The European continent extends from the North Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains in Russia. The Russian segment of the European continent is usually studied with Russia as a whole. The Arctic Ocean borders Europe to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south.
The Gulf Stream helps create a type C climate for much of Western Europe. Type D climates dominate the north and eastern portions of Eastern Europe. Europe has four main physical landforms that provide a diversity of resources for human activity.
European colonialism brought increased wealth and economic activity to Western Europe. The Industrial Revolution also began here. Europe developed into an industrialized realm with powerful economic forces that continue to drive the postindustrial engine of globalization. The rural-to-urban shift and urbanization were products of industrialization. The result for Europe has been smaller families and higher incomes.
The Roman Empire created early networks of infrastructure for southern Europe, while the Vikings connected northern Europe through trade and warfare. The latest attempt to unify the European nations is through supranationalism in the formation of the European Union (EU). Countries that have strong economies and stable governments are allowed to join the EU.
Western Europe can be divided into various geographic regions based on the points of the compass. The distinctions often relate to the type of economic activity the people are engaged in or are based on cultural traits such as the variations of Christianity or the branches of the Indo-European language.
Since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Eastern Europe has been transitioning from Communist governments to democratic governments with capitalist-style economies. Some countries have made this transition more easily than others. Many of the more progressive countries have been accepted into the EU. Other countries continue to struggle to establish stable democratic governments and a growing economy.
The breakup of former Yugoslavia is an excellent example of how cultural forces shape geographic areas. The Slavic region that makes up former Yugoslavia was separated through nationalism and strong devolutionary forces. The largest state of Serbia dominated the breakup with the push for a Greater Serbia for Serbs only. The result was the creation of seven smaller states following a nation-state design.