Table of Contents
The history of the European continent is mind-blowing complicated. That’s why the borders of many European countries have changed many times.
Below are maps illustrating the most radical changes in state borders in European history.
Medieval Europe (5th-15th century)
Medieval Period began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Numerous Germanic peoples created new kingdoms in what remained of the Western Roman Empire.
Rome’s direct sequel, the still-substantial Byzantine Empire, remained in the Eastern Mediterranean and persisted a significant power.
Europe 1000 A.D.
Early modern Europe (late 15th century – late 18th century)
Early modern Europe is a period of European history starting with the Ottoman conquering of Constantinople in 1453, the Renaissance period in Europe, and the end of the Reconquista. Feudalism waned.
Europe, 1500 A.D.
In Europe sparked the fierce Thirty Years’ War and ended with the founding of the contemporary international system in the Peace of Westphalia.
This treaty had a significant impact on Germany by confirming the territorial sovereignty of Germany’s many political bodies, the Treaty of Westphalia increased and perpetuated german division and political weakness. Austria and Brandenburg-Prussia, however, gained international significance during the age of the treaty.
During this time distinctive nation-states firmly established the competitive nationalism of the modern world.
Map of Europe after the Peace of Westphalia, 1648
Late modern period
The late modern period begins roughly in the mid-18th century, and depending on the author either ended with the beginning of contemporary history after WW2 or even covers that period up to the current day. Distinguished historical events embraced the Industrial Revolution, the French and Russian Revolution.
Imperial Europe (1900)
Great Powers – Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Austria-Hungary and Russia are dominated in Europe.
Map of European Great Powers in 1900
Imperial Europe (1912 – 1914)
Nationalist ambitions make the Balkans unstable. Recently sovereign Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece attack the Ottomans in 1912, seeing the decay of the Turkish Ottoman Empire as a moment to increase their areas. Albania gets its independence.
Map of Europe in 1914
World War I
Revolution and civilian war plunge Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary into anarchy after WWI. Bourders in Europe radically changed. The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires have disappeared, Russian and German Emparies have shrunk considerably, and a lot of smaller countries have appeared. After the revolution in Russia in 1917, the Soviet Union was created.
Europe, with new borders as determined by the Peace Conference and the Treaty of Trianon (1920)
World War II
In 1938-1939 Adolf Hitler annexed his Austria, Sudetenland, the Czech part of Czechoslovakia, and western Poland. Meanwhile, the USSR annexed eastern Poland, the Baltic States and northern Romania.
Map of European borders before WWII
After WWII, Germany dramatically decreased in size and split into East and West. While, the Soviet Union gets Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and northern East Prussia.
Map of European borders after WWII
As the winds of the democratic revolution swept across Eastern Europe, Communist control breaks in the nation after nation.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the first sign of destroying the post-war borders. Then the USSR and Yugoslavia collapsed in 1991. Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, and Macedonia are added to Europe’s map. By the end of 1992, Czechoslovakia was divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There are now 22 new nations in Europe.
The map below shows the last time that each European state was part of another country.
One thousand years of state boundaries in Europe overlaid on one map
Many will find it interesting what would happen if all European countries’ pre-existing borders were put on the same map. Below, the map created by Andres Sundell shows all the borders of sovereign states in Europe in 100-year increments from 1000 to 2000.