Natural borders for various countries

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
16,969
SoCal
#1
What I find interesting is the fact that, before WWI, Hungary had what might be called natural borders. Same for Italy between the World Wars. What I mean by this is that, based on topographic features (as opposed to demographic features), Hungary's pre-WWI borders and Italy's interwar borders were ideal. Interwar Italy was completely surrounded by the Alps (it still mostly is, but its eastern border has become less favorable to it after the end of WWII) and pre-WWI Hungary has the Carpathians protecting a large part of its borders. This made both of these countries very secure against an attack by a hostile power.

In turn, this raises an interesting question--what other countries can be said to have natural borders based on topographic features (as opposed to demographic features)? I mean, I've heard France's natural borders being described as being the Pyrenees in the southwest, the Alps in the southeast, and the Rhine River in the north. Indeed, France actually had these borders for a time during the Napoleonic Wars. However, what other countries can be said to have natural borders?

For the record, the relevant countries don't actually need to have these natural borders. Rather, merely laying claim to their natural borders would be good enough for the purposes of my question here.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
16,969
SoCal
#2
Also, I figured that this thread deserves some maps. Thus, here are maps of the topography of Europe as well as of France's, Hungary's, and Italy's natural borders:







 
Mar 2016
948
Australia
#3
I have a friend that has Hungarian and Italian heritage through his parents and grandparents, and even though he's never lived in either country, he feels a visceral and intense desire for Hungary to retake the lands that were taken from it after WW1 and to avenge itself upon the countries that took its land, especially Serbia since his grandparents lived in a village that ended up being ceded to Serbia, and they faced horrible discrimination from the Serbians. The dismemberment of Hungary was a pretty major mistake on the Entente's part. It's absurd that Hungary was more severely punished in terms of loss of land than Germany was.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
16,969
SoCal
#4
I have a friend that has Hungarian and Italian heritage through his parents and grandparents, and even though he's never lived in either country, he feels a visceral and intense desire for Hungary to retake the lands that were taken from it after WW1 and to avenge itself upon the countries that took its land, especially Serbia since his grandparents lived in a village that ended up being ceded to Serbia, and they faced horrible discrimination from the Serbians. The dismemberment of Hungary was a pretty major mistake on the Entente's part. It's absurd that Hungary was more severely punished in terms of loss of land than Germany was.
The Entente's principles were actually pretty sound--specifically redrawing borders in a way that more closely matched the ethnic lines. This is actually the principle that Germany used at Brest-Litovsk and that the Entente proceeded to use at Versailles for all of the Central Powers countries. Still, it would have been nice had more plebiscites been held after WWI.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
16,969
SoCal
#5
Pre-WWI Hungary was actually only about half Hungarian. The rest were Slovaks, Ruthenians, Romanians, Croats, Germans, and Jews. Pre-WWI Hungary had excellent borders from a strategic/security perspective, but it was full of minorities--which explains the Hungarian government's Magyarization policy.

Here is an ethnic/linguistic map of Hungary in 1880:

 
Jan 2016
1,104
Victoria, Canada
#6
It didn't quite achieve them, but the Roman Empire of the 10th and 11th centuries very nearly reached its ideal natural borders from the perspective of the reduced Roman state of the 8th to mid-10th century. The Empire pushed to the Danube and secured the Branicevo-Nis corridor in Serbia, protecting it from the north; it secured the dependent status of the Dalmatian cities, Venice, and certain nearer Serbian principalities, protecting it from the north-west; it secured hegemony over Southern Italy, protecting it from the west; it reconquered Crete and reinforced its control over Cyprus, protecting it from the south; it conquered Cilicia, northern Syria (particularly the coast), and much of upper Mesopotamia, protecting it from the south-east; it conquered and bought (through princes bequeathing their realms to Rome in exchange for lands and titles) the better part of Armenia, protecting it from the east; and it secured control over Cherson and a few other outposts on the northern Black Sea, protecting it from the north and north-east. The only objectives remaining to the Roman government were to reconquer Sicily, a rich island of strategic importance with a large Roman population, and secure Tripoli in Syria, giving them full control over the Cypriot seaboard; it made a good attempt at the former, retaking half the island in the 1030's before being pushed back because of the leading general's rebellion after being replaced, and unsuccessfully besieged the latter a few times before a routinely renewed peace signed with the Fatimids in 1000 made the question moot. It's one of the great ironies of history that this apparently highly advantageous state of affairs barely lasted a few decades in its most complete form before beginning to collapse from immense unforeseen pressures on all sides, most notably from the Pechenegs, Turks, and Normans, the last two especially being extremely different from (and much more dangerous than) the traditional enemies faced by the Romans in Italy, the Balkans, and Anatolia.

The Roman Empire in 886 (maps my own, made in Google Earth):



The Roman Empire in 1045:



What these don't show, particularly in the latter (except in Venice), is a ring of client-states, protectorates, and associated principalities around the edges of proper imperial administration, particularly in the central Balkans, Southern Italy, Sardinia, Armenia, and the Kerch Strait, serving as friendly fortified outposts and relays for the projection of Roman soft power. As shown here, the Roman state in 886 encompassed 744,000 square kilometers of land, about the same as the HRE of 1000 AD, and 1,180,000 square kilometers in 1045, only slightly less than the Carolingian Empire in 810. The population of the former would have been around 9-10 million people, and the latter about 18-22 milllion, going by the estimates of Angeliki Laiou, centered on a Constantinople with a population of 150-200 and 300-400 thousand people respectively.
 
Apr 2017
1,119
U.S.A.
#7
Hungary dismemberment wasn't all justifiable. There were around .5 million Hungarians in southern Slovakia along the border (majority of the population; extended to the border of Carpathian Ruthenia), 2 million in Transylvania (a third of the population) and another .5 million in the Banat. A more fair border would be what Germany allowed them to take during the war.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
16,969
SoCal
#10
Hungary dismemberment wasn't all justifiable. There were around .5 million Hungarians in southern Slovakia along the border (majority of the population; extended to the border of Carpathian Ruthenia), 2 million in Transylvania (a third of the population) and another .5 million in the Banat. A more fair border would be what Germany allowed them to take during the war.
Southern Slovakia was given to Czechoslovakia for communications purposes. As for Transylvania, the border there could have been a little fairer, but the problem was that the Szekely Hungarians were a demographic island located in the middle of Romania. Thus, bringing them into Hungary would have also resulted in a lot of Romanians being put into Hungary (as was the case in 1940 in real life). The best that you could hope for would be an extremely narrow corridor (much, much narrower than in real life) connecting Szekely Land to the rest of Hungary. As for the Banat, perhaps the borders there could have been fairer to Hungary as well--though I'm presuming that the logic there was to give the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade a defensible frontier.
 

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