Redrawing the Map of Wizarding Europe
There has been considerable speculation about where Newt and company may end up in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts as fans look for clues buried in Jo’s tweets. I, too, was dwelling on this, when I came to an important realization: The political boundaries will be different in the wizarding world than they are in ours. Think about it: If the wizards severed ties with the Muggles in 1692 when the Statute of Secrecy was enacted, there’s every reason to assume that they wouldn’t keep up with Muggle politics. So I thought I’d take a look at what the wizarding world’s map looks like.
Before we begin, a few disclaimers. First, I am only going to write about Europe. Judging by the sloppiness of “History of Magic in North America,” Rowling can’t be bothered to so much as open Wikipedia when writing about parts of the world she’s unfamiliar with. So trying to make sense of the HP canon for other continents would be a fool’s errand since odds are Rowling never bothered to make it make sense.
Second, I am not a history major. I enjoy history and have done a fair bit of traveling across Western Europe. But I can’t know the intricacies of European geopolitics and preemptively apologize for any mistakes or insensitivities in this article. The US education system is no help whatsoever: I never had a geography class in my life, and our coverage of European history is very piecemeal. (There is literally no mention of Russia until the Russian Revolution in 1917; Scandinavian countries don’t get mentioned at all, and anything east of Germany isn’t brought up until an Iron Curtain descends over it.) Quite frankly, I would love it if someone more well versed in such topics would either tell me where I went wrong or use this as a jumping-off point for their own analysis. But I’ll give it my best shot, armed with the best information Wikipedia can provide.
Our biggest clue that things are different in the wizarding world comes from Goblet of Fire, when Charlie says that England lost to Transylvania (63). In 1994, Transylvania is definitely no longer a country – in fact, the last time it was an independent country was 1867, when it was absorbed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. So we can at least know that wizarding borders are not kept wholly up-to-date with Muggle ones (which, let’s be honest, is probably sensible given how often our borders change).
But we know that wizards’ borders have definitely changed since the Statute of Secrecy due to some of the countries that participate in the 2014 Quidditch World Cup: Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, and Luxembourg all became countries toward the end of the 19th century.
It would appear to me that the wizards more or less kept up with changes in Muggle borders up to a point (with a few key exceptions) but then stopped. My theory is that the wizarding world gave up adjusting its borders after World War I, when the map of Europe was completely redrawn. Consider that none of the countries that became sovereign states after World War I are ever mentioned in canon: Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Yugoslavia are not mentioned once in canon or apocrypha.
However, Albania is mentioned frequently in the books, given that’s where Vapormort set up shop for a decade. Of the European countries mentioned in the canon that don’t come with asterisks, Albania was the last to gain its independence (declared in 1912, recognized in 1913). So now we have a firm timeline: The wizards kept up with Europe’s shifting borders until World War I, then threw up their hands and decided to stick with their current borders.
This gels with a tidbit we received from Pottermore, which seems to indicate wizards were pursuing an isolationist policy around that time: “In post during the Muggle First World War, [British Minister of Magic Archer] Evermonde passed emergency legislation forbidding witches and wizards to get involved, lest they risk mass infractions of the International Statute of Secrecy.”
On the upside, this means that the borders in place during the Fantastic Beasts movies are the same ones in effect in the HP books. So what are we working with?
Here is a handy map of Europe in 1914.
Let’s look at this more closely. Western Europe is largely unchanged today from the nineteenth century, so that checks out: Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK are all in place. We know that microstates such as Andorra and Liechtenstein are also recognized in the wizarding world.¹ There’s no mention in canon of Belgium or the Netherlands, but Luxembourg has a team in the 1994 Quidditch World Cup, so presumably, all three countries of BeNeLux have identical borders in the wizarding world. And Germany doesn’t extend quite so far east in the wizarding world but is definitely a recognized country (also per the 2014 QWC).
The only major difference is that Iceland (which is never mentioned in the canon) is still part of Denmark since it would not become independent until 1918.
Heading east is when things get messy. Austria is never mentioned in canon, but Hungary is, most notably by lending its name to the Hungarian Horntail. Perhaps Austria-Hungary is simply known as Hungary in the wizarding world; either way, I don’t believe their borders extend quite so far south or east either.
Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey are all similarly unchanged when looking at wizarding borders. But Romania’s borders will look very different and Russia’s even more so. Montenegro and Serbia are never mentioned to my knowledge, but we might as well assume they’re there.
So now that we’ve discussed what’s the same as the Muggle 1914 map, let’s talk about what’s different and why.
Lithuania and Poland
Among the countries that did not (re)gain their independence until World War I are Lithuania and Poland, but both of these are mentioned in canon. Poland participates in the 2014 Quidditch World Cup; Lithuania is mentioned in Quidditch Through the Ages as the home of the Gorodok Gargoyles Quidditch team (46). So why do they exist in the wizarding world, but the other Baltic states don’t?
I think it’s because their sovereignty was left over from the 18th century when they were united under a common monarch as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. For the 16th and 17th centuries, this was the largest state in Europe, and it boggles my mind that I graduated from college without ever hearing the term “Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth” in my life. Anyway, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland were united for a long time as a powerful political force, until 1795, when the Commonwealth was divvied up among its neighbors.² Lithuania and Poland had their own magical governments (which were still separate despite the union of the two countries, perhaps like the different countries of the UK).
It would appear that the Lithuanian and Polish Ministries of Magic did not take to the idea of their countries being absorbed into others and kept their old magical borders as is. And unless something major happened in the last century that Professor Binns really should have told us about, I’m guessing that Lithuania’s and Poland’s borders today look remarkably like they did in the 18th century. That means that wizarding Lithuania includes present-day Belarus, another country that is never mentioned in canon. It also suggests that wizarding Poland would include a significant chunk of Ukraine… but we will discuss Ukraine a little later.
The Ottoman Empire
We are left with three European countries that are mentioned in the canon but are not on the 1914 map of Europe: Ukraine (home of the Ironbellies), Moldova (winners of the 2010 World Cup), and Transylvania (as previously mentioned). And what do they all have in common?
They were all vassal states of the Ottoman Empire; it would appear that those vassal states maintained their independent wizarding governments. This makes sense since these countries were mostly autonomous, just recognizing the Ottomans’ suzerainty.
Transylvania was the Ottomans’ vassal state until 1867, when it was subsumed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This area later became part of present-day Romania but evidently not in the wizarding world, where wizarding Transylvania remained independent rather than joining Austria-Hungary.
Other vassal states included Moldovia and Wallachia. In 1866, the two united into Romania, though a chunk of Moldovia was taken over by Russia and recently became the independent country of Moldova. If I had to guess, wizarding Moldova probably contains most of what used to be Moldovia, and Wallachia just eventually renamed itself Romania to avoid confusion for Muggle-borns. So wizarding Romania is much smaller than Muggle Romania! Muggle Romania actually has three distinct wizarding countries within it: Romania, Moldova, and Transylvania.
Another independent vassal state of the Ottomans was Ragusa, a city-state in present-day Croatia. Ragusa was autonomous until the beginning of the 19th century, when it was conquered by Napoleonic Italy and then made part of the Hapsburg Empire (later Austria-Hungary). While there’s no mention of it in canon, since the evidence points to the Ottomans’ vassal states still being political entities in the wizarding world, it’s probable that there is still a wizarding Ragusa.
By far the most complicated political boundary in the wizarding world is Ukraine’s. We know that Ukraine is an entity in the wizarding world and likely has been for some time, due to the naming of the Ukrainian Ironbelly. But the history of Ukraine is such a muddled mess that we now venture even further into the realm of guesswork. My family is actually from Ukraine, and even I don’t have that firm a grasp of our history.
In very simplistic terms, the territory of present-day Ukraine was conquered and fought over and annexed by pretty much every major Eastern European power of the last millennium. At different points, it was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Ottoman Empire, and the Hapsburg Empire, before finally ending up as part of Russia until 1990. Making it worse, one of the most contentious times was the end of the 17th century (just as the Statute of Secrecy was enacted), when Poland and Russia were fighting over Ukraine just as it was trying to become independent.
Most of present-day Ukraine was part of the Cossack Hetmanate (a.k.a. the Zaporizhian Sich) at the end of the 17th century, which was more or less autonomous for a couple of decades between being part of Poland and part of Russia. (The area was already referred to as “Ukraine” back then, though unofficially.) Depending on how feisty the Ukrainian wizards were circa 1708, it’s possible that the wizarding Cossack Hetmanate remained an independent country even as their Muggle counterparts were overrun by various superpowers. (Also, I would totally read a history book about this wizarding Ukraine; it sounds awesome!)
But there’s another theory because there’s one important vassal state of the Ottoman Empire I’ve yet to mention: the Crimean Khanate. This existed around current-day Crimea, whose borders are still changing in the present day as Russia and Ukraine duke it out over the peninsula. The Crimean Khanate was an autonomous vassal state of the Ottomans until 1783, when it was annexed by Russia. But as we’ve been discussing, the wizarding governments of these vassal states were not amenable to being annexed and usually maintained their independence.
Technically, the Crimean Khanate could be considered wizarding Ukraine, if the Cossack Hetmanate was dismantled in the wizarding world as it was in the Muggle world. Or I consider it more likely that both are independent wizarding countries – a wizarding Ukraine and a wizarding Crimea.
Wizarding Eastern Europe
Whew, that was a lot of history and geography to get through. And of course, this is assuming that wizard governments don’t go to war with each other or combine multiple states into one government or anything like that. But the map of the wizarding world will be shaped by Lithuania, Poland, and the former Ottoman vassal states stubbornly maintaining their independence even as the Muggle world’s boundaries kept shifting. So to wrap up, here are all the wizarding countries east of Germany and their present-day Muggle equivalents where they differ:
- Crimea (parts of Muggle Russia/Ukraine)
- Hungary (includes several Muggle countries: Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Hungary, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia)
- Lithuania (includes Muggle Belarus)
- Moldova (Muggle Moldova and part of Muggle Romania)
- Poland (may include bits of Muggle Ukraine)
- Ragusa (part of Muggle Croatia)
- Romania (only the part that was formerly Wallachia)
- Russia (includes several Muggle countries: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Russia)
- Serbia (includes Muggle Macedonia)
- Transylvania (part of Muggle Romania)
- Ukraine (not all of Muggle Ukraine, just the parts that were in Cossack Hetmanate)
It makes for quite a different map than the one Muggles currently use! I wish I were a skilled enough cartographer to make a visual representation of this, but we’ll have to stick with our imaginations.
While this will open up a whole other can of worms, one has to wonder where the wizards of all these countries get educated. Hogwarts only serves the UK. According to Pottermore, Beauxbatons educates the students of France, Portugal, Spain, and the countries of BeNeLux. I’d venture a guess that the Swiss students who speak French would also attend.
That leaves all of the above-mentioned countries, as well as the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and Italy, to be divvied up by Durmstrang and Koldovstoretz. Unless, of course, there are more schools in Europe that we don’t know about. Since Koldovstoretz is in Russia, let us assume the Russian wizards go there for an education. And unless wizarding politics gets thorny between the countries, it’s probable that Crimean, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian wizards go there too, due to geographic proximity and the similarity of language. Possibly Moldova is also included.
That leaves all the remaining countries to either attend Durmstrang or figure something else out. We know that Bulgarians attend the school (Krum and the school’s founder, Nerida Vulchanova). Since it’s far to the north, and Jo has said in an interview it’s in Norway or Sweden, we can assume the Scandinavian wizards also attend.³
Scandinavia to Bulgaria is quite a stretch of land, which includes a smorgasbord of countries in between. One has to wonder what the language situation would be since most of the countries involved have their own language and even different alphabets (some Latin and some Cyrillic). This is one of those things I’d love to pick Jo’s brain on!
Anyway, this has been a fun (and very educational) exercise. I look forward to being corrected on my history and geography in the comments, and I can’t wait to explore more of the wizarding world beyond the borders of Britain!
¹Mr. Crouch mentions the Andorran Ministry of Magic (GoF 556); Liechtenstein boycotts the International Confederation of Wizards (OotP 725) and plays in the 2014 Quidditch World Cup.
²It was split among Austria, Prussia, and Russia.
³There are some implications in the text that the school is Russian – the cold, the north, and Igor Karkaroff’s name. But if Koldovstoretz is canon, then it seems implausible that Russia would have two wizarding schools, which places Durmstrang in Scandinavia.
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