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Cultural Geography Europe has a long history of human development and is considered the birthplace of Western Civilization. Historic Cultures Indigenous cultures shaped, and were shaped by, the varied geography of Europe. Physical features, weather -related phenomena , and local resources had a deep impact on how historic European cultures prospered, interacted, and believed their world worked. The geography and climate of the Mediterranean region, for example, directly influenced Greek mythology.


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Most Greek gods and goddesses are representations of the active physical elements that made up the local landscape. The volcanoes of Lemnos, an island in the Mediterranean, and Mount Etna, on the island of Sicily, were believed to be the forges of Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire.

Ancient Greeks also believed reign ing gods imprisoned lesser gods underneath the volcanoes. As maritime trade and exploration developed in the region, winds and currents connected to Poseidon became important in Greek mythology. The gods could both reward and punish travelers and traders with favorable or unfavorable sea conditions.

The EU’s east-west divide

This is a main theme of The Odyssey , an epic poem written by Homer, in which these key elements of the sea both help and hurt the hero. Other cultures developed around the unique resources at their disposal. The Sami culture of Scandinavia , for example, was deeply connected to the indigenous reindeer herds of the Arctic.

The Sami followed and cared for these herds during their grazing cycle. During the harsh winter, the Sami ate all parts of the animal. Keeping track of herds and individual animals became increasingly important in Sami life. These journeys varied in length, depending on the migration patterns of specific reindeer herds. Some reindeer herds have a home range of up to 5, square kilometers 1, square miles.

Distinct physical features had a lasting impact on how European cultures communicated with each other. This linguistic diversity is present in the Alpine regions of many contemporary European countries today. Switzerland, for example, has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch. During the Middle Ages, dominant European powers conquered the strategically important mountain territory of the Alps. Today, this is the German-speaking region of the country.

Around this same time, Roman conquerors took over present-day southern Switzerland. Latin , the language of Rome, evolved into French in the western region, and Italian in the south. Because of their remoteness, however, all these regions have distinct dialect s that differ slightly from their parent language. Swiss-Italian is distinguishable from Italian.

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Romansch, an endanger ed language, is also derived from Latin. Fewer than a million people are fluent in Romansch. The language survives in Switzerland because of the remote location of its native speakers. With such a large number of nationalities compacted into such a small area, Europe strongly supports individual cultural identities and products. The goals of the program are local, regional, and global. The program has provided a lasting economic boost to cities and regions, raised their international profiles, and enhance d their images in the eyes of their own inhabitants.

Each year, two or three cities are chosen to produce a year-long program of cultural events. All of the events must come together under a common theme or themes. Many of its events encouraged community involvement and civic engagement. Projects are meant to stay a part of the city after —some pieces of sculpture may be used for athletics, for instance. Turku officials hope to inspire other European countries to undertake similar projects.

Europe also strengthens ties between its diverse peoples and cultures by supporting multilingual education. The European Union has 23 official languages, and the continent has more than 60 indigenous languages. Flourishing immigrant communities are bringing in new languages to the continent, including Arabic, Hindi, and Mandarin. A European study showed that 53 percent of respondents could speak a second language, while 28 percent could speak two foreign languages.

The study also showed that only 8 percent of respondents considered language-learning unimportant. The European Union has adopted a multilingual language policy with the goal that everyone should be able to speak at least two languages in addition to their own. By supporting this policy, the European Union hopes it will strengthen social, educational, professional, and economic ties in Europe and make the continent more competitive in global markets.

Scandinavian design, for instance, is primarily focused on fashion and home wares. It is characterized by simple, minimalist design and low-cost mass production. Italian fashion is also an important cultural export.

The city of Milan is regarded as a major fashion capital, hosting an international fashion week twice a year. The city is home to the headquarters of luxury brands such as Valentino, Gucci, Versace, and Prada. Milan is also home to important European fashion magazines, such as Grazia , Vogue Italia , and Vera.

German automotive design has a global reputation for excellence and prestige. Automobile companies such as BMW, Mercedes, and Audi are known throughout the world for creating cars with dynamic designs and an engaging driving experience. The country is also home to a number of outstanding schools for automotive design, such as the Hochschule Esslingen and Hochschule Pforzheim.

Political geography is the internal and external relationships between government s, citizens, and territories. Early Europeans, in fact, shaped global ideas of citizenship and government. These ideas have been tested during times of peace and military conflict, and continue to be redefined today. Described as the birthplace of democracy , ancient Greece revolved around the polis , or city-state. City-states were unique in that they were governed not by a hereditary ruler, but by a political body that represented its citizens.

This idea of citizenship—of being connected to and having a voice in your community—became the basic building block of democracy. Philosophers and politicians have used these writings to uphold and defend the democratic tradition ever since. Roman civilization had a major influence on Western concepts of law, government, and the military.

The EU’s ongoing East-West divide | International Politics and Society - IPS

At its largest, Rome controlled approximately 6. The Roman approach to conquering and controlling territory is often considered to be the basis of Western imperialism. Imperialism is a policy that has been used throughout history, most notably by European powers and the United States. Other political institutions of Rome persist throughout Europe and former European colonies.

World War I left about 16 million people dead. By the end of the war, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires collapsed and broke into a dozen separate nations. Border s between existing nations, such as Poland and Russia, were entirely redrawn. World War II left about 43 million Europeans dead, including about 6 million who died in the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the mass murder of Jews under the Nazi regime.

World War II also left more than 40 million refugee s, contributed to the independence of European colonies throughout the world, and devastate d the urban infrastructure of many European cities. The relationship between the United States, with a free-market economy , and the Soviet Union, with a communist economy , was known as the Cold War. The Iron Curtain was an ideological boundary that divided Europe into two blocs—Western countries influenced by the United States, and Eastern countries influenced by the Soviet Union.

International economic and military organizations developed on either side of the Iron Curtain. The United States and the Soviet Union built up huge nuclear arsenal s, with many missiles aimed at targets throughout Europe.

Wealth transfer

The Iron Curtain took on the physical shape of border defenses, walls, and limited diplomacy. The nation of Germany was divided in two. In fact, the most famous symbol of the Iron Curtain was the Berlin Wall , which divided the East German city of Berlin into western and eastern-controlled parts. The economic and political demise of the Soviet Union led to the end of the Iron Curtain in the late s.

During this time, a number of anti-communist revolution s swept central and eastern Europe.

Europe: Human Geography

These revolutions eventually lead to the end of the Cold War, symbolized by the falling of the Berlin Wall in Contemporary Issues Europe is now broadly defined in the context of the European Union EU , an economic and political body officially created by the Maastricht Treaty in The EU works to create a unified structure for social, environmental, military, and economic policies of its member states.

Today, the European Union is composed of 27 member states, with new members mainly coming from central and eastern Europe. The financial and diplomatic success of the EU has led to its rapid growth across the continent. The euro is one of the strongest currencies in the world. The euro is the second-most popular currency behind the American dollar and is used daily by more than million people.

The EU accepts few candidates: member states must maintain a stable, democratic form of government, a free-market economy, and commitment to the rule of law.


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The rapid growth of the European Union, however, has caused a number of administrative and political tensions. These compensatory payments were used to "subsidise the adaptation of workplaces to the requirements of those who were severely handicapped". A law passed in January , designed to protect members of the supervisory boards of companies who are undergoing training, was aimed at ensuring that the representatives of young workers and youthful members of works councils still undergoing training could perform their duties with greater independence and without fear of disadvantageous consequences for their future careers.

On request, workers' representatives on completion of their training courses had to have an employment relationship of unlimited duration. A federal environmental programme was established in , [] and in laws were passed to regulate garbage elimination and air pollution via emission. Under the Brandt Administration, West Germany attained a lower rate of inflation than in other industrialised countries at that time, [29] while a rise in the standard of living took place, helped by the floating and revaluation of the mark.

Schmidt, a strong supporter of the European Community EC and the Atlantic alliance, emphasized his commitment to "the political unification of Europe in partnership with the USA". The USSR upgraded its intermediate-range missiles, which Schmidt complained was an unacceptable threat to the balance of nuclear power, because it increased the likelihood of political coercion and required a western response.

NATO respond in the form of its twin-track policy. Following national elections in March , Kohl emerged in firm control of both the government and the CDU. In January the Kohl—Genscher government was returned to office, but the FDP and the Greens gained at the expense of the larger parties.

The Greens' share rose to 8. With the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in , symbolised by the opening of the Berlin Wall , there was a rapid move towards German reunification ; and a final settlement of the post-war special status of Germany.