Simanaitis Says

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AN ENCLAVE NATION is a country completely surrounded by another country. In days of old, what with every Tom, Dick, and Heinrich setting up a Duchy or something, there were lots of enclaves. Today, or at least awhile back in “My Nation—and I Mean Mine: Micron 2015,” I wrote about 24 micronations, which aren’t really the same thing as enclaves. The latter have more er… legitimate history.

The World Atlas website identifies precisely three enclaves: Lesotho, San Marino, and Vatican City. Curiously enough, I have firsthand experience with two of them. 

Lesotho. WorldAtlas says, “Lesotho, officially known as the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a country in the African subregion of Southern Africa. It is surrounded entirely by territory belonging to South Africa, and is the largest of the world’s three enclave countries. Lesotho is the nation-state of the Basotho people. The Basotho nation was formed under King Moshoeshoe just prior to contact with Europeans, which first occurred in 1833.”

This and other images from WorldAtlas. 

WorldAtlas describes Lesotho’s colonial history with the Dutch and British. Today, WorldAtlas says, “Lesotho is a poor, largely agrarian country. The country’s GDP per capita is just $1,088, and only 25% of the country’s people live in urban areas. Lesotho does, however, have a literacy rate of 85%, which is one of the highest rates on the African continent.” 

I’ve been to South Africa, though a visit to Lesotho wasn’t part of the adventure.

San Marino. Surrounded completely in Italy’s northeast, San Marino is the fifth smallest country on Earth. WorldAtlas notes, “San Marino is the world’s oldest republic. According to tradition, it was founded in 301 CE by Marinus, a Christian stonemason seeking refuge from religious persecution on Mt. Titano. San Marino was never part of any larger state, and has always been governed separately.”

Along with Monaco, San Marino has the distinction of being a tiny country associated with an international grand prix. The San Marino Grand Prix, part of the F1 calendar from 1981 through 2006, was run at the Autodromo Internationale Enzo e Dino Ferrari aka the Imola circuit. Indeed, I visited both places, though the circuit is not particularly close to the enclave (about 60 miles away by Autostrada). 

Borgo Maggiore, at the foot of Monte Titano, is a market town of San Marino. As I recall, it’s where I bought my pair of blue cervo loafers. Cervo is Italian for deer, and these are the most supple shoes I’ve ever owned, sorta bedroom slippers with utile soles. 

By the way, Monaco apparently doesn’t qualify as an enclave. Located as it is on the Mediterranean, it’s not completely surrounded by France.  

Vatican City. This seat of the Roman Catholic Church is, at just 49 hectares, 121 acres, the smallest country the world. It’s also the least populated, with a population of less than 1000 people. 

Vatican City was founded in the 4th century A.D. with a basilica built over the grave of St. Peter. What with internecine squabbles, the Papacy moved to Avignon for 68 years, 1307–1377. 

I once participated in 3 a.m. street racing in Vatican City, as incidental to my participation in the 1989 Mille Miglia Storica, the classic car celebration from Brescia to Rome and return. As noted here at SimanaitisSays, the street racing wasn’t intended as such. I just got hooked into it whilst seeking out my hotel for the event’s Rome overnight.

Image from Walks in Rome, Augustus Hare and St. Clair Baddeley, 1905.

My other Vatican involvement came in creating “A Wright Whimsy” appearing here at SimanaitisSays. All in good fun. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022

6 comments on “ENCLAVE NATIONS

  1. Bob Storck
    June 19, 2022

    You should note that Putin is seeking to turn the agrarian Ukraine into an Enclave nation by using substantial “Russian speaking” populations as a pretext, with only the Odesa port needed to landlock the region from commerce. (If that were a valid reason, Puerto Rico would have over run Manhattan long ago!) Ethiopia has fallen into backwater status as avaricious and belligerent neighbors gobbled their access to the sea.
    Also note that Luxemburg, Andorra and Lichenstein have developed unique commercial status by providing financial and corporate legal services unavailable in their larger and politically complicated neighbors.
    Africa and Asia are replete with large Enclave nations, with Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Azerbaijan all hosting Grands Prix (the latter only having waterfront on the Caspian Lake.)

    • Jack Albrecht
      June 21, 2022

      Ukraine would “only” be landlocked, not an Enclave. Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary would still border a landlocked Ukraine.

      • Bob Storck
        June 21, 2022

        By the “surrounded by another country” narrow interpretation, you’re right Jack. But Joe Stalin and Vlad Putin have stated that the countries you name are just subjugated states of Mother Russia, and have treated them as such when they could.

  2. Mike B
    June 19, 2022

    How many of those tiny places have a railroad (station)? Vatican does:

    San Marino once had a railway line, a branch from Rimini, though it’s long abandoned. Had it survived, I’m sure it would have the kind of fan and tourist following that the Darjeeling line has in India.

    Like the Vatican, Lesotho has only a short branch line entering to a single station and some freight tracks, in Maseru. See

    Lesotho’s a good-sized place, especially compared to the enclaves and duchies in Europe. Has there ever been a race or rally there?

  3. Michael Rubin
    June 29, 2022

    Awaiting details on 3am Vatican street racing, or was that someone speeding up to try again to find their lodging?

    • simanaitissays
      June 30, 2022

      No big thing. Seeking out my hotel, I kept getting lost and routed into a path taking me into Vatican City. The traffic lights there at 3 a.m. seemed to be favored by kids engaging in drag racing. And, as they say, “When in the Vatican,….”.

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