Even though most of the world views Earth’s continental land masses in the same way, there are a few disparities in how they’re perceived based on particular regions. Europe, for example, is usually viewed as its own continent, but some regions instead view it as part of the larger continent of Eurasia. Which is the most popular way to look at it, though? Which continental model should you subscribe to if you want to be in-tune with the way that the rest of the world’s population thinks of things? That’s the very subject that we’re going to address below. If it’s ever been a matter of wonder for you, read on!
Even though we’re taught quite a few basic facts about the continents through education, that doesn’t necessarily mean we learn a lot about how they’re drawn up and divided. In most cases, people are simply taught how to recognize the boundaries between continents, and how many there are on the planet. Depending on where you live, however, that number is subject to change. Most English-speaking regions commit to a seven-continent model, while other regions of the world are more likely to use a six-continent model.
Which of them is more accurate? That’s actually a subject of debate, but by and large, the particular model that you’ve been taught to recognize isn’t going to change much about how you view the world. The borders and boundaries around countries remain entirely the same, either way, and it’s not as if any of these landmasses is moving…at least, not with any generational amount of speed. But plate tectonics is a much more complex subject better suited for another discussion (one that we’re likely to cover, sometime in the future!)
Continents of the World
Even though different regions might embrace different continental models, none of them vary too greatly from one another. It’s not as if the continents are named differently, after all! The same regions carry the same titles, and they’re largely regarded in the same way. Six-continent models simply combine certain landmasses into a single entity, based on certain qualifications.
Most English-speaking countries utilize the seven-continent model, making it the most frequently used in the world. The seven continents in this model are as follows:
- North America
- South America
More than likely, this is the model that you have used for geographical learning throughout all of your own education. However, it can be useful to know how some of the six-continent models that other regions use are organized.
There are two different six-continent models: the Americas model and the Eurasia model. Both of them differ from the above standard by combining two of the seven different continents into a single one, and given the rather telling names of each, you can probably guess which they are!
- The Eurasia model combines the continents of Europe and Asia into a single entity.
- The Americas model combines North and South America into a single continent.
See what we mean? Regardless of which continental model you’re using for study, they all retain the same understanding of boundaries, location, and nomenclature, meaning that there’s very little actual difference between them.
However, based on the topic that we’re discussing today, you might have surmised that one of these continental models is going to be a particular focus for us. If you’re trying to determine whether Europe is its own continent or part of Asia, the answer is going to be determined by which continental model you choose to utilize for your research.
Between Europe and Asia
Things might seem pretty clear-cut, from a surface level examination. In neither of the models is Europe considered part of Asia, but in the six-continent model, Europe and Asia are combined into a single continental landmass. However, there’s still more that we can determine from examining this little nugget of geography a little bit closer, and it can teach us quite a bit about the countries that are in Europe and Asia, each.
We’re going to gain this knowledge by examining the geological landmark that has been used to divide Europe and Asia when they’re viewed separately. In addition to that, we can look at the country that’s split right in half by this continental boundary—Russia.
Division Between Europe and Asia—Where Is It?
The thing is, that dividing line between these two continents (in the seven-continent model, at least) has changed several times throughout the course of history. The lines drawn between most continents are usually more easy to read—land bridges, oceans, seas, and other geological characteristics create obvious separations between them. But since 6th century B.C., the divisions between Europe and Asia have largely been determined by rivers and mountains, rather than anything more apparent and telling.
Even today, now that a standard has been established and widely recognized within the seven-continent model, the division between Europe and Asia is largely one of convenience. Though it’s still accented by landmarks, it actually has more to do with politics than anything else.
The location of the Ural Mountain range is, in a way, an argument for both the seven-continent model as well as the six-continent model. Those who view Europe and Asia as separate continents tend to look to the Urals as the point at which the two continents are divided. After all, it does bisect them quite neatly. However, there remains the issue that the Urals also bisect Russia, which means that, in the seven-continent model, part of the country is in Europe, while another part is in Asia.
Remember what we said, above, about continental boundaries not necessarily having anything to do with countries’ borders? That definitely applies, here.
However, countries that acknowledge the six-continent model don’t have to see Russia as residing in two separate continents. If the entirety of Europe and Asia is simply “Eurasia,” then there’s only one possible continent that it could belong to, right?
As stated above, the Ural Mountain range is hardly the only defining geographic trait that establishes the border between Europe and Asia. The Turkish Straights, the Black Sea, and the Ural River also make up part of this dividing line, and even though most maps in use are uniform in their agreement on it, there remains some disagreement about where that line exists and what its significance is. After all, because continental divides don’t necessarily have anything to do with countries’ borders, there’s no political or economic significance to where it’s found, in the strictest sense.
Russia, Europe, and Asia
In order to further expound upon this detail, it’s important to look at the spread of population in the country of Russia. Then, we need to look at where that population is in regard to the Ural Mountains—the landmark that helps to divide the continents of Europe and Asia.
The vast majority of Russia’s population resides on the western side of the Urals, meaning that much of this transcontinental country’s populace is, in fact, European. Even though Russia has large portions of land on either side of that continental divide, the Western influence of its European neighbors living so close to a majority of the population has drawn it distinctly away from more Asian influences.
Similarly, Turkey is another country that’s effectively transcontinental. Istanbul itself is partially famous for this fact, being that the city technically resides in both Europe and Asia. It’s right on the border between the two continents and features a massive amount of influence from both continents.
Though cartographic standards are important for a variety of reasons, the lines that we’ve drawn between the continental landmasses have frequently been born out of convenience and geological formation, rather than necessity. Because political and economic standards don’t abide by, or even necessarily acknowledge continental divides, it doesn’t really matter which continental model you subscribe to.
In the seven-continent model, you’re going to find Europe and Asia on separate sides of a dividing line, one that’s often argued over or adjusted depending on the party involved with relating it. In the six-continent Eurasia model, the two landmasses are considered to be one entity, and the dividing line between each becomes even more muddied. But because this doesn’t obfuscate any trade or travel, and doesn’t have any real-world ramifications, it isn’t any less accurate than a different model.
While the question that kicked off this article might have been simple, we hope to have expanded upon the premise of the topic in satisfying ways. Europe is a continent all its own in the seven-continent model, and it’s part of a much larger landmass, Eurasia, in a particular six-continent model. In none of them, however, is Europe simply another part of Asia. Even in the cultural sense, Western civilization has enacted a great deal of influence on countries and cultures in the European territories, which is found less on the other side of the Urals and the Black Sea. If you have any remaining questions about the continents of Europe, Asia, or Eurasia, let us know in the comments below!