Countries (or regions) occasionally included in Central Europe for geographical and/or cultural reasons are also: Croatia, Romania (including geographical regions of Transylvania and Bukovina), Serbia (Northern and Central Serbia), western Ukraine, western Belarus, Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast), eastern France and north-eastern Italy.
Some of the world's greatest cities - Berlin, Budapest, Frankfurt, Prague, Vienna, Warsaw and Zurich are situated in Central Europe, and it is the home of the German language, the Polish language and the Hungarian language.
As elements of unity for Western and Central Europe were considered the Roman Catholicism and Latin. Eastern Europe that remained Orthodox Christian, was the area of Byzantine cultural influence, splitting the West into two flanks. Central Europe was the heart of Protestant reformation, starting in Czech lands with prominent reformers such as Jan Hus, a professor at the Prague University and Martin Luter from Saxony, Germany. Thanks to a scholar Paweł Włodkowic, Poland became a state of religious tolerance.
Central Europe was always a region full of tensions and almost constant wars which often erupted there. The last war, World War II, was the most violent. European Union's initial goal was to integrate European countries so that they will stop fighting.
Contemporary Central Europe
Since the come back of democracy in most countries of the region after the fall of communism, Central Europe has been going through a "strategic awakening", with initiatives like the Central European Initiative, Centrope or V4. Region's economy shows high disparities with regard to income, however all Central European countries are listed by the Human Development Index as very highly developed countries.
Currently, Central European countries are among the most peaceful countries in the world, according to the Global Peace Index 2012.