Norway

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The Kingdom of Norway (Norwegian: Kongeriket Norge / Kongeriket Noreg) is a Nordic country on the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, bordering Sweden, Finland and Russia, with territorial waters bordering Danish and British waters. Norway's extensive coastline along the North Atlantic Ocean is home to its famous fjords. The country has a very elongated shape. The arctic island territories of Svalbard and Jan Mayen are under Norwegian sovereignty under the Svalbard Treaty, but are not part of metropolitan Norway, although they are part of the Kingdom. Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean and Peter I Island in the South Pacific Ocean are also external dependencies, but these are not part of the Kingdom. Additionally, Norway has a claim for Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica.

Contents

History

Main article: History of Norway

In the 9th century Norway consisted of a number of petty kingdoms. According to tradition, Harald Fairhair gathered the small kingdoms into one and in 872 with the battle of Hafrsfjord, he established a feudal state.

The Viking age (8th to 11th centuries) was one of national unification and expansion. The Norwegians settled on Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and parts of the British Islands and attempted to settle at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada (it is the Vinland of The Saga of Eric the Red). Norwegians founded the modern day Irish cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford and captured the Anglo-Saxon city of Eoforwic renaming it Jorvik, today known as York. The Norwegian Rollo invaded and was ceded Normandy by the French king Charles the Simple in 911. Rollo's great-great-great-grandson William the Conqueror successfully invaded and conquered England in 1066.

The Norwegian royal line died out in 1387, partly because of a recession following the Black Plague in 1349, which wiped out the majority of the population, and partly because of royal politics that brought the thrones of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden under the control of Queen Margrethe. The country entered into the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden, and after 1450 remained in a union with Denmark alone that would last until 1814. As Norway was the weaker part of a union that kept all of its royal, intellectual, and administrative power in Copenhagen, Denmark, this period is sometimes known as the "400-Year Night". Other factors also contributed to Norway's decline in this period. With the forced introduction of Protestantism in 1537, Norway lost the steady stream of pilgrims to the relics of St. Olav at the Nidaros shrine, and with them, much of the contact with the cultural and economic life of the rest of Europe. Additionally, Norway saw its land area decrease in the 17th century with the loss of the territories Bohuslän, Jämtland, and Härjedalen to Sweden.

In 1814, when Denmark-Norway, allied with Napoleon, found itself on the losing side in the Napoleonic Wars and in dire economic conditions, it ceded Norway to the king of Sweden. Norway took this opportunity to declare her independence, adopted a constitution based on American and French models and elected the Danish prince Christian Fredrik as king on 17 May 1814. Nevertheless, Norway was militarily forced into a personal union with Sweden, but kept its liberal constitution and independent institutions, except for the foreign service.

This period also saw the rise of the National Romanticism movement in art and culture, as the Norwegians struggled to define a national character for themselves. The movement covered all branches of culture, including literature (Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson), painting (Hans Gude, Adolph Tiedemand), music (Edvard Grieg), and even language policy, where attempts to define a native written language for Norway led to today's two official written forms for Norwegian, Bokmål and Nynorsk.

Norway's growing dissatisfation with the union with Sweden during the late 19th century, combined with National Romanticism and the growing national culture coming from it, led to the dissolution of the union on 7 June 1905. The Norwegian government offered the throne of Norway to Danish Prince Carl. After a referendum confirming the monarchy, the Parliament unanimously elected him king. He took the name of Haakon VII, after the medieval kings of independent Norway. In 1913, Norwegian women gained suffrage.

Norway was a neutral country during World War I. Norway also attempted to claim neutrality during World War II, but was invaded by German forces on the 9th of April 1940 (Operation Weserübung). The Allies also had plans to invade Norway, in order to take advantage of her strategically important Atlantic coast, but were thwarted by the German operation. Norway put up a stiff fight against the German occupation and armed resistance in Norway went on for two months. King Haakon and the Norwegian government continued the fight from exile in Rotherhithe, London. On the day of the invasion, the collaborative leader of the small National-Socialist party Nasjonal SamlingVidkun Quisling — tried to seize power, but was forced by the German occupiers to step aside. Real power was wielded by the leader of the German occupation authority, Reichskommissar Josef Terboven. Quisling, as minister president, later formed a government under German control. During the five years of Nazi occupation, Norwegians built a strong resistance movement which fought the German occupation forces with both armed resistance and civil disobedience.

In 1944, the Germans evacuated the provinces of Finnmark and northern Troms, using a scorched earth tactic to create a vast area of No-man's land in response to the Red Army attacking their positions in eastern Finnmark. The Soviets attacked into eastern Finnmark to create a buffer zone after pushing the German forces out of the arctic Kola peninsula. The Russians peacefully returned the area to Norwegian control after the war. The German forces in Norway surrendered on 8 May 1945.

The occupation during World War II disturbed the Norwegians' confidence in neutrality, and they turned instead to collective security. Norway was one of the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 and was a founding member of the United Nations, providing its first secretary general – Trygve Lie. Norway has twice voted against joining the European Union (in 1972 and 1994), but is associated with the EU via the European Economic Area. However, Norway is a member of the much smaller European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

Politics

Main article: Politics of Norway

Norway is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government.

The Royal House is a branch of the princely family of Glücksburg, originally from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. [1] The functions of the King, Harald V, are mainly ceremonial, but he has influence as the symbol of national unity. Although the constitution of 1814 grants important executive powers to the king, these are almost always exercised by the Council of State in the name of the King (King's Council, or cabinet). The reserve powers vested in the Monarch by the constitution are however significant and an important security part of the role of the Monarchy, and were last used during World War II. The Council of State consists of a Prime Minister and his council, formally appointed by the King. Since 1884, parliamentarism has ensured that the cabinet must have the support of the parliament, so the appointment by the King is a formality.

The Norwegian parliament, Stortinget, currently has 169 members (increased from 165, effective from the elections of 12 September 2005). The members are elected from the 19 counties for 4-year terms according to a system of proportional representation. After elections the Storting divides into two chambers, the Odelsting and the Lagting, which meet separately or jointly depending on the agenda. Laws are proposed by the Odelsting and decided by the Lagting or, in case of disagreement, by the joint Storting. Impeachment cases are raised by the Odelsting and judged by the Lagting as part of the High Court of the Realm. Apart from this, the Storting functions as a unicameral parliament.

The regular courts include the Supreme Court or Høyesterett (17 permanent judges and a chief justice), courts of appeal, city and district courts, and conciliation councils. Judges attached to regular courts are appointed by the King in council after nomination by the Ministry of Justice. The special High Court of the Realm, which consists of the Supreme Court plus the Lagting, hears impeachment cases.

In order to form a government, more than half (currently at least 10 out of 19 members) of the Council of State are required to belong to the Church of Norway .

In 2005, Jens Stoltenberg was elected prime minister in Norway. He took over after Kjell Magne Bondevik.

Counties

Main article: Counties of Norway
File:No-map.png
Map of Norway

Norway is divided into 19 administrative regions, called fylker (singular fylke) and 433 kommuner (singular kommune). Fylke and kommune are officially translated to English as county and municipality. The fylke is the intermediate administration between state and municipality.

See also Regions of Norway.

Geography

Main article: Geography of Norway
File:Reine-3.jpg
Reine, Lofoten, seen from top of Reinebringen (June, 2003).

The landscape is generally rugged and mountainous, topped by glaciers, and its coastline of over 83,000 km [2] is punctuated by steep-sloped inlets known as fjords, as well as a multitude of islands and islets. The Northern part of the country is also known as the Land of the Midnight Sun because of its northern location, north of the Arctic Circle, where for part of each summer the sun does not set, and in winter much of its land remains dark for long periods. The southern part is not known for this, however in summertime, the sun is only away for a few hours.

Norway is bounded for its entire length by seas of the North Atlantic Ocean: the North Sea to the southwest and its large inlet the Skagerrak to the south, the Norwegian Sea to the west, and the Barents Sea to the northeast. To the east, in order from south to north, it shares a long border with Sweden, a shorter one with Finland, and a still shorter one with Russia. Norway's highest point is the Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 m. With a maximum depth of 514 m, Hornindalsvatnet is Norway's and Europe's deepest lake.

The Norwegian climate is fairly temperate, especially along the coast under the influence of the Gulf Stream. The inland climate can be more severe and to the north more subarctic conditions are found, especially in Finnmark.

Climate data for some cities in different regions of the country; base period 1961-1990 (temperatures are 24hr average):

Location Elevation (m) Temp/jan (C) Temp/july (C) Temp/year (C) Precip/year (mm)
Blindern (Oslo) 94 -4.3 16.4 5.7 763
Florida (Bergen) 12 1.3 14.3 7.6 2250
Værnes (Trondheim) 12 -3.4 13.7 5.0 892
Langnes (Tromsø) 8 -3.8 11.8 2.9 1000

Data from Norges Meteorologiske Institutt (Norwegian Meteorological Institute). Note: Temperatures have tended to be higher in recent years (see main article).
Norwegian Meteorological Institute: The climate of Norway

Economy

Main article: Economy of Norway
File:Henningsvaer.jpg
Henningsvær, a fishing village in Lofoten during fishing season (April, 2001).

The Norwegian economy is a prosperous bastion of social capitalism, featuring a combination of free market activity and government intervention. The government controls key areas, such as the vital petroleum sector (through large-scale state enterprises). The country is richly endowed with natural resources - petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals - and is highly dependent on its petroleum production and international oil prices; in 2004, oil and gas accounted for 50% of exports. Only Saudi Arabia and Russia export more oil than Norway, which is not a member of OPEC. The last 25 years, the Norwegian economy has shown various signs of the economic phenomenon called Dutch disease.

Norway opted to stay out of the European Union during a referendum in 1972, and again in November 1994. However, Norway, together with Iceland and Liechtenstein, participate in the EU's single market via the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement.

In 2000 the government sold one-third of the then 100% state-owned oil company Statoil. The economic growth was 0.8% in 1999, 2.7% in 2000, and 1.3% in 2001. After little growth in 2002 and 2003, the economy expanded more rapidly in 2004.

With arguably the highest quality of life worldwide, Norwegians still worry about that time in the next two decades when the oil and gas begin to run out. Accordingly, Norway has been saving its oil-boosted budget surpluses in a Government Petroleum Fund, which is invested abroad and at the end of the second quarter of 2005 was valued at 181.5 billion US dollars . Economical overheating is avoided by the partial saving - rather than spending - of the oil revenues which are of very big importance for a relatively small country. However, the very latest research shows early evidence of massive amounts of coal beneath the oil-reserves on the continental shelf of Norway. A rough estimate has been given at three trillion tonnes of coal(quality unknown), the currently known coal reserves for the entire world is estimated at 900 billion tonnes in comparison. This research was done by graduate students of NTNU and researches at SINTEF in Trondheim. English coverage of this can be seen at Planet Ark. The coal is of course terribly inaccessible today, but there are realistic hopes that it can be utilized in the future.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Norway

The Norwegian population is 4.6 million and increases by 0.4% per year (estimate July 2004). Ethnically most Norwegians are Nordic / North Germanic, while small minorities in the north are Finnish (see also Cwen). The Sami are instead considered an indigenous people, and traditionally live in the Northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The largest concentration of Sami people is, however, found in the Norwegian capital of Oslo.

In recent years, immigration has accounted for more than half the population growth, and 7.9% of the population are immigrants as of 1 January 2005. Norway only takes in a very limited number of asylum seekers and aims to repatriate these people as quickly as possible. The largest immigrant groups are Pakistanis, Swedes, Danes, Iraqis, Vietnamese and Somalis. (Here, immigrants are defined as persons with two foreign-born parents [3].)

Approximately 86% of the inhabitants are members of the Evangelic Lutheran Church of Norway (state church). Other Christian societies total about 4.5% (the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church, the Catholic Church, Pentecostal congregations, the Methodist Church, etc.). Among non-Christian religions, Islam is the largest in Norway with about 1.5%, and other religions are at less than 1% each. About 1.5% belong to the secular Human Ethical Union. As of 1 January 2003 approximately 5% of the population are unaffiliated ([4]).

The Norwegian language has two official written forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk. They have officially equal status, i.e. they are both used in public administration, in schools, churches, and on radio and television, but Bokmål is used by the majority. Around 95 percent of the population speak Norwegian as their native tongue, although many speak dialects that differ significantly from the written language. Nevertheless, all of the Norwegian dialects are interintelligible. Several Sami languages are spoken and written throughout the country, especially in the north, by the Sami people. The Germanic Norwegian language and the Finno-Ugric Sami languages are entirely unrelated. However, the Finnish language bears some similarities to the Sami language.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Norway

Famous Norwegians include the playwrights/novelists Baron Ludvig Holberg and Henrik Ibsen, explorers Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, and Thor Heyerdahl, expressionist painter Edvard Munch and the romanticist composer Edvard Grieg. The playwright/novelists Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset have all won the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1903, 1920 and 1928 respectively.

Norwegians celebrate their national day on May 17, Constitution Day. Many people wear bunad (traditional costumes) and most participate in or watch the 17 May parade through the towns. Henrik Wergeland was the founder of the 17 May parade. These parades differ markedly from those of many other countries in that, rather than the military parades of, for example, France, they consist of children.

Miscellaneous topics

International rankings

External links

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