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Africa

     CAPE VERDE

Cape Verde or Cabo Verde (Portuguese: Cabo Verde,  officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an island country spanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. Located 570 kilometres (350 mi) off the coast of Western Africa, the islands cover a combined area of slightly over 4,000 square kilometres (1,500 sq mi).

Portuguese explorers discovered and colonized the uninhabited islands in the 15th century, the first European settlement in the tropics. Ideally located for the Atlantic slave trade, the islands grew prosperous and often attracted privateers and pirates, among them Sir Francis Drake in the 1580s. The islands were also visited by Charles Darwin during FitzRoy’s Beagle voyage in 1832. Cape Verde was settled as the colony grew in importance on the main shipping lanes from Europe to India and Australia, and population increased steadily.

At the time of independence from Portugal in 1975, Cape Verdeans emigrated across the world, such that the population in the 21st century of over half a million people on the islands is equaled by the diaspora in Europe, the Americas, and on the African continent. The Cape Verdean economy is mostly service-oriented with a growing focus on tourism and foreign investment.

     KENYA

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in Africa and a founding member of the East African Community (EAC). Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya is located on the equator with the Indian Ocean lying to the south-east and is bordered by Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopiato the north and Somalia to the north-east. Kenya covers 581,309 km2 (224,445 sq mi), and had a population of approximately 45 million people in July 2014.

Kenya has a warm and humid tropical climate on its Indian Ocean coastline. The climate is cooler in the savannah grasslands around the capital city, Nairobi, and especially closer toMount Kenya, which has snow permanently on its peaks. Further inland, in the Nyanza region, there is a hot and dry climate which becomes humid around Lake Victoria, the largest tropical fresh-water lake in the world. This gives way to temperate and forested hilly areas in the neighboring Western region. The North-Eastern regions along the border with Somalia and Ethiopia are arid and semi-arid areas with near-desert landscapes. Kenya is traditionally famous for its safaris, diverse climate and geography, and expansive wildlife reserves and national parks such as the East and West Tsavo National Park, the Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park, and Aberdares National Park. Kenya has several world heritage sites such as Lamu and numerous world-famous beaches including in Diani, Bamburi and Kilifi where international yachting competitions are held every year.

     MADAGASCAR

Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar and previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Southeast Africa. The nation comprises the island of Madagascar (the fourth-largest island in the world), as well as numerous smaller peripheral islands. Following the prehistoric breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian peninsulaaround 88 million years ago, allowing native plants and animals to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90 percent of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. The island’s diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are threatened by the encroachment of the rapidly growing human population and other environmental threats.

Initial human settlement of Madagascar occurred between 350 BC and AD 550 by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger canoes from Borneo. These were joined around AD 1000 by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel from East Africa. Other groups continued to settle on Madagascar over time, each one making lasting contributions to Malagasy cultural life. The Malagasy ethnic group is often divided into eighteen or more sub-groups of which the largest are the Merina of the central highlands.

     MOZAMBIQUE

Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique is a country in Southeast Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Swazilandand South Africa to the southwest. It is separated from Madagascar by the Mozambique Channel to the east. The capital and largest city is Maputo (known as “Lourenço Marques” before independence).

Between the 1st and 5th centuries AD, Bantu-speaking peoples migrated from farther north and west. Swahili, and later also Arab, commercial ports existed along the coasts until the arrival of Europeans. The area was explored by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and colonized by Portugal from 1505. After over four centuries of Portuguese rule, Mozambique gained independence in 1975, becoming the People’s Republic of Mozambique shortly thereafter. After only two years of independence, the country descended into an intense and protracted civil war lasting from 1977 to 1992. In 1994, Mozambique held its first multiparty elections and has remained a relatively stable presidential republic since.

     REPUBLIC OF DJIBOUTI

Djibouti, officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east. Djibouti occupies a total area of just 23,200 km2 (8,958 sq mi).

In antiquity, the territory was part of the Land of Punt. Nearby Zeila (now in Somalia) was the seat of the medieval Adal and Ifat Sultanates. In the late 19th century, the colony of French Somaliland was established following treaties signed by the ruling Somali and Afar sultans with the French and its railroad to Dire Dawa (and laterAddis Ababa) allowed it to quickly supersede Zeila as the port for southern Ethiopia and the Ogaden.It was subsequently renamed to the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas in 1967. A decade later, the Djiboutian people voted for independence. This officially marked the establishment of the Republic of Djibouti, named after itscapital city. Djibouti joined the United Nations the same year, on September 20, 1977.In the early 1990s, tensions over government representation led to armed conflict, which ended in a power sharing agreement in 2000 between the ruling party and the opposition.

     SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE

São Tomé and Príncipe officially the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, is a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa.

It consists of two archipelagos around the two main islands: São Tomé and Príncipe, located about 140 kilometres (87 mi) apart and about 250 and 225 kilometres (155 and 140 mi), respectively, off the northwestern coast of Gabon. Both islands are part of an extinct volcanic mountain range. São Tomé, the sizable southern island, is situated just north of the equator. It was named in honour of Saint Thomas by Portuguese explorers who arrived at the island on his feast day on the western shores of the island, a small village called Anobom.

With a census population of 192,993 (2013), São Tomé and Príncipe is the second-smallest African country, behind Seychelles. It is also the smallest Portuguese-speaking country.

     SENEGAL

Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country in West Africa. It is the westernmost country in the mainland of the Old World or Eurafrasia and owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north. Senegal covers a land area of almost 197,000 square kilometres (76,000 sq mi), and has an estimated population of about 13 million. The climate is tropical and alternates between a dry season and rainy season. Senegal’s capital and largest city is Dakar.

The territory of modern Senegal has been inhabited by various ethnic groups since the prehistoric era. Organized kingdoms emerged around the seventh century, and parts of the country were ruled by prominent regional empires such as the Jolof. The present state of Senegal has its roots in European colonialism, which began during the mid-15th century, when various European powers began competing for trade in the area. The establishment of coastal trading posts gradually gave way to control of the mainland, culminating in French rule of the area by the 19th century, albeit amid much local resistance. Senegal peacefully attained independence from France in 1960, and has since been among the more politically stable countries in Africa.

     SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is a country bounded on the south by 2,798 kilometers of coastline of Southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans, on the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and on the east by Mozambique and Swaziland, and surrounding the kingdom of Lesotho.South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world by land area, and with close to 53 million people, is the world’s 24th-most populous nation.

South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution’s recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest number of any country in the world.Two of these languages are of European origin: Afrikaans developed from Dutch and serves as the first language of most white and coloured South Africans; English reflects the legacy of British colonialism, and is commonly used in public and commercial life, though it is fourth-ranked as a spoken first language.

About 80 percent of South Africans are of sub-Saharan African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status.The remaining population consists of Africa’s largest communities of European (white), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (coloured) ancestry. Since 1994, all ethnic and linguistic groups have had political representation in the country’s constitutional democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the “Rainbow Nation,” a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later adopted by then-President Nelson Mandela as a metaphor to describe the country’s newly developing multicultural diversity in the wake of segregationist apartheid ideology.

     ZAMBIA

The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, neighbouring the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawito the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west. The capital city is Lusaka, in the south-central part of Zambia. The population is concentrated mainly around Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt Province to the northwest.

Originally inhabited by Khoisan peoples, the region was colonised during the Bantu expansion of the thirteenth century. After visits by European explorers in the eighteenth century, Zambia became the British protectorate of Northern Rhodesia towards the end of the nineteenth century. For most of the colonial period, Zambia was governed by an administration appointed from London with the advice of the British South Africa Company.

Asia

     MONGOLIA

Mongolia is a landlocked country in east-central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Ulaanbaatar, the capital and also the largest city, is home to about 45% of the population. Mongolia’s political system is a parliamentary republic.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Turkic Khaganate, and others. In 1206,Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, and his grandson Kublai Khan conquered China to establish the Yuan dynasty. After the collapse of the Yuan, the Mongolsretreated to Mongolia and resumed their earlier pattern of factional conflict except during the era of Dayan Khan and Tumen Zasagt Khan. In the 16th century, Tibetan Buddhism began to spread in Mongolia and it was accelerated by the unwavering support of the Qing government after Mongolia was incorporated by the Manchu Qing dynasty. In the 1900s almost half of the adult male population were Buddhist monks.

     RUSSIA (SIBERIA)

Siberia is an extensive geographical region, and by the broadest definition is also known as North Asia. Siberia has been historically part of Russia since the seventeenth century.

The territory of Siberia extends eastwards from the Ural Mountains to the watershed between the Pacific and Arctic drainage basins. Siberia stretches southwards from theArctic Ocean to the hills of north-central Kazakhstan and to the national borders of Mongolia and China.With an area of 13.1 million square kilometres, Siberia accounts for 77% of Russia’s land area, but it is home to just 40 million people – 27% of the country’s population. This is equivalent to an average population density of about 3 inhabitants per square kilometre (approximately equal to that of Australia), making Siberia one of the most sparsely populated regions on Earth.

     UZBEKISTAN

Uzbekistan, officially the Republic of Uzbekistan, is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia. It is a unitary, constitutional, presidential republic, comprising 12 provinces, 1 autonomous republic, and 1 capital city. Uzbekistan is bordered by five countries:Kazakhstan and the Aral Sea to the north; Tajikistan to the southeast; Kyrgyzstan to the northeast; Afghanistan to the south; and Turkmenistan to the southwest.

Once part of the Turkic Khaganate and later Timurid Empires, the region that today includes the Republic of Uzbekistan was conquered in the early 16th century by Eastern Turkic-speaking nomads. The area was gradually incorporated into the Russian Empire during the 19th century, and in 1924 what is now Uzbekistan became a bordered constituent republic of the Soviet Union, known as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbek SSR). Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, it declared independence as the Republic of Uzbekistan on 31 August 1991 (officially celebrated the following day).

North America

     NEW YORK

New York is a state in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. New York is the 27th-most extensive, the fourth-most populous, and the seventh-most densely populated of the 50 United States. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south and Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont to the east. The state has amaritime border with Rhode Island east of Long Island, as well as an international border with the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the north and Ontario to the west and north. The state of New York is often referred to as New York State or the State of New York to distinguish it from New York City, the state’s most populous city and its economic hub.

With a Census-estimated population of nearly 8.5 million in 2014,  New York City is the most populous city in the United States. The city is the nucleus of the premier gateway for legal immigration to the United States the New York City Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world. New York City is also known for being the location of Ellis Island, the largest historical gateway for immigration in the history of the United States. A global power city, New York City exerts a significant impact upon commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and entertainment. The home of the United Nations Headquarters, New York City is an important center for international diplomacy and has been described as the cultural and financial capital of the world, as well as the world’s most economically powerful city.New York City alone makes up over 40 percent of the population of New York State. Two-thirds of the state’s population live in the New York City Metropolitan Area, and nearly 40% live on Long Island.Both the state and New York City were named for the 17th century Duke of York, future King James II of England. The next four most populous cities in the state are Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers, and Syracuse, while the state capital is Albany.

Central America

     CUBA

Cuba officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country in the Caribbean comprising the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud and several archipelagos. Havana is Cuba’s capital and its largest city. The United States is to the north of Cuba 150 km (93 mi) away, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands to the northeast, Mexico to the west 210 km (130 mi) away, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica to the south and Haiti to the southeast.

Cuba was inhabited by Amerindian tribes before the landing of explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492, who claimed it for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a colony of Spain until the Spanish–American War of 1898, after which it gained nominal independence as a de facto U.S. protectorate in 1902. The fragile republic endured increasingly radical politics and social strife, and despite efforts to strengthen its democratic system, Cuba came under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1952.Growing unrest and instability led to Batista’s ousting in January 1959 by the July 26 movement, which afterwards established a government under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Since 1965 the country has been governed by the Communist Party of Cuba.

     COSTA RICA

Costa Rica, officially the Republic of Costa Rica, is a country inCentral America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 4.5 million, of whom nearly a quarter live in the metropolitan area of the capital and largest city, San José.

Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous people before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the short-lived First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces of Central America, from which it formally declared sovereignty in 1847. Since then, Costa Rica has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. Following a brief but bloody civil war, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming the first of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.

     PANAMA

Panama, officially called the Republic of Panama, is a country in Central America situated between North and South America. It is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metro area is home to nearly half of the country’s 3.6 million people.

Panama was inhabited by several indigenous tribes prior to settlement by the Spanish in the 16th century. Panama broke away from Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada remained joined, eventually becoming the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the Panama Canal to be built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the total transfer of the Canal from the United States to Panama by the end of the 20th century, which culminated on 31 December 1999.

South America

     BRAZIL

Brazil officially the Federative Republic of Brazil is the largest country in both South America and the Latin American region. It is the world’s fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population.It is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world, and the only one in the Americas.

Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of 7,491 km (4,655 mi).It borders all other South American countries except Ecuador and Chile and occupies 47.3 percent of the continent of South America.Its Amazon River basin includes a vast tropical forest, home to diverse wildlife, a variety of ecological systems, and extensive natural resources spanning numerous protected habitats.This unique environmental heritage makes Brazil one of 17 megadiverse countries, and is the subject of significant global interest and debate regarding deforestation and environmental protection.

     SURINAME

Suriname, officially known as the Republic of Suriname, is a sovereign state on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south.

Suriname was colonized by the English and the Dutch in the 17th century. In 1667 it was captured by the Dutch, who governed Suriname as Dutch Guiana until 1954. At that time it was designated as one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, next to the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles (dissolved in 2010). On 25 November 1975, the country of Suriname left the Kingdom of the Netherlands to become independent. A member of CARICOM, it is considered to be a culturally Caribbean country and has extensive trade and cultural exchange with the Caribbean nations.

     TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

Trinidad and Tobago, officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is a twin island country off the northern edge of South America, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles.

It is part of South America as it lies on the continental shelf. However usually considered part of the Caribbean, it shares maritime boundaries with other nations including Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west.The country covers an area of 5,128 square kilometres (1,980 sq mi) and consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, with numerous smaller landforms. The two main islands are divided into nine regions, and one ward. Sangre Grande is the largest of the country’s nine regions, comprising about 18% of the total area and 10% of the total population of the country. Trinidad and Tobago lies outside of the hurricane belt.

The island of Trinidad was a Spanish colony from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498 to the capitulation of the Spanish Governor, Don José Maria Chacón, on the arrival of a British fleet of 18 warships on 18 February 1797.During the same period, the island of Tobago changed hands among Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Courlander colonizers. Trinidad and Tobago (remaining separate until 1889) were ceded to Britain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens.The country Trinidad and Tobago obtained independence in 1962, becoming a republic in 1976.

Europe

     ALBANIA

Albania, officially known as the Republic of Albania, is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is bordered byMontenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.

Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organization. It is one of the founding members of the Energy Community and the Union for the Mediterranean. It is also an official candidate for membership in the European Union.

     BOLOGNA

Bologna is the largest city (and the capital) of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, located in the heart of a metropolitan area (officially recognized by the Italian government as a città metropolitana) of about one million.

The first settlements date back to at least 1000 BC. The city has been an urban centre, first under the Etruscans (Velzna/Felsina) and the Celts (Bona), then under the Romans (Bononia), then again in the Middle Ages, as a free municipality (for one century it was the fifth largest European city based on population). Home to the oldest university in the world, University of Bologna, founded in 1088, Bologna hosts thousands of students who enrich the social and cultural life of the city. Famous for its towers and lengthyporticoes, Bologna has a well-preserved historical centre (one of the largest in Italy) thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy which began at the end of the 1970s, on the heels of serious damage done by the urban demolition at the end of the 19th century as well as that caused by wars.

     ESTONIA

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia (343 km), and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia (338.6 km).Across the Baltic Sea lies Sweden in the west and Finland in the north. The territory of Estonia consists of a mainland and over 1500 islands and islets in the Baltic Sea, covering 45,339 km2(17,505 sq mi) of land, and is influenced by a humid continental climate.

Estonia is a democratic parliamentary republic divided into fifteen counties, with its capital and largest city being Tallinn. With a population of 1.3 million, it is one of the least-populous member states of the European Union, Eurozone, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Schengen Area. The Estonians are a Finnic people, and the official language, Estonian, is a Finno-Ugric language closely related to Finnish and the Sami languages, and distantly to Hungarian.

     DÜSSELDORF

Düsseldorf is the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and center of the Rhine-Ruhrmetropolitan region with a population of 11 million people.

Düsseldorf is an international business and financial centre and renowned for its fashion and trade fairs.Located within the Blue Banana, the city is headquarters to fiveFortune Global 500 and several DAX companies. Messe Düsseldorf claims to organise nearly one fifth of all world‘s premier trade shows.

Culturally, Düsseldorf is known for its academy of fine arts (Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, e.g. Joseph Beuys, Emanuel Leutze, August Macke, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke andAndreas Gursky), its pioneering influence on electronic/experimental music (Kraftwerk) and its relatively large Japanese community. As a city by the river Rhine, Düsseldorf is a stronghold for Rhenish Carnival celebrations. Every year in July more than 4.5 million people visit the city’s Largest Fair on the Rhine.

     ICELAND

Iceland is a Nordic island country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 329,100 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), giving the island the lowest population density of any country in Europe.The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

Iceland is best known as the home of the first Viking explorers of North America, in the year 986.Its original inhabitants may be descended from both Germanic and Norse ancestors. Currently, they also include many arrivals from Europe.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 CE when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944.

     LATVIA

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, one of the three Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, and Belarus, as well as a maritime border to the west with Sweden. Latvia has 2,070,371 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi).The country has a temperate seasonal climate.

Latvia is a democratic parliamentary republic established in 1918. The capital city is Riga, the European Capital of Culture 2014. Latvian is the official language. Latvia is aunitary state, divided into 118 administrative divisions, of which 109 are municipalities and 9 are cities.

Latvians and Livs are the indigenous people of Latvia.Latvian is an Indo-European language; it and Lithuanian are the only two surviving Baltic languages. Despite foreign rule from the 13th to 20th centuries, the Latvian nation maintained its identity throughout the generations via the language and musical traditions. Latvia and Estonia share a long common history. As a consequence of the Soviet occupation, both countries are home to a large number of ethnic Russians (26.9% in Latvia and 25.5% in Estonia), some of whom are non-citizens. Latvia is historically predominantly Protestant Lutheran, except for the Latgale region in the southeast, which has historically been predominantly Roman Catholic.

     LITHUANIA

Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in Northern Europe.One of the three Baltic states, it is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast (a Russian exclave) to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 3 million as of 2013, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Lithuanians are a Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, and Latvian are the only two living languages in the Baltic branch of theIndo-European language family.

For centuries, the southeastern shores of the Baltic Sea were inhabited by various Baltic tribes. In the 1230s, the Lithuanian lands were united by Mindaugas, the King of Lithuania, and the first unified Lithuanian state, the Kingdom of Lithuania, was created on 6 July 1253. During the 14th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe; present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia were the territories of the Grand Duchy. With the Lublin Union of 1569, Lithuania and Poland formed a voluntary two-state union, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth lasted more than two centuries, until neighboring countriessystematically dismantled it from 1772–95, with the Russian Empire annexing most of Lithuania’s territory.

     MONTENEGRO

Montenegro is a sovereign state in Southeastern Europe. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the south-west and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, Kosovo to the east, and Albania to the south-east. Its capital and largest city is Podgorica, while Cetinje is designated as thePrijestonica, meaning the former Royal Capital City.

In the 9th century, there were three principalities on the territory of Montenegro: Duklja, roughly corresponding to the southern half, Travunia, the west, and Rascia, the north. In 1042,archon Stefan Vojislav led a revolt that resulted in the independence of Duklja and the establishment of the Vojislavljević dynasty. Duklja reached its zenith under Vojislav’s son,Mihailo (1046–81), and his grandson Bodin (1081–1101).By the 13th century, Zeta had replaced Duklja when referring to the realm. In the late 14th century, southern Montenegro (Zeta) came under the rule of the Balšić noble family, then the Crnojević noble family, and by the 15th century, Zeta was more often referred to as Crna Gora (Venetian: monte negro). Large portions fell under the control of the Ottoman Empire from 1496 to 1878. Parts were controlled by Venice. From 1515 until 1851 the prince-bishops (vladikas) of Cetinje were the rulers. The House of Petrović-Njegoš ruled until 1918. From 1918, it was a part of Yugoslavia. On the basis of an independence referendum held on 21 May 2006, Montenegro declared independence on 3 June of that year.

     ROMANIA

Romania is a unitary semi-presidential republic located in Southeastern-Central Europe, bordering theBlack Sea, between Bulgaria and Ukraine. It also borders Hungary, Serbia, and Moldova. It covers 238,391 square kilometres (92,043 sq mi) and has a temperate-continental climate. With its 19.9 million inhabitants, it is the seventh most populous member of the European Union. Its capital and largest city, Bucharest, is the sixth largest city in the EU.

The River Danube, which is Europe’s second longest river after the Volga, rises in Germany and flows southeastwards for a distance of 2,857 km course through ten countries before emptying in Romania’s Danube Delta. Some of its 1,075 km length bordering the country drains the whole of it. The Carpathian Mountains (the tallest peak is Moldoveanu at 2,544 m, 8346 ft) cross Romania from the north to the southwest.

     SPAIN

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a sovereign state located on the Iberian Peninsula insouthwestern Europe. Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast byFrance, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean. Along with France and Morocco, it is one of only three countries to have both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines. Spain’s 1,214 km (754 mi) border with Portugal is the longest uninterrupted border within the European Union.

Spanish territory also includes two archipelagos; the Balearic Islands, in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast; two majorexclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, in continental North Africa; and the islands and peñones (rocks) of Alborán, Alhucemas, Chafarinas and Vélez de la Gomera. With an area of 505,990 km2 (195,360 sq mi), Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union, and the fourth largest country in Europe. By population, Spain is the sixth largest in Europe and the fifth in the European Union.

     SARDINIA

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily and before Cyprus) and an autonomous region of Italy, which goes by the official name of Regione Autonoma della Sardegna / Regione Autònoma de Sardigna (Autonomous Region of Sardinia).

The nearest land masses are (clockwise from north) the island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia, the Balearic Islands, and Provence. The Tyrrhenian Sea portion of the Mediterranean Sea is directly to the east of Sardinia between the Sardinian east coast and the west coast of the Italian mainland peninsula. The Strait of Bonifacio is directly north of Sardinia and separates Sardinia from the French island of Corsica.

     SLOVENIAN ALPS

The Slovenian Alps are a mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps that stretch from northeastern Italy to Slovenia, where they rise to 2,864 m at Mount Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia and of the former Yugoslavia. They are named after Julius Caesar, who founded the municipium of Cividale del Friuli at the foot of the mountains. A large part of the Julian Alps is included in Triglav National Park. The second highest peak of the range, the 2,775m high Jôf di Montasio, lies in Italy.

     SLOVENIAN RIVIERA

The Slovene Riviera is the coastline of Slovenia, located on the Gulf of Trieste, by the Adriatic Sea. It is part of the Istrian peninsula and is 46.6 km long.The region comprises the towns of Koper and Piran, and the municipality of Izola.

     SAINT PETERSBURG

Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia, politically incorporated as a federal subject (a federal city). It is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. In 1914 the name of the city was changed from Saint Petersburgto Petrograd, in 1924 to Leningrad, and in 1991, back to Saint Petersburg.

In Russian literature, informal documents, and discourse, the word “Saint”  is usually omitted, leaving “Petersburg”. In casual conversation Russians may drop the “burg” as well, referring to it as “Piter”.

Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 27. Between 1713–1728 and 1732–1918, Saint Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved from Saint Petersburg (then named Petrograd) to Moscow.It is Russia’s 2nd largest city after Moscow with 5 million inhabitants (2012) and the fourth most populated federal subject.Saint Petersburg is a major European cultural center, and also an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea.

     UKRAINE

Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe.It has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest countryentirely within Europe.Ukraine borders Russia to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland and Slovakia to the west, Hungary, Romania, and Moldovato the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively.

The territory of modern Ukraine has been inhabited since 32,000 BC. During the Middle Ages, the area was a key center of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus’ forming the basis of Ukrainian identity. Following its fragmentation in the 13th century, the territory was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers, includingLithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. A Cossack republic emerged and prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, but Ukraine’s territories remained divided until they were consolidated into a Soviet republic in the 20th century. It became independent in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

     VIENNA (BRATISLAVA)

Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and, with a population of about 500,000, the country’s largest city.Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia, occupying both banks of the River Danube and the left bank of the River Morava. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two independent countries.

Bratislava is the political, cultural and economic centre of Slovakia. It is the seat of the Slovak president, the parliament and the Slovak Executive. It is home to several universities, museums, theatres, galleries and other important cultural and educational institutions.Many of Slovakia’s large businesses and financial institutions also have headquarters there.

The history of the city has been strongly influenced by people of different nations and religions, namely by Austrians, Czechs, Hungarians, Jews, Serbs and Slovaks (in alphabetical order).The city was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, a part of the larger Habsburg Monarchy territories, from 1536 to 1783 and has been home to many Slovak, Hungarianand German historical figures.