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People

Geographical barriers, Indo-European languages, Saami, Celtic languages, Asia Minor

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Although it is not precisely known when humans first lived in Europe, they probably migrated there from the east in several waves, mostly via a no longer extant land bridge from Asia Minor into the Balkans and by way of grasslands north of the Black Sea. Parts of Europe had a substantial human population by about 4000 bc. Geographical barriers such as forests, mountains, and swamps helped divide the peoples into groups that remained largely separate for long periods. Some intermixing of peoples occurred as a result of migrations, however.

Languages

Europeans speak a wide variety of languages. The principal linguistic groups are the Slavic, which includes Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Polish, Slovenian, Macedonian, and Serbo-Croatian; the Germanic, which includes English, German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic; and the Romance, which includes Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian. These languages have basically the same origins and are grouped as Indo-European languages. Other Indo-European languages include Greek, Albanian, and Celtic languages such as Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton. In addition to the Indo-European language speakers, the continent has groups of people who speak Finno-Ugric languages, such as Finnish, Hungarian, and Saami, as well as speakers of the Basque and Turkish languages. Many Europeans use English or French as a second language.

Religion

In the early 2000s the great majority of Europeans were Christians. The largest single religious group, Roman Catholics, lived mainly in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, southern Germany, and Poland. Another large group was composed of followers of Protestant faiths, concentrated in countries of northern and central Europe such as England, Scotland, northern Germany, The Netherlands, and the Scandinavian nations. A third major Christian group was composed of members of an Orthodox church. They lived principally in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro. In addition, there were Jewish communities in most European countries (the largest of them in Russia), and the inhabitants of Albania and Turkey were predominantly Muslim.



Article key phrases:

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