When you're headed for the border, you're bound to cross the line.

Kris Kristoferson, song writer

The supposed role of a border, either real or imagined, is to prevent passage – however, there are human activities that involve crossing borders. The exchange of goods or trade will force even two conflicting groups of people to engage in cross-border communication. Border zones, on the other hand, have their own specific economies that allow the people living in them to survive in conditions that are often dictated by a latent state of conflict or even war. The economy has often linked borders to the illegal import or export of goods and increased surveillance. Border zones are often also areas of preferential customs duties to encourage cross-border trade.

Crossing a border


We need a human presence at the border and a humane presence at the border.

John Dewey, philosopher

The border is made up of a number of signs that clearly define the state territory in space and thus how to behave. People’s movement is strictly controlled there and is legally possible only at designated border crossings with state signs, customs, customs officers, and border police. At this point, the identity of people and their intentions, their personal belongings and everything they carry with them are checked.

There are many anecdotes and examples of problems that individuals encountered when crossing the border and obtaining valid personal documents. In the period between the two world wars, the inhabitants of Rijeka and its surroundings had to cross the state border between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on a daily basis. Many were indeed living on the edge.

Border economy


Economy is the art of making the most of life. The love of economy is the root of all virtue.

George Bernard Shaw, writer

The economic development of the town along the Rječina river was based on overseas trade and goods, including those coming from the hinterland. Therefore, it has always depended on political events both in Adriatic and in continental Croatia. It was the Ottoman incursions from Bosnia through Lika, the hinterland of Rijeka and further towards Carniola and Friuli in the 15th and 16th centuries that stopped the trade caravans that had been bringing goods to and from the port of Rijeka for centuries. Tensions between the Habsburgs on the one hand, who ruled Rijeka and its hinterland, and the coast from Brseč to Karlobag, and Venice on the other, which ruled the rest of the eastern Adriatic coast and islands, blocked the seaport of Rijeka. Frequent clashes harmed people on both sides of the border, Venetian and Habsburg subjects alike. But wars are only episodes in the long history of coexistence where the exchange of goods is stronger than all conflicts. Rijeka was the main trade centre for the war plunder of the Senj Uskoks as well as where they got supplies. Goods, as well as slaves sold here against their will, brought from some parts under the Ottomans, were sold as household help in Rijeka or further in Italy. Human trafficking, although long illegal, has unfortunately not ceased to exist. Due to unfortunate circumstances, many children, women and men are still turned into goods sold across the border. Trafficking is still black economy that has not been eradicated, that knows no borders and in which no life is sacred.

Smuggling and trafficking


I have never smuggled anything in my life. Why, then, do I feel an uneasy sense of guilt on approaching a customs barrier?

John Steinbeck, writer

In addition to legal means of crossing the border, smuggling and trafficking inevitably developed as attempts to circumvent state control. On the one hand, there are examples of individuals who, for the sake of their own existence, secretly transferred goods necessary for a better life, such as basic foodstuffs, but also “small life pleasures” that they could not obtain on their side of the border. Such numerous personal experiences have left a mark on life in this area, especially in the 20th century. On the other hand, there are examples of organized transport of goods across the border in order to make a significant profit. Today, unfortunately more than ever, we are witnessing the most dramatic examples of trafficking – that of trafficking people across the border for large profits, taking advantage of their unfortunate fates. How did profit beat Man?

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