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Europe is a continent that comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia. Europe is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. To the east and southeast, Europe is generally considered as separated from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways of the Turkish Straits. Yet the non-oceanic borders of Europe—a concept dating back to classical antiquity—are arbitrary. The primarily physiographic term "continent" as applied to Europe also incorporates cultural and political elements whose discontinuities are not always reflected by the continent's current overland boundaries.

Europe covers about 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi), or 2% of the Earth's surface (6.8% of land area). Politically, Europe is divided into about fifty sovereign states of which the Russian Federation is the largest and most populous, spanning 39% of the continent and comprising 15% of its population. Europe had a total population of about 740 million (about 11% of world population) as of 2012.


The history of Europe covers the peoples inhabiting the European continent from prehistory to the present. Some of the best-known civilizations of prehistoric Europe were the Minoan and the Mycenaean, which flourished during the Bronze Age until they collapsed in a short period of time around 1200 BC. The period known as classical antiquity began with the emergence of the city-states of Ancient Greece. After ultimately checking the Persian advance in Europe through the Greco-Persian Wars in the 5th century BC, Greek influence reached its zenith under the expansive empire of Alexander the Great, spreading throughout Asia, Africa, and other parts of Europe. The Roman Empire came to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin in a vast empire based on Roman law. By 300 AD the Roman Empire was divided into the Western and Eastern empires. During the 4th and 5th centuries, the Germanic peoples of northern Europe grew in strength and repeated attacks led to the Fall of the Western Roman Empire. AD 476 traditionally marks the end of the classical period and the start of the Middle Ages.

The culture of Europe is rooted in the art, architecture, music, literature, and philosophy that originated from the European cultural region. European culture is largely rooted in what is often referred to as its "common cultural heritage".

As a continent, the economy of Europe is currently the largest on Earth and it is the richest region as measured by assets under management with over $32.7 trillion compared to North America's $27.1 trillion in 2008. In 2009 Europe remained the wealthiest region. Its $37.1 trillion in assets under management represented one-third of the world's wealth. It was one of several regions where wealth surpassed its precrisis year-end peak. As with other continents, Europe has a large variation of wealth among its countries. The richer states tend to be in the West; some of the Central and Eastern European economies are still emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Featured panorama

Flakstadøya
Credit: Simo Räsänen

A mountain massif on Flakstadøya Island overlooking Norwegian County Road 807 to Nusfjord, Lofoten, Nordland, as seen in September 2010. On either side of the road, coastal conifer forests can be seen.



Featured article

The IFK Göteborg squad year 1905.
Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna Göteborg, commonly known as IFK Göteborg or simply Göteborg, is a Swedish professional football club based in Gothenburg. Founded on 4 October 1904, it is the only club in the Nordic countries that has won a pan-European competition, as the club won the UEFA Cup in 1982 and 1987. IFK is affiliated with Göteborgs Fotbollförbund and play all their home games at Gamla Ullevi since the start of the 2009 season. The club colours are blue and white, colours shared both with the sports society—Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna—which the club originated from, and with the home town of Gothenburg.

Besides the two UEFA Cup titles, they have won 18 Swedish championship titles, second most in Swedish football after Malmö FF, and have the third most national cup titles with seven. The team has qualified for four group stages of the UEFA Champions League, and reached the semi-finals of the 1985–86 European Cup. IFK Göteborg is the only Swedish club team in any sport to have won the Radiosportens Jerringpris—an award for best sports performance of the year voted by the Swedish people—for the 1982 UEFA Cup victory. IFK is one of the most popular football clubs in Sweden, with diverse country-wide support.They currently play in the highest Swedish league, Allsvenskan, where they have played for the majority of their history. They have played top-flight football in Sweden continuously since 1977, which currently is the longest top-flight tenure of any club in Sweden—the second longest is Helsingborgs IF, since 1993.


Featured portrait

Kiril Lazarov, Macedonian handball player, playing for RK Zagreb, on August 22nd, 2009 in Ehingen (Germany), during the Schlecker Cup 2009.
Credit: Armin Kübelbeck

Kiril Lazarov (b. 10 May 1980) is a Macedonian handball player active since 1991.He is also the captain of the Macedonia national handball team.Lazarov was top scorer of the EHF Champions League two times with MVM Veszprém and RK Zagreb. In 2011–12, he was top scorer for Velux EHF Final 4 runner-up Atlético Madrid.

Featured picture

Typical Christmas table in Serbia. Grilled pork, Olivier salad (also called Russian salade), dzadziki salade, red wine and Bajadera sweets.
Credit: Petar Milošević

Serbian cuisine (Serbian: српска кухиња / srpska kuhinja) is the traditional cuisine of the Balkan country Serbia, sharing characteristics with the rest of the Balkan nations (especially former Yugoslavia).The national dishes include pljeskavica (a ground beef/pork patty), ćevapi (grilled minced meat), and Karađorđeva šnicla (Karageorge's schniztel). The national drink is the plum brandy šljivovica or Homemade rakija .

Featured biography

Self-Portrait, 1887
Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold, symbolic colours, and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. He died by suicide at 37, following years of mental illness and poverty.

Born into an upper-middle-class family, Van Gogh drew as a child and was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer, often travelling, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion, and spent time as a missionary in southern Belgium. Later he drifted in ill health and solitude. He took up painting in 1881 having moved back home with his parents. His younger brother Theo supported him financially, and the two kept up a long correspondence by letter.

Van Gogh's early works, mostly still lifes and depictions of peasant labourers, contain few signs of the vivid colour that distinguished his later work. In 1886 he moved to Paris where he met members of the avant-garde, including Emile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, who were reacting against the Impressionist sensibility. As his work developed he created a new approach to still lifes and local landscapes. His paintings grew brighter in colour as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay in Arles in the south of France in 1888. During this period he broadened his subject matter to include olive trees, cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.


Featured location

Surtsey, sixteen days after the onset of the eruption
Surtsey is a volcanic island located in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago off the southern coast of Iceland. At 63°18′11″N 20°36′18″W / 63.303°N 20.605°W / 63.303; -20.605Coordinates: 63°18′11″N 20°36′18″W / 63.303°N 20.605°W / 63.303; -20.605, Surtsey is the southernmost point of Iceland. It was formed in a volcanic eruption which began 130 metres (426 ft) below sea level, and reached the surface on 14 November 1963. The eruption lasted until 5 June 1967, when the island reached its maximum size of 2.7 km2 (1.0 sq mi). Since then, wave erosion has caused the island to steadily diminish in size: as of 2012, its surface area was 1.3 km2 (0.50 sq mi).

The new island was named after Surtr, a fire jötunn or giant from Norse mythology. It was intensively studied by volcanologists during its eruption, and afterwards by botanists and other biologists as life forms gradually colonised the originally barren island. The undersea vents that produced Surtsey are part of the Vestmannaeyjar submarine volcanic system, part of the fissure of the sea floor called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Vestmannaeyjar also produced the famous eruption of Eldfell on the island of Heimaey in 1973. The eruption that created Surtsey also created a few other small islands along this volcanic chain, such as Jólnir and unnamed other peaks. Most of these eroded away fairly quickly.


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