Where are the Asian Borders?

February 7th, 2019


Asia, the largest of the 7 continents, can claim the world's oldest civilizations, largest population, and most populous cities. It's the only continent that borders two other continents, Africa and Europe, and there are even noteworthy Asian boundaries with North America and Oceania.

There are only three overland continental boundaries in the world, and two of them involve Asia, namely its borders with Europe and Africa. (The third overland boundary is the comparatively tiny border between North and South America.)

This article will explore the complex subject of Asian borders, and, hopefully, help you understand the geographical limits of that huge continent.

Asia and Europe

Asia is bordered by three oceans, the Indian Ocean to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the east, and the Arctic Ocean to the north. It is Asia's overland border that's the tricky part.

The continental border between Asia and Europe is not typical when compared to other continental boundaries because it's defined by mountains and rivers instead of oceans. The division is an old and complicated one, first pondered by Greek geographers. One of the sticking points was that, geographically speaking, the two landmasses combined—Eurasia—can more correctly be called a "continent," with Europe being a subcontinent of Eurasia.

Initially, the border was defined by European scholars, and it changed over the years following various acts of imperialism. The Don River helped identify the boundary at one point, but the creation of the Russian Empire moved the boundary to the Ural Mountains around 1721.

The border, as we know it today, was first defined in 1730 by Philip Johan Von Strahlenberg, an explorer and a Swedish Army officer. It is comprised of the chains of the Ural Mountains, the Emba River to the Caspian Sea, and the Kuma-Manych Depression (a confluence of two rivers) near the Black Sea.

This boundary divides Russia into two large chunks, with a significant difference in population between them. The European side of Russia is home to over 75% of the Russian people, with only 25% living in the Asian part of the country.

Asia and Africa

Although they were in question going back to the time of Greco-Roman geography, the boundaries between Asia and Africa have been settled. They're defined by the Red Sea, the Gulf of Suez, and the Suez Canal.

The location of the Suez Canal gives Egypt the distinction of being a transcontinental country, with the Sinai Peninsula in Asia, and the rest of the country in Africa. Fewer than 2 percent of Egyptians live in the Sinai Peninsula, so Egypt is considered an African country.

Three island nations, the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Comoros, are located in the Indian Ocean and considered part of Africa. While the island of Socotra (located on Africa's continental shelf) could be considered part of Africa as well, it is officially part of Yemen, which is an Asian country.

Asia and North America

A thin strip of ice is the reason we need to discuss Asia's "border" with North America. A significant migration path for early man, the small gap between the two continents is made up of the Bering Strait and Bering Sea. It's also the international boundary between Russia and the US.

The Aleutian Islands are associated with North America (specifically, the US state of Alaska), but the westernmost Near Islands group is located on Asia's continental shelf. If one were to consider this part of the Aleutian Islands as Asian, that would make Alaska a transcontinental state.

It's a fact that we don't often think about, but the US and Russia are very close neighbors. In some locations, Alaska and Russia are only 2.5 miles apart!

Asia and Oceania

Oceania is the geographic region that includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. It borders Asia in the Malay Archipelago, and the terms Southeast Asia and Oceania are used to define a sharp geographical distinction.

The Malay Archipelago is typically split between Asia and Australasia, with the Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia in control of the western half of New Guinea, and the eastern half, Papua New Guinea, being considered part of Oceania.

Asia—Winner of the Most Complicated Borders Prize!

It's the largest continent, and the only one with a huge overland border, so it makes sense that Asia would have the most complicated boundaries. It took a whole article to describe Asia's borders, whereas we could probably cover the borders of Antarctica in a single paragraph!

We hope you enjoyed delving into the intricate boundaries of the Asian continent. If you want to learn more, you can find many fascinating geographical, historical, and cultural details that shed light on the complex subject of Asia's borders.