A Geography Lesson on Eastern Europe

by Anna Blanch on May 5, 2012

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Augustine

So last week I wrote about my itinerary for the UK and Western Europe. I initially thought the next post (this one) would be about my itinerary in Eastern Europe and that’s what I got schooled. I began to realise that even deciding to have a post where I consider the sector of Overland to Oz that I’m going to call Eastern Europe was going to mean a massive geography lesson. You see, what is or is not Eastern Europe is a social and historical construct (don’t you love those!).  So, I’m going to work off what the UN Statistics division, the UN group of experts on geographical names (yes, that’s a thing) and the CIA world factbook tell me (and you) constitutes Eastern Europe. I’m not setting out to offend anybody with these posts – but you never can be too careful, so I apologise in advance if I misunderstand the socio-political history of the region and make a massive cultural faux pas/mistake. As usual, I’m always interested in the thoughts and suggestions from you (and the readers from around the world). In the last week, Goannatree has been read by people like you in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, New Zealand, Canada, Philippines, Italy, France, Germany, Finland, Japan, Latvia, Austria, Republic of Korea, Egypt, Singapore, Thailand, Ireland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Tunisia, Portugal, China, Russian Federation, Mexico, Jordan, Netherlands, Norway, Israel, Poland, Belgium, Romania, Albania, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Brazil, Panama, and Colombia, — that’s 41 different countries — and I’m sure you have expertise and knowledge that would be incredibly beneficial to this endeavour.

The next section is drawn from a few different sources, including a little from wikipedia, the CIA factbook and other reference works, with small edits:

The United Nations Statistics Division developed a selection of geographical regions and groupings of countries and areas, which are or may be used in compilation of statistics. In this collection, the following ten countries were classified as Eastern Europe: Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine. The assignment of countries or areas to specific groupings is for statistical convenience and does not imply any assumption regarding political or other affiliation of countries or territories by the United Nations.Rather than being geographically correct, the United Nations’ definition encompasses all the states which were once under the Soviet Union‘s realm of influence and were part of the Warsaw Pact. The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) classify:

  1. Eastern Europe, Northern and Central Asia Division[14]: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russian Federation, and Ukraine
  1. East Central and South-East Europe Division[14]:Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine
  1. Romano-Hellenic Division[14]: Fourteen countries[15] including Belgium, Cyprus, France, Greece, Holy See, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Romania and Moldova
  2. Baltic Division[14]: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

The CIA World Factbook[21] describes the following countries as geographically located in:

Central Europe: Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia

Eastern Europe: Belarus, Estonia,[22] Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine

Southeastern Europe: Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia

Russia is defined as a transcontinental country.

Turkey is defined as a transcontinental country.

Under this schema, I’m visiting the Romano-Hellenic division, East Central and South-East Europe Division, and Eastern Europe, Northern and Central Asia Division but not the Baltic Division, and according to the CIA, I’m going to be visiting Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe as well as Russia.

As for where East Europe ends (if you ignore the CIA delineation that Russia is its own transcontinental country, the the Ural Mountains are the geographical border on the eastern edge of Europe. But as Wikipedia says,

“In the west, however, the cultural and religious boundaries are subject to considerable overlap and, most importantly, have undergone historical fluctuations, which make a precise definition of the western boundaries of Eastern Europe somewhat difficult.” As a consequence, I’m going to consider Russia all on its very own!

The CIA factbook delineation between Central, Eastern and Southeastern may just be one I have to use over the course of the rest of the planning. It is at least straight forward! In the next post, then, I take a closer look at Central Europe and my plans for the Overland to Oz journey through that part of the world.

To go back to the post where I introduce all the itinerary posts, click here.

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Listening. Observing. Participating. Writing. Photographing. Reflecting.

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Traveller. Scholar. Photographer. Writer. Dreamer. Teacher. Anna Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD candidate in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. Overland to Oz is a crazy adventure marked with photos and word and inspired by the incredible women in Anna’s family, especially her late grandmother, whom she knew as Nan-Nan.

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