Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe
Geographic features of Eastern Europe
Geographic features of Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe, also known as East Europe, is the eastern part of the European continent. There is no consensus on the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations. There are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region". [1] A related United Nations paper adds that "every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct". [2]

One definition describes Eastern Europe as a cultural (and econo-cultural) entity: the region lying in Europe with main characteristics consisting in Byzantine, Orthodox, and some Turco-Islamic influences. [2] [3] Another definition was created during the Cold War and used more or less synonymously with the term Eastern Bloc. A similar definition names the formerly communist European states outside the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe. [3] Historians and social scientists generally view such definitions as outdated or relegating, [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] but they are still sometimes used for statistical purposes. [9] [10] [11]


Several definitions of Eastern Europe exist today, but they often lack precision or are extremely general. These definitions vary both across cultures and among experts, even political scientists, recently becoming more and more imprecise. [12]


The Ural Mountains, Ural River, and the Caucasus Mountains are the geographical land border of the eastern edge of Europe. In the west, however, the cultural and religious boundaries of "Eastern Europe" are subject to considerable overlap and, most importantly, have undergone historical fluctuations, which make a precise definition of the western boundaries of Eastern Europe and the geographical midpoint of Europe somewhat difficult.


European sub-regions according to EuroVoc.

Eurovoc, a multilingual thesaurus maintained by the Publications Office of the European Union, provides entries for "23 EU languages" [13] (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 languages of candidate countries (Albanian, Macedonian and Serbian). Of these, those in italics are classified as "Eastern Europe" in this source. [14] Other official web-pages of the European Union classify some of the above-mentioned countries as strictly Central European (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia). [15] [16] [17] [18] [19]

Central Intelligence Agency

CIA World Factbook which defines Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey as primarily or entirely in Asia, and Cyprus as in the Middle East:
  Eastern Europe
  Southeastern Europe

CIA defines Eastern Europe as Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia (transcontinental), Turkey (transcontinental) and Ukraine.

Political, military and economic

Political situation in Europe during the Cold War.


One view of the present boundaries of Eastern Europe came into being during the final stages of World War II. The area eventually came to encompass all the European countries which were under Soviet influence. Countries which had communist governments in the postwar era (1945-1991), and neutral countries were classified by the nature of their political regimes.

The Cold War increased the number of reasons for the division of Europe into two parts along the borders of NATO and Warsaw Pact states. (See: the Cold War section).

The economic organisation connecting the countries was the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance.

This view is now generally viewed as outadated.


After the fall of the USSR, a new boundary of Eastern Europe emerged defined by the membership in political and economic organisations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and more recently the Eurasian Economic Union.


Cultural view excludes from the definition of Eastern Europe states historically and culturally different, constituting part of the so-called Western world. This could potentially refer to various formerly communist countries of Central Europe, the Baltics, and the Balkans which have different political, religious, cultural, and economic histories from their eastern neighbors (e.g., Russia and Ukraine). (See: Classical antiquity and medieval origins section).


The East–West Schism is the break of communion and theology between what are now the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic, as well as from the 16th century also Protestant) churches which began in the 11th century and lasts until this very day. It divided Christianity in Europe, and consequently the world, into Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity.

Contemporary developments

The fall of the Iron Curtain brought the end of the East–West division in Europe, [23] but this geopolitical concept is sometimes still used for quick reference by the media. [24]

Baltic states

Main article: Baltic states

Some sources [25] place the Baltic states in Northern Europe whereas the CIA World Factbook places the region in Eastern Europe.


Main article: Transcaucasia

The Transcaucasia nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are included in definitions of Eastern Europe and/or histories of Eastern Europe. They are located in the transition zone of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. They participate in the European Union's Eastern Partnership program, and are members of the Council of Europe, which specifies that all three are geographically in Asia but have political and cultural connections to Turkey and Europe. Georgia has sought membership in NATO and the European Union.

The World Factbook and National Geographic Society atlases, and the United Nations Statistics Division, have always listed and/or shown the three states within Asia. As with the Baltic states, the Transcaucasian nations differ somewhat, with Christian Georgia and Armenia culturally oriented more toward Eastern Europe, and Shiite Muslim Azerbaijan culturally oriented more toward the Asian Middle East.

Disputed states:

Other former Soviet states

Main article: Post-Soviet States

Several other former Soviet republics may be considered part of Eastern Europe

  •   Russia is a transcontinental country where the Western part is in Eastern Europe and the rest is in Asia.
  •   Kazakhstan is a transcontinental country, predominantly in Asia, with a relatively small section in Europe.
  •   Ukraine
  •   Belarus
  •   Moldova

Disputed states:

Central Europe

Main article: Central 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. "Central Europe" thus overlaps with "Eastern Europe." The following countries are labeled Eastern European by some commentators and as Central European by others. [26] [27] [28]

Southeastern Europe

Most Southeastern European states did not belong to the Eastern Bloc (save Bulgaria, Romania, and for a short 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 Southern Europe. [10] However, most can be characterized as belonging to South-eastern Europe, but some of them may also be included in Central Europe or Eastern Europe. [35]

  •   Albania belongs to Southeastern Europe.
  •   Bosnia and Herzegovina
  •   Bulgaria is in the central part of the Balkans; geographically belongs to Southern/Southeastern Europe and sometimes included in the North-Eastern Mediterranean, but can also be included in Eastern Europe in the Cold War.
  •   Cyprus is geographically situated in the eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of west Asian mainland, however due to its political, cultural, and historical ties to Europe, it is often regarded as part of Southern, and Southeastern Europe.
  •   Greece is a rather unusual case and may be included, variously, in Western, [36] Southeastern [37] or Southern Europe. [38] [39]
  •   Macedonia belongs to Southeastern Europe.
  •   Montenegro belongs to Southeastern Europe.
  •   Romania can be included in Eastern Europe in the Cold War context, but is commonly referred to as belonging to Southeastern Europe [40] or Central Europe. [41]
  •   Serbia is included in notions of Southeastern, Southern and Central Europe
  •   Turkey lies partially in Southeastern Europe: only the region known as East Thrace, which constitutes 3% of the country's total land mass, lies west of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosphorus.

Disputed states: