Eastern Europe


  1. Regional Characteristics
  2. Demographic Analysis based on Population Data Sheet
  3. Countries (in order of population)
  4. References
  5. Review Questions

Regional Characteristics

Eastern Europe, as implied by its name, is located on the eastern side of the European continent.  Territorially it is Europe's largest region, with a total of 18 countries.  Its border countries include the Czech Republic, furthest to the west, Albania, furthest to the south, and Estonia, furthest to the North.  It adjoins three other major world regions including Western Europe, Russia, and the Middle East.

This region is referred to by geographers as a shatter belt, or a zone of persistent splintering and fracturing.  Balkanization, a term used to describe the cause of a shatter belt, means the process of fragmentation or division of a region into smaller regions that are often hostile or non-cooperative with each other.  In Eastern Europe this refers to many small ethnic groups found in the southern half of this region, also called Balkans or the Balkan Peninsula.  A characteristic of a shatter belt is people living in ethnically unified villages that are intertwined.

Eastern Europe extends from the Baltic Sea in the north, to the Black and Adriatic Seas to the south.  It moves from the German border in the west to the Russian border in the east.  It has a varied topography including lowlands to the north which are good for agriculture and hills and mountains, such as the Alps, in the south. Other than the Seas stated above, it has little coastal access.  It has several major rivers flowing through it including the Danube. Just a short way in any direction and you can find something different.

Eastern Europe's distribution of population is more even than other European regions.  It totals about 190.2 million.  A large number of the population lives in urban-industrial areas on either side of the borders between Czech and Slovak Republics and southern Poland.  Although it seems like a large enough number, this region's population is barely growing, and in some areas is not at all.

Eastern Europe has a variety of languages and religions.  Most of the many languages of Europe belong to the Indo European language family. Altaic, Romance, Slavic, Germanic, and many other lesser know languages can also be found in this region.  It is rare to find a European that only speaks one though.  The majority of Europeans are Christian, of which nearly half are Catholic.  The second-largest religion in Europe is Islam, followed by Judaism. Europe also has the largest number and proportion of irreligious, agnostic and atheistic people in the Western world.

The countries of Eastern Europe have a variety of cultures as well.  Each tends to have a large population of natives but has a number of different cultures located there.  Large numbers of people have migrated within the region, as well as immigrants migrating in from other regions and continents.

Europe is where modern industrialism was born.  Two main traits attributing to this fact are that machines replaced human labor in many manufacturing processes, and these new machines are powered by inanimate energy sources such as water, steam, electricity, and petroleum. More specifically some parts of Poland and the Czech Republic were included in the early industrial movement of Europe due to the fact that they had large amounts of coal and iron deposits. Agriculture can be found in much of this region, seeing as many of them export goods they farm.  Eastern Europe is specifically known for its grain production, the most prominent being wheat, as well as its livestock such as cattle.  Much of the Eastern European countries rely on agriculture and industry to boost their economy, and have done a good job doing so.

Demographic Analysis based on Population Data Sheet




Population Growth (%)

Under15/Over 65

Infant Mortality


Percent Urban





14% / 16%







17% / 13%







16% / 14%







15% / 14%







16% /16%







16% / 14%







19% / 15%







14% / 17%







17% / 12%







16% / 16%







20% / 10%







17% / 15%







16% / 14%







27% / 8%







15% / 17%







21% / 11%







14% / 15%







15% / 17%










The chart above shows some important similarities and differences in the the countries of Eastern Europe. The region has a decently large population, but it is not spread out equally among the countries.  The largest population is found in Ukraine at 46.8 million, while the smallest is found in Estonia at only 1.3 million. The population growth is generally low, the lowest being -0.8 in Ukraine and the highest being 0.8 in Albania. Most seem to fall between 0.1 and -0.2.  Most of the countries have close to the same percent of people under 15 and over 65, lying somewhere between 14% and 17%.  The one with the biggest difference between the two is a rarity at 27% under 15 and 8% over 65, and is found in Albania.  the infant mortality rates vary, the highest being 16.8% in Romania and the lowest being 3.9% in Slovenia. All of the countries are slightly below half Urban or above. The GNI's range from 2,150 in Moldova to 22,160 in Slovenia.













Ukraine is about the size of Texas, and is the largest country in both territory and population. It has about 46.8 million inhabitants.  It declared its independence in 1991. The capital, Kiev, is a historical, political and cultural center. About 22 percent of the population in the eastern part of the country is Russian.  It is widely known as the "Breadbasket of Europe" due to its massive amount of grain crops.

Poland covers the northwest corner of Eastern Europe. About 38.1 million people live in Poland. The main religion is Roman Catholicism.  A major industry of Poland is their coal production.  Agriculture including livestock, potatoes, and wheat as well as production of petroleum are money makers for the country. The capital is Warsaw. It lies in the agricultural center of the country.

Romania is the ultimate tragedy of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. A communist dictator squandered Romania's wealth, and destroyed much of the countries architectural heritage. The dictator encouraged all women to have five children to try to increase population. Along their southern border lie oil reserves that are now nearly exhausted. Its population is about 21.6 million. Today a big part of its economy is due to tourism such as the Black Sea resorts, hiking and skiing in the Carpathian Mountains, and the Transylvania region, know as the home of Count Dracula.

The Czech Republic is not only the western most country but also the most Westernized country. It is about the size of New York and is landlocked in the middle of Europe. Bohemia is the mountain-enclosed core that contains the capital of Prague. Prague always has had a great deal of contact with the west and is the countries major source for tourism. Czechs have been the leaders in both technology and engineering skills. Its population is about 10.3 million.

Hungary itself has about 10.1 million people. It is bordered by seven countries and divided in half by the Danube River.There are ethnic Hungarians in the neighboring countries of Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia. This is because of the movement of populations during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Belarus covers about the same amount of land as Kansas. It has a population of about 9.7 million people. The capital, Minsk, was an industrial center of the Soviet Union and now has a well developed mass-transit system.  Although it gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it still has close ties with Russia.

Now known as Serbia, Yugoslavia is an example of Balkanization, which basically means the fragmentation of a region into smaller countries. In late 1996 the evolving map of former Yugoslavia consisted of five countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Macedonia. The Union of Serbia and Montenegro was formed on February 4, 2003 and officially abolished the name "Yugoslavia."  As of July 1, 2006, the two countries are recognized as separate nations.

Bulgaria is about the size of Tennessee. It borders Turkey and Greece. It has very rugged topography except in the Danube lowland that is shared with Romania. Bulgaria has a population of about 7.7 million and has historically had close ties with Russia.  Tourism is a growing industry with many people visiting the city of Sofia, a number of historic sites, and resorts and spas on the Black Sea Coast.

Slovakia has a population of about 5.4 million. Liberation from Moscow's dominance caused the breakup of Czechoslovakia. The breakup left the Slovaks with serious problems such as trade links, access to markets outside Slovakia, finances, and boundary definition, just to name a few. Slovakia became an independent nation on January 1, 1993.  Some of the countries major industries now include farming, forestry, mining, manufacturing, and tourism.  The country is two-thirds mountainous with many popular ski resorts.

Substantial Serb minorities in Croatia made conflict inevitable when Croatia followed Slovenia and declared independence in 1991. Croatia was the most prosperous of the former Yugoslav republics, but the economy has been damaged by civil war.  Its population is about 4.4 million.  Its tourism is on the rise though, with coastal resorts, Roman ruins, the capital city of Zagreb, and pleasant weather.

Moldova is lacking in industrial raw materials.  Its future rests on its fertile lands, suited for a variety of agricultural products such as fruits, tobacco, and its famous wines. The population of Moldova is about 4.0 million. It declared its independence from the Soviet Union on August 27, 1991 and is now a parliamentary democracy.

In 1940 the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania, making it a Soviet republic. Lithuania's declaration of independence in 1990 produced a Soviet economic blockade.  Even with a population of about 3.4 million, it has almost full employment. The take pride in their well developed modern infrastructure of railways, airports and four lane highways.  Its economy mostly relies on its strong agriculture.

Major conflict is a problem in Bosnia, the reason for this being that 49 percent of the people are Muslim, 31 percent Serbs and 17 percent Croats. A weak truce has been agreed upon. The countries important economic factors include agriculture, mining, and timber, while its tourism is slowly reviving itself. Its population is about 3.9 million.

Albania was strongly communist, but since the 1990's has been declared an emerging democracy. Its population totals about 3.2 million.  Of that 3.2 million, about 70 percent consists of Muslims. The country has many natural resources and most of the population supports itself by farming and herding.  It differs from other countries in that its topography is mostly mountainous.

Latvia is about the size of West Virginia, with a population of 2.3 million. About one-third of the population is Russian.  It has very fertile land, a profitable dairy industry, and a strong textile, chemical, and electronic manufacturing base.  Its capital city Riga is an important Baltic seaport.  It declared its independence from Russia and Germany on November 18, 1918.

The Macedonian independence produced retaliation in Greece, which said that Macedonia is a name for a region in Greece and cannot be used by any external area.  It was once the Kingdom of Macedon, ruled by Alexander the Great. The Greek port of Thessaloniki was closed to Macedonia. It is the poorest of all the former Yugoslav republics. Its population is about 2 million.

Slovenia was the first to secede from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991. It is the most homogeneous of the republics but territorially small with only 2 million people. Slovenia's economy relies on the production of electronics and motor vehicles as well as its agricultural industries.  It has a large freight port in Koper, located on the Adriatic Sea, which makes a crucial gateway into Central Europe.

The events of the 1990s have disrupted the flow of raw materials in the country of Estonia. It claims Nordic ties because it was part of the Kingdom of Sweden when annexed by the Russians in 1710. It declared its independence from Russia on February 24, 1918. Its population is about 1.3 million. Its major exports are machinery and equipment, wood and paper, textiles, food products, furniture, metals, and chemical products.


Bradshaw, Michael. (2002) World Regional Geography: The New World      Order Updated Second Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Rowntree, Les, Lewis, Martin, Price, Marie, and Wycoff, William. (2000)         Diversity Amid Globalization: World Regions, Environment,            Development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

de Blij, H.J., Muller, Peter O. (2002) Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

World population data sheet (2006). Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau.

Looked up individual countries through these sites:



Review Questions

  1. Which was the largest culture-group in the Soviet Union:
    1. Belorussians
    2. Ukrainians
    3. Lithuanians
    4. Usbeks


  1. The history of Eastern Europe can be characterized by:
    1. Invasions
    2. Wars
    3. People's migrations
    4. All of these.


  1. The major problem of the Eastern European countries today is:
    1. Poor soils and meager timber resources
    2. A total lack of coal and iron ore deposits
    3. People are lazy and dependent on American aid
    4. A double dependence on Russian energy and expensive western technology


  1. The highest rate of population growth in Eastern Europe is in:
    1. Albania
    2. Yugoslavia
    3. East Germany
    4. Czechoslovakia
    5. Romania


  1. The largest number of East Europeans has this religious tradition:
    1. Roman Catholic
    2. Muslim
    3. Protestant
    4. Eastern Orthodox


  1. The population of the eight Eastern European countries is:
    1. About one-half the population of the former Soviet Union
    2. Approximately 38 million
    3. More than 300 million people
    4. About the same as the former Soviet Union population


  1. In the former Eastern Europe, the largest country was Poland with about 40 million people. The region of Eastern Europe now includes several countries that were once states within the Soviet Union. The country with the largest population in Eastern Europe is now:
    1. Hungary
    2. Czechoslovakia
    3. Romania
    4. Ukraine
    5. Yugoslavia


  1. The term "irredentism" refers to:
    1. The problem of a multitude of cultures within a single country
    2. The problem of a multitude of languages within a single country
    3. A cultural infusion from one country to another
    4. A country maintaining ties to a concentrated minority of ethnic cohorts in a neighboring country
    5. None of the above


  1. Which of the following Eastern European countries has the greatest manufacturing output:
    1. Czechoslovakia
    2. Lithuania
    3. Belarus
    4. Albania
    5. Moldova


  1. Which of the following Eastern European counties is best endowed with natural resources including large reserves of coal and iron but has only limited oil reserves?
    1. Poland
    2. Hungary
    3. Yugoslavia
    4. Ukraine
    5. Moldova



  1. The opening of this country's boundary with Austria in November 1988 contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall a year later by providing an escape route for East Germans:
    1. Ukraine
    2. Czechoslovakia
    3. East Germany
    4. Hungary
    5. Yugoslavia


  1. The most impoverished country in Eastern Europe that once had an ultra-communist government and maintained close ties with China:
    1. Poland
    2. Czechoslovakia
    3. Albania
    4. Romania
    5. Bulgaria



  1. This small, mostly agricultural country located near Ukraine has a mostly Romanian ethnic population:
    1. Moldova
    2. Belarus
    3. Yugoslavia
    4. Bulgaria
    5. Poland


  1. The largest number of East Europeans have this religious tradition:
    1. Roman Catholic
    2. Muslim
    3. Protestant
    4. Eastern Orthodox
    5. None of the above


  1. The European region that has undergone the greatest political changes since 1990 is:
    1. Eastern Europe
    2. Western Europe
    3. The British Isles
    4. Nordic Europe
    5. Mediterranean Europe


  1. Most Eastern European boundaries are a result of:
    1. World War I
    2. World War II
    3. The USSR
    4. NATO
    5. The Ottoman Empire.


  1. The term "balkanization" refers to:
    1. A language spoken in Bulgaria
    2. A landmass located just north of Italy
    3. A rift in the Serbian plain
    4. The division and fragmentation of the Eastern European region
    5. The imposition of the Slavic region


  1. Traditionally, Poland was:
    1. An agrarian country
    2. An industrial country
    3. A major source of raw materials
    4. A service-based economy
    5. Ethnically diverse


  1. This former Soviet Republic is the poorest of the Baltic countries and, although there are strong nationalist sentiments, about one-third of the population is Russian:
    1. Belarus
    2. Moldova
    3. Estonia
    4. Lithuania
    5. Latvia


  1. The three regions of former Czechoslovakia:
    1. Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia
    2. Bohemia, Slovenia, Croatia
    3. Belarus, Irrendentia, Slovakia
    4. Czechia, Slovakia, Bohemia
    5. Prague, Silesia, Moravia


  1. The most culturally distinctive country in Eastern Europe is:
    1. Belarus
    2. Hungary
    3. Moldova
    4. Poland
    5. Russia



  1. An unusual aspect of Albania compared to neighboring countries is:
    1. Its location on both the Baltic and Adriatic Seas
    2. Its large Eastern Orthodox population
    3. Its former control by the Ottoman Empire
    4. Its former control by the Austro-Hungarian Empire
    5. Its large Moslem population



  1. Which of the following states in Eastern Europe is the largest in area?
    1. Bulgaria
    2. England
    3. Hungary
    4. Albania
    5. Ukraine


  1. The largest and most populous of the Eastern European nations is:
    1. Poland
    2. Belarus
    3. Romania
    4. Ukraine
    5. Hungary


  1. The largest ethnic minority in Ukraine is:
    1. Bulgarians
    2. Moldovans
    3. Crimeans
    4. Russians
    5. Tatars



Submitted by Travis Taylor on 11/11/96. Edited by Karen Oyler on 10/11/03. Edited by Melissa Sifers on 4/9/07.