Introduction to Europe
is the second smallest continent in area (4,140,625 square miles),
larger only than Australia—that is, if Europe is even considered a
continent at all. Some people (including many geographers in
Russia) class it as part of a larger continent, Eurasia.
*If Europe is a continent (or even if it is merely a peninsula or
Eurasia), it is typically considered to start at the Ural Mountains in
Russia and the Caucasus Mountains just north of Turkey. It is
also surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the
Black Sea, all of which also have smaller seas and bays within them.
*Europe is classed as a continent as much for historical and cultural
reasons as for geographical ones—Europe has had a tremendous impact on
world history and culture, and continues to be culturally, politically,
and economically significant: the population of Europe is roughly
700,000,000, about 11% of the world's population.
*Including Russia, there are 44 countries in Europe today.
*Europe contains the world’s largest country, Russia (6,595,600 square
miles), and the smallest, the Vatican City (0.16 square miles, or just
under 109 acres—it would fit inside Johnson City 245 times).
*Russia is also the most populous country in Europe (#8 worldwide),
with about 143 million people. Germany is second (#14 worldwide),
with 82.4 million, France is third (#20), with 60.6 million, Great
Britain is fourth (#21), with 60.4 million, Italy is fifth (#23), with
58 million, Ukraine is sixth (#25), with 47.4 million, and Spain is
seventh (#27), with 43 million.
*The most populous metropolitan area in Europe is Moscow (#15
worldwide) with about 13,600,000 people. Second is London (#18)
with 11,850,000; third is Paris (#24) with 11,570,000 (although the
Rhine-Ruhr area of Germany has many cities that have nearly become a
megalopolis with a slightly higher population than the Paris Area);
fourth is Istanbul with 11,332,000, which we will study later, when we
look at the Middle East, fifth is the Milan area, with 6,500,000, sixth
is Madrid with 5,600,000, and seventh is Saint Petersburg with
5,550,000. Many countries in Europe have some degree of Primate
City Syndrome, particularly Britain and France, while others,
particularly countries that were formed more recently, such as Germany,
Italy, and, to a lesser degree, Spain, have several important cities.
*Most people in Europe speak Indo-European languages.
*There are also some non-Indo-European languages in Europe.
Finnish and Estonian are closely related to each other, and may be
related to Hungarian as part of the Finno-Ugric language family, and
possibly even to Turkish and other Turkic languages, if they are all
part of the Ural-Altaic family (as some linguists suggest).
*The island of Malta speaks Maltese, a language related to Arabic.
*Europe also has a linguistic isolate: Basque. This language is,
as far as anyone knows, completely unrelated to any other known
language in the world. It has been postulated that this is the
only survivor of the pre-Indo-European peoples who inhabited Europe
before the Indo-Europeans arrived in Europe about 3,500 BC (although
they would not dominate the continent until about 1,500 BC or so).
*The majority of Europe is nominally Christian, although actually
church attendance and involvement is much lower than in the United
States. Northern Europe tends to be Protestant, Eastern Europe
tends to be Orthodox, and Southern Europe tends to be Catholic,
although there are exceptions (particularly on the western edge of
Eastern Europe). There are also a large number of Muslims in
parts of South-eastern Europe.
*Europe, although made up of many separate and important nations, and
historically often at war with itself, is moving closer together.
Today, 25 nations, mostly in Western Europe, have formed the European
Union, a loose confederation of nations, which some want to turn into a
much stronger federation for mutual protection, free trade, and the
creation of a unified economy larger than that of the United
States. Twelve of the nations in the European Union use a common
currency, the Euro.