European Countries: the subdivisions

I would have done a poll but the choices seem too varied and too personal for a poll to get at the versions I would like to know.

First, how many sub-groups of Europe make sense to you, or that you relate to at an intuitive level? Think of things like:

and add whatever other groups you use to imagine Europe as a group of regions.

After you identify the sub-groups or regions you relate to, list the countries that go into those groups that you have some strong association with, allowing for “Others” to hold the ones you either can’t remember, or don’t see as noteworthy countries for whatever reason.

Finally, list the “most important” countries in your mind, based on whatever criterion defines “important” to you.

Groups that make sense:

Baltic Countries
British Isles (though don’t tell the Irish that I said that)
Central Europe
Central Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Former Communist Countries
Former Soviet Union
Former Yugoslavia
Iberian Peninsula
Mediterranean Countries
Northern Europe
Southeastern Europe
Western Europe

Of course, there’s a lot of overlap up there.

Indeed! How many of these do you relate to at an intuitive level, though?

Imagine that somebody asks you to name as many European countries as you can from memory, and you don’t have ready access to the Internet or a world atlas or whatever aid you would head for if it were available. Would you come up with some sub-groups first, or just start naming countries as they come to mind?

If the former, how many realistic groups do you keep in mind for that continent (or partial continent, if you prefer)?

If the latter, how far do you get before you say something like, “that’s all I can remember offhand”?

If I had to remember them, I’d probably work through regions like north, east, west and southeast, bearing in mind that some of those are more or less the sae as regions with specific names, like:
Scandinavia + Baltic countries ~ Northern Europe
Balkans ~ Southeastern Europe

And I think I could name all the countries in Europe without referring to a map, as long as you don’t deduct points on issues like whether places like Turkey or Azerbaijan are in Europe or Asia. (Though I think there’s one that might trip me up: there’s a part of Moldova that’s de facto independent, and I can’t remember its name without looking it up – sorry!)

Good answers. The thing (at least one of them) that made me curious about the topic is that I find my knowledge of European geography, history and politics, is very weak. I have found that working quizzes and puzzles at leaves me convinced that I’m not nearly as good as I would have hoped. I’m even more lost with Africa.

And I have yet to find anything you can take to the bank on where the exact borders are between Europe and Asia, especially in the southern reaches.

When I lived in Poland, people got really mad that they were considered Eastern European. They told me (I’m not sure it’s true, I never checked) that if you take a map of Europe and draw a line from east to west, and one from north to south, the absolute dead center is Poland.

So they are Central European.

Fascinating! I would have been in that misinformed group, too. It might make for an interesting spinoff topic to have people name the center (or most nearly central) country in each continent. In the cases of Australia and USA, the state. I wonder how many would not name Kansas as the central USA state (lower 48).

I think I would have erred in the direction of Austria or the Czech Republic for “center” of Europe, if I did so without looking it up – which is what I just now did.

I’m older, so the intuitive division between Eastern and Western Europe to me is the old Iron Curtain. The division between Northern Europe and Southern Europe is the Alps. For every other grouping you might as well talk about individual countries.

Let me do it right now…
Starting with: Iceland
move the British Isles: Ireland, GB (or Scotland, Wales, England)
on to Scandinavia: Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland
pick up the Baltics: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania
across the Northern Plain: Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, France.
onto Iberia: Spain, Poland
jump across to Italian: Italy, San Marino, Vatican, Malta, Monaco (not really Italian but gotta toss it in somewhere)
onto the Alpines: Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria
grab the rest of central Europe: Czech Republic, Slovokia, Hungary
down into the Balkans: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo (kinda sorta, not yet completely independent), FYR of Macedonia, the last Yugoslavian one I’m forgetting, Albania, Greece, that tiny piece of Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania.
almost done, gotta pick up the former Soviet republics: Belorussia, Russia, Moldavia, Ukraine
and the last the Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and maybe the various breakaway regions like Chechnya, and Ossetia.

So grouping was vital in this case. I’m sure I would have missed many more without grouping. But outside of a naming contest, I’m sure I would have grouped them differently. I wouldn’t have used the Northern Plain or Alpine grouping very often. Likewise I would normally put Iceland in Scandinavia. But for this it was more convenient to place it separately. And I for all intents and purposes used the Former Yugoslavia as a sub-grouping in the Balkans. I also left out Cypress which I don’t think of as European despite its membership in the EU.

Excellent, Bartman. I’m impressed with your route, which is similar to what I would have tried. I would just have left out maybe 1/3 of the countries you named. My mental map of Europe gets hazy around Austria, moving eastward, and I am particularly weak on Southeastern Europe.

Similarly, Hungarians have always considered themselves Central European, not Eastern European.

Our “modern” concept of Eastern Europe comes from the days of the Iron Curtain. But that line went straight through what was traditionally Central Europe. Eastern Europe was (duh) further East. Countries like Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, and Ukraine.

Home - Ireland

The Ancient Enemy - England

The Ancient Friends - Scotland, Wales

The Continent - The rest of them foreigners

I think they were right. I consider Poland, Hungary, Czech, Slovakia, Slovenia, maybe Croatia and Romania, and a few others as Central Europe. To most other people though, Eastern Europe = all the former Communist countries. The problem is that if you go by that definition, Austria sticks out like a sore thumb in your color-coded map (the east is red, naturally…)

The old school English version is more concise:

The UK - Us

Farther than Calais and also Ireland - Wogs

Slight hijack, but what are all the types of country subdivisions?

I think Switzerland has cantons and Germany has states. Does anybody have provinces? Maybe France? Any other types of subdivisions?

France has regions that are subdivided into departments.

Ireland has four provinces and 32 counties. 2/3rds of one province, 6 counties comprise Northern Ireland.

I did a paper once upon a time where my research stated that a lot of people in Poland embraced Catholicism as a “Western” religion which separated them from the Eastern Orthodox practices of the east (especially Russia). I’m not surprised that they’d like to differentiate themselves from Eastern Europe as much as possible.

I missed the edit window, the above post should read:

Ireland has four historic provinces and 32 counties. 2/3rds of one province, 6 counties comprise Northern Ireland. Nowadays Dublin is divided into several different county councils, and Northern Ireland has IIRC 26 districts administratively instead of counties.

Did you say 2/3rds? How the hell do the 1/3 and 2/3 work together if they’re in different countries?

The UK is nutty.

2/3rds of the historic province of Ulster is Northern Ireland. The three other counties, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan have significant economic/social ties with NI but remain part of the Republic of Ireland.