An interesting query came onto the site the other day. I hadn’t really thought about it previously so I decided to give it some thought and figure it. The essence of the question centered on the number of national capitals abutting international borders. It’s a situation where one hopes the nation has good relations with its neighbors since having a capital city on the border would make it particularly vulnerable to attack. A foe would only have to reach across the boundary.
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The list is quite manageable. The situation doesn’t happen very often and the phenomenon seems to be inversely proportional with the relative size of the nation, as one might imagine. I didn’t bother to catalog all of the micro-nations for that very reason. Is anyone truly surprised that the City of San Marino in the nation of San Marino abuts Italy? Exactly. Maybe I’ll take a look and see if any capitals of micro-nations do not touch the border. That might be interesting too.
Speaking of Italy, I didn’t bother looking at Rome either which includes an international border as it surrounds Vatican City, and vice versa. Neither did I wish to wade into the international controversy that is Jerusalem.
So now that I’ve conveniently discounted a preponderance of examples, what remains?
I knew two capital cities immediately, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. They face each other on opposing sides of the Congo River, as featured previously on 12MC in National Capitals Closest Together.
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My favorite would have to be Bratislava, Slovakia. Bratislava was the only instance where I uncovered a capital city abutting international borders with TWO other countries, Austria and Hungary. They both border on Bratislava and one can spot an easily accessible tripoint and various other border markers (map). Google Maps doesn’t show city boundaries when imbedded within an article (above) so open it up in a separate page and notice how the Bratislava situation reveals itself.
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The Democratic Republic of the Congo also scores well. Not only does it feature the Kinshasa-Brazzaville situation, it also borders on Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic. Bujumbura, Burundi is an added bonus, not quite bordering DRC however it’s a very close call. I’m going to estimate the outskirts of Bujumbura are probably about 10 kilometres from the border (6.2 miles (map). This is rather impressive for DRC, with its capital city on the border and two (almost three) other capital cities bordering upon it in return.
Others I found included Asunción, Paraguay (with Argentina), Lome, Togo (with Ghana), Maseru, Lesotho (with South Africa), N’Djamena, Chad (with Cameroon) and Vientiane, Laos (with Thailand).
The United States during the American Civil War (1861-1865) was in a similar situation by the reckoning of those who recognized the breakaway Confederate States of America. Washington, DC bordered on Virginia, which seceded from the United States in 1861. U.S. forces quickly grabbed a buffer strip of land on the Virginia side of the Potomac River and constructed a ring of forts around the city for that very reason.
There might be other examples. I used city maps generated by default on Google Maps. We’ve seen before that Google isn’t infallible. Some of the capital city boundaries were very close near-misses, with several coming as close as a few kilometres. I wouldn’t be surprised if definitive sources could be discovered to prove Google wrong in at least some of those cases.
Agrandir le plan
I enjoy 12MC reader email. Longtime, loyal reader Thias from France forwarded an article to me from a French news radio website: "Il n’ y a qu’un seul panneau “Stop” dans les rues de Paris." Alternately, feel free to read the tortured English version run through translation software: There is a single sign “Stop” on the streets of Paris.
Unbelievably, there are basically no stop signs in the entire city of Paris save for this one. As Thias notes, isn’t isn’t really on a street. It’s placed at the exit of a construction business (map) on the far outskirts of the city. Thus, the real answer is there are probably ZERO genuine stops signs in all of Paris unless someone in the 12MC audience can prove it wrong. Amazing!