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The Kingdom of Denmark (Danish: Kongeriget Danmark) is geographically the smallest and southernmost Nordic country, and is part of the European Union. It is located at Template:Coor dms in Scandinavia which is in northern Europe, but it does not lie on the Scandinavian Peninsula.

Denmark borders the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, and consists of a peninsula attached to Northern Germany named Jutland (Jylland), the islands Funen (Fyn), Zealand (Sjælland), Bornholm and many smaller islands, the waters of which are often referred to as the Danish Archipelago. Denmark lies north of Germany (its only land neighbour), southwest of Sweden, and south of Norway.

Greenland and the Faroe Islands are Crown territories of Denmark, each with political home rule.



Main article: History of Denmark

The origin of Denmark is lost in prehistory. The oldest Danevirke is from the 7th century, at the same time as the new Runic alphabet. Oldest city: Ribe is from about 810.

Up into the 10th century the Danes were known as Vikings, together with Norwegians and Swedes, colonising, raiding and trading in all parts of Europe. Viking explorers first discovered Iceland by accident in the ninth century, en route to the Faroe Islands. Erik the Red, or Erik Thorvaldson, was exiled from the colony for manslaughter in 980, and set sail for the west, to explore the lands to the west. He established the first settlements in Greenland around this time, naming the land, according to legend, to attract settlers. Erik's son Leif the Lucky(Leif Ericson)finally set foot in the Americas around the year 1000. While some say he was blown off course, it is most likely that he was deliberately seeking the land spotted by Bjarni Herjulfsson several years earlier. He established a colony at L'Anse aux Meadows, which lasted only a year. Two further attempts at colonization by his brother ended in failure.

At various times the King of Denmark has ruled parts of England and Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, France, especially Normandy and the Virgin Islands, Tranquebar in India, Estonia and what is now Northern Germany. Scania, Blekinge and Halland were part of Denmark for most of its early history, but were lost to Sweden in 1658. The union with Norway was dissolved in 1814, when Norway entered a new union with Sweden (until 1905).

The Danish liberal and national movement gained momentum in the 1830s, and after the European revolutions of 1848 Denmark became a constitutional monarchy June 5 1849.

After the Second War of Schleswig (Danish: Slesvig) in 1864 Denmark was forced to cede Schleswig-Holstein to Prussia, in a defeat that left deep marks in the Danish national identity. After this point Denmark adopted a policy of neutrality, as a result of which Denmark stayed neutral in World War I. Following the defeat of Germany, Denmark was offered by the Versailles powers the return of Schleswig-Holstein. Fearing German irredentism Denmark refused to consider the return of Holstein and insisted on a plebiscite concerning the return of Schleswig. In 1920, following the plebiscite, Northern Schleswig was recovered by Denmark.

Despite its continued neutrality Denmark was invaded by Germany (Operation Weserübung), on April 9, 1940. Though at first accorded self-rule (which ended in 1943 due to a mounting resistance movement), Denmark remained militarily occupied throughout World War II. The Danish sympathy for the Allied Cause was strong; 1,900 Danish Police Officers were arrested by the Gestapo and sent, under guard, to be interned in Buchenwald. After the war, Denmark became one of the founding members of NATO and, in 1973, joined the European Economic Community (later, the European Union).

Politics and government

Main article: Politics of Denmark

Denmark is the oldest monarchy in the world. In 1849, it became a constitutional monarchy with the adoption of a new constitution. The monarch is formally head of state, a role which is mainly ceremonial, since executive power is exercised by the cabinet ministers, with the prime minister acting as the first among equals (primus inter pares). Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Danish parliament, known as the Folketing, which consists of (no more than) 179 members. The Danish Judiciary is functionally and administratively independent of the executive and the legislature.

Elections for parliament must be held at least every four years; but the prime minister can call for an earlier election, if he so decides. Should parliament succeed in a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister the entire government resigns. The country is often run by minority governments.


Main article: Counties of Denmark

Denmark is divided into 13 counties (amter, singular: amt), and 271 municipalities (kommuner, singular kommune). The coming Danish Municipal Reform will replace the counties with five new regions and reduce the number of municipalities to 98. The new municipalities will take over most of the responsibilities of the former counties. Most of the new municipalities will have a population of at least 20,000 people. The reform will be implemented on 1 January 2007.

Three municipalities have county privileges:

Copenhagen County comprises the municipalities of metropolitan Copenhagen, except Copenhagen Municipality and Frederiksberg Municipality. Bornholm Regional Municipality comprise the five former municipalities on the island Bornholm and the island's former county.

Greenland and the Faroe Islands also belong to the Kingdom of Denmark, but have autonomous status and are largely self-governing, and are each represented by two seats in the parliament.


Map of Denmark
Windmills, antique (pictured) and modern, accent the gently rolling meadowlands of Denmark.
Main article: Geography of Denmark

Denmark consists of the peninsula of Jutland (Jylland) and 405 named islands. Of these, 323 are habited, with the largest being Zealand (Sjælland) and Funen (Fyn). The island of Bornholm is located somewhat east of the rest of the country, in the Baltic Sea. Many of the larger islands are connected by bridges; the Øresund Bridge connects Zealand with Sweden, the Great Belt Bridge connects Funen with Zealand, and the Small Belt Bridge connects Jutland with Funen. Ferries connect one to the smaller islands.

The country is mostly flat with little elevation; the highest natural point is Møllehøj, at 170.86 metres. The climate is temperate, with mild winters and cool summers. Main cities are the capital Copenhagen (on Zealand), Aarhus, Aalborg (on Jutland) and Odense (on Fyn)..


Main article: Economy of Denmark

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This thoroughly modern market economy features high-tech agriculture, up-to-date small-scale and corporate industry, extensive government welfare measures, comfortable living standards, a stable currency, and high dependence on foreign trade. Denmark is a net exporter of food and energy and has a comfortable balance of payments surplus.

The Danish economy is highly unionized; 75% of its labour force [1] are members of a union in the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions. Relationships between unions and employers are cooperative: unions have a day-to-day role in managing the workplace, and their representatives sit on most companies' board of directors. Rules on work schedules and pay are negotiated between unions and employers, with minimal government involvement.

The government has been very successful in meeting, and even exceeding, the economic convergence criteria for participating in the third phase (a common European currency) of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union (EMU), but Denmark, in a September 2000 referendum, reconfirmed its decision not to join the 12 other EU members in the euro. Even so, the Danish currency remains pegged to the euro.

Denmark has also placed first on the Economist Intelligence Unit's "e-readiness" rankings for the past two years. "A country's "e-readiness" is a measure of its e-business environment, a collection of factors that indicate how amenable a market is to Internet-based opportunities."


Main article: Demographics of Denmark

The majority of the population is of Scandinavian descent, with small groups of Inuit (from Greenland), Faroese, and immigrants. According to official statistics in 2003 immigrants made up 6.2% of the total population.

Danish is spoken in the entire country, although a small group near the German border also speaks German. Many Danes are fluent in English as well, particularly those in larger cities and the youth, who are taught English in school.

Of the religions in Denmark, according to official statistics from January 2002 84.3% of Danes are members of the Lutheran state church, the Danish People's Church (Den Danske Folkekirke), also known as the Church of Denmark. The rest are primarily of other Christian denominations and also about 2% are Muslims. For the last decade Danish People's Church has seen a decline in the number of memberships. In the later years, the old norse religion Ásatrú has begun to reemerge. Ásatrú was approved as a religious movement by the Danish government on November 8th 2003.


Main article: Culture of Denmark

Perhaps the most famous Dane is actually a mythical figure: Hamlet, the title character of William Shakespeare's famous play, which was set in a real castle (Kronborg) in Helsingør, north of Copenhagen. The Dane most well-known in foreign countries is probably Hans Christian Andersen, a writer mostly famous for such fairy tales as The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, and The Ugly Duckling.

Other Danes that are probably known outside of Denmark in various degrees, includes:

See also: List of Danes

Miscellaneous topics

See also


External links

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