Europe is one of the seven traditional continents of Earth. Being the western-most peninsula of Eurasia, it is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea, to the southeast by the Caucasus Mountains, the Black Sea and the waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. To the east, Europe is generally divided from Asia by the water divide of the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, and by the Caspian Sea.
Europe is the world's second-smallest continent in terms of area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometers (3,930,000 sq mi) or 2% of the Earth's surface. Of Europe's 48 countries, Russia is the largest by both area and population, while the Vatican is the smallest. Europe is the third most populous continent after Asia and Africa with a population of 710,000,000 or about 11% of the world's population.
Europe is the birthplace of Western culture. European nations played a predominant role in global affairs from the 16th century onwards, especially after the beginning of colonization. By the 17th and 18th centuries European nations controlled most of Africa, the Americas, and large portions of Asia. World War I and World War II led to a decline in European dominance in world affairs as the United States and Soviet Union took prominence. The Cold War between those two superpowers divided Europe along the Iron Curtain. European integration led to the formation of the Council of Europe and the European Union in Western Europe, both of which have been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.