Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.
Since around 1850, Europe is most commonly considered to be separated from Asia by the drainage divide of the Ural Mountains and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian Sea and Black Sea Seas and the waterways of the Turkish Straits.
Europe covers about , or 2% of the Earth's surface (6.8% of land area). Politically, Europe is divided into about fifty sovereign states of which the Russian Federation is the largest and most populous, spanning 39% of the continent and comprising 15% of its population. Europe had a total population of about 741 million (about 11% of the world population) . The European climate is largely affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent, even at latitudes along which the climate in Asia and North America is severe. Further from the sea, seasonal differences are more noticeable than close to the coast.
Europe, in particular ancient Greece, was the birthplace of Western civilization.
The Age of Enlightenment, the subsequent French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars shaped the continent culturally, politically and economically from the end of the 17th century until the first half of the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution, which began in Great Britain at the end of the 18th century, gave rise to radical economic, cultural and social change in Western Europe and eventually the wider world. Both took place for the most part in Europe, contributing to a decline in Western European dominance in world affairs by the mid-20th century as the Soviet Union and the United States took prominence.National Geographic, 534. During the Cold War, Europe was divided along the Iron Curtain between NATO in the West and the Warsaw Pact in the East, until the revolutions of 1989 and fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1949 the Council of Europe was founded, following a speech by Sir Winston Churchill, with the idea of unifying Europe to achieve common goals. It includes all European states except for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Vatican City. Further European integration by some states led to the formation of the European Union (EU), a separate political entity that lies between a confederation and a federation. The EU originated in Western Europe but has been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The currency of most countries of the European Union, the euro, is the most commonly used among Europeans; and the EU's Schengen Area abolishes border and immigration controls among most of its member states.
There have been attempts to connect Eurṓpē to a Semitic term for "west", this being either Akkadian erebu meaning "to go down, set" (said of the sun) or Phoenician 'ereb "evening, west", "Europe" in the Online Etymology Dictionary. which is at the origin of Arabic Maghreb and Hebrew ma'arav. Michael A. Barry, professor in Princeton University's Near Eastern Studies Department, finds the mention of the word Ereb on an stele with the meaning of "night, the sunset", in opposition to Asu "the sunrise", i.e. Asia. The same naming motive according to "cartographic convention" appears in Greek Ἀνατολή ( Anatolḗ "sun rise", "east", hence Anatolia).Michael A. Barry: "L'Europe et son mythe : à la poursuite du couchant". In: Revue des deux Mondes (November/December 1999) p. 110. . Martin Litchfield West stated that "phonologically, the match between Europa's name and any form of the Semitic word is very poor."
Most major world languages use words derived from Eurṓpē or Europa to refer to the continent. Chinese, for example, uses the word Ōuzhōu (歐洲/欧洲); a similar Chinese-derived term Ōshū is also sometimes used in Japanese such as in the Japanese name of the European Union, Ōshū Rengō, despite the katakana Yōroppa being more commonly used. In some Turkic languages the originally Persian name Frangistan ("land of the Franks") is used casually in referring to much of Europe, besides official names such as Avrupa or Evropa.
The prevalent definition of Europe as a geographical term has been in use since the mid-19th century. Europe is taken to be bounded by large bodies of water to the north, west and south; Europe's limits to the far east are usually taken to be the Urals, the Ural River, and the Caspian Sea; to the southeast, including the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea and the waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
Islands are generally grouped with the nearest continental landmass, hence Iceland is generally considered to be part of Europe, while the nearby island of Greenland is usually assigned to North America. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions based on sociopolitical and cultural differences. Cyprus is closest to Anatolia, but is usually considered part of Europe both culturally and politically and is a member state of the EU. Malta was considered an island of Northwest Africa for centuries.Falconer, William; Falconer, Thomas. Dissertation on St. Paul's Voyage, BiblioLife (BiblioBazaar), 1872. (1817.), p. 50, These islands Pliny, as well as Strabo and Ptolemy, included in the African sea
"Europe" as used specifically in British English may also refer to Continental Europe exclusively.
The convention received by the Middle Ages and surviving into modern usage is that of the Roman era used by Roman era authors such as Posidonius,W. Theiler, Posidonios. Die Fragmente, vol. 1. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1982, fragm. 47a. StraboI. G. Kidd (ed.), Posidonius: The commentary, Cambridge University Press, 2004, , p. 738. and Ptolemy, Geographia 7.5.6 (ed. Nobbe 1845, vol. 2, p. 178) Καὶ τῇ Εὐρώπῃ δὲ συνάπτει διὰ τοῦ μεταξὺ αὐχένος τῆς τε Μαιώτιδος λίμνης καὶ τοῦ Σαρματικοῦ Ὠκεανοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς διαβάσεως τοῦ Τανάϊδος ποταμοῦ. "And Asia is connected to Europe by the land-strait between Lake Maiotis and the Sarmatian Ocean where the river Tanais crosses through." who took the Tanais (the modern Don River) as the boundary.
The term "Europe" is first used for a cultural sphere in the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th century. From that time, the term designated the sphere of influence of the Western Church, as opposed to both the Eastern Orthodox churches and to the Islamic world.
A cultural definition of Europe as the lands of Christendom coalesced in the 8th century, signifying the new cultural condominium created through the confluence of Germanic traditions and Christian-Latin culture, defined partly in contrast with Byzantium and Islam, and limited to northern Iberia, the British Isles, France, Christianised western Germany, the Alpine regions and northern and central Italy.Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, 1993, ""Culture and Society in the First Europe", pp185ff. The concept is one of the lasting legacies of the Carolingian Renaissance: Europa often figures in the letters of Charlemagne's court scholar, Alcuin.Noted by Cantor, 1993:181.
Throughout the Middle Ages and into the 18th century, the traditional division of the landmass of Eurasia into two continents, Europe and Asia, followed Ptolemy, with the boundary following the Turkish Straits, the Black Sea, the Kerch Strait, the Sea of Azov and the Don (ancient Tanais). But maps produced during the 16th to 18th centuries tended to differ in how to continue the boundary beyond the Don bend at Kalach-na-Donu (where it is closest to the Volga, now joined with it by the Volga–Don Canal), into territory not described in any detail by the ancient geographers.
Philip Johan von Strahlenberg in 1725 was the first to depart from the classical Don boundary by proposing that mountain ranges could be included as boundaries between continents whenever there were no suitable waterways. He drew a new line along the Volga River, following the Volga north until the Samara Bend, along Obshchy Syrt (the drainage divide between Volga and Ural River) and then north along Ural Mountains. This was adopted by the Russian Empire, and introduced the convention that would eventually become commonly accepted, but not without criticism by many modern analytical geographers.
The mapmakers continued to differ on the boundary between the lower Don and Samara well into the 19th century. The 1745 atlas published by the Russian Academy of Sciences has the boundary follow the Don beyond Kalach as far as Serafimovich before cutting north towards Arkhangelsk, while other 18th- to 19th-century mapmakers such as John Cary followed Strahlenberg's prescription. To the south, the Kuma–Manych Depression was identified circa 1773 by a German naturalist, Peter Simon Pallas, as a valley that, once upon a time, connected the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea,Peter Simon Pallas, Journey through various provinces of the Russian Empire, vol. 3 (1773) and subsequently was proposed as a natural boundary between continents.
By the mid-19th century, there were three main conventions, one following the Don, the Volga–Don Canal and the Volga, the other following the Kuma–Manych Depression to the Caspian and then the Ural River, and the third abandoning the Don altogether, following the Greater Caucasus watershed to the Caspian. The question was still treated as a "controversy" in geographical literature of the 1860s, with Douglas Freshfield advocating the Caucasus crest boundary as the "best possible", citing support from various "modern geographers".Douglas W. Freshfield, " Journey in the Caucasus", Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, Volumes 13-14, 1869. Cited as de facto convention by Baron von Haxthausen, Transcaucasia (1854); review Dublin University Magazine
In Russia and the Soviet Union, the boundary along the Kuma–Manych Depression was the most commonly used as early as 1906. "Europe", Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, 1906 In 1958, the Soviet Geographical Society formally recommended that the boundary between the Europe and Asia be drawn in textbooks from Baydaratskaya Bay, on the Kara Sea, along the eastern foot of Ural Mountains, then following the Ural River until the Mugodzhar Hills, and then the Emba River; and Kuma–Manych Depression, thus placing the Caucasus entirely in Asia and the Urals entirely in Europe. However, most geographers in the Soviet Union favoured the boundary along the Caucasus crestE.M. Moores, R.W. Fairbridge, Encyclopedia of European and Asian regional geology, Springer, 1997, , p. 34: "most Soviet geographers took the watershed of the Main Range of the Greater Caucasus as the boundary between Europe and Asia." and this became the common convention in the later 20th century, although the Kuma–Manych boundary remained in use in some 20th-century maps.
The European Neolithic period—marked by the cultivation of crops and the raising of livestock, increased numbers of settlements and the widespread use of pottery—began around 7000 BC in Greece and the Balkans, probably influenced by earlier farming practices in Anatolia and the Near East. It spread from the Balkans along the valleys of the Danube and the Rhine (Linear Pottery culture) and along the Mediterranean coast (Cardial Ware). Between 4500 and 3000 BC, these central European neolithic cultures developed further to the west and the north, transmitting newly acquired skills in producing copper artifacts. In Western Europe the Neolithic period was characterised not by large agricultural settlements but by field monuments, such as causewayed enclosures, and .
The European Bronze Age began c. 3200 BC in Greece with the Minoan civilization on Crete, the first advanced civilization in Europe. The Minoans were followed by the Mycenean Greece, who collapsed suddenly around 1200 BC, ushering the European Iron Age. Iron Age colonisation by the Greeks and Phoenicians gave rise to early Mediterranean cities. Early Iron Age Italy and Archaic Greece from around the 8th century BC gradually gave rise to historical Classical antiquity, whose beginning is sometimes dated to 776 BC, the year the first Olympic Games.
Greece was followed by Ancient Rome, which left its mark on Roman law, politics, Latin, engineering, architecture, government and many more key aspects in western civilisation. Expanding from their base in Italy beginning in the 3rd century BC, the Romans gradually expanded to eventually rule the entire Mediterranean basin and western Europe by the turn of the millennium. The Roman Republic ended in 27 BC, when Augustus proclaimed the Roman Empire. The two centuries that followed are known as the pax romana, a period of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and political stability in most of Europe.
The empire continued to expand under emperors such as Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, who spent time on the Empire's northern border fighting Germanic peoples, Picts and Scottish people tribes.National Geographic, 123.Foster, Sally M., Picts, Gaels, and Scots: Early Historic Scotland. Batsford, London, 2004. The Empire began to decline in the 3rd century, particularly in the west. Christianity was legalised by Constantine I in 313 AD after three centuries of imperial persecution. Constantine also permanently moved the capital of the empire from Rome to the city of Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople in his honour (modern-day Istanbul) in 330 AD. Christianity became the sole official religion of the empire in 380 AD, and in 391-392 AD, the emperor Theodosius I outlawed pagan religions.
Isolated monastic communities were the only places to safeguard and compile written knowledge accumulated previously; apart from this very few written records survive and much literature, philosophy, mathematics, and other thinking from the classical period disappeared from Western Europe though they were preserved in the east, in the Byzantine Empire.Norman Cantor, The Medieval World 300 to 1300.
While the Roman empire in the west continued to decline, Roman traditions and the Roman state remained strong in the predominantly Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire. During most of its existence, the Byzantine Empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. Emperor Justinian I presided over Constantinople's first golden age: he established a legal code that forms the basis of many modern legal systems, funded the construction of the Hagia Sophia, and brought the Christian church under state control.National Geographic, 135.
From the 7th century onwards, as the Byzantines and neighbouring Sasanids were severely weakened due the protracted, centuries-lasting and frequent Byzantine–Sasanian wars, the Muslim Arabs began to make inroads into historically Roman territory, taking the Levant and North Africa and making inroads into Asia Minor. In the mid 7th century AD, following the Muslim conquest of Persia, Islam penetrated into the Caucasus region. Over the next centuries Muslim forces took Cyprus, Malta, Crete, Sicily and parts of southern Italy.Kennedy, Hugh (1995). "The Muslims in Europe". In McKitterick, Rosamund, The New Cambridge Medieval History: c. 500 – c. 700, pp. 249–272. Cambridge University Press. 052136292X. Between 711 and 720, most of the Iberian Peninsula was brought under Muslim rule — save for small areas in the northwest (Asturias) and largely Basque people regions in the Pyrenees. This territory, under the Arabic name Al-Andalus, became part of the expanding Umayyad Caliphate. The unsuccessful second siege of Constantinople (717) weakened the Umayyad and reduced their prestige. The Umayyads were then defeated by the Frankish Empire leader Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers in 732, which ended their northward advance.
During the Dark Ages, the Western Roman Empire fell under the control of various tribes. The Germanic and Slav tribes established their domains over Western and Eastern Europe respectively.National Geographic, 143–145. Eventually the Frankish tribes were united under Clovis I.National Geographic, 162. Charlemagne, a Frankish king of the Carolingian dynasty who had conquered most of Western Europe, was anointed "Holy Roman Emperor" by the Pope in 800. This led in 962 to the founding of the Holy Roman Empire, which eventually became centred in the German principalities of central Europe.National Geographic, 166.
East Central Europe saw the creation of the first Slavic states and the adoption of Christianity (circa 1000 AD). The powerful West Slavs state of Great Moravia spread its territory all the way south to the Balkans, reaching its largest territorial extent under Svatopluk I and causing a series of armed conflicts with East Francia. Further south, the first South Slavs emerged in the late 7th and 8th century and adopted Christianity: the First Bulgarian Empire, the Serbian Principality (later Kingdom and Serbian Empire), and the Duchy of Croatia (later Kingdom of Croatia). To the East, the Kievan Rus expanded from its capital in Kiev to become the largest state in Europe by the 10th century. In 988, Vladimir the Great adopted Orthodox Christianity as the religion of state. Further East, Volga Bulgaria became an Islamic state in the 10th century, but was eventually absorbed into Russia several centuries later.Gerald Mako, "The Islamization of the Volga Bulghars: A Question Reconsidered", Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 18, 2011, 199–223.
The Middle Ages on the mainland were dominated by the two upper echelons of the social structure: the nobility and the clergy. Feudalism developed in France in the Early Middle Ages and soon spread throughout Europe.National Geographic, 158. A struggle for influence between the nobility and the monarchy in England led to the writing of the Magna Carta and the establishment of a parliament.National Geographic, 186. The primary source of culture in this period came from the Roman Catholic Church. Through monasteries and cathedral schools, the Church was responsible for education in much of Europe.
The Papacy reached the height of its power during the High Middle Ages. An East-West Schism in 1054 split the former Roman Empire religiously, with the Eastern Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire and the Roman Catholic Church in the former Western Roman Empire. In 1095 Pope Urban II called for a Crusades against Muslims occupying Jerusalem and the Holy Land.National Geographic, 192. In Europe itself, the Church organised the Inquisition against heretics. In Spain, the Reconquista concluded with the fall of Granada in 1492, ending over seven centuries of Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula.National Geographic, 199.
In the east a resurgent Byzantine Empire recaptured Crete and Cyprus from the Muslims and reconquered the Balkans. Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe from the 9th to the 12th centuries, with a population of approximately 400,000.; . The Empire was weakened following the defeat at Manzikert and was weakened considerably by the sack of Constantinople in 1204, during the Fourth Crusade.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic peoples tribes, such as the Pechenegs and the Cuman-Kipchaks, caused a massive migration of Slavic peoples populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north and temporarily halted the expansion of the Rus' state to the south and east.
The Great Famine of 1315–1317 was the first crisis that would strike Europe in the late Middle Ages. The Late Middle Ages . Oglethorpe University. The period between 1348 and 1420 witnessed the heaviest loss. The population of France was reduced by half.Baumgartner, Frederic J. France in the Sixteenth Century. London: Macmillan Publishers, 1995. .Don O'Reilly. " Hundred Years' War: Joan of Arc and the Siege of Orléans". TheHistoryNet.com. Medieval Britain was afflicted by 95 famines, Poor studies will always be with us. By James Bartholomew. Telegraph. 7 August. 2004. and France suffered the effects of 75 or more in the same period. Famine. Encyclopædia Britannica. Europe was devastated in the mid-14th century by the Black Death, one of the most deadly in human history which killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe alone—a third of the European population at the time.
The plague had a devastating effect on Europe's social structure; it induced people to live for the moment as illustrated by Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron (1353). It was a serious blow to the Roman Catholic Church and led to increased persecution of Jews, beggars, and .National Geographic, 223. The plague is thought to have returned every generation with varying virulence and mortalities until the 18th century. During this period, more than 100 plague epidemics swept across Europe.
Political intrigue within the Church in the mid-14th century caused the Western Schism. During this forty-year period, two popes—one in Avignon and one in Rome—claimed rulership over the Church. Although the schism was eventually healed in 1417, the papacy's spiritual authority had suffered greatly.National Geographic, 193. In the 15th century, Europe started to extend itself beyond its geographic frontiers. Spain and Portugal, the greatest naval powers of the time, took the lead in exploring the world.
The plunder of the empires of the Americas by Spanish (conquerors) allowed Spain to finance religious persecution in Europe for over a century. Spanish wars of conquest included Spanish Fury much of the Netherlands and a Spanish Armada. In 1590/91, the Spanish monarchy was at the height of its strength but during the 17th century Spanish power declined for a number of reasons. Famine, disease and almost continuous warfare, largely in the Spanish Netherlands, drained money, energy and men and weakened the economy; it is estimated that the population of Spain fell nearly 25% between 1600–1700.
The Church's power was further weakened by the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when German theologian Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses criticizing the selling of indulgences to the church door. He was subsequently excommunicated in the papal bull Exsurge Domine in 1520, and his followers were condemned in the 1521 Diet of Worms, which divided German princes between Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths.National Geographic, 256–257. This weakened the influence of the Holy Roman Empire and eventually led to the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), which crippled the Holy Roman Empire and devastated much of Germany, killing between 25 and 40 percent of its population. History of Europe – Demographics. Encyclopædia Britannica. In the aftermath of the Peace of Westphalia, France rose to predominance within Europe.National Geographic, 269.
The 17th century in southern, central and eastern Europe was a period of general decline. Central and Eastern Europe experienced more than 150 famines in a 200-year period between 1501 and 1700." Food, Famine And Fertilisers". Seshadri Kannan (2009). APH Publishing. p. 51. From the Union of Krewo (1385) central and eastern Europe was dominated by Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Between 1648 and 1655 in the central and eastern Europe ended hegemony of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. From the 15th to 18th centuries, when the disintegrating khanates of the Golden Horde were conquered by Russia, Crimean Tatars from the Crimean Khanate frequently raided Eastern Slavic lands to capture slaves.W.G. Clarence-Smith (2006). " Islam And The Abolition Of Slavery". Oxford University Press. p. 13. — "Lands to the north of the Black Sea probably yielded the most slaves to the Ottomans from 1450. A compilation of estimates indicates that Crimean Tartars seized about 1,750,000 Ukrainians, Poles, and Russians from 1468 to 1694." Further east, the Nogai Horde and Kazakh Khanate frequently raided the Slavic-speaking areas of Russia, Ukraine and Poland for hundreds of years, until the Russian expansion and conquest of most of northern Eurasia (i.e. Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia). Meanwhile, in the south, the Ottomans had conquered the Balkans by the 15th century, laying siege to Vienna in 1529. In the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the Holy League checked Ottoman power in the Mediterranean. The Ottomans again laid siege to Vienna in 1683, but the Battle of Vienna permanently ended their advance into Europe, and marked the political hegemony of the Habsburg dynasty in central Europe.
The Renaissance and the New Monarchs marked the start of an Age of Discovery, a period of exploration, invention, and scientific development.
In parallel, the Eastern Question grew more complex ever since the Ottoman defeat in the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774). As the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire seemed imminent, the struggled to safeguard their strategic and commercial interests in the Ottoman domains. The Russian Empire stood to benefit from the decline, whereas the Habsburg Empire and Great Britain perceived the preservation of the Ottoman Empire to be in their best interests. Meanwhile, the Serbian revolution (1804) and Greek War of Independence (1821) marked the beginning of the end of Ottoman rule in the Balkans, which ended with the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913., Ottoman Empire – 19th century, Historyworld Formal recognition of the de facto independent principalities of Montenegro, Serbia and Romania ensued at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.
The Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain in the last part of the 18th century and spread throughout Europe. The invention and implementation of new technologies resulted in rapid urban growth, mass employment, and the rise of a new working class.
Russia was plunged into the Russian Revolution, which threw down the Russian Empire and replaced it with the communist Soviet Union.National Geographic, 480. Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire collapsed and broke up into separate nations, and many other nations had their borders redrawn. The Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended World War I in 1919, was harsh towards Germany, upon whom it placed full responsibility for the war and imposed heavy sanctions. National Geographic, 443.
Excess deaths in Russia over the course of World War I and the Russian Civil War (including the postwar famine) amounted to a combined total of 18 million.
The social revolutions sweeping through Russia also affected other European nations following The Great War: in 1919, with the Weimar Republic in Germany, and the First Austrian Republic; in 1922, with Mussolini's one party Fascism government in the Kingdom of Italy, and in Ataturk's Turkish Republic, adopting the Western alphabet, and state secularism.
Economic instability, caused in part by debts incurred in the First World War and 'loans' to Germany played havoc in Europe in the late 1920s and 1930s. This and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 brought about the worldwide Great Depression. Helped by the economic crisis, social instability and the threat of communism, Fascism developed throughout Europe placing Adolf Hitler in power of what became Nazi Germany.
In 1933, Hitler became the leader of Germany and began to work towards his goal of building Greater Germany. Germany re-expanded and took back the Saarland and Rhineland in 1935 and 1936. In 1938, Austria became a part of Germany following the Anschluss. Later that year, following the Munich Agreement signed by Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, Germany annexed the Sudetenland, which was a part of Czechoslovakia inhabited by ethnic Germans, and in early 1939, the remainder of Czechoslovakia was split into the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, controlled by Germany, and the Slovak Republic. At the time, Britain and France preferred a policy of appeasement.
With tensions mounting between Germany and Poland over the future of Danzig, the Germans turned to the Soviets, and signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which allowed the Soviets to invade the Baltic states and parts of Poland and Romania. Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, prompting France and the United Kingdom to declare war on Germany on 3 September, opening the European Theatre of World War II.National Geographic, 465.
In May 1940, Germany attacked France through the Low Countries. France capitulated in June 1940. By August Germany began a bombing offensive on Britain, but failed to convince the Britons to give up. National Geographic, 510. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. National Geographic, 532. On 7 December 1941 Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into the conflict as allies of the British Empire and other allied forces. National Geographic, 511. National Geographic, 519. After the staggering Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, the German offensive in the Soviet Union turned into a continual fallback. The Battle of Kursk, which involved the largest tank battle in history, was the last major German offensive on the Eastern Front. In June 1944, British and American forces invaded France in the D-Day landings, opening a new front against Germany. Berlin finally fell in 1945, ending World War II in Europe. The war was the largest and most destructive in human history, with 60 million dead across the world. National Geographic, 439. More than 40 million people in Europe had died as a result of World War II," Europe honours war dead on VE Day". BBC News. 9 May 2005. including between 11 and 17 million people who perished during the Holocaust.Niewyk, Donald L. and Nicosia, Francis R. The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2000, pp. 45–52. The Soviet Union lost around 27 million people (mostly civilians) during the war, about half of all World War II casualties. By the end of World War II, Europe had more than 40 million ." Refugees: Save Us! Save Us!". Time. 9 July 1979. Several post-war expulsions in Central and Eastern Europe displaced a total of about 20 million people.
World War I and especially World War II diminished the eminence of Western Europe in world affairs. After World War II the map of Europe was redrawn at the Yalta Conference and divided into two blocs, the Western countries and the communist Eastern bloc, separated by what was later called by Winston Churchill an "Iron Curtain". The United States and Western Europe established the NATO alliance and later the Soviet Union and Central Europe established the Warsaw Pact.National Geographic, 530.
The two new , the United States and the Soviet Union, became locked in a fifty-year-long Cold War, centred on nuclear proliferation. At the same time decolonisation, which had already started after World War I, gradually resulted in the independence of most of the European colonies in Asia and Africa. In the 1980s the glasnost of Mikhail Gorbachev and the Solidarity movement in Poland accelerated the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the end of the Cold War. Germany was reunited, after the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the maps of Central and Eastern Europe were redrawn once more.
European integration also grew after World War II. The Treaty of Rome in 1957 established the European Economic Community between six Western European states with the goal of a unified economic policy and common market.National Geographic, 536. In 1967 the EEC, European Coal and Steel Community and Euratom formed the European Community, which in 1993 became the European Union. The EU established a parliament, court and central bank and introduced the euro as a unified currency.National Geographic, 537. Between 2004 and 2013, more Central and Eastern European countries began joining, expanding the EU to its current size of 28 European countries, and once more making Europe a major economical and political centre of power.National Geographic, 535. However, in June 2016 the people of the United Kingdom, in a non-binding referendum on EU membership voted to Brexit.
This description is simplified. Sub-regions such as the Iberian Peninsula and the Italian Peninsula contain their own complex features, as does mainland Central Europe itself, where the relief contains many plateaus, river valleys and basins that complicate the general trend. Sub-regions like Iceland, Britain, and Ireland are special cases. The former is a land unto itself in the northern ocean which is counted as part of Europe, while the latter are upland areas that were once joined to the mainland until rising sea levels cut them off.
Europe lies mainly in the temperate climate zones, being subjected to prevailing westerlies. The climate is milder in comparison to other areas of the same latitude around the globe due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is nicknamed "Europe's central heating", because it makes Europe's climate warmer and wetter than it would otherwise be. The Gulf Stream not only carries warm water to Europe's coast but also warms up the prevailing westerly winds that blow across the continent from the Atlantic Ocean.
Therefore, the average temperature throughout the year of Naples is , while it is only in New York City which is almost on the same latitude. Berlin, Germany; Calgary, Canada; and Irkutsk, in the Asian part of Russia, lie on around the same latitude; January temperatures in Berlin average around higher than those in Calgary, and they are almost higher than average temperatures in Irkutsk. Similarly, northern parts of Scotland have a temperate marine climate. The yearly average temperature in city of Inverness is . However, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, is on roughly the same latitude and has an average temperature of , giving it a nearly subarctic climate.
In general, Europe isn't just colder towards the north compared to the south, but it also gets colder from the west towards the east. The climate is more oceanic in the west, and less so in the east. This can be illustrated by the following table of average temperatures at locations roughly following the 60th, 55th, 50th, 45th and 40th latitudes. None of them is located at high terrain, most of them close to the sea. (location, approximate latitude and longitude, coldest month average, hottest month average and annual average temperatures in degrees C)
The geology of Europe is hugely varied and complex, and gives rise to the wide variety of landscapes found across the continent, from the Scottish Highlands to the rolling of Hungary. Europe's most significant feature is the dichotomy between highland and mountainous Southern Europe and a vast, partially underwater, northern plain ranging from Ireland in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east. These two halves are separated by the mountain chains of the Pyrenees and Alps/Carpathians. The northern plains are delimited in the west by the Scandinavian Mountains and the mountainous parts of the British Isles. Major shallow water bodies submerging parts of the northern plains are the Celtic Sea, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea complex and Barents Sea.
The northern plain contains the old geological continent of Baltica, and so may be regarded geologically as the "main continent", while peripheral highlands and mountainous regions in the south and west constitute fragments from various other geological continents. Most of the older geology of western Europe existed as part of the ancient microcontinent Avalonia.
The main natural vegetation cover in Europe is mixed forest. The conditions for growth are very favourable. In the north, the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift warm the continent. Southern Europe could be described as having a warm, but mild climate. There are frequent summer droughts in this region. Mountain ridges also affect the conditions. Some of these (Alps, Pyrenees) are oriented east-west and allow the wind to carry large masses of water from the ocean in the interior. Others are oriented south-north (Scandinavian Mountains, Dinaric Alps, Carpathians, Apennines) and because the rain falls primarily on the side of mountains that is oriented towards the sea, forests grow well on this side, while on the other side, the conditions are much less favourable. Few corners of mainland Europe have not been grazed by livestock at some point in time, and the cutting down of the pre-agricultural forest habitat caused disruption to the original plant and animal ecosystems.
Probably 80 to 90 percent of Europe was once covered by forest. It stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Ocean. Although over half of Europe's original forests disappeared through the centuries of deforestation, Europe still has over one quarter of its land area as forest, such as the broadleaf and mixed forests, taiga of Scandinavia and Russia, mixed of the Caucasus and the Cork oak forests in the western Mediterranean. During recent times, deforestation has been slowed and many trees have been planted. However, in many cases monoculture of Pinophyta have replaced the original mixed natural forest, because these grow quicker. The plantations now cover vast areas of land, but offer poorer habitats for many European forest dwelling species which require a mixture of tree species and diverse forest structure. The amount of natural forest in Western Europe is just 2–3% or less, in European Russia 5–10%. The country with the smallest percentage of forested area is Iceland (1%), while the most forested country is Finland (77%).
In temperate Europe, mixed forest with both flowering plant and coniferous trees dominate. The most important species in central and western Europe are beech and oak. In the north, the taiga is a mixed spruce–pine–birch forest; further north within Russia and extreme northern Scandinavia, the taiga gives way to tundra as the Arctic is approached. In the Mediterranean, many olive trees have been planted, which are very well adapted to its arid climate; Mediterranean Cypress is also widely planted in southern Europe. The semi-arid Mediterranean region hosts much scrub forest. A narrow east-west tongue of Eurasian grassland (the steppe) extends eastwards from Ukraine and southern Russia and ends in Hungary and traverses into taiga to the north.
European wild cat, foxes (especially the red fox), jackal and different species of martens, hedgehogs, different species of reptiles (like snakes such as vipers and grass snakes) and amphibians, different birds (owls, hawks and other birds of prey).
Important European herbivores are snails, larvae, fish, different birds, and mammals, like rodents, deer and roe deer, boars, and living in the mountains, marmots, steinbocks, chamois among others. A number of insects, such as the small tortoiseshell butterfly, add to the biodiversity.Bryant, S., Thomas, C. and Bale, J. (1997), Nettle-feeding nymphalid butterflies: temperature, development and distribution. Ecological Entomology, 22: 390–398.
The extinction of the dwarf hippos and has been linked to the earliest arrival of humans on the islands of the Mediterranean.
Sea creatures are also an important part of European flora and fauna. The sea flora is mainly phytoplankton. Important animals that live in European seas are zooplankton, , , different , and octopuses, fish, , and whales.
Biodiversity is protected in Europe through the Council of Europe's Bern Convention, which has also been signed by the European Community as well as non-European states.
European integration is the process of political, legal, economic (and in some cases social and cultural) integration of European states as it has been pursued by the powers sponsoring the Council of Europe since the end of World War II The European Union has been the focus of economic integration on the continent since its foundation in 1993. More recently, the Eurasian Economic Union has been established as a counterpart comprising former Soviet states.
28 European states are members of the politico-economic European Union, 26 of the border-free Schengen Area and 19 of the monetary union Eurozone. Among the smaller European organizations are the Nordic Council, the Benelux, the Baltic Assembly and the Visegrád Group.
|Andorra||468||77,281||179.8||Andorra la Vella||Andorra|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||51,129||3,531,159||68.97||Sarajevo||Bosna i Hercegovina/Боснa и Херцеговина|
|Montenegro||13,812||642,550||45.0||Podgorica||Crna Gora/Црна Гора|
|North Macedonia||25,713||2,103,721||80.1||Skopje||Северна Македонија ()|
|San Marino||61.2||33,285||520||San Marino||San Marino|
|United Kingdom||244,820||66,040,229||270.7||London||United Kingdom|
|Vatican City||0.44||1000||2,272||Vatican City||Città del Vaticano/Civitas Vaticana|
Within the above-mentioned states are several de facto independent countries with limited to no international recognition. None of them are members of the UN:
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|Flag ! style="line-height:95%; width:2em" class="unsortable"||National symbol
(km²) ! Population
! Population density
(per km²) ! Capital
Several dependencies and similar territories with broad autonomy are also found within or in close proximity to Europe. This includes Åland (a region of Finland), two constituent countries of the Kingdom of Denmark (other than Denmark itself), three Crown dependencies, and two British Overseas Territories. Svalbard is also included due to its unique status within Norway, although it is not autonomous. Not included are the three countries of the United Kingdom with devolved powers and the two Autonomous Regions of Portugal, which despite having a unique degree of autonomy, are not largely self-governing in matters other than international affairs. Areas with little more than a unique tax status, such as Heligoland and the Canary Islands, are also not included for this reason.
|Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (UK)||254||15,700||59.1||Episkopi Cantonment|
|Bailiwick of Guernsey (UK)||78||65,849||844.0||St. Peter Port|
|Jersey (UK)||118.2||100,080||819||Saint Helier|
|Faroe Islands (Denmark)||1,399||50,778||35.2||Tórshavn|
|Isle of Man (UK)||572||83,314||148||Douglas|
The European Union, a political entity composed of 28 European states, comprises the largest single economic area in the world. 19 EU Eurozone share the euro as a common currency. Five European countries rank in the top ten of the world's largest national economies in GDP (PPP). This includes (ranks according to the CIA): Germany (5), the UK (6), Russia (7), France (8), and Italy (10).
There is huge disparity between many European countries in terms of their income. The richest in terms of GDP per capita is Monaco with its US$172,676 per capita (2009) and the poorest is Moldova with its GDP per capita of US$1,631 (2010). Monaco is the richest country in terms of GDP per capita in the world according to the World Bank report.
As a whole, Europe's GDP per capita is US$21,767 according to a 2016 International Monetary Fund assessment.Some data refers to IMF staff estimates but some are actual figures for the year 2017, made in 12 April 2017. World Economic Outlook Database–April 2017, International Monetary Fund. Accessed on 18 April 2017.
The states which retained a free-market system were given a large amount of aid by the United States under the Marshall Plan. The western states moved to link their economies together, providing the basis for the EU and increasing cross border trade. This helped them to enjoy rapidly improving economies, while those states in COMECON were struggling in a large part due to the cost of the Cold War. Until 1990, the European Community was expanded from 6 founding members to 12. The emphasis placed on resurrecting the West German economy led to it overtaking the UK as Europe's largest economy.
After East Germany and West Germany were reunited in 1990, the economy of West Germany struggled as it had to support and largely rebuild the infrastructure of East Germany.
By the millennium change, the EU dominated the economy of Europe comprising the five largest European economies of the time namely Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain. In 1999, 12 of the 15 members of the EU joined the Eurozone replacing their former national currencies by the common euro. The three who chose to remain outside the Eurozone were: the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden. The European Union is now the largest economy in the world.
Figures released by Eurostat in 2009 confirmed that the Eurozone had gone into recession in 2008. It impacted much of the region. Thanks to the Bank it's a crisis; in the eurozone it's a total catastrophe. Telegraph. 8 March 2009. In 2010, fears of a sovereign debt crisis developed concerning some countries in Europe, especially Greece, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal. As a result, measures were taken, especially for Greece, by the leading countries of the Eurozone. The European Union unemployment rate was 10.3% in 2012. For those aged 15–24 it was 22.4%. Unemployment statistics . Eurostat. April 2012.
Emigration from Europe began with Spanish and Portuguese settlers in the 16th century, and French and English settlers in the 17th century. But numbers remained relatively small until waves of mass emigration in the 19th century, when millions of poor families left Europe.
Today, large populations of European descent are found on every continent. European ancestry predominates in North America, and to a lesser degree in South America (particularly in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, while most of the other countries also have a considerable population of European origins). Australia and New Zealand have large European derived populations. Africa has no countries with European-derived majorities (or with the exception of Cape Verde and probably São Tomé and Príncipe, depending on context), but there are significant minorities, such as the White South Africans. In Asia, European-derived populations predominate in Northern Asia (specifically Russians) and some parts of Northern Kazakhstan.Robert Greenall, Russians left behind in Central Asia, BBC News, 23 November 2005
A distinct non-Indo-European family of Uralic languages (Estonian, Finnish language, Hungarian, Erzya language, Komi language, Mari language, Moksha language, and Udmurt language) is spoken mainly in Estonia, Finland, Hungary, and parts of Russia. Turkic languages include Azerbaijani, Kazakh language and Turkish language, in addition to smaller languages in Eastern and Southeast Europe (Balkan Gagauz Turkish, Bashkir language, Chuvash language, Crimean Tatar, Karachay-Balkar, Kumyk language, Nogai language, and Tatar language). Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, and Svan language) are spoken primarily in Georgia. Two other language families reside in the North Caucasus (termed Northeast Caucasian, most notably including Chechen language, Avar language, and Lezgian language; and Northwest Caucasian, most notably including Adyghe language). Maltese language is the only Semitic language that is official within the EU, while Basque language is the only European language isolate.
Multilingualism and the protection of regional and minority languages are recognised political goals in Europe today. The Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the Council of Europe's European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages set up a legal framework for language rights in Europe.
When considering the commuter belts or metropolitan areas, within the EU (for which comparable data is available) London covers the largest population, followed in order by Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, the Ruhr area, Rome, Milan, Athens and Warsaw. select General and regional statistics / Urban audit / functional urban areas / Population on 1 January by age groups and sex – functional urban areas (urb_lpop1).
This shared cultural heritage is combined by overlapping indigenous national cultures and folklores, roughly divided into Slavic Europe, Latin (Romance) and Germanic Europe, but with several components not part of either of these group (notably Greek culture and Celtic Europe). Cultural contact and mixtures characterise much of European regional cultures; Kaplan (2014) describes Europe as "embracing maximum cultural diversity at minimal geographical distances".
|Percentage of popular belief|
in God per European country
according to the
Historically, religion in Europe has been a major influence on European art, culture, philosophy and law.
The largest religion in Europe is Christianity, with 76.2% of Europeans considering themselves Christians, including Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and various Protestant denominations. Among Protestants, the most popular are historically state-supported European denominations such as Lutheranism, Anglicanism and the Reformed faith. Other Protestant denominations such as historically significant ones like Anabaptists were never supported by any state and thus are not so widespread, as well as these newly arriving from the United States such as Pentecostalism, Adventism, Methodism, Baptists and various Evangelical Protestants; although Methodism and Baptists both have European origins. The notion of "Europe" and the "Western World" has been intimately connected with the concept of "Christendom"; many even attribute Christianity for being the link that created a unified European identity.
The second most popular religion is Islam (6%) concentrated mainly in the Balkans and eastern Europe (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, TRNC, Turkey, Azerbaijan, North Caucasus, and the Idel-Ural). Other religions, including Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism are minority religions (though Tibetan Buddhism is the majority religion of Russia's Republic of Kalmykia). The 20th century saw the revival of Neopaganism through movements such as Wicca and Druidry.
Europe has become a relatively secular continent, with an increasing number and proportion of irreligion, atheism and agnosticism people, who make up about 18.2% of Europe's population, currently the largest secular population in the Western religion. There are a particularly high number of self-described non-religious people in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Sweden, former East Germany, and France.