Eastern Europe

Geographic features of Eastern Europe

Eastern 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 entity: the region lying in Europe with the main characteristics consisting of Greek, Byzantine, Eastern Orthodox, Russian , and some Ottoman culture influences. [3] [4] 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. [4] Some historians and social scientists view such definitions as outdated or relegated, [1] [5] [6] [7] [8] but they are still sometimes used for statistical purposes. [3] [9] [10]


The European regional grouping according to The World Factbook:
  Eastern Europe
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Several other definitions of Eastern Europe exist today, but they often lack precision, are too general or outdated.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 political scientists, [11] as 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]


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.

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 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.


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 Eastern Christianity.

Western Europe according to this point of view is formed by countries with dominant Roman Catholic and Protestant churches (including Central European countries like Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia).

Eastern Europe is formed by countries with dominant Eastern Orthodox churches, like Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine for instance.

The schism is the break of communion and theology between what are now the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic from the 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.

Since the 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 Mediterranean cultures and contact. [15]

European Union

The official European Union website Europa classifies several European countries as Central European: Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia. [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

Eurovoc, a multilingual thesaurus maintained by the Publications Office of the European Union, provides a somewhat different view with entries for "23 EU languages" [21] (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. [22]

Cold War

Regions used for statistical processing purposes by the United Nations Statistics Division. [5] [6] [1] [7] [8] [3] [10]

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 communist European states outside the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe. [4]

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 or sometimes for statistical purposes. [24]

Historians and social scientists generally view such definitions as outdated or relegated. [5] [6] [1] [7] [8] [9] [3] [10]

Contemporary developments

Baltic states

  Current EU members
  EU members in process of withdrawing: United Kingdom
  Official EU candidates: Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Turkey, and Serbia
  States that froze or withdrew their EU applications: Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland
  States officially recognized as eligible to apply for EU membership: Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. [25]
Since 1989, Eastern Bloc states gradually joined NATO, a Western military alliance.

EuroVoc, National Geographic Society, Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography, STW Thesaurus for Economics and majority of 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 Eastern European countries formed their own alliance called the Visegrád Group. [26] 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 Baltic Assembly.


The Caucasus nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and 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 European Union's 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. [27] However, Georgia is currently the only Caucasus nation actively seeking NATO and EU membership.

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

  •   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

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 some commentators, though others still consider them to be Eastern European. [28] [29] [30]

Southeastern Europe

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 Southern Europe. [3] 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. [37]

Partially recognized states:

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Oos-Europa
Alemannisch: Osteuropa
aragonés: Europa de l'Este
asturianu: Europa Oriental
azərbaycanca: Şərqi Avropa
تۆرکجه: شرقی اوروپا
Bân-lâm-gú: Tang Au
беларуская: Усходняя Еўропа
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Усходняя Эўропа
български: Източна Европа
bosanski: Istočna Evropa
brezhoneg: Europa ar Reter
Cymraeg: Dwyrain Ewrop
dansk: Østeuropa
Deutsch: Osteuropa
español: Europa Oriental
Esperanto: Orienta Eŭropo
føroyskt: Eysturevropa
français: Europe de l'Est
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Tûng-Êu
한국어: 동유럽
hornjoserbsce: Wuchodna Europa
hrvatski: Istočna Europa
Bahasa Indonesia: Eropa Timur
íslenska: Austur-Evrópa
Basa Jawa: Éropah Wétan
қазақша: Шығыс Еуропа
latviešu: Austrumeiropa
lietuvių: Rytų Europa
Limburgs: Oas-Europa
македонски: Источна Европа
მარგალური: ბჟაეიოლი ევროპა
Bahasa Melayu: Eropah Timur
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Dĕ̤ng-ĕu
Nederlands: Oost-Europa
Nedersaksies: Oost-Europa
norsk nynorsk: Aust-Europa
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Sharqiy Yevropa
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਪੂਰਬੀ ਯੂਰਪ
português: Leste Europeu
Qaraqalpaqsha: Shig'is Evropa
română: Europa de Est
русиньскый: Выходна Европа
Simple English: Eastern Europe
slovenčina: Východná Európa
slovenščina: Vzhodna Evropa
словѣньскъ / ⰔⰎⰑⰂⰡⰐⰠⰔⰍⰟ: Въсточьна Єѵрѡпа
српски / srpski: Источна Европа
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Istočna Evropa
Basa Sunda: Éropa Wétan
svenska: Östeuropa
татарча/tatarça: Көнчыгыш Аурупа
Türkçe: Doğu Avrupa
Türkmençe: Gündogar Ýewropa
українська: Східна Європа
Tiếng Việt: Đông Âu
吴语: 东欧
粵語: 東歐
Zeêuws: Oôst-Europa
中文: 东欧