Key facts about Europe. Maps of Europe
Detailed maps of Europe for free use. The region includes 50 independent states. Physical maps regions of Europe with cities, rivers and lakes..
Fact File Europe and the Russian Federation
Covering 10.5 million sq km (4 million sq miles), Europe is the second smallest continent in the world. It is part of the Eurasian land-mass and its conventional separation from Asia is therefore more cultural than physical. The Ural Mountains and Ural River, the Caspian and Red Seas, and the Dardanelles Straits separate Europe from Asia and, to the south, the Mediterranean Sea separates it from Africa.
The countries of Europe can be divided into three groups: Western Europe, Eastern Europe (most countries of which came under the influence of the former Soviet Union), and the countries that emerged from the break-up of the former Soviet Union. Each of these groups can be distinguished by the history of its political systems.
Western Europe includes Andorra, Austria, Bel-glum, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Vatican City. There are also several dependencies: Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, and Gibraltar are dependencies of the United Kingdom, the Faeroe Islands of Denmark and Svalbard of Norway.
The nations of Eastern Europe are Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia) and Albania.
When the former Soviet Union broke up, several new nations emerged in Europe and Asia; the European nations consist of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Moldova.
During the last 500 years, Europe has exerted a strong influence on the rest of the world through colonialism. Several Western European countries were colonial powers and their languages have become international; European sciences, laws, and arts have spread around the globe. European
A valley (with vineyards) in Switzerland (below), and a beech forest in Germany (right), both in Western Europe.
companies developed commercial agriculture, mining, and manufacturing in their colonies. The colonial powers promoted European migration to the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand— Europeans are now the dominant people there. Many Europeans also migrated to South Africa.
Physical features Europe
The elongated Tertiary Period mountain chain that stretches between the Alps in France and the Carpathians in Romania, rising 3,000 to 4,500 m (10,000 to 15,000 ft), is a prominent feature in Europe. In contrast, there are geologically old and worn-down mountains in Scandinavia and northern Britain. Glacial carving, including sharp-peaked mountains (such as the Matterhorn) and flat-bottomed, steep-sided glacial valleys as in Switzerland, is found in most European mountainous areas. Along the Scandinavian coasts there are fiords, which are glacial valleys drowned by the sea. There are extensive plains in Central and Eastern Europe and France. Europe is well watered by a large number of rivers—the Volga, the Danube, the Rhone, and the Rhine. Many of these rivers are navigable far inland and are interconnected in places by canals.
Climate and vegetation Europe
Although much of Europe can be described as humid temperate, significant climatic differences exist within its borders. The climates of Western Europe are moderated by the Atlantic Ocean, which is warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream.
In contrast, the winter temperatures in continental Russia are below freezing.
The northernmost parts of Europe are treeless, with very cold winters and mild summers. Further south is the taiga, with broad-leaf deciduous and needle-leaf coniferous trees covering large tracts of land, particularly in Russia.
Cool, humid temperate climates stretch along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean between northern Spain and Norway, including Iceland. This area is characterized by mixed forests, but most of the original trees have been cleared. Some forests, like the Black Forest, have been harmed by acid rain.
Further inland, Central and Eastern Europe experience more extreme temperature ranges. There is a semiarid belt in the south, and forests are found in the wetter and higher areas. The drier regions with less reliable rainfall, such as the Ukraine and southwestern Russia, are characterized by extensive steppes of short grasses.
The southern Mediterranean belt experiences hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Forests and scrub cover large areas.
The population of Europe at present (excluding the Russian Federation) totals 728 million. The relatively high standards of living in most European nations are reflected in life expectancies of 70.1 years for males and 78.2 years for females. Population numbers are stable, with a near zero growth rate. The Russian Federation has 145 million people; its life expectancies are 62.3 years for males and 73 years for females.
There has been significant urbanization in Europe since the nineteenth century, and this accelerated following the Second World War. Currently 74 percent of the population lives in cities and towns (84 percent in northern Europe and 65 percent in southern Europe); the figure for the Russian Federation is 73 percent.
Europe has a well-developed agricultural economy based on a wide range of food and animal products. Farming is more advanced in Western Europe, in terms of technology and organization, than in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe, which experimented with collectivized agriculture for several decades. Farm size varies considerably, but pressure to create larger farm units is changing the agricultural landscape.
Within Europe's cool, humid zone, mixed farming (grain growing and livestock rearing) is widespread. Wheat, barley, and rye are the main grains, and sheep and cattle the main livestock. Dairy farming is important in some of the cool countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark. Apples and pears are significant fruits.
Southern Europe, with its warm, dry summers and mild winters, is suited to growing grapes, citrus fruits, and olives. Irrigation is extensively used in parts of the Mediterranean areas for growing rice, for example.
There is extensive fishing in the Atlantic Ocean and in both the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
Europe was the first part of the world to become industrialized, and through scientific innovation and extensive use of technology, remains one of the world's most developed regions. British and French industries, in particular, benefited from raw materials supplied by their colonies; the colonies in turn provided markets for manufactured goods.
Manufacturing in Europe ranges from the processing of agricultural raw materials, as in the production of wine and olive oil, and the manufacturing of basic industrial items such as steel, petroleum refining, chemicals, fertilizers and cement, to the production of highly sophisticated items like cars, ships, aircraft, and electronic goods.
While European industries largely import the minerals they require, there are some significant mineral deposits in the region: coal (in several places), petroleum (in the North Sea and Eastern Europe), and iron ore (in Ukraine and Russia). The Russian Federation exports natural gas by pipeline to several European countries, and it is also a major producer of gold.
Considerable damage was done to industry and infrastructure during both world wars, particularly the second, but Europe rebuilt. Western Europe prospered, with large-scale restructuring and industrialization, while communist-controlled Eastern Europe lagged behind. These nations are now joining the market economy, but it will take time for them to catch up. Currently some East European nations are economically stagnant, and the Russian Federation, facing economic collapse, needs foreign aid to restructure its economy.
Industrialization and urbanization have taken their toll on the environment. Air pollution, acid rain, and river-water pollution are common. Sulfur dioxide levels have been reduced, thanks to international cooperation, but emission of nitrogen oxides remains high. The Mediterranean, Black and Baltic Seas have been badly affected by the discharge of waste products.
Europe has a large number of languages, most of them belonging to the three major Indo-European language family groups: the Latin-based or Romance languages, the Germanic, and the Slavic.
The Latin-based languages include Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Romanian. The Germanic languages comprise English, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian. Latvian and Lithuanian are distinct Baltic languages. Celtic languages (Irish and Scottish Gaelic and Welsh) are spoken by minorities in the British Isles and also in France (Breton). The main Slavic languages are Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Bulgarian, while another group (Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, and Macedonian) is found in the Balkans.
Other languages include Greek, Albanian, and Turkish, which are spoken in parts of the Balkans; Finnish in Scandinavia; and Basque and Catalan in Spain and France.
While most European nations have a dominant language, there are some exceptions. Switzerland has French, German, and Italian-speaking zones, and Belgium is divided into Flemish and French-speaking areas. There are German-speaking areas in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and France, and there are Russian-speaking minorities in all the former Soviet Union nations.
Boundary disputes and wars in Europe
The First and Second World Wars both began as boundary disputes between European countries before engulfing most of the continent. The domination of Eastern Europe by the powerful former Soviet Union resulted in a political, ideological, and military "iron curtain" dividing the continent until the early 1990s. Currently most of Europe's national boundaries are accepted, with some exceptions. The break-up of Yugoslavia resulted in ethnic wars which sought to redraw the existing boundaries; this was notable in the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The current division of Cyprus into Greek and Turkish areas is a source of friction between those countries. Spain's claim to British-held Gibraltar is another contested issue, though otherwise these countries remain friendly.
Several language-based separatist movements exist in Europe, some involving armed conflict— in the Basque and Catalan regions of Spain, Corsica (in France), and Kosovo (in Serbia).