A Tale of One Town and Three Governements... Or Is That Four? Five? Several.

This is a story about one town that is claimed by several governments. Exactly how many governments claim it is a matter of some debate -- the number could be as low as three (some people would even say two) or as high as four, depending on precisely how you count. (There are more than four, if you include historical claims, but that's true in a lot of places, so we'll only count current claims, and we'll say 3-4.)

The town itself is not very large. If it were in Ohio, it would be called a village, because it is not large enough to qualify as a city under Ohio's rules. (Of course, it's nowhere near Ohio.)

If you looked up the town on a political map that reflects the actual de facto situation, it would be in the country that I'm going to label as Blue. (I'm assigning these colors arbitrarily, as is traditional for political maps. I'm not going to try to pick them all from the respective national flags or anything.) However, it's very close to a three-way border. Just across the line in one direction is Green, and just across the line in another direction is Orange. Got that? Three-way border, Blue, Green, Orange, and the town is just barely in the Blue zone on our objective map.

Green, you may be surprised to learn, is not one of the governments involved in the dispute. They don't claim the town, and as far as I know they never have. It just happens to be close to their border.

Orange does claim the town. We'll come back to them presently.

Pink also claims the town. It's hundreds and hundreds of miles from any territory that they actually control, but they claim the town because they claim to be the successor state of White, which used to have a sort of mother/daughter or lord/vassal relationship with Red. Confused? Okay, we'll come back to Pink. In fact, we'll come back to the present day. Let's talk about the history of the situation.

The border question was originally raised between Yellow and Red. Yellow, a colonial power, had control of Blue at the time, and the town was near the border -- the poorly defined unclear fuzzy border -- between them and Red. So Yellow commissioned a study to iron out the details of exactly where the border with Red was. Yellow wanted everything to be precise and clear.

Now, the town was, and is, to this day, rather important to Red, for religious reasons. (There's an important building there, where somebody or another was born.) It's easily more important to Red than to everyone else involved combined. However, when working out the border treaty, Red was apparently not extremely careful with the implications and failed to realize, until after signing the thing, that the town is on the wrong side of the border. Oops.

Yellow, for its part, never really exerted effective control over the town. They did exert effective control over the (also disputed) surrounding area, but they mostly left the town alone. It had a trading post, but other than that it wasn't really critical, so as long as they were free to trade there (which Red didn't seem to have a problem with), it wasn't a big deal. Yellow never collected taxes from the town, and Red continued to do so, so in practice the town was de facto still part of Red's territory -- but on paper the treaty said it belonged to Yellow. Perhaps you can see how this might lead to a dispute later.

Now, a few years after Yellow and Red signed their treaty, White came along and forced Yellow and Brown to agree not to conduct negotiations directly with Red without involving White. (Too many colors? Don't worry about Brown. It doesn't come up in the story again.) The thing is, White at this point was a declining empire. The White government was overthrown not very much later. Other governments arose in the remnants of its territory. Pink was one of them.

Eventually, Blue gained independence from Yellow. So now the town was theoretically in Blue territory, but in practice still controlled by Red.

Orange, meanwhile, had gained de facto control over most of the old White territory. Looking to expand, Orange decided that since White used to have a bit of a protectorate relationship with Red, they should now have it. So Orange made plans to invade Red. The fact that they were doing so became known to Blue. Not wanting to lose any of the territory that Yellow had negotiated for with Red, Blue got out the treaty documents and moved its troops to wherever the treaty said the borders were. This is why the town is now in Blue territory -- the treaty that Yellow made has the town on the Yellow side, which is now the Blue side. Orange doesn't recognize the treaty, because it was never signed by White.

Pink also doesn't recognize the treaty, for the same reason Orange doesn't: it was never signed by White. So Pink also claims all of the territory that was formerly Red, including the small part that Blue now controls, where the town is. (Pink and Orange both claim to be the only really legitimate government for all of the territory White ever held, and they define held so loosely that it pretty much includes anything White ever looked at twice. This is nonsense, but they're both extremely serious about it. They both have extensive territorial disputes, with each other as well as with pretty much every other country in the region.)

So Blue, Orange, and Pink all claim the town. Just to clarify, Blue doesn't claim all of the red territory. They only claim the part Yellow negotiated for.

The Red government sort of kind of still exist in exile. They have de facto sovereignty over exactly zero square inches of territory, but they claim the territory that used to be Red. Until relatively recently, that included the small now-Blue region where the town is. They would still dearly love to claim that, because as noted the town has religious significance for them. But Red has now given up their claim to the town, because they are unwilling to deny the validity of the treaty they had with Yellow. You see, their evil invading enemy Orange claims that the treaty is invalid because it was not signed by White, and Red had no right, so Orange says, to give away territory without consulting with White. Red doesn't want any part of that, because White's supposed authority in Red affairs is the basis of Orange's claim to all of the Red territory. Red still wants Orange out of its former territory (which Red still claims) and out of its affairs entirely, and so although letting Blue have the piece with the town in it burns and chafes, it's better than admitting that Orange can have everything.

Yellow, of course, no longer claims the area, because they have acknowledge Blue independence. Blue and Yellow are actually allies now.

Green still doesn't claim the town because they never did. They're just nearby.

So the town is formally claimed by Blue, Orange, and Pink; and it is highly desired by Red. Orange and Pink have copious additional territorial disputes, with one another and with others. Actually, if you look up territorial dispute in the dictionary, you (figuratively, metaphorically, proverbially) see a picture of Orange and Pink.

Do you recognize these countries? The whole story can be found on Wikipedia, albeit not necessarily all in any one article. (I'll post the answers in a comment eventually, unless someone beats me to it.)


Mark said...

I'm going to guess Jerusalem. Did I win?

Jonadab said...

Heh. My mom's first guess was "somewhere in the Middle East." Good guess, but no.

Hint #1: Brown, Yellow, and Orange all have permanent seats on the UN Security Council.

Jonadab said...

Hint #2: Pink is commonly known under one name, has a completely different Official Name that doesn't have any words in common with its common name, and participates in the Olympics under a third name, all for reasons having to do with political and territorial disputes.

Jonadab said...

Hint #3: Green has been rated the happiest country on the continent in question and the eighth happiest in the world.

Jonadab said...

Hint #4: Orange has been in the news this week, for reasons having to do (at least tangentially) with long-standing territorial disputes.

Hint #5: The town in question is at a significantly higher elevation than anything in Ohio.

Jonadab said...

Hint #6: The primary leader of the Red would-be/usta-wuz "government in exile" is a fairly well-known religious figure. He writes books, which are available in paperback, hardback, audio, and even Kindle format. These books are primarily geared toward religious topics. He lives in Blue territory, where the remnant of the Red organization is based.

Jonadab said...


Yellow is England. Blue is India.
Green, the country whose border is right next to the town but which does not participate in the dispute, is Bhutan.
White is the Empire of the Great Qing (a Manchurian dynasty that had defeated the Chinese Ming dynasty and gradually incorporated most of its former territory and heavily influenced the rest; the Ming dynasty was not mentioned in the story nor assigned a color).
Orange is the People's Republic of China.
Pink is the entity commonly known in the Western world as Taiwan.
Red is (what remains of) the Tibetan government, currently headquartered in India, because the territory they used to control and still claim (and where many ethnic Tibetans still live) has in practice been controlled by the aforementioned People's Republic of China since the nineteen fifties.
Brown, which barely figures in the story at all, is Russia.

The town is Tawang.