Europe is bordered by water on three sides. On the west is the Atlantic Ocean. To the north is the Arctic Ocean. The Mediterranean Sea separates Southeastern Europe from Africa. On the eastern border of Europe are the Ural River and Ural Mountains.
There are at least 43 countries in Europe (the European identities of 5 transcontinental countries:Cyprus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey are disputed). Most of these countries are members of the European Union.
As of 2017, about 510 million people lived in Europe.
Europe makes 44% of the world's wine.
Europe contains the world's second most-active volcano, which is Mount Etna that is currently the most-active volcano in the continent.
Origin of name
Europe is named after a princess in Greek mythology called "Europa." The myth says that Zeus kidnapped Europa and took her to Crete, where she became the mother of King Minos (from whom Europe’s first civilization gets its name, the Minoans).
At this time, much of the continent shares some leadership in a body that is above any country, called the European Union.
The history of Europe covers the peoples inhabiting Europe from prehistory to the present.
The period known as classical antiquity began with the emergence of the city-states of ancient Greece. Later, the Roman Empire came to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin. The fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476 traditionally marks the start of the Middle Ages. Beginning in the 14th century a Renaissance of knowledge challenged traditional doctrines in science and theology. Simultaneously, the Protestant Reformation set up Protestant churches primarily in Germany, Scandinavia and England.
After 1800, the Industrial Revolution brought prosperity to Britain and Western Europe.
The main powers set up colonies in most of the Americas and Africa, and parts of Asia.
The Cold War dominated European geo-politics from 1947 to 1989.
Unification into a European Union moved forward after 1950, with some setbacks.
Today, most countries west of Russia belong to the NATO military alliance, along with the United States and Canada.
List of Countries
- Austria (EU)
- Belgium (EU)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Bulgaria (EU)
- Croatia (EU)
- Czech Republic (EU)
- Denmark (EU)
- Estonia (EU)
- Finland (EU)
- France (EU)
- Germany (EU)
- Greece (EU)
- Hungary (EU)
- Iceland Note: Geologically located in Europe and North America. (Official Candidate of EU.)
- Ireland (EU)
- Italy (EU)
- Kosovo Note: Not officially recognized.
- Latvia (EU)
- Lithuania (EU)
- Luxembourg (EU)
- Malta (EU)
- Montenegro (Official Candidate of EU.)
- Netherlands (EU)
- Poland (EU)
- Portugal (EU)
- Cyprus (EU)
- Republic of Macedonia (Official Candidate of EU.)
- Romania (EU)
- Serbia (Official Candidate of EU.)
- Slovakia (EU)
- Slovenia (EU)
- Spain (EU)
- Sweden (EU)
- Turkey (Official Candidate of EU.)
- United Kingdom (EU)
- Vatican City
Europe makes up the western fifth of the Eurasian landmass. It has a higher ratio of coast to landmass than any other continent or subcontinent. Its maritime borders consist of the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian Seas to the south.
Land relief in Europe shows great variation within relatively small areas. The southern regions 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, which begins in the western parts of the islands of Britain and Ireland, and then continues along the mountainous, fjord-cut spine of Norway.
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 16 °C (61 °F), while it is only 12 °C (54 °F) 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 8 °C (14 °F) higher than those in Calgary, and they are almost 22 °C (40 °F) higher than average temperatures in Irkutsk. Similarly, northern parts of Scotland have a tempertate marine climate. The yearly average temperature in city of Inverness is 9.05 °C (48.29 °F). However, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, is on roughly the same latitude and has an average temperature of −6.5 °C (20.3 °F), giving it a nearly subarctic climate.
Europe's most significant feature is the difference 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". Most of the older geology of western Europe existed as part of the ancient microcontinent Avalonia.
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 Fennoscandia 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 mixed forest. 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. 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 broadleaf and mixed forests, 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.
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 was 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 and hunting 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 Central and Eastern Europe and in the Balkans, with a handful of packs in pockets of Western Europe (Scandinavia, Spain, etc.).
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.
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.
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.
- See also: People of Europe
In 2017, the population of Europe was estimated to be 742 million according to the 2019 revision of the World Population Prospects , which is slightly more than one-ninth of the world's population. This number includes Siberia, (about 38 million people) but excludes European Turkey (about 12 million).
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. Among the continents, Europe has a relatively high population density, second only to Asia. Most of Europe is in a mode of Sub-replacement fertility, which means that each new(-born) generation is being less populous than the older.
The most densely populated country in Europe (and in the world) is the microstate of Monaco.
European languages mostly fall within three Indo-European language groups: the Romance languages, derived from the Latin of the Roman Empire; the Germanic languages, whose ancestor language came from southern Scandinavia; and the Slavic languages.
Slavic languages are most spoken by the number of native speakers in Europe, they are spoken in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Romance languages are spoken primarily in south-western Europe as well as in Romania and Moldova, in Eastern Europe. Germanic languages are spoken in Northern Europe, the British Isles and some parts of Central Europe.
Many other languages outside the three main groups exist in Europe. Other Indo-European languages include the Baltic group (that is, Latvian and Lithuanian), the Celtic group (that is, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton), Greek, Armenian, and Albanian. In addition, a distinct non-Indo-European family of Uralic languages (Estonian, Finnish, and Hungarian) is spoken mainly in Estonia, Finland, and Hungary, while Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, and Svan), are spoken primarily in Georgia, and two other language families reside in the North Caucasus (termed Northeast Caucasian, most notably including Chechen, Avar and Lezgin and Northwest Caucasian, notably including Adyghe). Maltese is the only Semitic language that is official within the EU, while Basque is the only European language isolate. Turkic languages include Azerbaijani and Turkish, in addition to the languages of minority nations in Russia.
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.
"Europe" as a cultural concept is substantially derived from the shared heritage of the Roman Empire and its culture. The boundaries of Europe were historically understood as those of Christendom (or more specifically Latin Christendom), as established or defended throughout the medieval and early modern history of Europe, especially against Islam, as in the Reconquista and the Ottoman wars in Europe. This shared cultural heritage is combined by overlapping indigenous national cultures and folklores, roughly divided into Slavic, Latin (Romance) and Germanic, but with several components not part of either of these group (notably Greek, Basque and Celtic).
Different cultural events are organised in Europe, with the aim of bringing different cultures closer together and raising awareness of their importance, such as the European Capital of Culture, the European Region of Gastronomy, the European Youth Capital and the European Capital of Sport.
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