Europe's Regions: A Quick Overview
Submitted 2 years 10 months ago by CultureWhiz.
Europe has historically been split into four areas based on geographical location: Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Europe, and Northern Europe. The British Isles are sometimes considered a distinct region, but they may also be considered a part of Western Europe.
The Balkans are a region in Eastern and Southeastern Europe that includes Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Kosovo, and Serbia.
This region has was the first part of Europe in which farming cultures arrive from the Middle East during the Neolithic era. The area was long known as a crossroads of different cultures, such as Orthodox and Catholic Christianity, or Islam and Christianity. The Ottoman empire ruled and controlled the area starting in the 16th century. Balkan nation states emerged from the Ottoman Empire (or the Austro-Hungarian empire) during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Starting with the First Balkan War (1912-1913), the region experienced heavy conflict, ethnic strife, and devastating losses.
Nonetheless, today all Balkan nations have expressed interest in joining the EU or NATO. The region also still exists as a meeting point of different religions: Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Roman Catholic Christianity. The Balkans are also very linguistically diverse, continue to keep their rich folk music traditions alive, and are known for thier beautiful forests, lakes, and beaches.
The Baltic States include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These states were previously occupied by the Soviet Union but were among the first to declare independence in 1990 and 1991. Today, they are members of both the European Union and NATO. Most people in the Baltic countries are either Lutherans or Catholics, though many in Estonia are atheists. Each country has their own language, but most people also speak Russian and increasingly, English.
The Benelux Union is a political and economic union between Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Belgium is a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliament system. Most Belgians speak French or Dutch. The Netherlands has an advanced agricultural economy and is the world’s second largest exporter of food and agricultural products. This country has been run as a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy since 1848. The Netherlands are very socially liberal - they were the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. Luxembourg is a country characterized by a mix of French and Germanic culture. It is one of the smallest sovereign states in Europe, but also has one of the highest population growth rates. The country is run as a representative democracy with a constitutional monarchy, the world’s only remaining grand duchy. All three countries were founding members of the European Union.
The United Kingdom and Ireland
The United Kingdom and Ireland are two nations inhabiting the islands of north western Europe. The United Kingdom includes four nations: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is a separate state that seceded from the Union in 1922. Partially a result of its history of colonialism, Britain contains a culturally diverse population. London in particular is a major cosmopolitan center home to immigrants from around the world. Ireland is a hub of Celtic cultural traditions that are preserved in Irish music, dance, jewelry, and graphic art.
Central Europe includes the nations of Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland. These nations share many common social, historical, and cultural characteristics and qualities, but nonetheless are characterized by high disparities in wealth. Most Central European states lost their sovereign status to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but regained independence in the early 1990s. Many countries in Central Europe are known for their beers, forests, fairytale-like castles, picturesque farmlands, and mountain ranges, including the Alps and Carpathian mountains.
France and Monaco
France is the world’s most popular travel destination, due to its rich gastronomy, history, culture and fashion. France is a semi-presidential republic which includes several highly culturally and geographically diverse regions, ranging from the Alpine culture of the west to the Celtic culture of Brittany. Monaco is a sovereign city-state located on the French Riviera and governed as a constitutional monarchy. It is the second smallest state in the world, but also the most densely populated. Monaco is also known for being home to the rich and famous.
Greece, Cyprus and Turkey
Greece is considered by many historians as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy. Greece is still known as a country with a rich historical legacy and beautiful beaches that draw great quantities of tourists. Cyprus is an island on the Mediterranean that gained independence from Turkey in 1960, though a separate Turkish state in the north was established in 1983 and continues to exist as a matter of dispute. Turkey is a highly diverse nation with a historical legacy of linking the East with the West. The nation is highly geographically diverse: there are open beaches in Pamphylia, snowy mountains in the east, misty mountains near the Black Sea, and steppe landscapes in Central Anatolia.
The Caucasus invoiced Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. This region is known for having beautiful alpine landscapes, include Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain peak in Europe. Similar to the Balkans, the Caucasus are home to a culturally and linguistically diverse population, and sits at the crossroad of Christianity and Islam. The region has been characterized by ethnic conflict that continue to be significant in the long term, but no longer affect day to day life as much as they once did.
The Iberian Peninsula
Iberian countries include Andorra, Gibraltar, Portugal and Spain. The largest of the four, Spain, is the only European country to share a border with Africa. Spain is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. Spanish culture is strongly shaped by its strong historical ties to Catholicism and its Roman heritage, as well as the cultures of foreign invaders. Portugal was a major player in the colonial explorations of the 15th and 16th century, and established the first global empire. This empire came to a final end in 1999, when the island of Macau was handed over to China. Portugal is now has a semi-presidential republic government. Andorra is a small nation, but linguistically diverse. Inhabitants speak Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Gibraltar is a small British Overseas Territory on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula. Spain has a claim on the territory, but Gibraltarians have rejected Spanish proposals of Severity and, since 2006, over their own affairs.
Italy, Malta, San Marino, and the Vatican City
Italy is a unitary parliamentary republic with the fourth most popular territory in the European Union. Like Spain, Italy is heavily influenced by it’s latin roots and historical ties to Catholicism. Like France, Italy has rich culinary and artistic traditions that continue to draw steady crowds of tourists.
Malta is a small island country in the Mediterranean Sea. Inhabitation on Malta goes back to the Neolithic Era. Several invaders have invaded and held the island due to its strategic importance as a naval base. Malta has a long history as a Christian nation, and is popular as a tourist destination because of its warm climate, and historical monuments.
San Marina is a small state surrounded by Italy that claims to be the oldest constitutional republic.
Vatican City is similarly surrounded by Italian territory. Located within the city of Rome, it is the smallest state in the world - both in terms of area and population. The territory is ruled by the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). Important religious sites within Vatican City include St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums.
Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus
Russia is the largest country in the world, in terms of surface area. The Russian empire became a significant political player by the 18th century, after which it became the largest entity leading the Soviet Union, which eventually fell apart in the early 1990s. Today, the country exists as a federal semi-presidential republic. Like Russian, the Ukraine is an epicenter of Slavic culture. Ukrainian territory has been regularly contested, divided, and ruled by different nations, such as Russia and the Ottoman empire. The Ukraine has maintained independence since separating from the Soviet Union in 1991. Today, Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters and exists as a unitary republic under a semi-presidential system. Belarus is a heavily forested country north of the Ukraine. Belarus first declared independence in the aftermath of 1917 Russian Revolution, but was eventually conquered by the Soviet Union. Sovereignty was recovered in 1990, though both Belarus and Russia have since made moves towards greater mutual cooperation.
Nordic countries include Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Sweden.
The Nordics include mainly Scandinavian or Finnish peoples. They speak Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese, all of which are North Germanic languages with roots in Old Norse. However, Finish, Greenlandic, and a few other local languages are non-germanic. These countries share a long history of close relations, and share much in the way of culture, religion, history, social structure, and language. Almost half of these territories is made up of uninhabitable glaciers.