East Central Europe is a region made up of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. This region of the world has undergone
great changes in recent years. Poland is a large country in eastern Europe.
Farmers here grow more potatoes and rye than any other country in Europe, and
coal mining is one of the most important industries. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
are small republics that border the Baltic Sea. Their well-developed economies
are based on dairy farming, beef production, fishing, and shipbuilding. Today
they are moving toward free market economies and closer ties with the countries
in western Europe.
Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are located in the center of eastern
Europe. Hungary depends on the Danube River for trade and transportation. Most
Hungarians are Magyars, descendants of nomads who came to the Danube River valley
about 1,000 years ago. Compared to other countries of eastern Europe, the people
of the Czech Republic enjoy a high standard of living. Farmers in Slovakia grow
barley, corn, potatoes, and wine grapes, and factories produce iron, steel products,
textiles, and processed foods.
The Balkan Peninsula lies between the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea. Romania,
which lies on the northeastern edge of the Balkan Peninsula, faces many challenges
left over from the Soviet era. Despite abundant resources, the country still
struggles. Mountainous Bulgaria, south of Romania, depends on agriculture, manufacturing,
and tourism. Ethnic conflict has torn apart the former Yugoslav republics of
Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia (made up of Serbia and
Montenegro), and Macedonia. Albania is a very poor country bordering the Adriatic
Sea. It has valuable mineral resources, but lacks the money to mine them.
Until 1991, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova were part of the Soviet Union. The rich soil of Ukraine has earned it the name "breadbasket of Europe." Belarus maintains a Communist government and close ties to Russia. Moldova has rich farmland and much of its culture is still based on a rural way of life.