All The Biggest Walls Humans Have Built Throughout History
Over the weekend, a congressman from Mexico scaled the wall between the United States and Mexico near the coast in California. He sat up there to demonstrate how futile was the efforts of such a structure.
Not a young man, the congressman scaled the 36-foot tall vertical slats with nothing to step on, then filmed himself at the top. Nobody said a thing to him.
It had me wondering if these are such a good idea, why don’t we have walls between every border? A quick search of the internet did nothing to answer my question, but I did find a bunch of walls we’ve built over the eons; not Americans, but humans.
Here is the unofficial list, at least the big ones.
Great Wall of China
A wall in name, the large east to west stone structure, visible from space is more of a fortification. The goal of the 7th century Chinese who started the fortifications was keeping out raiders from the north. What remains of the original is a fraction of what it used to be, a tourist destination now.
From 1961 to 1989 the wall that separated West from East Berlin symbolized the Cold War more than any other project. Built to protect East Germany from the fascists in the west, it stood as a wall of shame to subsequent West Berlin leadership. For many, the 1990 removal of the wall marked the end of the cold war.
Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Before the Korean Conflict, the border between North and South Korea was the 38th parallel. Now it’s the DMZ, which is ironically quite militarized. The DMZ is 160 miles, 2.5 miles wide. It separates two nations who couldn’t stop killing each other. Denied by the United States and South Korea, a wall fifteen feet high runs east to west south of the DMZ.
The present border wall between the United States and Mexico goes from the western most coast halfway through Texas. The length of the border is almost 2,000 miles, over which 350-million legal crossings take place every year. The current estimate to complete this project is $15-billion. The current U.S. budget affords $3-million for completion.
On the northern tip of Morocco, a country which sits on the northwestern corner of the African continent, a large fence divides a Spanish golf course in Melilla from Morocco. Melilla, not unlike how Gibraltar belongs to the U.K., belongs to Spain. The fence keeps not only Moroccans but West Africans from entering Europe through Spain.
Peace Walls of Belfast
To keep the Catholics and Protestants of Belfast Ireland from killing each other, a wall stands to divide them. The section in Belfast is one of three such walls, the other two in Derry and Portadown. The effectiveness of the walls is debatable, but they’ve outlasted their initial six-month expiration date. Belfast is the most fortified section, but the total length is about 21 miles of Ireland.
India-Bangladesh International Border (IB)
The IB is the fifth-longest border wall in the world, dividing five sections of the border between India and Bangladesh. The longest section stands in Bengal, at 1400 miles. They built the IB to control illegal immigration, Since construction, it’s been subject to criticism from the Human Right Watch organization.
Of this list, this one has been rebuilt more time than any. The current version stands 62 feet tall at the highest point and wraps 7,333 feet in a triangular-ish shape around the center section of Moscow. Originally a wooden fence, the first version of the Kremlin Wall went up in the 12th century as a defensive fortification. The Mongols destroyed the first, but the Russians built it bigger and stronger in the 1300s. Then, from 1485 to 1495 the Russians had it rebuilt by Italian architects. Today it stands more as an icon of Russia than anything.
Vatican City Wall
The Walls of the Vatican aren’t exactly walls, but the outer perimeter of the buildings that make up the border of the city. They aren’t there to keep anyone out… well, not today. Pope Leo IV built the original walls of the Vatican in the 9th century to protect church property safe from invaders, but the current Vatican city is as closed off as birdcage with the doors open.
Defining the northern border of the Roman empire, Hadrian’s wall runs from sea to sea in Northern England. Why the Romans built it is a matter of debate, either to protect Rome from the barbarians or as a show of Roman might. It’s now a heritage site according to UNESCO, the largest remaining Roman structure in the world. It’s 73 miles long, impressive considering they built it 122 AD. The widest section of the wall is almost 8 feet thick, and some sections still stand 10 feet tall.
Built nay the Nazi’s in Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto defined the largest Jewish Ghetto in Nazi-occupied Europe. The wall imprisoned 400,000 Jews, who the Nazi’s would later move to camps. Estimates capture that the Nazi’s killed as many as 300,000 Jews from Warsaw Ghetto. Another 92,000 died from hunger or disease. Albeit a shameful atrocity, this wall was the most effective wall in the bunch for accomplishing the goals of its architects.
Romania’s Roma Ghetto Wall
Referred to by the more pernicious name, Gypsy Wall, this wall echoes the Ghetto walls built by the Nazi’s, closing in the Roma. It’s almost ten feet tall, 215 feet long. Human rights groups have labeled this wall as an act of racism and the European Union Commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, has criticized Romania for building this wall. He called it a “violation of human rights.”