Hungary 93,028 10,005,000
 Kazakhstan [a] [b] 2,724,900 16,372,000
 Kosovo [c] 10,908 1,804,838
 Kyrgyzstan 199,951 5,482,000
 Laos 236,800 6,320,000
 Lesotho [d] 30,355 2,067,000
 Liechtenstein 160 35,789
 Luxembourg 2,586 502,202
25,713 2,114,550
 Malawi 118,484 15,028,757
 Mali 1,240,192 14,517,176
 Moldova 33,846 3,567,500
 Mongolia 1,564,100 2,736,800
[c] 11,458 138,000
 Nepal 147,181 29,331,000
 Niger 1,267,000 15,306,252
 Paraguay 406,752 6,349,000
 Rwanda 26,338 10,746,311
 San Marino [d] 61 31,716
 Serbia 88,361 7,306,677
 Slovakia 49,035 5,429,763
 South Ossetia [c] 3,900 72,000
 Swaziland 17,364 1,185,000
 Switzerland 41,284 7,785,600
 Tajikistan 143,100 7,349,145
 Transnistria [c] 4,163 537,000
 Turkmenistan [a] 488,100 5,110,000
 Uganda 241,038 32,369,558
 Uzbekistan [b] 447,400 27,606,007
 Vatican City [d] 0.44 826
 Zambia 752,612 12,935,000
 Zimbabwe 390,757 12,521,000
Total 16,963,624 470,639,181
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 all three 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 15. Depending on the status of the three transcontinental countries, Asia has between 9 and 14, while South America has only 2. North America and Oceania are the only continents with no landlocked countries.

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 was no doubly landlocked country 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 surrounded on all sides by just one country. Such a country is also called an enclave.

The three countries are:

See also


  1. . Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  2. . Webster's 1913 Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  3. . MSN Encarta Dictionary. Archived from on 2009-10-31. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  4. . Compact Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  5. . Retrieved 2007-08-12. 
  6. Collier, Paul (2007). . New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 56,57. . 
  7. UN Report
  8. Cia World Factbook Uzbekistan