We know that a country’s geography plays a huge role in its social and economic progress. Quite a few regions around the world have always been relatively better off than others due to the inherent advantages of their starting location on the map, such as farmland and natural boundaries. It’s not really difficult to prove either; just look at Switzerland.
What most people don’t realize, however, is that the opposite is also true. Geography plays an equally important role in holding a region back, although this is usually due to poor politics or cultural differences. While these factors play a prominent role, they are insufficient to explain how many countries around the world are still grappling with the same logistical and economic problems that they have always had. However, it all makes sense once you look closely at the map.
Russia has so many problems with its geography that we don’t even know where to start. The most obvious is its absolutely enormous size. On the one hand, the country makes it almost impossible to invade, on the other hand, it makes transportation and trade a nightmare. Because of this, Russia was one of the last European powers to be fully industrialized.
Another problem is Russia’s connection to the oceans. Due to their location in a largely frozen wasteland, most of Russia’s major ports are frozen for several months each year. Its largest port in the Pacific – Vladivostok – is caught from the Sea of Japan, which is almost exclusively controlled by Japan. This means that Russia does not have a major port suitable for year-round trading, which is why it has never been able to extend its influence on the navy beyond its immediate borders.
Australia is a prosperous and developed nation in all respects, though, despite its geographic features, it is not because of them. It’s much more obvious when looking at the population density map, although only the general map would do that too. Australia is perhaps the only nation that is nearly uninhabited as most of the population lives in sparsely populated urban centers in southern and southeastern Australia. That being said, the country is full of utterly inhospitable places in a wide variety of areas – from arid desert to tropical forests.
The vast majority of these are dry, which poses a number of problems for the government. Most urgently, the entire region is running out of water, as there is currently a drought in many places. In addition, even urban centers like Sydney and Melbourne now receive less rain than usual, which says something about what is already the driest continent in the world.
Indonesia’s geography is unlike any other country, and that’s not an exaggeration. By definition, it’s an archipelago, though that hardly begins to explain what it really is. Indonesia is by far the largest archipelago nation in the world and consists of over 18,000 islands of various sizes. While some are barely a few miles wide, the largest are comparable to islands like New Guinea and Borneo.
The great distance between the Indonesian islands has proven to be a major challenge for the country’s progress. Throughout their history, Indonesian kingdoms had to wait for the development of maritime technologies to do the same as their counterparts in Europe or Asia. It also poses an identity challenge as it is still almost impossible to unite the various people and cultures found on its territory into a single national identity. Its islands are also the reason a great naval power like Great Britain could easily colonize the country.
Due to Indonesia’s proximity to the Pacific Ring of Fire, the country is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. It is home to 136 volcanoes, 61 of which have erupted since 1900. The tectonic activity in the area is so high that the country experiences an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or less almost every day!
Most people would say that Egypt’s geography was indeed the greatest lifeline, and they would be right. The fertile plains of the Nile Delta, one of the cradles of civilization, have given Egypt an inherent advantage over other countries.
However, all of this is in the past, or more precisely before the construction of the Suez Canal. Built in 1868, the canal is an artificial sea corridor that connects the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. As before, European merchant ships had to circumnavigate the entire African continent to get to Asia. It was definitely good for business, but not so good for political stability in Egypt.
Since its establishment, the country has been at the center of a number of major conflicts directly related to control of the canal. From the Suez Crisis of 1956 to the Arab-Israel War of 1967. Even today, unrestricted access to the canal is an important political issue in the region.
While it is a little unfair to say that Pakistan has always had a geographic problem – since the country only came into being a little over seventy years ago – it definitely is now. You don’t even have to do extensive research to know why; Just look at the map.
Almost all Pakistani cities are near the border, and if that doesn’t sound too bad, keep in mind that Pakistan has been at an informal state of war with its neighbor India since it was founded in 1947. In addition, the entire Pakistani-Indian border – saved for the northern, mountainous part – is little more than simple, open terrain that can hardly be defended in the event of a full invasion. This is not a hypothetical case either, as India actually managed to get within striking distance of the Pakistani capital Lahore in its 1965 war.
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5 The Netherlands
The Netherlands is probably the only Scandinavian country that has ever built its own colonial empire, even if it was short-lived. It also stands in stark contrast to most of the entries on this list, being a developed and prosperous nation in every way. Again, however, this is only because it handled its geographic challenges so well.
Put simply, the Netherlands is a little … low. Almost a third of the entire country is below sea level, which has proven to be a pretty expensive problem throughout its history. The whole country is full of structures – like man-made sand dunes, artificially flooded swamps, and pumps – designed to keep the water out. As you can imagine, it takes up a large chunk of the government budget, a problem that would worsen if sea levels rose.
If you study China’s history, you will notice a pattern. It’s absolutely full of internal conflict and conflict, which may be why there was never time for outdoor wars (until those wars came to China, of course). The largest uprising in history – the Taiping Rising – occurred in China, along with several other major civil wars.
Of course, China has always been one of the greatest empires and one of the most densely populated. Geography doesn’t help either, as China is topographically divided into fertile lowlands surrounded by arid and sparsely populated highlands. Most Han Chinese have traditionally lived in the lowlands, although the highlands have always been difficult to control. They acted as a buffer between China and invading tribes – especially from the north – and sticking together has always been critical to stability in China. In addition, the vast territory is home to a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities, each with their own opposing interests and cultures. And of course the evils of communism don’t help.
As most people would have guessed, inland navigation creates enormous problems in terms of trade, economic development and political stability. Landlocked countries have to spend a lot of money and political clout to gain access to a port as trading overland is ridiculously expensive and time consuming. Even then, they always rely on the stability of their neighbors to trade, which further affects their future prospects.
It is worse to be trapped by two countries instead of a landlocked country, even if only two countries are on that list. Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein. While the latter is surrounded by politically stable and prosperous nations, Uzbekistan has not been so lucky.
Established after the dissolution of the Soviet empire in 1991, Uzbekistan has had to spend much more on trade than other landlocked countries, which has affected its economic prospects since its inception. In addition, it is surrounded by very politically unstable countries, some of which are landlocked themselves.
Japan has so many problems with its geography that it is difficult to focus on just one. It is best known that it is due to the Pacific Ring of Fire; A horseshoe-shaped chain of islands and volcanoes in the Pacific, which is also the most tectonically active region in the world. This is why earthquakes are so common across the country that earthquake protection is a legal requirement in most cities.
In addition, the land consists almost entirely of hills and mountains, which limits the arable land to only about 20% of the total land mass. Not only does this increase the cost of importing food from abroad, it also limits the number of people who can make a living from farming. one of the largest employers in most of the developed world. In addition, Japan is low in minerals and other natural resources, which further increases the cost of its imports.
1 The entire African continent
While it is true that Africa is not just one country – and indeed is made up of many different regions and cultures with their own identities – the entire continent suffers from the same geographic problem. Africa is, to put it simply, too long. Compared to the horizontal extent of Eurasia, which allows domesticated plants and technologies to travel to distant places with similar conditions, the vertical composition of Africa has always hampered technological and developmental progress.
Obviously, this is not the only reason for all of Africa’s problems, but definitely the least discussed. Due to the vertical rather than horizontal spread, African cultures have only developed on the east-west axis, which means that the spread of new technologies and other developments across the continent has taken longer. To a large extent, this was also the case in much of America, although the effects there are nowhere near as pronounced as in Africa.
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