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21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Erasistratus to Federalism

Europe, world's second smallest continent in area, second largest in population (after Asia). Geographically, Europe is a peninsula of the Asian landmass. Traditionally, the division between Europe and Asia is considered to be the Ural Mountains, which run north-south through Russia, and the Ural River, which flows into the Caspian Sea. On the south, Europe is divided from Asia by the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea, including the Bosporus and the Dardanelles straits. By that reckoning, Europe has an area of about 4,000,000 sq mi (10,360,000 sq km), somewhat larger than the United States. It is separated from Africa by the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar. Parts of Europe's irregular coast form major peninsulas themselves, notably the Scandinavian and Jutland peninsulas in the north, and the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas in the south.

Europe's geological structure is marked by the relatively recent rise of the great Alpine mountain system, which cuts across the continent from west to east and includes the Pyrénées, Alps, Apennines, Carpathians, Balkans, and Caucasus. The highest peak in Caucasus is Mt. Elbrus (18,480 ft/5,633 m), the highest in the Alps is Mont Blanc (15,781 ft/4,810 m). The continent also has a complex network of rivers, the largest of which are the Volga, in Russia, and the Danube, which flows through (or forms borders between) Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine. Much of Europe consists of a fertile plain extending from the shores of the Atlantic to the Urals. Except for the polar areas of Scandinavia and Russia, the climate is generally mild. These two factors, combined with rich offshore fisheries, many inland rivers, and abundant natural resources, have made the continent a major food producer, able historically to feed its large population, which now numbers around 700 million.

Europe has great linguistic diversity: as many as 5 dozen languages are spoken, almost all of the Indo-European group. The largest religious grouping is Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and the Eastern Orthodox church. Muslims and Jews account for the two largest religious minorities. The independent states of Europe are, in alphabetical order, Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Byelorussia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldavia, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the European part of the Russian Federation, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the European part of Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Vatican City, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There are at least 30 cities with populations greater than 1 million.

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