Portal:Europe

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Satellite image of Europe

Europe is one of the seven continents, and a peninsular sub-continent of the geographic continent Eurasia. Europe covers approximately 2% of the Earth's surface and about 6.8% of the planet's total land area. It hosts around fifty sovereign states, the precise number depending on the underlying definition of Europe's border, as well as on the inclusion or exclusion of states which are not fully recognised internationally. Europe has a population of 731,000,000 or about 11% of the world's population.

Europe is the birthplace of Western culture. European nations played a predominant role in global affairs from the 16th century onwards, especially after the beginning of colonization. By the 17th and 18th centuries European nations controlled most of Africa, the Americas, and large portions of Asia. World War I and World War II led to a decline in European dominance in world affairs as the United States and Soviet Union took prominence. The Cold War between those two superpowers divided Europe along the Iron Curtain. European integration led to the formation of the Council of Europe and the European Union in Western Europe, both of which have been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Morteratsch Glacier
Credit: Daniel Schwen

A stitched panorama of the Morteratsch Glacier, the largest glacier by area in the Bernina Range, Switzerland. By volume, it is the largest glacier in the Eastern Alps. In spring, depending on the snow conditions, a 10 km (6.25 mi) long ski-run is marked on the glacier, which takes up to two hours to descend.

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The Prince's Palace of Monaco.
The Prince's Palace of Monaco is the official residence of the Prince of Monaco. Founded in 1191 as a Genoese fortress, during its long and often dramatic history it has been bombarded and besieged by many foreign powers. Since the end of the 13th century, it has been the stronghold and home of the Grimaldi family who first captured it in 1297. The Grimaldi ruled the area first as feudal lords, and from the 17th century as sovereign princes, but their power was often derived from fragile agreements with their larger and stronger neighbours. Thus while other European sovereigns were building luxurious, modern Renaissance and Baroque palaces, politics and common sense demanded that the palace of the Monaco rulers be fortified. This unique requirement, at such a late stage in history, has made the palace at Monaco one of the most unusual in Europe. Ironically, when its fortifications were finally relaxed during the late 18th century, it was seized by the French and stripped of its treasures, and fell into decline, while the Grimaldi were exiled for over 20 years. The Grimaldi's occupation of their palace is also unusual because, unlike other European ruling families, the absence of alternative palaces and land shortages have resulted in their use of the same residence for more than seven centuries. Thus, their fortunes and politics are directly reflected in the evolution of the palace.


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Mt. Etna eruption
Credit: Expedition 5 crew

An October 2002 eruption of Mount Etna, a volcano on the Italian island of Sicily, as seen from the International Space Station. Etna is the largest of Italy's three active volcanoes and one of the most active in the world. This eruption, one of Etna's most vigorous in years, was triggered by a series of earthquakes. Ashfall was reported as far away as Libya, 600 km (373 mi) to the south.

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