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Both world wars took place for the most part in Europe, contributing to a decline in Western European dominance in world affairs by the mid-20th century as the Soviet Union and the United States took prominence.During the Cold War, Europe was divided along the Iron Curtain between NATO in the west and the Warsaw Pact in the east, until the revolutions of 1989 and fall of the Berlin Wall.
Between the 16th and 20th centuries, European powers controlled at various times the Americas, most of Africa, Oceania, and the majority of Asia.Further European integration by some states led to the formation of the European Union, a separate political entity that lies between a confederation and a federation.The EU originated in Western Europe but has been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.Further from the sea, seasonal differences are more noticeable than close to the coast.Europe, in particular ancient Greece, was the birthplace of Western civilization.Herodotus mentioned that the world had been divided by unknown persons into three parts, Europe, Asia, and Libya (Africa), with the Nile and the Phasis forming their boundaries—though he also states that some considered the River Don, rather than the Phasis, as the boundary between Europe and Asia.
The Book of Jubilees described the continents as the lands given by Noah to his three sons; Europe was defined as stretching from the Pillars of Hercules at the Strait of Gibraltar, separating it from North Africa, to the Don, separating it from Asia.
Most major world languages use words derived from Eurṓpē or Europa to refer to the continent.
Chinese, for example, uses the word Ōuzhōu (歐洲/欧洲); a similar Chinese-derived term Ōshū being more commonly used.
Politically, Europe is divided into about fifty sovereign states of which the Russian Federation is the largest and most populous, spanning 39% of the continent and comprising 15% of its population.
Europe had a total population of about 741 million (about 11% of world population) as of 2016 The European climate is largely affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent, even at latitudes along which the climate in Asia and North America is severe.
The Age of Enlightenment, the subsequent French revolution and the Napoleonic wars shaped the continent culturally, politically, and economically from the end of the 17th century till the first half of the 19th century.