Why are Asian countries considered to be the Orient

Where does “Eastern Europe” begin and end?

The term “Eastern Europe” is present in the European and foreign policy discourse - but it is by no means clear which areas and countries this region includes. Does that include, for example, the Asian part of Russia? Or do Central Asia and the Caucasus still belong to (Eastern) Europe? Where are the borders of Eastern Europe?

Which countries belong to "Eastern Europe"?

According to EuroVoc, the multilingual thesaurus of the EU, belong to the category "Central and Eastern Europe" (Central and Eastern Europe) the following countries: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM), Hungary, Kosovo, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. [1] The OECD also uses the term "Central and Eastern European countries", whereby this term includes the three Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, but excludes other post-Soviet states and, with the exception of today's EU states Slovenia and Croatia, the post-Yugoslav states. [2] The definition of "Eastern Europe" is similar according to the statistical department of UN, which also does not include the successor states of Yugoslavia and assigns them to southern Europe. However, since 2017 the Baltic states are no longer considered part of "Eastern Europe", but belong to Northern Europe, which means that their definition of "Eastern Europe" includes just ten states - the South Caucasian states are included here as the Central Asian states as part of Asia. [3] These different ones Definitions show that the area of ​​Eastern Europe is not only called differently, but also contains different geographical outlines and so both the terms and the borders of this region are quite fluid.

What are the defining structural features of "Eastern Europe"?

But what is Eastern Europe as a specific region? The name already suggests that this region is located in the eastern part of Europe. But besides the partly unclear borders of Europe - does the Caucasus, for example, belong or not? - it is by no means clearly defined where the “east” of Europe begins. Vienna is often referred to as the “gateway to the east”, but Austria is hardly thought of as belonging to Eastern Europe, although Vienna, for example, is more to the east than Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, which in all of the above definitions was included in Eastern Europe or Central and Eastern Europe. lies. In addition, as the capital of the former Habsburg monarchy, Vienna has many historical references to so-called Eastern Europe. It is also controversial to what extent the area of ​​the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) can be counted as part of Eastern Europe, especially since the predominance of socialist regimes and / or membership of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War is often mentioned as a defining structural feature of this region. However, if one wants to delimit a region of "Eastern Europe" on the basis of this criterion, one would also have to include all the successor states of the Soviet Union, whereby the former Central Asian Soviet republics [4] would also belong to Eastern Europe. At the same time, there were also socialist regimes outside Europe and the border regions mentioned above during the Cold War, which were under the influence of the Soviet Union and some of them were members of the Council for Mutual Economic Aid (Comecon), the socialist counterpart to the Marshall Plan and the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC, later OECD), and therefore sometimes also belonged to the so-called Eastern bloc, as in the case of Cuba, North Vietnam, North Korea, Mongolia or the People's Republic of China. In addition, Yugoslavia from 1948 and Albania from 1961/68 were no longer part of the Eastern Bloc; However, both countries are located on the so-called Balkan Peninsula - a term that is often used synonymously with Southeastern Europe - which means that they are also commonly included in Eastern Europe. The example of Greece, which was not included in any of the above definitions, shows that this geographical location does not automatically represent a criterion for belonging to Eastern Europe.

Even if one goes back to earlier historical structural features, the borders of Eastern Europe are by no means more clearly defined. In the case of Southeast Europe, for example, the fact that it belonged to the Ottoman Empire for around four centuries was formative, although its membership of Europe is also controversial, as it was often perceived by European contemporaries as "Asia" and "Orient". With regard to the Caucasus and Central Asia, on the other hand, which are often not perceived as belonging to Europe, it must be noted that these areas came under Russian rule in the course of the 19th century and became part of Russian history well before the start of the Cold War. Nonetheless, it is and was controversial whether Russia can be counted as part of Europe at all, especially since the largest area of ​​its current national territory is on the Asian continent (even if the inner Eurasian demarcation is only subject to the convention and neither geographic-natural nor international law principles).

Which influences prevail in the border regions of "Eastern Europe"?

The rough outline of the problem of a clear geographical delimitation of an area of ​​"Eastern Europe", which is presented here, indicates that the definition of the term "Eastern Europe" can be quite different. This should also be taken into account by actors in current international politics: The area of ​​Eastern Europe is by no means homogeneous and is subject to different historical, cultural and political influences, which are particularly noticeable in the border areas of Eastern Europe. In Central Asia, for example, Russia still plays an important economic and political role - not least Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are also members of the Eurasian Economic Union founded in 2014 - but China's influence is steadily increasing. In Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, there is even more trade with China than with Russia. [5] These different influences are also visible in Southeastern Europe: in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, the largest investor in 2016 was neighboring Croatia (EUR 60.8 million) from Austria (EUR 37.8 million) and the United Arab Emirates (EUR 33.7 million). Other significant investors besides EU countries were Saudi Arabia (17.2 million EUR), Kuwait (15.1 million EUR) and Turkey (15.4 million EUR). [6] Bosnia is not only on the economic but also on the political level cultivated close relationships with various actors such as the EU, Russia and Turkey. Last but not least, Austria, in addition to its significant investments, also plays an important role here, which in turn points to the close Austrian relations with Eastern European countries: The current High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, is not just the second Austrian in this position , but also the longest serving person (for over 9 years); and since 2009 the commanders of the EUFOR troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina have always been Austrians.

The examples outlined here show that the various countries and sub-regions of "Eastern Europe" are subject to different influences that cannot be ignored. This is particularly evident at the edges of Eastern Europe, especially since its borders are fluid and depend on the respective point of view. At Ponto we would like to pay sufficient attention to this by not adopting an absolute definition of Eastern Europe, but rather making the consideration of certain countries and sub-regions dependent on the question and perspective chosen.

Photo credit: Judy Hart

further reading

Ekaterina offers an introductory overview of the relevant historical structural features of Eastern Europe and its sub-regions Emeliantseva, Arié malt, Daniel origin, Introduction to Eastern European History (Zurich 2008).

The following collection of essays and essays by Stefan Troebst provides several historical case studies on the peripheral regions of "Eastern Europe" and their connections with other parts of Eastern Europe from different epochs: Stefan Consolation, Between the Arctic, Adriatic and Armenia. Eastern Europe and its fringes (Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2017).

A short study on the increasing economic influence of China in Central Asia: Stratfor Worldview, Central Asia's Economic Evolution From Russia To China, April 5th, 2018, online at https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/central-asia-china-russia-trade -kyrgyzstan-kazakhstan-turkmenistan-tajikistan-uzbekistan (21.08.2018).

The following newspaper article outlines the various current geopolitical interests in Southeastern Europe: Adelheid Wölfl, The Balkans becomes an experimental laboratory for geopolitical interests. In: Der Standard, 08/19/2018, online at https://derstandard.at/2000085631406/Der-Balkan-wird-zum-Versuchslabor-geopolitischer-Interessen (08/26/2018).


Ninja is a co-initiator of the "Eastern Europe" program area and is also responsible for administration and community management at Ponto. She completed a degree in Eastern European History and is currently researching marriages and gender relations in Islamic legal practice in Habsburg Bosnia-Herzegovina.


[1] EuroVoc. Multilingual Thesaurus of the European Union, Central and Eastern Europe, online at http://eurovoc.europa.eu/914(26.08.2018).

[2] Specifically, this OECD designation includes the following countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. See OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms, Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECS), 25.09.2001, online at https://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=303 (26.08.2018).

[3] Eastern Europe includes: Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia and the Ukraine. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_geoscheme_for_Europe (September 18, 2018).
However, the "Eastern European Group" of the regional grouping of UN member states is much more extensive and includes both the successor states of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Only Kosovo, whose position under international law is quite controversial, is not represented here. The following countries belong to this "Eastern European Group": Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia , Slovakia, Slovenia, FYROM and Ukraine. See United Nations, United Nations Regional Groups of Member States, May 9, 2014, online at http://www.un.org/depts/DGACM/RegionalGroups.shtml (August 26, 2018).

[4] Today these are the states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

[5] Stratfor Worldview, Central Asia's Economic Evolution From Russia To China, April 5th, 2018, online at https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/central-asia-china-russia-trade-kyrgyzstan-kazakhstan-turkmenistan-tajikistan -uzbekistan (08/21/2018).

[6] Foreign Investment Promotion Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, FDI Position and Performance, online at http://www.fipa.gov.ba/informacije/statistike/investicije/default.aspx?id=180&langTag=en-US (26.08 .2018).

Post picture: https://pixabay.com/de/windrose-norden-osten-westen-süden-1209398/