Europe is, by convention, one of the world’s seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally ‘divided’ from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting the Black and Aegean Seas. Europe is bordered by the Arctic Ocean and other bodies of water to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea and connected waterways to the southeast. Yet the borders of Europe—a concept dating back to classical antiquity—are somewhat arbitrary, as the primarily physiographic term “continent” can incorporate cultural and political elements.
Europe is the world’s second-smallest continent by surface area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi) or 2% of the Earth’s surface and about 6.8% of its land area. Of Europe’s approximately 50 states, Russia is the largest by both area and population (although the country has territory in both Europe and Asia), while the Vatican City is the smallest. Europe is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of 733 million or about 11% of the world’s population. In 1900, Europe’s share of the world’s population was 25%.
Europe, in particular Ancient Greece, is the birthplace of Western culture. It played a predominant role in global affairs from the 16th century onwards, especially after the beginning of colonialism. Between the 16th and 20th centuries, European nations controlled at various times the Americas, most of Africa, Oceania, and large portions of Asia. Both World Wars were largely focused upon Europe, greatly contributing to a decline in Western European dominance in world affairs by the mid-20th century as the United States and Soviet Union took prominence. During the Cold War, Europe was divided along the Iron Curtain between NATO in the west and the Warsaw Pact in the east. European integration led to the formation of the Council of Europe and the European Union in Western Europe, both of which have been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Area: 23 million km2 (8 876 000 mi2)
Population: 739 million people live in Europe.
Highest Point: 1. El’brus in Russia, (5 642 m/18 510 ft);
2. Mont Blanc, France-Italy: 4 807m (15 771 ft).
Largest Lake: Lake Balaton, Hungary, largest lake of Central Europe, 592 km2.
Longest Rivers: 1. Volga (3,690 km (2,293 miles), 2. Danube 2850 km (1770 miles)
Facts and Figures
Languages of Europe: English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Nordic Languages, East European languages.
Historically, religion in Europe has been a major influence on European art, culture, philosophy and law. The largest religion in Europe is Christianity as practiced by Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Churches. Following these is Islam concentrated mainly in the south east (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, North Cyprus, Turkey and Azerbaijan), and Tibetan Buddhism, found in Kalmykia. Other religions including Judaism and Hinduism are minority religions. Europe is a relatively secular continent and has an increasing number and proportion of irreligious, agnostic and atheistic people, actually the largest in the Western world, with a particularly high number of self-described non-religious people in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Sweden, Germany (East), and France.