Eastern Europe, with its mosaic of countries, nations, languages, and ethnicity may seem overwhelming for an out of the area tourist. And it is understandable: the geographical boundaries have constantly moved during centuries, the culture of the area is very eclectic, the ethnic groups are mixed, and the political frontiers are oscillating according to obscure diplomatic interests. Yet, despite all of the above, the countries of Eastern Europe, have their own identities, formed a long time ago.
What is Eastern Europe? A big bewilderment!
Eastern Europe as a geographical area does not have defined boundaries. However, it once used to have political frontiers. The most recent ones were set according to the political regime mainly divided between “the communist” and the rest of the world. The communists were the countries that were part of the former “Warsaw Pact”, or “Communist Block”.
Today, this division is considered old and inaccurate. The new definition of the Easter Europe has emerged from United Nation Organization or from the European Union.
Rather than speaking about an Eastern Bloc, as not to discriminate between nations and for too many worries of being politically correct, they redesigned the map and reassigned countries to subregions and regions, all over the European continent. So, there is Central and Eastern Europe as well as an Eastern Europe which is united with some parts of Asian Continent.
As for cultural frontiers, each country has its own personality, very few characteristics being similar from a region to another, particularly on the borders.
The Countries of Eastern Europe
As I said before, it is hard to draw a map of this region. Most people living in this part of the world would speak about this area as “the former communist bloc”, as defined by NATO and UN, and include the following countries, in alphabetical order:
- Czech Republic
Below is a sketch of each of these countries, in 2012. It contains basic political and geographical information, and few words about people’s origine, alphabet, and language. There are two most known or interesting facts and the neighbours are presented clockwise.
Belarus is a former Soviet Union country which gained its independence in 1991. It is now a presidential republic. Its neighbours are Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. The Capital, Minsk, is located in the center of the country. The population has a Slavic origin and there are two languages: Belarusian and Russian. They use a Cyrillic alphabet.
It is good to know that Belarus hosts the Europe’s largest ancient forest at Belovezhskaya and that it has the world’s biggest population of bisons, majority of them living in the ancient forest.
Bulgaria is a former communist state, member of Warsaw Treaty, which, in 1989, manage to overthrow the communism and become a parliamentary republic. The capital, Sofia, is an old city located in the western part of the country. Bulgaria’s neighbours are: Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea. The population is Slavic as well and the official language is Bulgarian. The alphabet is Cyrillic.
They make very good pickles and they have great beaches.
While under a communist regime, Czech Republic was part of Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. In 1993 the two countries separated in Czech Republic and Slovakia. The author, Vaclav Havel, was one of the most known political figures that fought against communism, later becoming president.
The neighbours are Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria.
The Czech capital is Praga, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Czechs speak a Slavic language, named Czech, and, for writing, they use the latin alphabet.
They are best known for their gardens and hand made Bohemian glass.
Hungary, as well as the above countries, was part of the communist bloc, until 1989. Now is a parliamentary democracy. The capital is Budapest and the city is divided by the Danube river in two parts, Buda and Pest. The neighbours are Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria.
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Hungarians speak Hungarian, a finno-ugric language, like Finnish and Estonian. They call it Magyar and they call themselves Magyars as well. The alphabet is latin.
They are well known for the Tokay wine. Also, the inventor of Rubik Cube, is a Hungarian engineer named Erno Rubik.
Moldova is a relatively young country. It is also very small. Before 1991, it was part of the Soviet Union. Now, it is a parliamentary republic, squeezed between Romania and Ukraine. The official language is Moldavian, which, in fact, is a Romanian dialect. They are a mix of Slavic and latin population but have adopted the latin alphabet. The capital is Chisinau.
The neighbours are Ukraine, The Black Sea and Romania.Once, they were famous in the area for their wine. Also, some say they have beautiful women.
Once, they were famous in the area for their wine. Also, some say they have beautiful women.
Poland was a communist country until 1989 and now is a republic. Poland was a pioneer in the fight against the communist regime. The main figure is Lech Walesa and it’s movement called Solidarity.
Poland neighbouring countries are Lithuania, the Russian Province Kaliningrad, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany and The Baltic Sea. The Capital is Warsaw which is the city that gave the name to the famous Warsaw Treaty, a military document that separated the western democratic Europe from the eastern soviet world. The polish people have a Slavic origin and the polish language is also Slavic. The alphabet is latin.
One of the most famous people in history, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, was Polish. They also have very good sausages.
Romania became a presidential republic in 1989, after the fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The country shares borders with Ukraine, Moldova, The Black Sea, Bulgaria, and Hungary. The capital is Bucharest, a city situated at the intersection of many old and new roads. Romanians have a latin origin but there live also other ethnic groups like Germans, Hungarians, and gypsies. The language, also a latin language is called Romanian and the alphabet is latin. The country is well known for its Gymnastic team and for being the place of origin of the famous character Dracula. Romania has also the largest population of brown bear in Europe.
The country is well known for its Gymnastic team and for being the place of origin of the famous character Dracula. Romania has also the largest population of brown bear in Europe.
Russia, the former Soviet Union, is now a Federation that includes some of the states inherited from communists. The Federation has 183 “federal subjects” or “”constituent entities”. Russia’s neighbours are way too numerous to be listed here. The country excels in size and in the amount of natural resources. When speaking formally about this country, the best name to use is Russian Federation but in an informal environment, it is custom to call it simply Russia. The capital is Moscow or Moscova. The federation includes a mix of 183 ethnic groups, the biggest ones being Russians and Tatars. The official language is Russian but there are many others spoken around the country. The alphabet is Cyrillic. Among other facts, Russia hosts the largest lake in Europe: Ladoga Lake. It has a spacecraft launch station, called “cosmodrome”, in Baikonur. Its ballet school is famous and, also, its Vodka.
Among other facts, Russia hosts the largest lake in Europe: Ladoga Lake. It has a spacecraft launch station, called “cosmodrome”, in Baikonur. Its ballet school is famous and, also, its Vodka.
Before 1993, this country was part of Czechoslovakia, a communist state that collapsed in 1989. Slovakia is now a republic and its official name is Slovak Republic. The capital is Bratislava and it is situated on the Danube river. Slovakians and their language have Slavic origins and the alphabet is latin, like Czechs and Polish. Slovakia shares its frontiers with Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Austria and Czech Republic.
Slovakia is a good place for skiing and hiking. Also, the country has six sites protected by UNESCO.
The recent history of Ukraine is very similar with Belarus. It was part of the former Soviet Union until 1991 when became independent. Now, Ukraine is a presidential republic. The capital, Kiev, is one of the oldest city in Eastern Europe. Ukraine is surrounded by Belarus, Russia, the Azov Sea, the Black Sea, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, and Poland. The population and the language have Slavic origin and the alphabet is Cyrillic.
Ukrainians say that they host the center of the European continent in a small town called Rahiv, located on the west side of the country. They also make a famous soup, called borsch.
The above countries, some of which are geographically located in Eastern Europe and others in Central Europe, all share the same recent past: they were part of the Warsaw Treaty before the fall of the communist regime in 1989. There are many other states in Southeastern and Central Europe that have had a similar experience. At one point in the future, I plan to include them in this article.
- Romania and Moldova are the only countries in the region that speak a latin language.
- Hungary has a finno-ugric language.
- The nations that have a Slavic origin and orthodox religion have adopted a Cyrillic alphabet, while the ones with Slavic origin but catholic religion have adopted the latin alphabet.
- Not all these countries are members of the European Union.
- Some of the above countries use Euro, as their currency.
- These countries are located in Eastern Europe as well as in Central Europe.
- All these nations had, once, communist government.
Countries, Capitals, Currency, Language, Alphabet
|Country||Capital||Curency||Language||Alphabet||European Union Member|
Belarusian and Russian
Russian (and Ukrainian)
The above information are true as 2012. Things may change. Stay up to date.
Virginia Gikori on September 27, 2018:
I needed to familiarize myself with Eastern Europe, especially after most of the original countries were split. This has been very useful.
Agnes on January 06, 2013:
This is a very good breakdown. Well done! I am Polish, and I enjoy reading about my country.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 30, 2012:
Interesting I am living in Croatia southeastern Europe and is one of the beautiful parts too, thanks for sharing this educational Hub
cameciob (author) on August 24, 2012:
Cu placere, Mr. Happy.
I hope my some people may find my hub useful when they go traveling this part of the world. I know it is hard to remember all the countries in eastern and central Europe as it is for me with all the states in the US...
Thanks for your visit.
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on August 24, 2012:
Thanks for mentioning our Romanian gymnastics team! After all, Nadia Comaneci was indeed the first perfect 10.
Multumesc mult! (Thank You very much!)