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Animated Map: 2,400 Years of European History

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Animated Map: 2,400 years of European History

The history of Europe is breathtakingly complex. While there are rare exceptions like Andorra and Portugal, which have had remarkably static borders for hundreds of years, jurisdiction over portions of the continent’s landmass has changed hands innumerable times.

Today’s video comes to us from YouTube channel Cottereau, and it provides an informative overview of European history starting from 400 BC. Empires rise and fall, invasions sweep across the continent, and the borders of modern countries slowly begin to take shape (with the added bonus of an extremely dramatic instrumental).

Below are nine highlights and catalysts that shifted Europe’s geographic dividing lines:

146 BC – A Year of Conquest

146 BC was a year of conquest and expansion for the Roman Republic. The fall of Carthage left the Romans in control of territory in North Africa, and the ransack and destruction of the Greek city-state of Corinth also kickstarted an era of Roman influence in that region. These decisive victories paved the way for the Roman Empire’s eventual domination of the Mediterranean.

117 AD – Peak Roman Empire

The peak of the Roman Empire is one of the more dramatic moments in European history. At its height, under Trajan, the Roman Empire was a colossal 1.7 million square miles (quite a feat in an era without motorized vehicles and modern communication tools). This enormous empire remained mostly intact until 395, when it was irreparably split into Eastern and Western regions.

Extent of the Roman Empire

370 AD – The Arrival of the Huns

Spurred on by severe drought conditions in Central Asia, the Huns reached Europe and found a Roman Empire weakened by currency debasement, economic instability, overspending, and increasing incursions from rivals along its borders. The Huns waged their first attack on the Eastern Roman Empire in 395, but it was not until half a century later – under the leadership of Attila the Hun – that hordes pushed deeper into Europe, sacking and razing cities along the way. The Romans would later get their revenge when they attacked the quarreling Goths and Huns, bouncing the latter out of Central Europe.

1241 – The Mongol Invasion

In the mid-13th century, the “Golden Horde” led by grandsons of Genghis Khan, roared into Russia and Eastern Europe sacking cities along the way. Facing invasion from formidable Mongol forces, central European princes temporarily placed their regional conflicts aside to defend their territory. Though the Mongols were slowly pushed eastward, they loomed large on the fringes of Europe until almost the 16th century.

1362 – Lithuania

Today, Lithuania is one of Europe’s smallest countries, but at its peak in the middle ages, it was one of the largest states on the continent. A pivotal moment for Lithuania came after a decisive win at the Battle of Blue Waters. This victory stifled the expansion of the Golden Horde, and brought present-day Ukraine into its sphere of influence.

1648 – Kleinstaaterei

The end of the Holy Roman Empire highlights the extreme territorial fragmentation in Germany and neighboring regions, in an era referred to as Kleinstaaterei.

holy roman fragments

Even as coherent nation states formed around it, the Holy Roman Empire and its remnents wouldn’t coalesce until Germany rose from the wreckage of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Unification helped position Germany as a major power, and by 1900 the country had the largest economy in Europe.

1919 – The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire – a fixture in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years – was in its waning years by the beginning of the 20th century. The empire had ceded territory in two costly wars with Italy and Balkan states, and by the time the dust cleared on WWI, the borders of the newly minted nation of Turkey began at the furthest edge of continental Europe.

1942 – Expanding and Contracting Germany

At the furthest extent of Axis territory in World War II, Germany and Italy controlled a vast portion of continental Europe. After the war, however, Germany again became fragmented into occupation zones – this time, overseen by the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. Germany would not be made whole again until 1990, when a weakening Soviet Union loosened its grip on East Germany.

1991 – Soviet Dissolution

In the decades following WWII, Europe’s geopolitical boundaries remained relatively stable – that is, until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Almost overnight, the country’s entire western border splintered into independent nations. When the dust settled, there were 15 breakaway republics, six of which were in Europe.

Bonus: If you liked the video above, be sure to watch this year-by-year account of who ruled territories across Europe.

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Map: A Visual Guide To Europe’s Member States

Europe has members in at least four major treaty groups. This map shows how these groups fit into the big picture of Europe’s member states.

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Europe's Member States share

Map: A Visual Guide To Europe’s Member States

EU, NATO, and Schengen, oh my!

Amidst whispers of Brexit and potential changes within NATO, you might be wondering how these organizations fit into the big picture of Europe’s member states.

Europe has members in at least four major treaty groups, each of which governs a different aspect of the region’s infrastructure.

Let’s break down each group:

European Union (EU)

The European Union is primarily a political organization. It promotes economic, social, and political cooperation among its member states, encompassing more than 510 million citizens. The last nation to join was Croatia in 2013, while the United Kingdom will be the first to officially withdraw on March 29, 2019.

The EU is governed according to a supranational parliamentary system, with representatives elected by member states. The union maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, and regional development. It also enacts legislation on justice and home affairs, ensuring the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within its borders.

The EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its contribution to the “advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe.”

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

NATO is a military alliance between the United States, Canada, Turkey, and 26 other European countries.

Established in 1949 as a response to post-WW2 Soviet aggression, NATO exists for the collective defense and security of the group. Members share few laws and regulations, but an attack on one constitutes an attack on all, and member states are obligated to act in defense of one another.

Iceland remains the only member without armed forces. Their strategic geographic location earned them a spot as a founding member of NATO, but they have no standing army and joined on the condition they would never need to establish one.

Eurozone

The Eurozone is a monetary union of 19 EU nations which have adopted the Euro as their common currency.

Established in 1999 to control inflation, the Eurozone is managed by a board of central banks, but members share no fiscal policies. The remaining EU members are obliged to adopt the Euro at some point in the future, except for the UK and Denmark, who are exempt and permitted to retain a unique currency.

The Euro is also used in a number of non-EU states. Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City obtained formal agreements to issue and use their own Euro coins. Kosovo and Montenegro also adopted the Euro, but without formal permission, meaning they cannot legally issue currency.

Schengen

This grouping of 26 European states abolished passports and other types of border control at their mutual borders in 1995. For travel purposes, Schengen states function as a single country with a common visa policy.

This visa doesn’t cover residency or work permits, but allows tourists and visitors to obtain a single visa for the entire area, making border restrictions virtually non-existent. While travellers face stringent controls when entering or leaving the Schengen zones, visa holders can pass between Schengen countries without a passport or ID.

Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City are not formally part of Schengen, but maintain open borders within the Schengen area.

The map of Europe’s member states has changed constantly over thousands of years. As political shakeups continue and the United Kingdom prepares for their exit from the EU, it might be interesting to see how different this map looks a few years from now.

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Map: All of the World’s Borders by Age

This detailed and incredible map shows the exact date of origin for every one of the world’s international borders.

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All of the World’s Borders by Age

To view the full resolution version of this massive map, click here.

Defined borders are a relatively new concept in many parts of the world. In fact, until the latter half of the 20th century, most of the world was still wide open territory with loosely or completely undefined borders.

On the European continent, however, jurisdiction over territory has been a fact of life for thousands of years. In some cases, they’ve left a paper trail. In other cases, there are more concrete remnants. For example, over 3,000 miles (5,000 km) of simple frontier fortifications – known as limes – marked the edges of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent in the 2nd century.

Over time, as territorial jurisdiction changed hands through war, marriage, and other arrangements, the map has been redrawn countless times. The video below demonstrates just how dramatically many of Europe’s dividing lines have shifted (even as recently as the 1990s).

Even today, borders are far from set in stone. Belgium and the Netherlands recently swapped land in order to simplify an overly complex piece of their border along a river. Also, India and Bangladesh worked together to solve a notoriously complicated situation involving enclaves within enclaves.

The Difficulty in Date Stamping Dividing Lines

Creating a map that shows the age of all the world’s borders seems like an impossible feat, but Reddit user, PisseGuri82, was up to the challenge. PisseGuri82, acknowledging the extreme complexity of the undertaking, outlined some caveats to consider:

– The map looks at the date a border was officially set to its current form (excluding minute changes).
– The dates are derived from publicly available border treaties and documents.
– Exact dates are difficult to pin down as ratification, surveying, and physical marking can take place over a number of years.

These issues aside, the final product is a fascinating look at how we’ve divided the world up into nations. Here are some highlights from the map:

Static Spain
In contrast to the patchwork of territories left in the wake of the Holy Roman Empire, the southwest part of Europe has remained remarkably static. The border dividing Spain and Andorra, weaving its way through the rocky Pyrenees mountain range, has remained unchanged since 1278, when a feudal charter solidified Andorra’s geography. The Portugal–Spain border has been in place since 1297.

War and Pieces
Many of the oldest borders in the world were established by treaties following a war. One particularly noteworthy example is the border between Iraq and Turkey, which was established by the Treaty of Zuhab (1639) following the sack of Baghdad by the Ottoman Empire.

The Legacy of the “Scramble for Africa”
It’s remarkable to note that a full third of the world’s borders are less than 100 years old. This is especially apparent in Africa, where many existing borders still resemble those haphazardly set by colonial powers around the turn of the 20th century. The average border on the continent is only 111 years old.

We have been giving away mountains and rivers and lakes to each other, only hindered by the small impediment that we never knew exactly where the mountains and rivers and lakes were.

-Lord Salisbury, British PM in 1890

In 1964, independent African states chose to maintain colonial borders, primarily to prevent widespread conflict over territory. Though colonial divisions were maintained in theory, only about one third of Africa’s 51,000 miles (83,000 km) of land borders are demarcated – an issue that continues to cause headaches today. For example, South Sudan has numerous border conflicts with neighbors; a situation that is complicated by the presence of natural resources.

A recent study pointed out that the likelihood of conflict in Africa is approximately 40% higher in areas where “partitioned ethnicities reside, as compared to homelands of ethnicities that have not been separated by national borders”.

Ice Slices
There are seven sovereign states with pie-slice-shaped territorial claims in Antarctica. It’s worth noting that the claims have been recognized only between the countries making claims. There is currently a treaty in place that preserves freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity on the continent.

Saudi Arabia’s Lines in the Sand
Saudi Arabia’s oldest border section – shared with Kuwait – is a remnant of the Uqair Convention circa 1922, but most of its international borders were established in the latter part of the 20th century. The Yemen–Saudi border was only officially demarcated in the year 2000, and a 1,100 miles (1,800 km) border fence soon followed.

Where will lines Shift next?

Where there is a war and upheaval, border changes often follow. Syria’s descent into chaos and the annexation of Crimea are two situations which could result in new international borders. Breakaway states – an independent Catalan state, for example – are always a possibility as well.

For now, the most likely changes to borders will continue be minor adjustments to fix lawless gaps between nations. These corrections are rarely easy to negotiate, but irregularities, like the one that led to founding of Liberland, can cause even bigger headaches for governments and local officials.

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