A geography lesson: Is Norway an Eastern European country?

By on decembrie 5th, 2012

Guest post by Sorin Pirău

During my recent visit to Finnish Lapland we took a “small” 500km detour to the village of Bugøynes in Norway. This village lies on the banks of the Barents Sea, a part of the Arctic Ocean. It is situated approximately 500km north of the Arctic Circle. It was definitely the northernmost destination I have travelled so far. However, much to my surprise, it turned out to be also the easternmost destination I have travelled so far. How could this have happened? Don’t I know my geography? So let’s see…

The village lies very close to the 70th parallel north and 30th meridian east (29° 38’ to be more precise). It is further east than many big cities which are commonly referred to as being in Eastern Europe: Pskov (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia), Riga (Latvia), Vilnius (Lithuania), Minsk (Belarus), Lvov and Vinnytsia (Ukraine), Chişinău (Moldova), Bucharest and the Black Sea port of Constanţa (Romania), Sofia and the Black Sea port of Varna (Bulgaria). Heck, even Istanbul (Turkey) or Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway territory of Transnistria, is further west than Bugøynes.

From a geographical point of view some of the above countries might not completely deserve the Eastern European label. In this pre-WW2 map today’s Romania, Moldova and Western Ukraine were included in Central Europe since they were part of The Kingdom of Romania and Poland, respectively. However, due to their Soviet past Moldova and the Baltic States are firmly anchored today in the public’s minds as belonging to Eastern Europe.

But let’s not digress too much. I hope we can all agree that Russia, Belarus and probably also Ukraine are in Eastern Europe. Should we also add Norway? 🙂 Sure, more than 90% of its territory and almost all its population are situated further south and west. But isn’t 75% of Russia’s territory in Asia, going all the way to the Pacific Ocean and bordering countries as diverse as China, Japan and even the dreaded North Korea? But we still consider it European… Even though Turkey has only 3% of its landmass in Europe, it is currently a candidate country to join the European Union and participates in all pan-European projects. Furthermore, Kazakhstan, a country of the size of Western Europe, has around 10% of its territory west of the Ural River in Eastern Europe. In theory it can apply for EU membership! Even more important :-), it has already joined UEFA, so its national football team and clubs play in European tournaments.

In conclusion, here’s some food for thought: If Turkey, Kazakhstan and Russia are all European, why shouldn’t Norway be Eastern European?

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