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What is the Difference Between Eastern Europe and Central Europe?

There is no distinct, universally-accepted definition that clearly defines which countries are considered Eastern Europe and those that are considered Central Europe.
Slovakia is among the nations considered part of Eastern Europe.
Nations like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary are caught between Central and Eastern Europe.
Kiev is the capital of Ukraine, an Eastern European country on the Black Sea.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2014
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The difference between Eastern Europe and Central Europe is a matter of perspective and personal definition. Simply put, there is no clear-cut, universally-accepted definition clearly defining which countries are included in Central Europe and which are in Eastern Europe. In some cases, some countries may make both lists, further adding to the ambiguity of the terms.

The United Nations does have a clearly defined term for Eastern Europe. It includes the following countries: Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, and Ukraine. However, the United Nations remains silent on what may represent Central Europe, preferring instead to separate the European continent into Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western regions.

Historically, since the middle of the 20th Century, the term Eastern Europe has come to mean those countries which were separated from Western Europe by political philosophy. Much of this definition had to do with the countries that were linked to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. However, since the fall of many of those Communist governments, the countries defining this region have been subject to change.

Central Europe, on the other hand, may include many of those countries as well. Again, because there is no universal definition, it can be very difficult to say what countries are in Central Europe. However, some countries have attempted to define themselves. The Central European Countries Travel Association includes the nations of Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

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As seen from this association, the fall of some Communist regimes have confused the definition of Eastern Europe. In fact, because the political divisions are no longer as extreme, Central Europe may soon come to represent a clearer definition. This travel association is made up of both countries that would have been considered Eastern and Western Europe during the Cold War. Thus, as we move further away from the 20th Century, the term Central Europe may become more clearly defined.

Often, some organizations skirt around the definition of Central and Eastern Europe altogether. They do this by combining both groups into the same category and may even include the two geographical areas in their official names.

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guitar80
Post 10

@anon21805: That's not true! The Czechs like to be called Europeans or Central Europeans because it's what they are. Same as French are called Western Europeans and people in Norway are Northern Europeans.

If a Czech person is insulted by the fact that someone considers them eastern European, it's not because they do have something against eastern European culture, but simply because everyone should be proud of their own culture, and want their culture to be recognized for what it is.

Czech people are very proud of their heritage and they have never been part of eastern Europe, nor had any affiliation with it, ever.

This should not be seen as a disrespect for the eastern European culture, but simply a frustration that comes with the ignorance and lack of understanding of their own (Central European) culture. You may love eastern Europe, and a Czech person may love eastern Europe, but that doesn't mean he's going to go ahead and ignore the entire European history, and call himself eastern European.

anon161501
Post 8

Eastern Europe Orthodox Europe. Central Europe = catholic protestant western culture.

anon126874
Post 7

Central Europe it's like you can't compare culturally Budapest, Prague, or Krakow, for example with Minsk, Kiev or Moscow. Those first three cities have much more in common with Vienna, or with any other Western European City. If you don't believe just visit the real Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine...) and then you will maybe realize what is the definition Central Europe means.

I didn't say that Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland are Western Europe, but the gap between Central Europe and Eastern Europe is definitely bigger like between Central Europe and Western Europe.

anon30536
Post 6

Also the Central European countries did not "ally themselves" with Soviet Union after the war, as the article suggests. They were simply conquered and incorporated into the Soviet empire by brutal force. Their own "political philosophy" was totally irrelevant.

There was no communist movement to speak of in any of these countries before the second world war (perhaps with the single exception of Czechoslovakia).

Moderator's reply: Good point. Some of the Soviet Bloc countries entered the Warsaw Pact willingly, but some didn't. We have revised our article.

anon30527
Post 5

1. It is not quite so (replying to comments #1 & #3).

In Great Britain, the Welsh dislike being confused with Scots (which happens every now and then).

Does it mean that they consider themselves somehow superior to the Scottish people? Not necessarily, in my opinion.

It is simply that they have got their own distinct identity, they're conscious of it, and thus they frown whenever someone seems to be denying it; on purpose or otherwise.

2. It's true that the UN definition classifies Poland (my homeland) as Eastern Europe, but then again - according to them, Lithuania falls under the "Northern Europe" category, the same as the United Kingdom, even though Lithuania obviously has much less in common with Great Britain than with Poland.

3. The "Soviet block" explanation does not work, since no one in the West refers to Eastern Germany as "Eastern Europe" - even though it was a part of the communist block all the same.

3. Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia etc. are historically catholic and/or Lutheran. Eastern Europe - orthodox.

The division between Western and Eastern Europe is the one between Latin and Byzantine civilizations.

It is not a coincidence that Central European countries use the Latin alphabet and not the Cyrillic alphabet.

Last but not least, Central Europe has got rich traditions of democracy, including Poland's first constitution in Europe (second one in the world after the American constitution), as well as Poland's 15-16th century Noble's democracy, also known as "Golden Liberty".

In Russia - the heart of Eastern Europe - the government has always been authoritarian.

4. Thanks for reading.

anon21805
Post 3

I agree with the first commenter. I've personally heard some East Europeans get rather snippy about being called East Europeans, claiming they are Central Europeans. I think the whole dispute centers on an attempt by East Europeans to distance themselves from any negative connotations East Europe has had in this westernizing, global culture.

mentirosa
Post 2

I believe that Eastern Europe is more of a political term then a geographic term. That is, Eastern Europe was comprised of all the countries that were satellites of Soviet Union. Geographically, Bulgaria would better fit into Southern Europe than Eastern Europe, for example.

dobrinj
Post 1

i think some of the countries would like to be thought of as part of "central europe", because they want to distance themselves from the term "eastern europe". in some circles "eastern europe" is considered lower on the pecking order when considered to western europe, for example.

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