European Countries: Map & Facts

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Maps, European or otherwise, can tell us a great deal of information quickly. In this lesson, we will review some different types of maps of the European countries and the European continent, and you will see that maps can sometimes change your perception and opinion.

How to Look At a European Map

When we look at maps, European countries or otherwise, we have to ask ourselves what, why, who and where. First, what are we looking at? What information is the map trying to convey? Why is this information important? Last, who made the map, and where was it made? There are many different types of maps (political, physical, topographic, and even the good, old road map) and they all serve different purposes - each one is trying to convey a different type of information about a specific geographical location.

If we look at a map of Europe, we might figure out that one of the highest mountains in Europe is Mt. Blanc, at 4,810 meters. However, that map might not tell us that the highest mountain in Europe is in Russia, Mt. Elbrus, at 5,642 meters near the Republic of Georgia border, or even more importantly, the highest toilet in Europe is indeed on Mt. Blanc.

Information and perception is in the eye of the viewer.

Europe Is Not Really Even a Continent

It is often very easy to view the world from our own vantage point. Depending on your location on Earth, including Europe, your continent is probably in the center of the map, with other continents on the periphery. It is no different in Europe, which usually places Europe in the middle and the top of the world. It just makes things easier for us. However, if you look at a world map of Europe in a different way, Europe is really just an extension of a much bigger continent: Asia. Or is Asia just an extension of Europe?

Map of the world.

A Physical Map of Europe

A physical map of European countries reveals images with which we are much more familiar. Our concept of Europe is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the West, Scandinavia to the North, Russia to the East and the Mediterranean to the South. There are roughly 50 countries in Europe, give or take, depending with whom you are speaking. The division between Europe and Asia is generally considered to be the Ural Mountains which run through Russia. As such, looking at a map, you will see that approximately 75% of Russia is in Asia. But, Russia's capital, Moscow, is in Europe, as well as approximately 75% of the Russian population.

However, Turkey, which many consider only European in the small part that sits on western side of the Bosporus Strait, is just as much in Europe as Moscow, Russia is. Extending the line just a little further, the Republic of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan could be, and typically is, considered part of Europe. If you travel to Tbilisi, Yerevan or Baku, the capitals of these countries, you'll find many people who agree with this idea.

Physical map of Europe.

A Political Map of Europe

A political map of Europe, color-coded to help focus the human eye, reveals even more familiar terrain. Germany, 357,168 km², Europe's largest economy and one of its biggest population base (Russia is the largest with over 143 million) has over 80 million people. It's in the center where it should be. In a way, all the other other countries seem to revolve around it. However, the geographical center of Europe is actually not far from Vilnius, Lithuania (try it on Google, you will be amazed), a country of over 2.9 million, a much, much smaller economy and a land size of 65,200 km², about the size of West Virginia (62,755 km²).

Political map of Europe.

Political maps, maps that show statistical data and even the colors chosen to show different information on a map can have an effect on your perception of Europe. Some regional maps show Russia and Eastern Europe, usually in some type of red, forever linked, while others just ignore Russia and try to include only mainland Europe. Our second regional map, which has a lasso showing the main economic center of Europe, looks correct. The economic powerhouses of Germany, France, Great Britain and Northern Italy seem right. But is it?

Taken one way, by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the amount of goods and services a country produces, mighty Germany has the highest GDP in Europe. Little San Marino, a tiny hamlet surrounded by Italy, has the lowest. However, if you take the GDP per capita, which is the GDP divided by the number of people in the country, San Marino shoots to the top 10 countries in the world with a GDP per capita of $56,820! Germany barely makes the top 20 with $47,821, while the European Union has a GDP per capita of $36,422. Maps, like statistics, can suit anyone's purpose.

Europe by regions.

Europe by regions with main economic center in dashed line.
Europe by region with ring

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