Unit 2 Europe

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Unit 2 Europe

Chapter 10: Physical Geography of Europe

Chapter Overview

Europe’s landforms include high, snowcapped mountains and broad plains. Its major landform, the Northern European Plain, has rich, fertile soil that supports farms and livestock. Europe produces a large amount of grains, including nearly all the world’s rye. It also contains energy and mineral resources such as coal. For these reasons, it is the most densely populated area of Europe. Europe also contains the Alpine Mountain System, which lies north of the plain, and other highland areas. In addition to plains and mountains, Europe has an abundance of rivers, lakes, and other waterways. It is also surrounded by seas, which has encouraged trade and helped people travel easily. Europe is an important producer of the world’s coal, which fueled the development of industry in the 1800s. Europe also has petroleum and natural gas. Although its resources have helped it become economically stable over the centuries, many Europeans are concerned now about environmental problems that come from industrialization.

Europe’s nearness to water and its wind patterns greatly affect its climate. It contains eight major climate zones. In northwestern and central Europe, the fertile soil and marine west coast climate provide a long growing season for farmers. Differences exist across the region because of proximity, or nearness, to coastal areas. Southern Europe enjoys a Mediterranean climate, while eastern and some areas of northern Europe have a humid continental climate. Areas of the far north, such as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, are in the subarctic and tundra climate zones. Europe’s environment has been damaged by deforestation, pollution, and acid rain. Many monuments, even ancient ones, show damage as a result of acid rain. Europe’s leaders are also concerned about global warming and are working to protect their environment through recycling and limiting chemical pollution.

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 11: History and Cultures of Europe

Chapter Overview

The story of European civilization begins with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The influence of the classical world spread throughout Europe and beyond to the present day. Greek civilization introduced the world’s first democracy, while the Roman republic developed a code of laws that led to standards of justice still used today. Roman also helped spread Christianity throughout Europe, and many European languages, such as French, Italian, and Spanish, are based on Rome’s language, Latin. Germanic people from the north invaded the Roman Empire and overthrew the last Roman emperor. The eastern part of the empire, known as the Byzantine Empire, lasted another 1,000 years.

After Rome fell, Europe entered the Middle Ages. During this time, Christianity was central to people’s lives. The Crusades, a series of religious wars fought against Muslims, attempted to take the Holy Land. During this time, the system of feudalism allowed kings to send armies of knights and peasants to help the Crusade cause: under feudalism, kings offered protection to knights in exchange for their service. Peasants, however, were only allotted a portion of land, and even then had to give part of their produce to the landowner. Although not successful, the Crusades did open Europe to trade with Muslim countries and to other cultural influences. They also helped to end feudalism.

The Renaissance, which began in Italy in the late 1300s, brought new interest in learning to Europe. Its focus on classical culture as well as its emphasis on humanism led people to think about religion and faith in new ways. In 1517, this led to the Reformation, a movement that brought the new Christian religion of Protestantism to many parts of Europe. As the Roman Catholic Church was weakened, kings and queens became more powerful. Their power and wealth led them to fund explorations of Asia, Africa, and the Americas and eventually to establish colonies.

But when people began to question the authority of monarchs, several events brought about Europe’s modern period. The Enlightenment promoted reason over faith and science over belief. The Industrial Revolution in the 1800s encouraged workers to move to cities for factory work. Wealth increased but so did conflict. In the 1900s, two world wars devastated Europe. Today, although Europe has more than 40 individual countries, the European Union has brought unity to the continent. Europeans tend to be well educated and have higher incomes than much of the rest of the world. European society and culture are more secular, but most European Christians still belong to the Roman Catholic Church, and religion has inspired art and literature throughout the centuries.

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 12: Europe Today

Chapter Overview

The countries of northern Europe have developed diverse economies and high standards of living. In the United Kingdom, 9 out of 10 people live in cities. London, a city of 7.6 million residents, is a world center of finance and business. The government is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, and Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales have regional legislatures. The Republic of Ireland, the Catholic country that occupies the southern majority of the island of Ireland, is a separate country that won independence from Great Britain in 1922. The Irish economy relies on manufacturing. Disputes between Northern Ireland Protestants and Irish Catholics over whether Northern Ireland should remain part of Great Britain are ongoing.

Other northern European countries include the Scandinavian countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. They have similar cultures and standards of living that are among the highest in the world. Their economies are based on a mixture of agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries. In addition, they are welfare states that offer health care, child care, elder care, and retirement benefits to all citizens, so their people pay some of the highest taxes in the world.

Today France and the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) are important cultural, agricultural, and manufacturing centers. France is a democratic republic, and all three Benelux countries are parliamentary democracies with monarchs as heads of state. These four countries enjoy high standards of living and rely on both agriculture and manufacturing for their stable economies. Likewise, Germany and the Alpine countries of Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein have prosperous economies. Germany is a global economic power and has the largest population of any European country. The Alps dominate the region and are important both to bring tourists to the countries and to supply resources such as timber and iron ore.

Seas and mountains have influenced where people work and live in southern Europe. Spain and Portugal, on the Iberian Peninsula, are young democracies with growing economies. Tourism, manufacturing, and service industries are all important to Spain’s economy. Agriculture, especially grapes, is important to Portugal’s economy; fishing is also an important contributor. Italy, on the other hand, has changed from a mainly agricultural country into a leading industrial economy. Southern Italy is poorer and less industrialized than northern Italy. Italy’s people live in urban areas and are Roman Catholic. Vatican City, located within Italy’s borders and the smallest country in the world, is home to the Roman Catholic Church. Greece, located east of Italy, contains a mainland and about 2,000 islands. Most people are Greek Orthodox Christian and live in the cities of this democratic republic. Shipping is a major contributor to Greece’s economy.

After changes in government and economic policies, eastern European countries still struggle. Poland and the Baltic Republics have become democratic, while Belarus is still influenced by its Communist past. Poland’s change to a market economy caused hardship to its people at first. Now its economy continues to improve. The Baltic Republics have also seen economic growth. Eastern Europe’s central countries—the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary—were once under Communist rule but now are independent democracies with economies that are growing. However, the countries of southeastern Europe, such as Ukraine, still struggle. Ukraine has deep divisions among its people based on ethnic differences; the countries that once made up Yugoslavia also have ongoing ethnic conflicts. Romania’s economy slumped after a bloody revolution that ousted the Communist leaders but thanks to its natural resources is now rebounding.

Chapter 13: Physical Geography of Russia

Chapter Overview

Russia is the world’s largest country. Its northern and western regions are mostly plains. The eastern and southern regions are covered with mountains and plateaus. Most of Russia’s long coast lies along waters that are frozen for many months of the year. However, inland waterways are important for transporting goods through the country although they, too, freeze in winter in the northern areas. The Caspian Sea in southwestern Russia is the largest inland body of water and is about the size of California. About three quarters of Russia’s population lives in the Northern European Plain, a fertile area with Russia’s mildest climate where much of the country’s industry and agriculture are located.

The Ural Mountains divide the European and Asian parts of Russia. Asian Russia lies east of the Urals and includes Siberia, which has one of the coldest climates in the world. On the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula, tectonic plates meet and cause many volcanoes. Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake, is in the southern part of Asian Russia.

Russia is rich in natural resources, but their locations make them hard to obtain. Russia has great reserves of fossil fuels and major deposits of iron ore. Russia’s forests cover most of Siberia, but the climate there has limited the development of the roads and railroads needed to transport timber. Most of Russia has a cool to cold climate; it receives very little heat from the sun and does not benefit from ocean currents or the flow of warm air because of its geography.

Because the Communist government of the 1900s stressed economic growth, Russia’s environment has suffered. Smog blankets much of Russia’s cities, and many Russians suffer from lung diseases. Its water pollution problem is caused by chemicals used in agriculture and industry and by poor sewer systems. Other countries are providing help to Russia to clean up the environment.

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 14: History and Cultures of Russia

Chapter Overview

Russia grew from a small trading center into a large empire thanks to czars (rulers) who governed from 1547 until 1917. These czars expanded Russian territory to reach from Europe to the Pacific Ocean. Through the centuries, Russia remained largely rural and agricultural. Large landowners enjoyed comfortable lives, but most Russians were serfs and worked the land. In the late 1800s, Czar Alexander II freed the serfs, but their freedom did not help their conditions. Unrest spread among the people until it finally erupted in 1917. After losing millions of soldiers in World War I and suffering food shortages afterward, the people forced the czar to step down in early 1917. Later that year, Vladimir Lenin led a revolt that overturned the temporary government and established a communist state, the U.S.S.R. or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Although the U.S.S.R. and the United States were allies in World War II, the increasing power of the Soviets led to the Cold War that pitted democracy against the threat of communism. But the communist government of Russia focused on weaponry and space exploration rather than its people. Tired of shortages and government control, the people of Russia were ready for change by the 1980s. As a new leader, Mikhail Gorbachev instituted reforms, citizens of eastern European countries threw off communism, leading to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 after a failed coup by hard-line Communists.

The Russian people have created a rich culture based on the traditions of its variety of ethnic groups and religions. After the collapse of communism, the Russian people were allowed to practice religion. Many Russians are Eastern Orthodox, but there are also many Muslims. Russian arts and literature reflect strong feelings of nationalism, and Russia is a center of music and dance. As Russia modernizes, transportation and communication infrastructure must be built.

Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures

Chapter 15: Russia Today

Chapter Overview

After throwing off communism, Russia became more democratic. It is now a federal republic, with power divided among national, regional, and local governments. Russians can now vote freely, and they have increased contact with other countries. A Russian middle class has emerged and has sought goods that people had not been able to buy in years. American and European books, television shows, and other products have become more available. Russian leaders have also worked to strengthen ties with the West. However, the recently growing power of the Russian president has placed limits on democracy and worries other countries. In addition, crime and business corruption have grown.

In addition, Russia has moved toward a market economy. This change has benefited some Russians while bringing hardship to others. Regions have also benefited differently from the new economy. Moscow is the economic center of Russia. Ports in the St. Petersburg and Baltic regions carry on trade between Russia and other countries. The Volga and Urals region is a center of manufacturing, mining, and farming. Siberia’s great resources are difficult to tap because the area is remote. Very few people live in this region.

Russia has uneasy relationships with some of the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. Some ethnic groups want to separate from Russia and form their own countries. These separatist groups have sometimes used terrorism to try to achieve their goals. Ethnic Russians also returned to Russia when the former Soviet countries became independent. Despite this immigration, Russia’s population has declined because of low birthrates and rising death rates. Poor nutrition, alcoholism, drug abuse, and disease have caused the rise in the death rate.