EASTERN EUROPE

Once part of the former Soviet Union, the countries of eastern Europe are now independent republics. The region stretches from the Arctic in the north to the Crimea in the south, and from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Ural Mountains in the east. Much of the landscape is forested. There are also hills and lakes in the Baltic area, marshes in Belarus, and rolling plains in the Ukraine and Russian Federation.

WHAT ARE THE BALTIC STATES?

Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are known as the Baltic states because they border the Baltic Sea. Coastal ports provide access to shipping trade routes between northern and eastern Europe, but the sea ices up during the cold winter months. In summer, the long coastline attracts many tourists from Finland and Scandinavia. They come to enjoy the area’s unspoiled beaches, sand dunes, and islands.

WHY WAS THE UKRAINE ONCE KNOWN AS A “BREADBASKET” ?

The Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe. It was known as a “breadbasket” because it once supplied grain to the former Soviet Union and provided this vast population with its bread. The country is covered by flat, fertile plains known as steppes. Here, large farms still produce huge quantities of wheat, corn, barley, oats, buckwheat, and rye. The Ukraine broke away from Soviet control in 1991.

WHY DO MOST PEOPLE LIVE IN THE EUROPEAN PART OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (RUSSIA)?

Over 100 million people live in the European part of Russia because it has a milder climate, fertile farmland, and is highly industrialized. Most people live in big cities, such as St. Petersburg and the capital, Moscow. The Russian Federation is the world’s largest country. Two-thirds of it lies in Asia, but vast expanses are uninhabited because the climate is so harsh.

IS RUSSIA RICH IN NATURAL RESOURCES?

The Russian Federation has huge natural resources. The land is rich in minerals and has many mines from which diamonds, gold, nickel, copper, iron, and other metals are extracted. The country is also a leading producer of oil and gas and has enormous reserves of coal.

WHICH PRECIOUS MATERIAL IS FOUND ALONG THE BALTIC COAST?

Two-thirds of the world’s amber is found washed up on the shores of the Baltic Sea in chunks of different shapes and sizes. Amber is the fossilized sap of ancient pine trees. It forms over millions of years buried in sediments under the sea. The most sought-after amber is collected in shades of yellow, orange, or gold and is cut and polished to make jewelry.

WHICH CROPS ARE GROWN IN MOLDOVA’S FERTILE FARMLAND?

Moldova’s fertile black soil enables farmers to grow a variety of crops, such as wheat, corn, and sunflowers. The country’s mild climate is also well suited to growing fruit and grape vines, which are used to make wine.

WHY DO PEOPLE VISIT THE CRIMEA IN THE UKRAINE?

The Crimea is a peninsula in southern Ukraine that juts into the Black Sea. The region’s warm summers and mild winters attract many tourists who cram onto the crowded beaches. Holiday resorts, such as Yalta and Sevastopol, cater for visitors who come for a healthy regimen of massage, exercise, and rest.

WHERE ARE EUROPE’S LARGEST MARSHLANDS?

Vast areas in the south of Belarus are low-lying and covered by swampy marshland, fed by the Byerazino and Dnieper Rivers. The Pripet Marshes stretch over 15,500 sq miles (40,000 sq km) and form the largest expanse of wetland in Europe. The marshes and surrounding forests are a haven for wildlife, including elk, lynx, wild boar, and grouse.

FACTFILE: EASTERN EUROPE

ESTONIA

Capital city: Tallinn

Area: 17,462 sq miles (45,226 sq km)

Population: 1.4 million

Official language: Estonian

Major religion: Evangelical Lutheran

Currency: Kroon

LATVIA

Capital city: Riga

Area: 24,938 sq miles (64,589 sq km)

Population: 2.4 million

Official language: Latvian

Major religion: Lutheran

Currency: Lats

LITHUANIA

Capital city: Vilnius

Area: 25,174 sq miles (65,200 sq km)

Population: 3.7 million

Official language: Lithuanian

Major religion: Roman Catholic

Currency: Litas

BELARUS

Capital city: Minsk

Area: 80,154 sq miles (207,600 sq km)

Population: 10.1 million

Official languages: Belarussian and Russian

Major religion: Russian Orthodox

Currency: Belarussian ruble

UKRAINE

Capital city: Kiev

Area: 233,089 sq miles (603,700 sq km)

Population: 48.7 million

Official language: Ukrainian

Major religion: Ukrainian Orthodox

Currency: Hryvna

MOLDOVA

Capital city: Chisinau

Area: 13,067 sq miles (33,843 sq km)

Population: 4.3 million

Official language: Moldovan

Major religion: Eastern Orthodox

Currency: Moldovan leu

RUSSIAN FEDERATION

Capital city: Moscow

Area: 6,592,800 sq miles (17,075,400 sq km)

Population: 143 million

Official language: Russian

Major religion: Russian Orthodox

Currency: Russian ruble

Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley