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The term Western can have multiple meanings depending on its context.

Most modern uses of the term refer to something related to European culture, most often also including those countries whose ethnic identity and their dominant culture derive from European culture. Thus in various contexts the term Western may refer to something that came from the east or north.

The original division between East and West can be traced to The Roman Emperor Diocletian in 3rd Century CE, who divided the empire into two regions, each administered by an Emperor and a Caesar. In the early 4th Century, the Emperor Constantine established the city of Constantinople as the capital of the Eastern Empire. The Eastern Empire included lands east of the Adriatic Sea and bordering on the Eastern Mediterranean and parts of the Black Sea.

These two divisions of the Eastern and Western Empires were reflected in the administration of the Christian Church, with Rome and Constantiople debating and arguing over whether either city was the capital of Christianity. As the eastern and western churches spread their influence, the line between 'East' and 'West' can be described as moving, but generally followed a cultural divide that was defined by the existence of the Byzantine empire and the fluctuating power and influence of the church in Rome. This cultural division as and is long lasting; it still existed during the Cold War as the approximate western boundary of those countries that were allied with the Soviet Union.

Since the countries in the 'West' were generally those that explored and colonized outside of Europe, the term Western became associated with European colonialism.

In the Near East or Middle East, (both terms relative to Europe as being in the west), the distinction of Eastern and Western Europe is of less importance, so countries that we might speak of as part of Eastern Europe, i.e. Russia are counted as Western when speaking about the general cultural of Europe and Christianity.

But the line between East and West doesn't move any further East, even when contrasted with China. 'The West' in that context does not not include any countries either further east or further south.

  • So it is with complete sensibility that:
    • Africa history can speak of Western influences by a group of small countries that lie to its north.
    • The history of the Western Hemisphere and the Americas (the lands to the west of the Atlantic Ocean) can be described as including Western Emperialism from countries all to the east of the Americas.
    • Australia can be considered a Westernized country located in the East.
    • International companies founded in America may be considered foreign influences in Europe, but be said to be Western when their presense is seen (and criticized) in the orient.
    • An American cowboy lving in the American West can go to

'The East' to visit a great city of modern Western culture -- New York City :-)