Eastern Europe is an unofficial geographical region of the continent of Europe. In total, the Eastern European area of the world accounts for 10 countries out of the total number of countries in the world, which varies by source from the United Nations' current 193 countries (plus two permanent observers) to the 262 listed in the 2022 CIA World Factbook. Because Eastern Europe is an unofficial classification—and the boundary between Europe and Asia is occasionally debated—the list of which specific countries are considered to be part of Eastern Europe can vary according to source, circumstance (political, geographical, etc.), and when in history the list was made. However, the following list is the most commonly accepted as of 2022.
Countries of Eastern Europe (World Atlas):
Several Eastern European countries rank among the poorest countries in Europe: Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, and Bulgaria. Of these, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine are former Soviet Republics—a fact which some scholars point to as a major cause of their limited economic development. While the lingering effects of the exploitative Soviet government would be challenging enough to overcome, the current Russian government is equally as exploitative. This creates economic challenges not only for the Russian people, but also for citizens of the Ukraine, whose development Russia often actively impeded even before it invaded the Ukraine in February 2022.
A landlocked country whose eastern border meets Russia, the former Soviet republic of Belarus is home to an estimated 9.4 million people. Although it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus maintains close ties with the current Russian government, a sharp contrast to many other former Soviet states. President and accused autocrat Alexandr Lukashenko has ruled the country since 1994 and is a close ally of Russia's Vladimir Putin, whom many accuse of rigging Lukashenko's 2020 reelection. Belarus allowed Russia to move troops and war machines through Belarussian territory during Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The capital city of Belarus is Minsk.
Eastern Europe's most southerly country, Bulgaria sits just above Greece and Turkey and is bordered by the Black Sea to the east. Formerly communist, the country switched to a democratic government in 1991, though corruption in the country's corridors of power is considered a significant problem. Although still regarded as a developing country, Bulgaria has achieved an upper-middle-income market economy, largely based aroung the service industry, machinery, mining, and agriculture. Despite its relatively small size—the country's total land area is only 110,994 km² (42,855 mi²) and its borders stretch barely 2162 km (1,343 mi) long—Bulgaria boasts a wide range of ecosystems and ranks as one of the most boilogically diverse countries in Europe.
The landlocked Czech Republic, or Czechia, lies between Germany to the west (making it the western-most Eastern European country) and Slovakia, with which it was once united as Czechoslovakia, to the east. The country’s capital is Prague. The Czech Republic is one of the most developed countries in Eastern Europe, with universal health care and tuition-free college/university education for all. It is also ranked as one of the safest countries in the world.
A communist country until 1989, the landlocked nation of Hungary enjoys one of the most developed and healthy economies in Eastern Europe, with minimal income inequality and a strong focus upon international trade and industries including food processing, electronics and machinery manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals. Hungarians enjoy free universal health care and most universities are also tuition-free. Although Hungary is a largely Christian nation, its capital, Budapest, is also home to Europe's largest synagogue, the Dohány Street Synagogue, which can hold up to 3,000 worshippers at once.
With a 2021 population of just over 4 million people and a land area of roughly 33,846 km² (13,065 mi²), Moldova is the smallest country in Eastern Europe. A former Soviet territory that declared its independence in 1991, Moldova (formally known as the Republic of Moldova) is one of the poorest countries in Europe and also one of Europe's lowest-ranking countries in terms of human development (though still higher than most of Africa). Moldova is landlocked, but a 2005 arrangement with Ukraine established permanent Moldovian access to the Black Sea. Moldova's post-Soviet history has been marked by unrest, with Russia and Western Europe competing for influence in the country, as well as a separatist region (Transnistria) attempting to break away.
Poland is an Eastern European country whose northern border forms the coast of the Baltic Sea. Poland is one of Eastern Europe's largest countries in terms of both total area (approximately 312,679 km², or 120,726 mi²) and population (37.7 million), with more than 3.1 million living in and around Poland's capital city, Warsaw. The Republic of Poland is reputedly the most religious-minded country in all of Europe. In 1999, Poland joined Hungary and the Czech Republic as the first Eastern European states to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and joined the European Union (EU) in 2004.
A former Axis power that switched to the Allied side nd fell under communist rule during World War II, Romania transitioned to a democratic government following a violent revolution in 1989. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. The country currently enjoys one of the fastest-growing economies in all of Europe, rising from 44% of the European average in 2007 to 70% of average by 2019 according to Eurostat.
As in many Eastern European countries, the Romanian economy focuses heavily on service industries and the import of products including oil and electricity, electrical and industrial equipment, software, clothing, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural products (foods and flowers). Tourism is also a growing industry.
Far and away the largest country in the world—as well as in both Europe and Asia—Russia is a former Soviet state and heir to the Soviet Union's legacy. It is also the most populous country in Eastern Europe and was the ninth-most-populous country in the world in 2021, with more than 145 million people. Although Russia's government is somewhat stable, it is also seen as tremendously oppressive and corrupt, having been led by dictatorial President Vladimir Putin since 2000 (with a brief detour to Prime Minister from 2008-2012).
Russia possesses massive oil reserves and is one of the world's largest producers and exporters of oil and natural gas. However, countries around the world levied heavy economic sanctions upon Russia in response to Putin's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and these sanctions are expected to negatively impact the Russian economy for many years to come.
Offically titled the Slovak Republic, the landlocked Slovakia is the second-smallest country in Eastern Europe, ahead of only Moldova. From the end of World War I until an amicable split known as the "Velvet Divorce" in 1993, Slovakia was half of the country of Czechoslovakia, with the Czech Republic making up the other half. Over time, Slovakia transitioned from a communist government and state-controlled economy to a democratic government and capitalistic economy and joined both NATO and the EU in 2004. Slovakia is now highly developed, offering universal health care and a free university education to its citizens. The services, motor vehicle, and tourism sectors are major contributors to the Slovakian economy, with the latter largely focused upon the country's ample supply of mountains (snow sports, resorts), caves, and medieval castles.
Europe's second-largest and most populous country—behind only Russia in both cases—the Ukraine touches seven other countries as well as the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. Another former Soviet Union state caught in a political tug-of-war between Russia and the West, Ukraine is among the poorest countries in Europe, although it is also one of the largest exporters of grain in the world and possesses significant deposits of resources such as natural gas, lithium, and other minerals.
The Ukrainian economy has been further stressed by ongoing conflict with Russia, which annexed the Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014, has backed separatist rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and openly invaded Ukraine in February of 2022.