Eastern Europe is the eastern part of the European continent. There is no consensus as to the precise area it refers to, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations.
There are “almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region”. A related United Nations paper adds that “every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct”. One definition describes Eastern Europe as a cultural (and econo-cultural) entity: the region lying in Europe with main characteristics consisting in Byzantine, Orthodox, and some Turco-Islamic influences. Another definition was created during the Cold War and used more or less synonymously with the term Eastern Bloc. A similar definition names the formerly communist European states outside the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe. Although some view such definitions as outdated or relegating, they are still heard in everyday speech and used for statistical purposes by various supranational organizations.
The Ural Mountains, Ural River, and the Caucasus Mountains are the geographical land border of the eastern edge of Europe. In the west, however, the cultural and religious boundaries of “Eastern Europe” are subject to considerable overlap and, most importantly, have undergone historical fluctuations, which make a precise definition of the western boundaries of Eastern Europe and the geographical midpoint of Europe somewhat difficult.
Central Europe (archaically “Middle Europe”) is a region lying between the variously defined areas of the Eastern and Western parts of the European continent. The term and widespread interest in the region itself came back after the end of the Cold War, which used to divide Europe politically into East and West, splitting Central Europe in half.
The concept of Central Europe, and that of a common cultural identity, is somewhat elusive. However, scholars assert that a distinct “Central European culture, as controversial and debated the notion may be, exists”. It is based on “similarities emanating from historical, social and cultural characteristics”, and it is identified as having been “one of the world’s richest sources of creative talent” between the 17th and 20th centuries.
From the 2000s on, Central Europe has been going through a phase of “strategic awakening”, with initiatives like the CEI, Centrope or V4. While the region’s economy shows high disparities with regard to income, all Central European countries are listed by the Human Development Index as “very high development” countries.
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, click here.