Geography Is Dynamic, And A Newspaper Article Proves It.

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Geography is dynamic. This is the Earth. Things are always changing on this planet. Borders change, land changes. A 1994 newspaper article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that geography is dynamic. The article shows the changes and events that were taking place back then. Consider the events of the early/mid 1990s, and compare them to today.

Oases And Geopolitics

Huacachina-übersichtImagine this. You’re on a voyage through the desert. Water has not been seen for days. Barren, dry land  abounds. Suddenly, a cluster of vegetation appears. No, this is not a mirage. It is for real. Where does that vegetation come from? It hardly ever rains?

An oasis is an isolated cluster of vegetation surrounding some source of water. Very often, it is a spring. It can be a small lake. What needs to take place is an underground water source coming to the surface, such as an aquifer.

In an arid environment like the desert, water is precious. People go where the water is. Physical geography determining human geography. In an oasis, agriculture is made much easier, thanks to the availability of water. Some cities in the Sahara region got their start BECAUSE of oases.

Oases have also played a major role in human history, particularly in geopolitics. Why? It is about resources. Geopolitical issues are frequently about resources, the allocation of resources, competition for those resources, trade routes,etc. An oasis town had a role in trade. Think of it like a filling station, with more people. Here is where geopolitics has played a role. Empires looking for more control over trade routes wanted control of the oases. Geopolitics is about how geography determines the way nations relate to one another. It is about studying foreign policy through the lens of geographic factories. In the instance of an oasis, a nation wants to bolster its trade. Resources are not what said nation would like. There is competition for a certain trade route.

Example Bukhara, Uzbekistan is a city that often doesn’t make headlines these days. However, during the days of the Silk Route, it was a highly sought after city. Bukhara was an oasis city. It has long been a major center of trade because it was an oasis city. It was like a filling station. You stopped there for supplies while going along a major trade route. Because of this, it was highly sought after. Before becoming part of the Soviet Union, it was part of the Persian Empire. Seleucid Empire, Greco-Bactrians, , Kushan Empire. It was also ruled by the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan. This was an oasis city and it was highly sought after. Its local geography made it a stopping point along a major trade route. Want more control over resources and trade? You sought the oasis cities. In the deserts, they were the islands of prosperity in an otherwise arid land.

A nation’s foreign policy would be determined by the need to control a trade route. This would me trying to get control of a certain oasis city(or cities).

Geopolitics is determined by resources related to geography. The geopolitics surrounding an oasis city has often been about access to trade. Nations fighting for control of resources.

Poland’s Borders, Geography, and Geopolitics.

Poland is one of the largest nations in Europe. It is also a nation that has been through immense changes in its history. It has gone from being one of Europe’s largest empires to not even appearing on the map. Watch video below to see Poland’s borders change from 1635-now.

Now, it is important to consider that the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was at its largest in 1619, after the Truce of Deulino. This truce ended the Polish-Muscovite War, a series of conflicts between the Commonwealth vs The Tsardom of Russia and the Kingdom of Sweden. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth once included nations such as Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, southern Estonia, parts of Russia, and a tiny sliver of what is now Moldova. The westernmost regions of Poland were not part of that Commonwealth. It was a union between Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

 

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(Photo by Samotny Wędrowiec)

The first Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth started in 1569. Poland and Sweden had a complicated relationship. The Commonwealth would expand east and north, gaining territories such as Livonia and Prussia. These regions would prove to me a subject of contention between Poland and Sweden. Starting in 1648, the series of wars ravaged the Commonwealth. Unlike conflicts of the past, these conflicts were not limited to the peripheral regions. The central regions were affected too. Conflicts with Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Livonia, Ukraine, Sweden, and other neighboring nations would result in its decline. Poland would endure a series of invasions known as “the Deluge”. In particular, from the Tsardom of Russia, Brandenburg, Khmelnytsky Cossack Uprisings in Ukraine, and the Kingdom of Sweden.

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War, and epidemics would decimate Poland’s population, and weaken the Commonwealth. Between 1764-1795, the Commonwealth underwent a series of partitions by Prussia, Russia, and Austria. These partitions took Poland off of the map. Through the 19th century and into the early 20th century, a series of rebellions took place. By 1918, the Second Polish Republic was established.  This lasted until 1939. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. It was a neutrality pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It was signed 23 August 1939. 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany attacked Poland. On 17 September 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland. 2 year later, Hitler would send the German Army on attacks in Eastern Poland, where Soviets had their positions. As World War II concluded, territories were redrawn. Poland would gain what was Germany’s easternmost regions. Danzig would become Gdansk, one of Poland’s port cities today. Poland would also lose its eastern regions. Those areas are now part of Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania. The borders were shaped by the demands made by Stalin in the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, which were brought up in the Tehran Conference of 1943, and again in the Yalta Conference of 1945.

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Poland’s political geography has been shaped by its conflicts with its neighbors. This conflict has a physical geography element to it. Poland today is on the Great European Plain. Most of the nation is flat with the exception of the southernmost parts, where the Tatra Mountains are located. Poland’s location has made it a major thoroughfare for invasion. With relatively flat terrain, there were no buffer zones, except in the south. It has also influenced how its own empire has grown. Poland grew by expanding north, southeast, and east. Going directly south would make invasion difficult due to mountainous terrain. This is particularly so for what is now Ukraine. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, it occupied much of Ukraine except for the westernmost regions. The Carpathian Mountains are in Ukraine’s western areas. The rest of Ukraine is much less rugged, and has historically been more prone to invasion.

Poland has had conflicts with Russia, Austria, Germany, Sweden, the Ottoman Empire (at one this empire occupied southeast Europe), and Prussia. Many of the biggest conflicts have involved Russia, Sweden, Germany, and Prussia. Relatively flat land has made invasion strategically easy.  Land plays a big part in war. Land is a resource. This is what should be considered.

Much of Poland has fertile soil, with the exception of the northern regions with its sandy soil. Fertile land for farming has long been a sought after resource. Another resource is warm water ports. Poland gets cold winters. However, its portion of the Baltic coast is warmer than most places along the Baltic Sea, being further south. Land and greater maritime access are often factors in fighting wars. Poland’s geography has been both an advantage and a disadvantage. Advantageous in terms of fertile soil, a greater access to the sea, and a mountainous buffer zone to the south. However, its geography of rolling hills and plains have given it a disadvantage. It has both been able to invade, and at the same time, be invaded from different directions.

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Geography has been a factor in shaping Poland, from its height in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, to the Polish Partition, to what it is today.

 

The Geography of US/Cuba Relations

 

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90 miles of water separates the U.S. state of Florida from the nation of Cuba. Such a short distance, and yet, much contention.

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Recently, an entry about the potential for a tourism boom in Cuba was written on TheGeoScholar. With President Donald Trump rolling back changes that former President Barack Obama made towards US/Cuba diplomatic relations, particularly in tourism, it looks like such a boom will not be, at least as far as U.S. tourists are concerned.

Essentially, diplomatic relations between the U.S.A. and Cuba have been at a standstill since the 1960s. However, to understand such relations, understanding geography is a requirement.

Cuba is in a strategic position near Mexico, the Bahamas, and the USA. Mexico used to be part of the Spanish Empire alongside Cuba. Simultaneously, the USA expanded in size and influence while the Spanish Empire declined in influence and size. The Spanish Empire was still feared by the USA nonetheless. The British Empire was feared too. Bahamas was a British colony during the expansion of the USA. One fear was that trade routes out of New Orleans would be cut off around the Straits of Florida, where Cuba is located.  ew Orleans has long been a major port in the USA since the Louisiana Purchase. Its location means that ships would pass through the Straits of Florida. There was a fear that either the British Empire or the Spanish Empire could cut off trade routes. This is a major factor in the Spanish-American War taking place.

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There has also been influence by the USA via businesses having holdings in Cuba, particularly in the sugar industry. After the Cuban Revolution took place in the 1950s, the late Fidel Castro took power. After being declared a communist nation, the Soviet Union would use Cuba as a strategic position, being so close to the USA, and the USA and the Soviet Union being enemies of each other. The Soviet Union put missiles in Cuba. With Cuba being a Communist nation, an embargo was put on Cuba. Travel to Cuba via the USA restricted, business and diplomatic ties to Cuba frozen, and thus the current geopolitical situation.

In short, Cuba has a close position to the USA. This has played a major role in geopolitics. On one hand, proximity was one part of wanting to do business. On the other hand, there was also fear, especially with trade routes being a factor. And with