A landlocked country is a country entirely enclosed by land, or whose only coastlines lie on closed seas. 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.
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."
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, 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.)
|Central African Republic||622,984||4,422,000|
|Czech Republic||78,867||10 674 947|
|Kazakhstan [a] [b]||2,724,900||16,372,000|
|San Marino [d]||61||31,716|
|South Ossetia [c]||3,900||72,000|
|Vatican City [d]||0.44||826|
|Percentage of World||11.4%||6.9%|
They can be grouped in contiguous groups as follows:
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.
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.
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: