How Is The Border Between Europe And Asia Defined?

By Antonia Čirjak on June 8 2020 in Geography

When it comes to Europe and Asia, their border is a result of geographical, as well as political factors that played a role in determining it.
When it comes to Europe and Asia, their border is a result of geographical, as well as political factors that played a role in determining it.
  • Europe is geographically separated from Asia by the Ural Mountains and river, the Aras River and the Strait of Gibraltar and Bosphorus.
  • The exact border between Europe and Asia has been the subject of debate throughout history, mainly because it is hard to define it geographically, there are no clear visible borders.
  • The border was largely influenced by politics and cultural differences, and many believe that it was created in favor of the European side.

Most continents on our planet are clearly separated from each other by oceans. This makes it easy to distinguish them from one another, and we do not have problems determining their borders. However, when it comes to Europe and Asia, their border is a bit more complex. It is a result of geographical, as well as political factors that played a role in determining it.

Geographically speaking, what separates Europe from Asia and defines the border between the two are the Ural Mountains and River on the east, the Aras River on the southeast, and finally the Bosphorus and the Strait of Gibraltar on the southern part of the border. All of these limits are a result of specific political events in history. Many consider the most crucial thing dividing Europe from Asia is religion, with the place where the dominance of Christianity stops being the place where Asia begins.

The Subject Of Controversy

Many events throughout the history of the continent have determined the borders between Europe and Asia. Some of those include the resistance in Thrace by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the Battle of the Three Kings in 1578. Many historians believe that if those two events ended differently, the border between Europe and Asia would have looked vastly different than it does today.

There is still some debate and controversy surrounding the exact borders between Europe and Asia. This makes sense seeing as how it is not defined by clear physical boundaries. Both of these continents share the same landmass, which makes the task of determining the borders between them quite tricky. Many consider these borders to be a cultural and historical construct. This construct tends to favor the European side. 

Obelisk on the geographical boundary between Europe (on left) and Asia (on right) parts of the world. Near Pervouralsk city, Sverdlovsk region, Russia.
Obelisk on the geographical boundary between Europe (on left) and Asia (on right) parts of the world. Near Pervouralsk city, Sverdlovsk region, Russia.

Since the people from European countries were colonizing the rest of the world, they often took the role of the oppressor. This made it easier for them to write history and create a narrative that suits them. The same probably happened with the border between Europe and Asia. While some events prevented the European influence from reaching too far, the border itself largely favors the European side. 

Borders Built On Prejudice

Still, the issue of this border goes much deeper than this. It goes beyond geography and historically important political events. Europe is considered to be a concept that is clearly defined by two types of relations. The first type of relations that built the European identity is the relations with their trade partners. This does not deal solely with trading, of course, but other types of business as well, such as imports and translations. The second type is the abstract relation to the European concept of the “other.”

Throughout history, Europeans have created many prejudices about other countries, and used the borders with the Asian countries to clearly separate themselves from the “others.” This is the cultural aspect of the border between Europe and Asia. Europeans had a desire to define themselves based on what they considered to be differences from their neighbors.

The actual name Europe only began seeing widespread use after the Reformation in the 16th century. This makes us believe that the border between Europe and Asia was based on prejudice and done to prevent the influence of Asian nations on the close-minded Europeans. Despite us being able to geographically define them, these borders actually serve as a reminder of the history of the European nations that was filled with violence, prejudice, and fear of the unknown.

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