The World and Its People
The New Eastern Europe
Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are neighbors along the southern shores of the Baltic Sea. Poland is a large country that joined the European Union in 2004. Farmers here grow more potatoes and rye than any other country in Europe, and coal mining is one of the most important industries. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are small republics. Their well-developed economies are based on dairy farming, beef production, fishing, and shipbuilding. Today they are moving toward closer ties with the countries in western Europe.
Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are located in the center of eastern Europe. Hungary depends on the Danube River for trade and transportation. Most Hungarians are Magyars, descendants of nomads who came to the Danube River valley about 1,000 years ago. Compared to other countries of eastern Europe, the people of the Czech Republic enjoy a high standard of living. Farmers in Slovakia grow barley, corn, potatoes, and wine grapes, and factories produce iron and steel products, textiles, and processed foods.
The Balkan Peninsula lies between the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea. Romania, which lies on the northeastern edge of the Balkan Peninsula, faces many challenges left over from the Soviet era. Despite abundant resources, the country still struggles. Mountainous Bulgaria, south of Romania, depends on agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. Ethnic conflict has torn apart the former Yugoslav republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Macedonia. Albania is a very poor country bordering the Adriatic Sea. It has valuable mineral resources, but lacks the money to mine them.
Until 1991, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova were part of the Soviet Union. The rich soil of Ukraine has earned it the name "breadbasket of Europe." Belarus maintains a Communist government and close ties to Russia. Moldova has rich farmland, and much of its culture is still based on a rural way of life.