Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally divided from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting the Black and Aegean Seas.
Europe is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea and connected waterways to the southeast. Yet the borders of Europe—a concept dating back to classical antiquity—are somewhat arbitrary, as the primarily physiographic term
continent can incorporate cultural and political elements.
Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi) or 2% of the Earth's surface and about 6.8% of its land area. Of Europe's approximately 50 countries, Russia is by far the largest by both area and population, taking up 40% of the continent (although the country has territory in both Europe and Asia), while Vatican City is the smallest. Europe is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of 733 million or about 11% of the world's population.
Europe has one of the best standards of living in the world and because of this many people are searching for a way to legally live there.
The economy of Europe comprises more than 731 million people in 48 different countries. Like other continents, the wealth of Europe's states varies, although the poorest are well above the poorest states of other continents in terms of GDP and living standards. The difference in wealth across Europe can be seen roughly in former Cold War divide, with some countries breaching the divide (Portugal, Slovenia and the Czech Republic). Whilst most European states have GDP per capita higher than the world's average and are very highly developed (Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Andorra, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland), some European economies, despite their position over the world's average (except for Moldova and Turkey) in the Human Development Index (Armenia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kazakhstan) are still catching up with European leading countries.
European countries, with a long history of trade, a free market system, and a high level of development in the previous century are generally in the north and west of the continent. They tend to be wealthier and more stable than countries congregated in Europe's south and east, even though the gap is closing, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, partly due to higher growth rates, but partly also due to the equalizing effect provided by the European Union.
Europe in 2010 had a nominal GDP of $19.920 trillion (30.2% of World GDP). Europe's largest national economy is that of Germany, which ranks fourth globally in nominal GDP, and fifth in purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP; followed by France, ranking fifth globally in nominal GDP, followed by the United Kingdom, ranking sixth globally in nominal GDP, followed by Italy, which ranks seventh globally in nominal GDP, then by Russia ranking tenth globally in nominal GDP.
Of the top 500 largest corporations measured by revenue (Fortune Global 500 in 2010), 184 have their headquarters in Europe. 161 are located in the EU, 15 in Switzerland, 6 in Russia, 1 in Turkey, 1 in Norway.
In Europe there are many organizations, of which the largest and most famous is the European Union.
Here is full list of organizations in Europe, operating either on an intergovernmental level or within the European Union.
- Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
- Council of Europe (CoE)
- Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO)
- GUAM Organization
- North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)
- Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
- European Economic Area (EEA)
- European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
- European Union Customs Union (EUCU)
- Schengen Area
These countries are considered to be countries of Europe either by geographical location or by cultural ties.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- Republic of Macedonia
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
- Vatican City
Most of the languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European language family. This family is divided into a number of branches, including Romance, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Albanian, Celtic, Armenian and Greek. The Uralic languages, which include Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian, also have a significant presence in Europe. The Turkic and Mongolic families also have several European members, while the North Caucasian and Kartvelian families are important in the southeastern extremity of geographical Europe. The Basque language of the western Pyrenees is an isolated language, unrelated to any other group, while Maltese is the only Semitic language in Europe with national language status.
The Indo-European language family descended from Proto-Indo-European, believed to have been spoken thousands of years ago. Indo-European languages are spoken throughout Europe, but particularly dominate Western Europe.
Albanian has two major dialects, Gheg and Tosk. It is spoken in Albania, Kosovo and parts of Montenegro, Serbia , Turkey, southern Italy, western parts of Macedonia, Greece and Albanian diaspora.
Armenian has two major dialects, Western Armenian and Eastern Armenian. It is spoken in Armenia, where it has sole official status, and is also spoken in neighboring Georgia, Iran, and Azerbaijan. It is also spoken in Turkey by a very small minority, and by small minorities in many other countries where members of the widely dispersed Armenian diaspora reside.
The Baltic languages are spoken in Lithuania and Latvia.
Continental Celtic languages became extinct in the first millennium AD, but had previously been spoken across Europe from Iberia and Gaul to Asia Minor. Modern Celtic languages are divided into:
- Brythonic family: Welsh, Breton, and Cornish
- Goidelic (Gaelic) family: Irish and also in the UK, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx Gaelic
The present-day distribution of the Germanic languages in Europe:
North Germanic languages includes Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish.
West Germanic languages includes Scots, English, Frisian, Dutch, Low German, German.
Greek is the official language of Greece and Cyprus, and there are Greek-speaking enclaves in Albania, Bulgaria, Italy, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Turkey, and in Greek communities around the world. Dialects of modern Greek that originate from Attic Greek (through Koine and then Medieval Greek) are Cappadocian, Pontic, Cretan, Cypriot, Katharevousa, and Yevanic.
The Indo-Iranian languages have two major groupings, Indo-Aryan languages including Romani, and Iranian languages, which include Kurdish, Persian, and Ossetian.
The Romance languages descended from the Vulgar Latin spoken across most of the lands of the Roman Empire. Some of the Romance languages are official in the European Union and the Latin Union and the more prominent ones are studied in many educational institutions worldwide. Three of the Romance languages (Spanish, French, and Portuguese) are spoken by one billion speakers worldwide.
- Asturian is recognized, but not official, in the Spanish region of Asturias.
- Catalan is official in Andorra; co-official in the Spanish regions of Catalonia, the Valencian Community (as Valencian) and Balearic Islands; and recognized, but not official, in La Franja of Aragon. It is also natively spoken in Northern Catalonia, France, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region (Llengadoc-Rosselló) and in the city of Alghero, Sardinia, Italy (as Alguerese).
- French is official in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland and the Channel Islands. It is also official in Canada, in many African countries and in overseas departments and territories of France.
- Galician, akin to Portuguese, is co-official in Galicia, Spain. It is also spoken by Galician diaspora.
- Italian is official in Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Vatican City and Istria (in Croatia and Slovenia).
- Latin is usually classified as an Italic language of which the Romance languages are a subgroup. It is extinct as a spoken language, but it is widely used as a liturgical language by the Roman Catholic Church and studied in many educational institutions. It is also the official language of the Holy See. Latin was the main language of literature, sciences, and arts for many centuries and greatly influenced all European languages.
- Norman has been debatedly referred to as a language in its own right or a dialect of standard French with its own regional character. Its use is recognized in the Channel Islands, remnants of the historical Duchy of Normandy, and since 2008 it is among the regional languages recognised in the French constitution.
- Portuguese is official in Portugal. It is also official in several former Portuguese colonies in Africa, Eastern Asia as well as in America (see Geographic distribution of Portuguese and Community of Portuguese Language Countries).
- Romanian is official in Romania, Moldova (as Moldovan), and Vojvodina (Serbia).
- Romansh is an official language of Switzerland.
- Spanish (also termed
Castilian) is official in Spain. It is also official in most Latin American countries with the exception of Brazil, French Guyana and Haiti.
Slavic languages are spoken in large areas of Central Europe, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe including Russia.
East Slavic languages include Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Rusyn.
West Slavic languages include Czech, Polish, Slovak, and Sorbian. Some dialects of Polish, such as Kashubian and Silesian, have been called separate languages.
South Slavic languages include Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Old Church Slavonic (a liturgical language), Serbian, and Slovene.
Languages not from the Indo-European family
The Basque language is a language isolate and the ancestral language of the Basque people who inhabit the Basque Country, a region in the western Pyrenees mountains mostly in northeastern Spain and partly in southwestern France of about 3 million inhabitants, where it is spoken fluently by about 750,000 and understood by more than 1.5 million people.
The Kartvelian language family consists of Georgian and the related languages of Svan, Mingrelian, and Laz. Proto-Kartvelian is believed to be a common ancestor language of all Kartvelian languages, with the earliest split occurring in the second millennium BC or earlier when Svan was separated. Megrelian and Laz split from Georgian roughly a thousand years later, roughly at the beginning of the first millennium BC (e.g., Klimov, T. Gamkrelidze, G. Machavariani).
North Caucasian languages (sometimes called simply
Caucasic, as opposed to Kartvelian, and to avoid confusion with the concept of the
Caucasian race) is a blanket term for two language families spoken chiefly in the north Caucasus and Turkey—the Northwest Caucasian family (including Abkhaz, spoken in Abkhazia, and Circassian) and the Northeast Caucasian family, spoken mainly in the border area of the southern Russian Federation (including Dagestan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia).
Europe has a number of Uralic languages and language families, including Estonian, Finnish, and Hungarian.
Oghuz languages in Europe include Turkish which is spoken mainly in Turkey, Balkans, Cyprus and amongst Turkish minority in Western and Central Europe, along with Azeri in Azerbaijan and Gagauz in Gagauzia.
Kypchak languages are also found in Europe, namely Crimean Tatar, Karaim, Krymchak which can be found in parts of Ukraine (Crimea), Lithuania, and Poland. Kypchak languages such as Tatar and Kumyk language are also present in European parts of Russian Federation.
The Mongolic languages originated in Asia, and most did not proliferate west to Europe. Kalmyk is spoken in the Republic of Kalmykia, part of the Russian Federation, and is thus the only native Mongolic language spoken in Europe.
Cypriot Maronite Arabic
Cypriot Maronite Arabic (also known as Cypriot Arabic) is a variety of Arabic spoken by Maronites in Cyprus. Most speakers live in Nicosia, but others are in the communities of Kormakiti and Lemesos. Brought to the island by Maronites fleeing Lebanon over 700 years ago, this variety of Arabic has been influenced by Greek in both phonology and vocabulary, while retaining certain unusually archaic features in other respects.
Hebrew has been written and spoken by the Jewish communities of all of Europe in liturgical, educational, and often conversational contexts since the entry of the Jews into Europe some time during the late antiquity. Its restoration as the official language of Israel has accelerated its secular use. It also has been used in educational and liturgical contexts by some segments of the Christian population. Hebrew has its own consonantal alphabet, in which the vowels may be marked by diacritical marks termed pointing in English and Niqqud in Hebrew. The Hebrew alphabet was also used to write Yiddish, a West Germanic language, and Ladino, a Romance language, formerly spoken by Jews in northern and southern Europe respectively, but now nearly extinct in Europe itself.
Maltese is a Semitic language with Romance and Germanic influences, spoken in Malta.It is based on Sicilian Arabic, with influences from Italian (particularly Sicilian), French, and, more recently, English.
History of Europe
The history of Europe covers the people inhabiting the European continent since it was first populated in prehistoric times to present, with the first Homo sapiens arriving between 45,000 and 25,000 BC.
The earliest settlers to Prehistoric Europe came during the paleolithic era. The arrival of agriculture around 7000 BC ushered in the neolithic age. Neolithic Europe lasted for 4000 years, overlapping with metal-using cultures that gradually spread throughout the continent. Technological advances during the prehistoric age tended to arrive from the Middle East, spreading gradually to the northwest. Some of the best-known civilizations of prehistoric Europe were Minoan and Mycenaean, which flourished during the Bronze Age until they collapsed in a short period of time around 1200 BC.
Classical antiquity age
The period known as classical antiquity began with the rise of the city-states of Ancient Greece. Greek influence reached its zenith under the expansive empire of Alexander the Great, spreading throughout Asia. Northern and western Europe were dominated by the La Tène culture, a precursor to the Celts. Rome, a small city-state traditionally founded in 753 BC, would grow to become the Roman Republic in 509 BC and would succeed Greek culture as the dominant Mediterranean civilization. The events of the rule of Julius Caesar led to reorganization of the Republic into the Roman Empire. The empire was later divided by the emperor Diocletian into the Western and Eastern empires. During the later years of the Roman Empire, the Germanic peoples of northern Europe grew in strength and repeated attacks led to the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476, a date which traditionally marks the end of the classical period and the start of the Middle Ages.
During the Middle Ages, the Eastern Roman Empire survived, though modern historians refer to this state as the Byzantine Empire. In Western Europe, Germanic peoples moved into positions of power in the remnants of the former Western Roman Empire and established kingdoms and empires of their own. Of all of the Germanic peoples, the Franks would rise to a position of Hegemony over western Europe, the Frankish Empire reaching its peak under Charlemagne around AD 800. Francia was divided into several parts; West Francia would evolve into the Kingdom of France, while East Francia would evolve into the Holy Roman Empire, a precursor to modern Germany. The British Isles were the site of several large-scale migrations. Native Celtic peoples had been marginalized during the period of Roman Britain, and when the Romans abandoned the British Isles during the 400s, waves of Germanic Anglo-Saxons migrated to southern Britain and established a series of petty kingdoms in what would eventually develop into the Kingdom of England by AD 927. During this period, the Kingdom of Poland and Kingdom of Hungary (1000–1945) were organized as well.
The Viking Age, a period of migrations of Scandinavian peoples, dominated the period from the late 700s to the middle 1000s. Chief among the Viking states was the Empire of Cnut the Great, a Danish leader who would become king of England, Denmark, and Norway. The Normans, a Viking people who settled in Northern France and founded the Duchy of Normandy, would have a significant impact on many parts of Europe, from the Norman conquest of England to Southern Italy and Sicily. Another Scandinavian people, the Rus' people, would go on to found Kievan Rus', an early state which was a precursor for the modern country of Russia. As the Viking Age drew to a close, the period known as the Crusades, a series of religiously-motivated military expeditions originally intended to bring the Levant back into Christian rule, began. Several Crusader states were founded in the eastern Mediterranean. These were all short-lived. The Crusaders would have a profound impact on many parts of Europe. Their Sack of Constantinople in 1204 brought an abrupt end to the Byzantine Empire. Though it would later be re-established, it would never recover its former glory. The Crusaders would establish trade routes that would develop into the Silk Road and open the way for the merchant republics of Genoa and Venice to become major economic powers. Crusader missions to the Baltic lands would establish the State of the Teutonic Order. The Reconquista, a related movement, worked to reconquer Iberia for Christendom.
Eastern Europe in the High Middle Ages was dominated by the rise, and later fall, of the Mongol Empire. Led by Genghis Khan, the Mongols were a group of steppe nomads that established a decentralized empire that, at its height, extended from China in the east to the Black and Baltic seas in Europe. The Kievan Rus' state had broken up, replaced by several small warring states. In the face of the Mongol conquests, many of these states paid tribute to the Mongols, becoming effective vassals. As Mongol power waned towards the Late Middle Ages, the Grand Duchy of Moscow rose to become the strongest of the numerous Russian principalities and republics and would itself grow into the Tsardom of Russia in 1547. The Late Middle Ages represented a period of upheaval in Europe. The epidemic known as the Black Death and an associated famine caused demographic catastrophe in Europe as the population plummeted. Dynastic struggles and wars of conquest kept many of the states of Europe at war for much of the period. In Scandinavia, the Kalmar Union dominated the political landscape, while England fought with Scotland in the Wars of Scottish Independence and with France in the Hundred Years' War. In Central Europe, the Polish–Lithuanian union became a large territorial empire, while the Holy Roman Empire, which was an elective monarchy, came to be dominated by the House of Habsburg, who would turn it into a hereditary position in all but name. Russia continued to expand southward and eastward into former Mongol lands as well. In the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire, a Turkish state originating in Anatolia, encroached steadily on former Byzantine lands, culminating in the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.
Religion wars and expansion
Beginning roughly in the 14th century in Florence, and later spreading through Europe with the development of the printing press, a Renaissance of knowledge challenged traditional doctrines in science and theology, with the rediscovery of classical Greek and Roman knowledge. Simultaneously, the Protestant Reformation under German Martin Luther questioned Papal authority. Henry VIII sundered the English Church, allying in ensuing religious wars between German and Spanish rulers. The Reconquista of Portugal and Spain led to a series of oceanic explorations resulting in the Age of Discovery that established direct links with Africa, the Americas, and Asia, while religious wars continued to be fought in Europe, which ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. The Spanish crown maintained its hegemony in Europe and was the leading power on the continent until the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which ended a conflict between Spain and France that had begun during the Thirty Years' War. An unprecedented series of major wars and political revolutions took place around Europe and indeed the world in the 1610 to 1700 period. Observers at the time, and many historians since, have argued that wars caused the revolutions. A Watt steam engine. The steam engine, fueled primarily by coal, propelled the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and the world.
European overseas expansion led to the rise of colonial empires, producing the Columbian Exchange. The combination of resource inflows from the New World and the Industrial Revolution of Great Britain, allowed a new economy based on manufacturing instead of subsistence agriculture. Starting in 1775, British Empire colonies in America revolted to establish a representative government. Political change in continental Europe was spurred by the French Revolution under the motto liberté, egalité, fraternité. The ensuing French leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, conquered and enforced reforms through war up to 1815.
Empires and monarchies
The period between 1815 and 1871 saw a large number of revolutionary attempts and independence wars. In France and the United Kingdom, socialism and trade unions activity developed. The last vestiges of serfdom were abolished in Russia in 1861, and Balkan nations began to regain independence from the Ottoman Empire. After the Franco-Prussian War, Germany and Italy unified into nation states, and most European states had become constitutional monarchies by 1871. Rivalry in a scramble for empires spread. The outbreak of the First World War was precipitated by a series of struggles among the Great Powers. War and poverty triggered the Russian Revolution which led to the formation of the communist Soviet Union. Hard conditions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression led to the rise of fascism in Germany as well as in Italy, Spain, and other countries. The rise of the irredentist totalitarian regime Nazi Germany led to a Second World War.
Following the end of the Second World War, Europe was divided by the Iron Curtain between American dominated non-socialist countries of Europe and Soviet dominated socialist countries of Europe. Most non-socialist European countries came under US protection via NATO and formed the European Economic Community amongst themselves. The Central-East was dominated by communist countries under the Soviet Union's economic and military leadership, while the rest was dominated by capitalist countries under economic and military leadership of the United States. Both of the leading countries were superpowers. Portugal, belonging to the part of Europe led by the US, remained linked to the idea of the socialist state. There was, also a number of neutral, or Third World, countries in between, including Finland, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Ireland, Austria and Switzerland. In late 1989, the Fall of Communism began in countries allied with USSR: Poland, Hungary and Romania. The Soviet Union itself fell a little later, in 1990–1991, and countries which had been Soviet republics became independent. As a consequence Europe's economic integration deepened, the continent became depolarised and the European Union expanded to include many of the formerly communist European countries, in 2004 and 2007.