From Latvia and Lithuania to Serbia and Montenegro, discover how many countries there are in Eastern Europe and why the region’s boundaries are so difficult to define.

The map of Eastern Europe has changed considerably, even in the last few decades. Not only is the eastern part of Europe difficult to define, but the fall of the Soviet Union and the breakup of Yugoslavia both created an abundance of new nations, many of which are now looking west, rather than east, as ideological lines continue to shift.

The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, poignantly described in the 2000s how ‘More than forty years of Communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe resulted in an unhappy and artificial division of Europe.’ His words sum up the difficulties in defining Eastern Europe as a distinct region, because for much of the 20th century, it was defined in political and cultural terms, rather than geographic.

As the Eastern Bloc collapsed, countries like Poland and the Baltic nations have all joined the European Union, forging closer and closer ties with the west and changing our perception of what Eastern Europe means. Young countries like Czechia and Slovakia have arisen, while the overlap between the ‘west’ and the ‘east’ is more conjoined by the day.

Rasmussen also commented that ‘It is this dark chapter of European history that we now have the opportunity to close’. As the boundaries of Europe’s internal divides continue to shift, I wholeheartedly agree, but from a geopolitical perspective, it should be noted that defining ‘Eastern Europe’ is also becoming more and more difficult!

In this article, I’ll explain how many countries could be considered Eastern European, and why there are competing maps of the European world.

How many countries in Eastern Europe?

The number of countries considered to be in Eastern Europe varies depending on the criteria used to define the list, with differing counts dependent on geographical, cultural, historical or political considerations.

I’ll start by using the broadest definition of Eastern Europe, which encompasses all of these geographical, historical, and political perspectives, before breaking them down in more detail below.

Typically, a list of Eastern European countries in its broadest sense would include the following 19 nations:

  1. Albania
  2. Belarus
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  4. Bulgaria
  5. Czechia
  6. Estonia
  7. Hungary
  8. Kosovo
  9. Latvia
  10. Lithuania
  11. Moldova
  12. Montenegro
  13. North Macedonia
  14. Poland
  15. Romania
  16. Russia (specifically the western part within Europe)
  17. Serbia
  18. Slovakia
  19. Ukraine

Many of these countries have overlap the borders of traditional European boundaries. Hungary, Czechia and Slovakia can also be seen as Central European, for example, due to historic ties. The Balkan nations can, geographically, be placed into southern or south eastern Europe, but for cultural reasons, are often seen as more eastern in character. Russia is transcontinental, the Baltics have close ties with Scandinavia, and Kosovo’s independence is only partially recognised by the UN’s member states.

In its purest form, a map of Eastern Europe could be consolidated to as little as seven countries if you base it on the the former Soviet Union, as the CIA Factbook does. This would be Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. Expand this to include former Eastern Bloc countries, and the list gets longer, encompassing much of the Balkans and south eastern Europe, as well as the old Soviet nations.

However, these definitions of Eastern Europe are very much outdated in geopolitical terms. The Baltics and Balkans are politically more aligned with the west than they are with Russia, with many former Eastern Bloc countries now firmly integrated into the European Union. Looking at the map below, you can see in more detail how Europe’s different boundaries interlock and overlap in confusing ways:

Map of Europe. By Grossgliederung_Europas.svg.

Read more: How Many Countries Are in Europe? Everything You Need to Know.

Where is Eastern Europe, exactly?

Having travelled extensively around ‘Eastern Europe’, I can say straight up that I’ve heard plenty of folk in places like Czechia, Slovakia and the Baltics who’d rather throw off the ‘eastern’ demarcation. For many, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reignited a desire to move closer to the west, and the concept of a wider Eastern Europe has connotations with the Soviet era or the Eastern Bloc.

It’s a fascinating example of how borders can shift, and how politics and culture can create divides as stark as geography. The concept of Eastern Europe is extremely fluid and ever changing, so let’s take a look at where the region’s boundaries can be drawn, to help us understand these varying interpretations.

Historical Context

Historically, Eastern Europe was significantly shaped by the Cold War era. During this period, the Iron Curtain divided Europe into Western and Eastern blocs, with the latter falling under Soviet influence. This political division left a lasting imprint on the identity of Eastern Europe. However, the region’s history predates the Cold War, with the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian Empires leaving profound legacies. These empires influenced cultural, religious, and administrative boundaries, contributing to the region’s complex identity.

Cultural and Religious Influences

Eastern Europe is home to diverse cultures and religions. It encompasses Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Islam, reflecting the historical presence of the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires. The linguistic landscape is equally diverse, with Slavic languages predominating, alongside Baltic, Finno-Ugric, and Turkic languages. These cultural and religious differences contribute to varying perceptions of what constitutes Eastern Europe. For example, one interpretation of Eastern Europe could be based solely on the influence of Eastern Orthodoxy, rather than geography or politics.

Read more: How Many Countries in Central Europe? Everything You Need to Know.

Geopolitical Considerations

The geopolitical landscape further complicates the definition of Eastern Europe. The expansion of the European Union and NATO has led to a redefinition of regional boundaries. Countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, now EU members, are sometimes considered Central European due to their integration into Western political and economic structures. In contrast, countries like Belarus, with closer ties to Russia, are firmly placed in Eastern Europe.

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Geographical Boundaries

Geographically, Eastern Europe extends from the eastern borders of Germany and Austria to the Ural Mountains in Russia. This broad definition includes the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Central European countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary), Balkan States (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo), and parts of Russia.

The Urals mark the easternmost geographical border of Europe. Photo credit:

Read more: How Many Countries in Western Europe? Everything You Need to Know.

A brief history of Eastern Europe

To better understand the underlying cultural and geopolitical complexities when it comes to defining Eastern Europe, let’s take a brief look at the history of the region.

Ancient and Medieval Periods

Eastern Europe’s history really begins with ancient tribes such as the Thracians, Dacians, and Illyrians, who inhabited the Balkans, and the Slavic tribes who migrated to the region around the 6th century. The influence of the Roman Empire was significant, particularly in the Balkans, with the establishment of cities and infrastructure. Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire continued to exert influence, particularly in the Balkans and parts of the Eastern Slavic territories.

The arrival of the Magyars in the 9th century led to the formation of the Kingdom of Hungary. The spread of Christianity in the region occurred through two main branches: Eastern Orthodoxy, spread by the Byzantine Empire, and Roman Catholicism, spread by the Western Church. This religious division would have long-lasting cultural and political consequences.

The Middle Ages to the Renaissance

The Mongol invasion in the 13th century devastated many parts of Eastern Europe, particularly the Kievan Rus’, a federation of Slavic tribes. The Mongol Yoke, as it was known, left a lasting impact on the development of Russian territories. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth emerged as a significant power in the 16th century, encompassing much of present-day Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine.

Ottoman and Habsburg Influences

The Ottoman Empire expanded into the Balkans from the 14th to the 17th centuries, leaving a profound impact on the region’s culture, religion, and demographics. Many Balkan territories became part of the Ottoman Empire, leading to centuries of Muslim influence. Concurrently, the Habsburg Empire expanded its influence in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Hungary, Croatia, and the Czech lands. This period saw the region divided between the influence of the Ottoman and Habsburg empires, with significant cultural and religious impacts from both.

The Rise of Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire

The rise of the Russian Empire in the 18th century marked another significant shift. Under Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, Russia expanded westward, incorporating much of Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland into its territories. The partitions of Poland in the late 18th century by Russia, Prussia, and Austria effectively erased Poland from the map until its restoration after World War I.

The 19th century was marked by the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of national movements within Eastern Europe. The Austro-Hungarian Empire became a dominant force, especially after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, which created a dual monarchy.

20th Century: Wars and Soviet Influence

The 20th century brought two world wars, which profoundly impacted Eastern Europe. After World War I, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires collapsed, leading to the creation of new nation-states like Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the re-establishment of Poland. World War II brought further devastation, with many Eastern European countries suffering under Nazi occupation and later under Soviet control.

After World War II, the Iron Curtain divided Europe into East and West, with Eastern Europe falling under the influence of the Soviet Union. This period saw the establishment of socialist states across the region, characterised by centralised economies, one-party rule, and significant repression. The Cold War era defined much of Eastern Europe’s mid-20th-century history, leading to uprisings and protests such as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the Prague Spring of 1968, which were brutally suppressed by Soviet forces.

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Post-Cold War and Modern Era

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 marked the end of the Cold War. Eastern European countries transitioned from communist rule to democracy and market economies. The 1990s were a period of significant upheaval, marked by economic challenges and the painful process of integrating into global markets.

Many Eastern European countries joined the European Union and NATO in the 2000s, aligning more closely with Western Europe politically and economically. However, the region continues to grapple with Russian influence, particularly following the invasion of Ukraine.

The Berlin Wall once marked the boundary between Eastern and Western Europe. Photo credit:

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How many Eastern European countries are in the European Union?

There are now 9 countries in Eastern Europe that are members of the European Union. This expansion of EU influence demonstrates how the concept of ‘Eastern Europe’ is changing, with the political and cultureal division shifting further east, towards Russia. These countries have joined the EU in various waves of enlargement, primarily in 2004 and 2007, with some later additions.

Here’s the full list:

  1. Poland (joined in 2004)
  2. Czechia (joined in 2004)
  3. Slovakia (joined in 2004)
  4. Hungary (joined in 2004)
  5. Lithuania (joined in 2004)
  6. Latvia (joined in 2004)
  7. Estonia (joined in 2004)
  8. Romania (joined in 2007)
  9. Bulgaria (joined in 2007)

This list is likely to expand in the future, with other countries in the region, such as North Macedonia and Albania, seeking EU membership.

The River Danube, seen here between Austria and Slovakia, once also marked the boundary between the Eastern Bloc and western Europe. Photo credit:

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How many Eastern European countries are in NATO?

There are 12 Eastern European countries that are members of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). These countries have joined NATO in various waves of enlargement, particularly after the end of the Cold War.

The list is as follows:

  1. Poland (joined in 1999)
  2. Czech Republic (joined in 1999)
  3. Hungary (joined in 1999)
  4. Bulgaria (joined in 2004)
  5. Romania (joined in 2004)
  6. Slovakia (joined in 2004)
  7. Estonia (joined in 2004)
  8. Latvia (joined in 2004)
  9. Lithuania (joined in 2004)
  10. Albania (joined in 2009)
  11. Montenegro (joined in 2017)
  12. North Macedonia (joined in 2020)

These countries participate in NATO’s collective defence and contribute to its strategic goals, with the matter of NATO membership becoming particularly poignant for many former Eastern Bloc countries in light of events in Ukraine.

Riga, the capital of Latvia, is looking west towards the EU. Photo credit:

Read more: Where Are the Baltics? Everything You Need to Know.

Are there any disputed regions or countries in Eastern Europe?

Given how the notion of Eastern Europe as a whole is disputed, there should be no surprise that the wider region is also home to disputed territories.

There are several disputed regions and countries in Eastern Europe, where territorial claims and sovereignty issues have led to conflicts or ongoing tensions. Here are some notable examples:

Ukraine and Russia


  • Transnistria: Transnistria declared independence from Moldova in 1990, leading to a brief war in 1992. It maintains a separate government and military with support from Russia. It’s de facto independent, not recognised by the United Nations, but officially part of Moldova.

Serbia and Kosovo

  • Kosovo: Declared independence from Serbia in 2008. It is recognised by over 100 countries, including the United States and most EU members, but Serbia and several other countries do not recognise its independence. Functionally independent and recognised by many countries, but Serbia and some other countries consider it a Serbian province.
Places to visit in Kosovo
The ‘Newborn’ sign in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.

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So, how many countries are in Eastern Europe?

Determining the exact number of countries in Eastern Europe is as complex as you’ve seen, and it largely depends on varying perspectives of the European map as shaped by historical, cultural, political, and geographical factors. At its most conservative, the list might include as few as seven countries, focusing on those firmly within the traditional boundaries of Eastern Europe and commonly recognised in geopolitical terms. These would typically be former Soviet countries like the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, alongside Belarus, Russia, Moldova and Ukraine.

On the broader end of the spectrum, the number can expand to include up to 19 countries. This more inclusive definition encompasses nations in the Balkans such as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo, as well as Moldova and the western part of Russia. These variations highlight the fluid and dynamic nature of regional classifications, reflecting Eastern Europe’s ever evolving identity within the global landscape.

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FAQ: How many countries are in Eastern Europe?

Here’s an FAQ on the topic, ‘How many countries are in Eastern Europe?’:

Q1: What is Eastern Europe?

Eastern Europe is a region that typically includes countries situated in the eastern part of the European continent. The definition can vary based on geographical, historical, cultural, and political perspectives.

Q2: How many countries are generally considered part of Eastern Europe?

Generally, there are 19 countries commonly recognised as part of Eastern Europe. This includes countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, those in the Balkans, and Central European nations often associated with Eastern Europe due to historical and cultural reasons.

Q3: Can you list the countries considered to be in Eastern Europe?

Yes, the countries typically included are Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia (specifically the western part within Europe), Serbia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

Q4: Why are there different definitions of Eastern Europe?

Differing definitions arise from various factors such as historical empires, cultural influences, political alliances, and geographical boundaries. The legacy of the Cold War, the influence of the Soviet Union, and recent EU and NATO expansions also contribute to these varying definitions.

Q5: Which countries in Eastern Europe are members of the European Union?

As of 2024, nine Eastern European countries are EU members: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Q6: Which countries in Eastern Europe are members of NATO?

Twelve Eastern European countries are NATO members: Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.

Q7: Are there any disputed regions or countries in Eastern Europe?

Yes, there are several disputed regions. Crimea is annexed by Russia but claimed by Ukraine. Donetsk and Luhansk are self-proclaimed republics in Ukraine, with Russian support. Transnistria is de facto independent from Moldova. Kosovo has declared independence from Serbia and is recognised by many countries but not by Serbia or some others.

Q8: How has the political map of Eastern Europe changed over the years?

The political map has changed significantly due to events such as the fall of empires (Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, Russian), World War I and II realignments, the Cold War and Soviet influence, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, EU and NATO expansions, and recent conflicts, especially involving Russia and Ukraine.

Q9: What are the main factors influencing the inclusion of countries in Eastern Europe?

Factors include historical affiliations and legacies, cultural and linguistic ties, political and military alliances, and geographical considerations.

Q10: Are there any regional organisations specific to Eastern Europe?

Yes, several regional organisations and initiatives exist, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Eastern Partnership (EaP), Visegrád Group (V4), Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), and Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development (GUAM).