Europe Recent History

Recent times

The Reformation in the first half of the 16th century weakened the power of the Catholic Church. Religious contradictions were an important element of European wars, which in the 1500s and 1600s were characterized by rivalries between the great powers of England, France, the German-Roman Empire and Spain, including the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which made France a dominant power from the mid-17th century. Sweden held a short-term superpower until 1721. The Great Nordic War was fought in 1700-1721, and Russia became a European great power. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), Prussia emerged as a great power.

Around 1750-1800 the industrial revolution occurred in the United Kingdom and later spread to the continent. From the mid-18th century, the Enlightenment began, with a strong emphasis on several new principles, including people’s sovereignty and nationality. This was expressed, for example, in the French Revolution (1789–1799), when the monarchy and the privileged society were abolished. The revolution was of great importance to the democratic movements of the 19th century.

Napoleon Bonaparte attempted to unify Europe under French supremacy, but was beaten by an alliance of the other European powers. During the Vienna Congress in 1815, the victors sought to consolidate territorial and political status quo in Europe.

In many European countries, according to, monopoly was abolished by liberal and national movements. New ideals of freedom arose, and in 1850 Karl Marx laid the foundation for a socialist view of society. The February Revolution of 1848 triggered political and social turmoil in several countries. The small states of Italy and Germany were merged into new nation states in 1860 (Italy) and 1871 (Germany). A period of political reaction started. Among other things, the empire was introduced in France and absolute government reinstated in Germany, Austria and Italy.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Europe was characterized by divisive wars between great powers (the Crimean War 1853–1856, the Austro-Prussian War 1866 and the German-French War 1870–1871). In 1867 Austria and Hungary became equal partners in a double monarchy.

Several alliances were formed to stabilize power relations on the continent, while increasing demands for national autonomy in the Russian possessions in the north (Finland) and the west (Poland) and in the Turkish and Austrian possessions in Eastern Europe. In the 1880s and 1890s, Africa was divided between the colonial powers of Britain, France and Germany. In 1882, the triple alliance between Italy, Austria-Hungary and Germany came into being under German leadership.

Country Inflation (percent) Currency External debt (USD million)
Albania 1.4 (2019) play 9 115 (2017)
Andorra euro
Armenia 1.4 (2019) DRAM 10,335 (2017)
Azerbaijan 2.6 (2019) manat 15 254 (2017)
Belgium 1.4 (2019) euro 2
Bosnia and Herzegovina 0.6 (2019) convertible marka 14 495 (2017)
Bulgaria 3.1 (2019) lev 40 438 (2017)
Cyprus 0.3 (2019) Euro
Denmark 0.8 (2019) Danish krone
Estonia 2.3 (2019) Euro
Finland 1.0 (2019) Euro
France 1.1 (2019) euro
Georgia 4.9 (2019) lari 15 756 (2017)
Greece 0.3 (2019) Euro
Ireland 0.9 (2019) euro
Iceland 3.0 (2019) Icelandic krona
Italy 0.6 (2019) euro
Kosovo 2.7 (2019) 2 439 (2017)
Croatia 0.8 (2019) kuna
Latvia 2.8 (2019) Euro
Liechtenstein Swiss franc
Lithuania 2.3 (2019) Euro
Luxembourg 1.7 (2019) euro
Northern Macedonia Macedonian denar 8 566 (2017)
Malta 1.6 (2019) Euro
Moldova 4.8 (2019) leu 6 974 (2017)
Monaco euro
Montenegro 2.6 (2018) Euro 3 138 (2017)
Netherlands 2.6 (2019) euro
Norway 2.2 (2019) Crown
Poland 2.2 (2019) zloty
Portugal 0.3 (2019) Euro
Romania 3.8 (2019) lei 109 354 (2017)
Russia 4.5 (2019) ruble 492 763 (2017)
San Marino 1.0 (2017) euro
Switzerland 0.4 (2019) Swiss franc
Serbia 1.8 (2019) Serbian dinar 34 549 (2017)
Slovakia 2.7 (2019) Euro
Slovenia 1.6 (2019) Euro
Spain 0.7 (2019) euro 10
UK 1.7 (2019) pound
Sweden 1.8 (2019) 1 krona = 100 öre
Czech Republic 2.8 (2019) Czech koruna
Turkey 15.2 (2019) lira 454 725 (2017)
Germany 1.4 (2019) Euro
Ukraine 7.9 (2019) hryvnja 113 281 (2017)
Hungary 3.3 (2019) forint
Vatican City State euro 11
Belarus 5.6 (2019) Belarusian ruble 39 584 (2017)
Austria 1.5 (2019) euro 12


The balance of power was marred by German military armament and Austria’s efforts to regain influence in the Balkans. It later collapsed at the outbreak of the First World War (1914–1918) with the loss of more than 16 million lives and 20 million wounded, and the creation of new nation states of the former Austrian and Russian possessions in Central and Eastern Europe. The number of independent states in Europe increased from 23 in 1914 to 31 in 1919.

In 1922 fascists took power in Italy. Europe was hit hard by the worldwide financial crisis of 1929, with unrest and chaos in many countries and the rise of extreme movements in Germany (1933) and Spain (1939). The German economic and military reconstruction was followed by territorial demands. Germany annexed Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938.

In the autumn of 1939, Germany attacked Poland, triggering World War II. The Soviet Union had entered into a secret non-attack agreement with Germany and attacked and occupied the eastern part of Poland. In the summer of 1940, Germany had occupied Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and most of France. Together with Italy and other allies, Germany controlled most of Europe.

After the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Germany fought on two fronts until the defeat occurred in 1945. The United States had joined the war in 1941 and contributed, especially through the invasion of Normandy in 1944, to the Allied victory.

After being a British, French, American and Soviet occupation zone, Germany was divided into West Germany and the GDR (East Germany). Within the GDR, the former state capital Berlin was divided into corresponding occupation zones, West Berlin and East Berlin (DDR) respectively.

From 1947, the United States allocated huge sums of money in the form of the Marshall Plan to rebuild war-ravaged Europe. The Soviet Union retained control of the occupied territories of Eastern Europe while Western Europe became closely associated with the United States. After the war, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the world’s leading superpowers, while the European colonial powers gradually relinquished most of their colonial possessions.

The strong Soviet presence in Eastern Europe and a US-oriented Western Europe, as well as the ideological and political conflict between the Soviet Union and the US, marked a marked division of Europe on each side of the so-called ” Iron Curtain ” until the 1990s.

In 1949, the Western Defense Alliance NATO was established, and in Eastern Europe the Warsaw Pact was formed in 1955. Few European countries stood outside one of these organizations. Particularly tense episodes arose at the Berlin blockade in 1949, the Soviet invasions in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Through the two defense alliances, political conditions in Europe depended largely on the relationship between the US and USSR superpowers..

The countries of Western Europe became largely parliamentary democracies, but with long-standing dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece. The countries of Eastern Europe were peoples’ republics ruled by state-carrying Communist parties.

Cooperation in Western Europe led to the establishment of several international organizations: the Council of Europe in 1949, the EU in 1957 and EFTA in 1960.

In the 1970s, several initiatives led to the normalization of relations between the Western European and the Eastern European countries. Among other things, the relationship between the two German states was normalized. Several conferences on security and cooperation in Europe (KSSE, see were held.

Following several setbacks for relaxation policy in Europe, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the issue of rocket deployment in Europe, the reform process initiated in the Soviet Union when Gorbachev took over leadership there led to several changes. These were expressed partly in the demand for independence in several Soviet republics and partly in the demand for more democracy and the dissolution of the communist power monopoly in several Central and Eastern European countries.

In the fall of 1989, East Germany (GDR), Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania gained new leaders, and both these countries and Albania introduced democratic and market economy reforms. The opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the German Assembly in 1990 ended the Cold War and the division of Europe.

The Soviet Union was disbanded in December 1991 after Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania gained independence in September of that year. In former Soviet territory, 15 new countries emerged, four of which were in Europe: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.

The Warsaw Pact was disbanded in 1991, creating a new security policy situation in Europe. Several disarmament agreements reduced international tension, but increased regionalism and nationalism led to tensions in many countries. Among other things, Czechoslovakia was divided into the two Czech and Slovak states at the turn of the year 1992/93.

After Croatia and Slovenia declared independence in 1991, the rest of reduced Yugoslavia was thrown into full civil war. The conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina was particularly tragic. NATO, which had established Partnership for Peace Agreements in 1994, played the role of the international military force entering Bosnia-Herzegovina. A peace agreement in 1995 stabilized conditions, but there are still unresolved conflicts, not least ethnic ones. In the former Yugoslavia, seven countries gradually emerged: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia (now Northern Macedonia) and Kosovo.

NATO was expanded with several of the former Warsaw Pact countries, and the organization was given other tasks than it had when it was created. The main task was to ensure European stability and security. This was the motive when NATO forces in 1999 attacked the rest of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisis.

Within the EU, ever more integrated cooperation developed from the 1980s. A new single market with free movement of people, capital, goods and services between member states was established in 1999, with the aim of political and economic union. Three of the EFTA countries (Finland, Sweden and Austria) became new members of the EU in 1995.

Since 2000

The European Central Bank’s euro currency was adopted in 1999 and replaced the old currencies in most EU countries in 2002. In 2004 and 2007, the EU was expanded with new member states, many of them from the former Eastern bloc. The EU currently encompasses 27 European countries (Cyprus is considered an Asian country). Of these 27 countries, 18 countries are members of the euro union.

Europe Recent History