Thursday, April 05, 2007


Europe is one of the seven traditional continents of the Earth. Physically and geologically, Europe is the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, west of Asia. Europe is bound to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea, to the southeast by the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea and the waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. To the east, Europe is generally divided from Asia by the water divide of the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, and by the Caspian Sea.

Europe is the world's second-smallest continent in terms of area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi) or 2.0% of the Earth's surface. The only continent smaller than Europe is Australia. In terms of population, it is the third-largest continent (after Asia and Africa) with a population of some 710,000,000 or about 11% of the world's population. However, the term continent can refer to a cultural and political distinction or a physiographic one, leading to various perspectives about Europe's precise borders, area, and population.

The European Union (EU), comprising 27 member states, is the largest political and economic entity by area and population covering the European continent, while Russia (excluding portions in Asia) is the second largest entity and largest country. The EU has the world's largest economy with an estimated nominal GDP of 14.2 trillion USD (2006) accounting for 35% of world GDP.

Monday, March 05, 2007


In Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician princess who was abducted by Zeus in bull form and taken to the island of Crete, where she gave birth to Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon. For Homer, Europe (Greek: Εὐρώπη Eurṓpē; see also List of traditional Greek place names) was a mythological queen of Crete, not a geographical designation. Later Europa stood for mainland Greece, and by 500 BC its meaning had been extended to lands to the north.

In etymology one theory suggests the name Europe is derived from the Greek words meaning broad (eurys) and face (ops) – broad having been an epithet of Earth itself in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion; see Prithvi (Plataia). A minority, however, suggest this Greek popular etymology is really based on a Semitic word such as the Akkadian erebu meaning "sunset" (see also Erebus).

From the Middle Eastern vantagepoint, the sun does set over Europe, the lands to the west. Likewise, Asia is sometimes thought to have derived from a Semitic word such as the Akkadian asu, meaning "sunrise", and is the land to the east from a Middle Eastern perspective. For centuries, the Turks used the term Frengistan (land of the Franks) in referring to Europe.

The majority of major world languages use words derived from "Europa" to refer to the continent – e.g. Chinese uses the word Ōuzhōu (歐洲), which is an abbreviation of the transliterated name Ōuluóbā zhōu (歐羅巴洲).

Monday, February 05, 2007

Geography and extent

Physiographically, Europe is the northwestern constituent of the larger landmass known as Eurasia, or Africa-Eurasia: Asia occupies the eastern bulk of this continuous landmass (save the Suez Canal separating Asia and Africa) and all share a common continental shelf. Europe's eastern frontier is now commonly delineated by the Ural Mountains in Russia (Strabo, Geography 11.1, took the Tanais River to be the boundary, as did early Judaic sources). The southeast boundary with Asia is not universally defined. Most commonly the Ural or, alternatively, the Emba River serve as possible boundaries. The boundary continues to the Caspian Sea, the crest of the Caucasus Mountains or, alternatively, the Kura River in the Caucasus, and on to the Black Sea; the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles conclude the Asian boundary. The Mediterranean Sea to the south separates Europe from Africa. The western boundary is the Atlantic Ocean; Iceland, though nearer to Greenland (North America) than mainland Europe, is generally included in Europe. There is ongoing debate on where the geographical centre of Europe is. For detailed description of the boundary between Asia and Europe see transcontinental nation.

Due to sociopolitical and cultural differences, there are various descriptions of Europe's boundary; in some sources, some territories are not included in Europe, while other sources include them. For instance, geographers from Russia and other post-Soviet states generally include the Urals in Europe while including Caucasia in Asia. Numerous geographers consider Azerbaijan's and Armenia's southern border with Iran and Turkey's southern and eastern border with Syria, Iraq, and Iran as the boundary between Asia and Europe. Similarly, the island of Cyprus, though closest to Turkey (Asia Minor), is frequently included in Europe.

In another usage, Europe is increasingly being used as a short-form for the European Union (EU) and its members, currently consisting of 27 member states and the candidate countries negotiating for membership, and several other countries expected to begin negotiations in the future (see Enlargement of the European Union). This definition, however, excludes non-members such as Switzerland, Norway and Russia.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Physical geography

Land relief in Europe shows great variation within relatively small areas. The southern regions, however, are more mountainous, while moving north the terrain descends from the high Alps, Pyrenees and Carpathians, through hilly uplands, into broad, low northern plains, which are vast in the east. This extended lowland is known as the Great European Plain, and at its heart lies the North German Plain. An arc of uplands also exists along the north-western seaboard, beginning in the western British Isles and continuing along the mountainous, fjord-cut spine of Norway.

This description is simplified. Sub-regions such as Iberia and Italy contain their own complex features, as does mainland Europe itself, where the relief contains many plateaus, river valleys and basins that complicate the general trend. Iceland and the British Isles 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.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Having lived side-by-side with agricultural peoples for millennia, Europe's animals and plants have been profoundly affected by the presence and activities of man. With the exception of Scandinavia and northern Russia, few areas of untouched wilderness are currently found in Europe, except for various national parks.

The main natural vegetation cover in Europe is 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, Dinarides, Carpathians, Apennines) and because the rain falls primarily on the side of mountains that is oriented towards 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.

Eighty to ninety per cent of Europe was once covered by forest. It stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Ocean. Though 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 taiga of Scandinavia and Russia, mixed rainforests 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 plantations of conifers 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 (excluding the micronations) is the Republic of Ireland (8%), while the most forested country is Finland (72%).

In temperate Europe, mixed forest with both broadleaf 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.

Glaciation during the most recent ice age and the presence of man affected the distribution of European fauna. As for the animals, in many parts of Europe most large animals and top predator species have been hunted to extinction. The woolly mammoth and aurochs were extinct before the end of the Neolithic period. Today wolves (carnivores) and bears (omnivores) are endangered. Once they were found in most parts of Europe. However, deforestation caused these animals to withdraw further and further. By the Middle Ages the bears' habitats were limited to more or less inaccessible mountains with sufficient forest cover.

Today, the brown bear lives primarily in the Balkan peninsula, Scandinavia, and Russia; a small number also persist in other countries across Europe (Austria, Pyrenees etc.), but in these areas brown bear populations are fragmented and marginalised because of the destruction of their habitat. In addition, polar bears may be found on Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago far north of Scandinavia. The wolf, the second largest predator in Europe after the brown bear, can be found primarily in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans, with a handful of packs in Spain and Scandinavia.

Other important European carnivores are Eurasian lynx, European wild cat, foxes (especially the red fox), jackal and different species of martens, hedgehogs, different species of snakes (vipers, grass snake...), different birds (owls, hawks and other birds of prey).

Important European herbivores are snails, amphibian larvae, fish, different birds, and mammals, like rodents, deer and roe deer, boars, and living in the mountains, marmots, steinbocks, chamois among others.

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, molluscs, echinoderms, different crustaceans, squids and octopuses, fish, dolphins, and whales.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Languages and cultures

There are several linguistic groups widely recognised in Europe. These sometimes (but not always) coincide with cultural and historical connections between the various nations, though in other cases religion is considered a more significant distinguishing factor.

Romance languages
Main article: Latin Europe
Romance languages are spoken more or less in south-western Europe, as well as Romania and Moldova which are situated in Eastern Europe. This area consists of: Andorra, Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, Romania, Moldova, French-speaking Belgium (Wallonia, partly Brussels), French-speaking Switzerland (Romandy), Romansh-speaking Switzerland, and Italian-speaking Switzerland. All Romance languages are derived from the Roman language, Latin.

Germanic languages
Main article: Germanic Europe
Germanic languages are spoken more or less in north-western Europe and some parts of central Europe. This region consists of: Norway, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Dutch-speaking Belgium (Flanders, partly Brussels), Austria, Liechtenstein, most of Switzerland, Iceland and the German-speaking areas of Wallonia, the Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, the Swedish-speaking municipalities of Finland, and South Tyrol in Italy.

Slavic languages
Main article: Slavic Europe
Slavic languages are spoken in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. This area consists of: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, regions of Saxony and Brandenburg in Germany(Sorbs), Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

Uralic languages
The Uralic languages are divided into three main groups, two of which have representatives in Europe. The Finno-Permic languages are spoken in Finland, Estonia, and parts of Sweden, Norway, Latvia, and European Russia while the Ugric languages are spoken in Hungary and parts of Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, and Siberian Russia. These two groups comprise the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family.

Altaic languages
Turkic Languages are spoken in Turkey, Azerbaijan, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (recognised only by Turkey), parts of Bulgaria, parts of Greece, parts of Romania, parts of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, parts of Moldova, parts of Russia, parts of Ukraine and parts of the Caucasus and in Turkish diaspora communities in several other European countries (most notably Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands).

Baltic languages
Baltic languages are spoken in Lithuania and Latvia. Estonia's national language is part of the Finno-Ugric family even though it is a Baltic state geographically.

Celtic languages
Main article: Celtic Europe
"Celtic language" was originally used only to describe the Scottish and Irish Gaelic language; however, the term now extends to the other Gaelic and Brythonic languages. Celtic Europe is comprised of those countries and regions where Celtic languages are spoken. The Celtic nations are: Scotland and Ireland, Wales, Cornwall (UK County), the Isle of Man (a British Crown dependency) and Brittany (a department in France). These are all nations where a Celtic language is spoken and share in Celtic organisations (see Pan Celticism).

Considered Celtic nations are Galicia and Asturias (both autonomous communities of Spain), as well as northwest Portugal. Scotland, Ireland and Wales and Some regions of England (in addition to Cornwall) have retained a degree of Celtic influence in their regional dialects (see Cumbric, Highland English and Hiberno-English), although England's Celtic languages died out as recently as the 18th century in Devon and Cornwall.

Other languages
Outside of these six main linguistic groups one can find:

English a hybrid of Germanic, Romance and Celtic languages is the native language of England and the British Isles.
The Greek language, an Indo-European language spoken in Greece, Cyprus, and parts of Turkey, Albania, and Italy, and in Greek diaspora communities in several other European countries (most notably Germany).
The Albanian language, which, like the Greek language, forms its own independent branch of the Indo-European language family with no close living relatives. Major Albanian-speaking communities outside Albania live in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece, Turkey, and southern Italy.
The North Caucasian, a group that includes ethnic groups throughout the Caucasus region (both North and South). North Caucasian languages are divided into two main branches: Northeast Caucasian and Northwest Caucasian. This group includes Abkhaz, Chechens, Ingush, Bats, and a number of other smaller ethnic groups that reside in the Caucasus.
The South Caucasian, or Kartvelian languages, a group that includes the Georgian language.
The Maltese language, a heavily Romanticized Semitic language, is spoken in Malta. Unlike other Semitic languages, Maltese is written in the Roman alphabet.
The Basque language is spoken in parts of southern France and northern Spain, i.e. the Basque Country.
The Mongolic branch of the Altaic phylum is represented in Europe by the Kalmyk language, which is spoken by the Kalmyk people in Kalmykia, a constituent republic of the Russian Federation.


Since the Renaissance, Europe has had a dominating influence in culture, economics and social movements in the world. European demographics are important not only historically, but also in understanding current international relations and population issues.

Some current and past issues in European demographics have included religious emigration, race relations, economic immigration, a declining birth rate and an aging population. In some countries, such as the Republic of Ireland and Poland, access to abortion is currently limited; in the past, such restrictions and also restrictions on artificial birth control were commonplace throughout Europe. Furthermore, three European countries (The Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland) have allowed a limited form of voluntary euthanasia for some terminally ill people.

In 2005, the population of Europe was estimated to be 728 million according to the United Nations, which is slightly more than one-ninth of the world's population. A century ago, Europe had nearly a quarter of the world's population. The population of Europe has grown in the past century, but in other areas of the world (in particular Africa and Asia) the population has grown far more quickly. According to UN population projection (medium variant), Europe's share will fall to 7% in 2050, numbering 653 million.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Europe is one of the seven traditional continents of the Earth. The term continent here refers to a cultural and political distinction rather than a physiographic one, leading to various perspectives about Europe's precise borders. Physically and geologically, Europe is the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, west of Asia. Europe is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea, and to the southeast by the waterways adjoining the Mediterranean to and including the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains (in Caucasia). On the east, Europe is divided from Asia by the water divide of the Ural Mountains and by the Caspian Sea.

Europe is the world's second-smallest continent in terms of area, covering about 10 400 000 square kilometres (4,010,000 sq mi) or 2.0% of the Earth's surface. The only continent smaller than Europe is Australia. In terms of population, it is the third-largest continent (after Asia and Africa) with a population of some 710,000,000, or about 11% of the world's population.

The European Union – comprising 25 member states, with two countries acceding in 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania) and two candidates in accession negotiations (Turkey and Croatia) – is the largest political and economic entity covering the European continent, while Russia (excluding portions in Asia) is the second largest entity and Europe's largest state in area and population.