The European regional grouping according to
The World Factbook
Picture shows also Northern Europe, Western Europe, Central Europe, Southern Europe, Southeastern Europe, Southwestern Europe, and other regions
Several other definitions of Eastern Europe exist today, but they often lack precision, are too general or outdated. These definitions vary both across cultures and among experts, even
 as the term has a wide range of
geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and
There are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region".
 A related
United Nations paper adds that "every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and
While the eastern geographical boundaries of Europe are well defined, the boundary between Eastern and Western Europe is not geographical but historical, religious and cultural.
Ural River, and the
Caucasus Mountains are the
geographical land border of the eastern edge of Europe.
In the west, however, the historical and
cultural boundaries of "Eastern Europe" are subject to some overlap and, most importantly, have undergone historical fluctuations, which make a precise definition of the western geographic boundaries of Eastern Europe and the
geographical midpoint of Europe somewhat difficult.
Eastern and Western Christianity in 1054
The East–West Schism which began in the 11th century and lasts until this very day divided Christianity in Europe, and consequently the world, into
Western Christianity and
Western Europe according to this point of view is formed by countries with dominant Roman Catholic and Protestant churches (including Central European countries like
Eastern Europe is formed by countries with dominant Eastern Orthodox churches, like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Bulgaria and Serbia for instance.
The schism is the break of communion and theology between what are now the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic from 11th century, as well as from the 16th century also Protestant) churches. This division dominated Europe for centuries, in opposition to the rather short lived Cold War division of 4 decades.
Division between the Eastern and Western Churches
Religious division in 1054
Great Schism of 1054, Europe has been divided between
Roman Catholic and
Protestant churches in the West, and the
Eastern Orthodox Christian (many times incorrectly labeled "Greek Orthodox") churches in the east. Due to this religious cleavage, Eastern Orthodox countries are often associated with Eastern Europe. A cleavage of this sort is, however, often problematic; for example,
Greece is overwhelmingly Orthodox, but is very rarely included in "Eastern Europe", for a variety of reasons, the most prominement being that Greece's history for the most part was more so influenced by Mediterannean cultures and contact.
The official European Union website
Europa makes a clear division between East and Central Europe classifying several European countries strictly as Central European: Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia.
Eurovoc, a multilingual
thesaurus maintained by the
Publications Office of the European Union, provides a somewhat different view with entries for "23 EU languages"
 (Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish), plus the languages of candidate countries (Albanian, Macedonian and Serbian). Of these, those in italics are classified as "Eastern Europe" in this source, similar to the Cold War division of Europe.
Another definition was used during the 40 years of
Cold War between 1947 and 1989, and was more or less synonymous with the term
Eastern Bloc. A similar definition names the formerly
states outside the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe.
fall of the Iron Curtain brought the end of the East–West division in Europe,
 but this geopolitical concept is sometimes still used for quick reference by the media or sometimes for statistical purposes.
Historians and social scientists generally view such definitions as outdated or relegating.
states gradually joined
, a Western military alliance.
Membership not a goal
National Geographic Society,
Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography,
STW Thesaurus for Economics and most other modern sources place the Baltic states in
Northern Europe whereas the CIA World Factbook and
UNESCO place the region in Eastern Europe with a strong assimilation to
Northern Europe. The Baltic states have seats in the
Nordic Council as observer states. They also are members of the
Nordic-Baltic Eight whereas Central European countries formed their own alliance called the
Northern Future Forum, the
Nordic Investment Bank and
Nordic Battlegroup are other examples of Northern European cooperation that includes the three Baltic states that make up the
The Caucasus nations of
Georgia are included in
definitions or histories of Eastern Europe. They are located in the transition zone of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. They participate in the
Eastern Partnership program, the
Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, and are members of the
Council of Europe, which specifies that all three have political and cultural connections to Europe. In January 2002, the
European Parliament noted that Armenia and Georgia may enter the EU in the future.
 However, Georgia is currently the only Caucasus nation actively seeking NATO and EU membership.
The Caucasus nations differ somewhat with
Armenia culturally oriented more toward Eastern Europe and with
Azerbaijan culturally oriented more toward the Asian
There are three de-facto independent
Republics with limited recognition in the Caucasus region. All three states participate in the
Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations:
Other former Soviet states
Several other former
Soviet republics may be considered part of Eastern Europe
The term "Central Europe" is often used by historians to designate states formerly belonging to the
Holy Roman Empire or the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, including parts of modern-day Belarus and Ukraine.
In some media, "Central Europe" can thus partially overlap with "Eastern Europe" of the Cold War Era. The following countries are labeled Central European by commentators, though for some, used to the Cold War terms, they are still labeled Eastern European.
Most Southeastern European states did not belong to the
Eastern Bloc (except Bulgaria, Romania, and for a brief time, Albania) although some of them were represented in the
Cominform. Only some of them can be included in the classical former political definition of Eastern Europe. Some can be considered part of
 However, this is rare and most can be characterized as belonging to
Southeast Europe, but some of them may also be included in
Central Europe (such as
Slovenia or Eastern Europe.
Albania belongs to Southeastern Europe.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria is in the south-eastern part of the Balkans; geographically belongs to southeastern Europe and sometimes can also be included in Eastern Europe in the
Greece is a rather unusual case and may be included, variously, in Western,
 or Southern Europe.
Macedonia belongs to Southeastern Europe.
Montenegro belongs to Southeastern Europe.
Romania can be included in Eastern Europe in the Cold War context, but is also referred to as belonging to Southeastern Europe
 or Central Europe.
Serbia is included in notions of
Southern and even
Central Europe (due to the northern region of
Vojvodina lying on the
Pannonian Plain, a historical region of Central Europe)
Turkey lies partially in Southeastern Europe: only the region known as
East Thrace, which constitutes less than 3% of the country's total land mass, lies west of the
Sea of Marmara, and the
Partially recognized states: