Europe: Defining the Realm
- population clusters
Where, and what, is Europe? As we have learned, geographers do not all divide the world into the same geographic regions. Some do not even agree on what is a continent!
Europe is not really a continent, which should be defined as a very large landmass mostly separated from other large landmasses by water. Using this definition, many geographers identify a Eurasian continent [wweurasm]. But, since modern geography developed in what is called "Europe", the European geographers defined their own continent. But where should we put the eastern boundary? Most people extend the European continent eastward to the Ural mountains of Russia [wweuctsm] since this is the first natural barrier to the east. Therefore you often hear the term "European Russia" for the heavily populated [rupopden] and industrialized Russian plain west of the Ural Mountains. Also, you sometimes hear the term "Central Europe" for the countries that we call eastern Europe [euregeas], since these countries lie between European Russia to the east and Western Europe to the west.
OPTIONAL -- Read: http://geography.about.com/library/misc/blcont.htm
But what about the European REALM [euworsm]? Well, for reasons that we'll discuss below, the authors of our textbook puts the realm's eastern boundary at the Russian border. They also include the world's largest island, Greenland [euworgln] (OPTIONAL:http://www.worldislandinfo.com/,) because of its historical ties to Europe, specifically Denmark.
(NOTE: Greenland's size is greatly exaggerated on this Mercator projection world map [euworgln]. The actual size of Greenland is comparable to that of Mexico [wwmexgln]. The Peters Projection map [wwpetmex] distorts the shapes of the world's landmasses, but maintans their relative sizes.)
Finally, many geographers include the former communist countries of Eastern Europe [euregeas] in with the Russian realm [ruwor] because of the historical, political, and economic ties the region had with the Soviet Union (Russia) during the cold war. The authors of our textbook chose to put eastern Europe back into Europe predicting that the economic and political interactions in the FUTURE will be directed to west the rest of Europe, rather than east to Russia.
We have taken a REGIONAL APPROACH to these three questions. We've divided the world into 12 realms [wwrealsm] and have been studying WHY these 12 by looking at 4 REGIONAL CRITERIA:
Let's now apply these criteria to the European realm as we have defined it.
Physically [euoutsm.gif] Europe is well defined by water to the north, west, and south. The eastern boundary does not have any physical barrier [euphys] since the North European lowland is simply renamed the Russian Plain [ruplain] across the Russian border.
This lack of a physical protective barrier between Europe and Russia has played an important historical role. Napoleon and Hitler both easily marched armies across this plain to attack Russia. This physical and historical geography helps explain the former Soviet Union's [rufrmusr.gif]desire to have a line of buffer states under its control between Russia and Europe. These buffer states are eastern Europe [euregeas].
Besides physical barriers between realms, we can also use the physical characteristics of realms to define them. Examine the world map of climate [wwclimat] and the maps of precipitation [wwprec] [eupreces]. Compare the European realm with the neighboring [wwrealsm] Russian realm and the realm of North Africa and Southwest Asia. From the maps you should be able to identify:
(1) reasons for identifying Europe as a separate realm, and
(2) why eastern Europe may be considered a transition zone.
Our cultural criteria includes language, religions, and ethnicity. (The economy is also a cultural criteria, but I like to keep that as a separate group.) Look at the maps of languages [eulang] and religions [eurelig]. From these maps of European languages and religions you can clearly see why some geographers combine the countries of eastern Europe with Russia into one realm. (If you don't "see" this, please ask on the discussion forum.
As the countries of Eastern Europe continue their structural adjustment [ecochgaa.htm] programs, their economies are becoming more integrated into the global economy especially into the European economy.
(To review the lecture on structural adjustment see: http://www.harper.cc.il.us/~mhealy/g101ilec/intro/eco/ecochg/ecochgfr.htm)
Study the following maps. Compare the European realm with the neighboring [wwrealsm] Russian realm and the realm of North Africa and Southwest Asia. From the maps you should be able to identify:
(1) reasons for identifying Europe as a separate realm, and (
2) that eastern Europe is an economic transition zone [wbgnpmap] [wraglab] [wrurban] [wrpopgr] [wwtrans] [wwhdi].
Again, these maps seem to indicate that Eastern Europe could be included in the Russian Realm.
The main historical issue concerning the boundaries of the European realm concern its eastern boundary. The countries of eastern Europe [euregeas] were member of the cold war ers Warsaw Pact. Warsaw Pact countries are a bloc of Eastern European States and the Soviet Union that signed a Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Alliance in Warsaw, Poland on 14 May 1956. The treaty was in part a response to the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 by theprincipal Western powers. Member nations of the Warsaw Pact are the Soviet Union [rufrmusr], Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Albania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact in 1961. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, some geography testbooks include these former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe in a realm with Russia.
Besides the four regional criteria listed above, we have also used the idea of population clusters to differentiate geographic realms. Realm boundaries usually pass though sparsely populated areas. Is this true for the boundaries of the European realm [wwecumen] ?
Europe is one of the world's three large population clusters [wwecum3]. With a population of 582 million, Europe comprises about 10% of the world's population. It's land area of 2,193.6 square miles constitutes less than 5% of the world's land area. This gives Europe a population density of 265.1 people per square mile [eumeasur.htm]. This is greater than the population density of all other realm except south Asia, east Asia, and southeast Asia [realmmea.htm]. Luckily a large fraction of the land is arable and rich in resources and has provided the people of the realm with a high standard of living.