Introduction Eastern Europe is the name given to the great tract of land, over a million square kilometres in area, extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea. It has acquired a special identity mainly for political reasons since 1945, but its historical background puts it definitely in the mainstream of European culture. Russia, on the other hand, includes vast Asian territories and most of the former USSR lies outside Europe. In such an extensive region there is great scenic and climatic variety. However, it is generally the case that, except in a few favoured coastal areas, the climate is definitely continental, with much colder winters than are experienced in the same latitudes in Western Europe.