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Regions & CountriesMarch 18, 2019 | 12:50 GMT
A picture showing the Register in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. The most populous state in the region, it is the only country to border all other Central Asian states. Uzbekistan is a significant producer and exporter of oil and natural gas which, along with agriculture, dominate the country's economy. These resources, as well as the country's strategic location and the presence of militant groups, have brought the interest of foreign powers such as China, Russia and the United States. Because of this, Uzbekistan's primary geographic challenge is to maintain unity while also balancing against its regional neighbors and external powers. Historically, Uzbekistan was an important component of the Silk Road, and cities such as Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are still key political and population centers in the country. After Uzbekistan became overrun by the Mongols, it became the seat of an expansive Timurid dynasty. The territory of Uzbekistan was then divided between a series of Khanates before being absorbed into the Russian Empire in the 19th century. A former member of the Soviet Union, the landlocked country gained independence in 1991. Modern day Uzbekistan is centered around its capital in Tashkent, though the country has substantial regional divisions. While the western half is largely sparsely populated desert, the majority of the population is concentrated in the demographic and agricultural heartland of Central Asia, the Fergana Valley. The valley itself is divided by a series of complex and poorly defined borders established during the Soviet era to prevent the emergence of a unified Central Asian state. These borders have led to ethnic tensions, resource disputes, and the frequent border skirmishes between Uzbekistan and neighboring states such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
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Regions & CountriesMarch 15, 2019 | 16:22 GMT
Spain
Spain

Spain is located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, France, the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. Spain is separated from France by the Pyrenees, a protective mountain barrier between the two countries. The Strait of Gibraltar divides Spain from Africa, which at its narrowest is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide. This eased the invasion of the Moors in the eighth century during the rise of the Islamic caliphate. The Arab presence lasted until the end of the 15th century, when Christian Spanish kingdoms unified modern Spain. This unification helped Spain compete with other maritime powers such as the United Kingdom and continental powers like France. Spain’s access to the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic, along with its need for natural resources, promoted its consolidation into one of the greatest naval and colonial powers of Europe. While Spain has had external challenges, its main geographic challenge comes from within. Spain’s core is Madrid, the country’s capital, most populated city and political center. Madrid sits on Spain’s Meseta Central and was chosen as the capital in the 16th century to allow more centralized control of the country. But Spain’s mountainous terrain has historically determined its political life by hindering communication between different regions within the country. This geography has led to the emergence of regionalist and separatist movements, especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country. Spain’s challenge, then, is to bring about a truly united nation with a balance of power between the central government in Madrid and the autonomous regions, especially as Catalonia.

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Regions & CountriesMarch 14, 2019 | 20:28 GMT
Niger
Niger
Niger is a landlocked Sahelian state in West Africa that is surrounded by Algeria and Libya to the north, Chad to the east, Nigeria and Benin to the South and Burkina Faso and Mali to the west. Niger's greatest geographic challenge is its landlocked status in the Sahel, the transition zone between the Sahara Desert and the savannahs of West Africa. Niger's lack of immediate coastal access and the global markets beyond increases the cost of imports and exports there. Moreover, it forces the country to rely on costly or lacking infrastructure and to manage relations with neighboring countries carefully to ensure its trade opportunities are not cut off. The Sahel region has often been home to significant instability. Mali, Niger's neighbor to the west, remains the epicenter of regional militancy thanks to its weak government, internal tensions and a host of other issues. Niger, for its part, has also experienced cycles of rebellion but has largely maintained a somewhat stable, if weak and porous, security environment in recent years. Niger's geographic position in the impoverished and unstable Sahel has done it no favors regarding infrastructure or economic development. In the years ahead, rapid population growth and strained resources will become even more pressing, causing Niger to struggle as it grapples with these problems for the foreseeable future.
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Regions & CountriesMarch 14, 2019 | 17:28 GMT
Nepal
Nepal
Nestled against the Himalayas, landlocked Nepal lies between India and China, south of Tibet. Nepal is divided into three geographic subregions: a mountainous northern border region, a central hilly area and the Terai, a fertile, low-lying marshy plain. The Terai is irrigated by tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and supports over 90 percent of Nepal's 27 million people. Only 17 percent of the population lives in urban areas, the largest being the capital in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal's core. Following decades of civil strife, Nepal transformed from a monarchy into a modern republic in 2006. The territory of modern Nepal was unified under ethnic Gurkha rule in the mid-18th century. Colonial Britain relied on the military support of elite Gurkha mercenaries to maintain influence on the subcontinent. After centuries of isolation, Nepal's geographic challenge is its struggle to remain independent and maintain a distinct identity from surrounding global powers. This is complicated by Nepal's dependence on Indian ports and constant Chinese attention on its northern border with Tibet. Nepal has transitioned from an isolated agrarian society toward greater economic integration with its neighbors, especially India. While agriculture still plays a large role, it is matched by the services sector fueled by foreign tourism to religious sites and Mt. Everest. Although the geography and inhospitable climate of the northern border prevent any large-scale military posturing by outside powers, Nepal's location along the Tibetan plateau can serve as a launch pad for greater Indian influence northward or an expansion of Chinese influence, denying New Delhi inroads into Tibet. Following decades of civil strife, Nepal transformed from a monarchy into a modern republic in 2006. The territory of modern Nepal was unified under ethnic Gurkha rule in the mid-18th century. Colonial Britain relied on the military support of elite Gurkha mercenaries to maintain influence on the subcontinent. After centuries of isolation, Nepal's geographic challenge is its struggle to remain independent and maintain a distinct identity from surrounding global powers. This is complicated by Nepal's dependence on Indian ports and constant Chinese attention on its northern border with Tibet. Nepal has transitioned from an isolated agrarian society toward greater economic integration with its neighbors, especially India. While agriculture still plays a large role, it is matched by the services sector fueled by foreign tourism to religious sites and Mt. Everest. Although the geography and inhospitable climate of the northern border prevent any large-scale military posturing by outside powers, Nepal's location along the Tibetan plateau can serve as a launch pad for greater Indian influence northward or an expansion of Chinese influence, denying New Delhi inroads into Tibet.
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