Europe is the second smallest continent in the world, after Australia (in Oceania).
Considering its small size, Europe is extremely diverse geographically.
The Atlantic Highlands of the British Isles and Scandinavia lie in the northwest. They once formed a continuous mountain chain, but are now divided by the North Sea and an undersea rift valley.
In the south are the Alpine Uplands, which were formed when Africa collided with Europe between about 65 million and 2 million years ago, creating the Alps, Dinaric Alps, Pyrenees, Carpathian and Apennines mountain ranges.
Between these two mountainous regions lies the North European Plain, which stretches from England's fens to Russia's Ural Mountain, a distance of 2,485 miles (4,000 kilometers).
South of the North European Plain is a series of massifs, folded sedimentary rocks separated by plateaus.
Europe, except for the very north and the south, has a mild climate. The Alpine Uplands protect the Mediterranean region from the cold winds of the north. The North Atlantic Drift's warm currents moderate temperatures along the west coast.
Europe is densely populated and highly urbanized. The most crowded areas can be found in a region that stretches from southern Britain and northern France westward into Germany. The northern edges of Europe are sparsely populated.
Most European languages belong to one of three main language groups. Romance languages are spoken in the west, around the Mediterranean, and in Romania. Slavic languages are spoken in Russia and in eastern Europe. In northern and central Europe, Germanic languages are spoken. There are also some isolated local languages, such as Gaelic and Basque, which are often an important component of national identity.
Western Europe has one of the highest overall standards of living in the world. However, an increasing number of people in western Europe are finding themselves unemployed or homeless.
Eastern Europe has the lowest overall standard of living on the continent.
During the nineteenth century, the rise of industry as well as the exploitation of resources in foreign colonies led to a vast increase in European wealth. Europe became the world's center of industry.
More recently, there has been a move to service-based economies in western and central Europe. Heavy industry still predominates in eastern Europe.
Although Europe has a large and growing urban population, more than half the land is used for agriculture.
Europe's main mineral resources are fossil fuels. There are large coal reserves in Poland, Ukraine and Germany. The North Sea, the Volga Basin and the Caucasus have oil and gas reserves. Europe uses more fuel than it produces.
National boundaries in Europe have changed many times, particularly during the twentieth century. These changes reflect the breakup of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, the fall of Nazi Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The formation of the European Union has led to greater political and economic union and more internal migration.
Total Area: 3,825,731 square miles (9,908,599 square kilometers)
Highest Point: Mount Elbrus in Russia - 18,510 feet (5,642 meters)
Largest Lake and Lowest Point: Caspian Sea, in Europe and Asia, bordered by Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran - 143,243 square meters (371,000 square kilometers) in area; 3,363 feet (1,025 meters) deep - largest lake on Earth
Longest River: Volga River in Russia - 2,292 miles (3,688 kilometers)
Largest Drainage Basin Volga River Basin in Russia - 532,821 square miles (1,380,000 square kilometers)
Largest Island: Great Britain - 84,254 square miles (218,476 square kilometers)
Canary Islands (1)
Czech Republic (1)
San Marino (1)
United Kingdom (1)
Vatican City (1)
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