Capital City: Oslo
Total Area: 385,186km2
Currency: Norwegian Krone
Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Scandinavian unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, and the subantarctic Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of 385,252 square kilometres (148,747 sq mi) and a population of about 5 million. It is the second least densely populated country in Europe. The country shares a long border with Sweden (1,619 km or 1,006 mi long), which is the longest uninterrupted border within both Europe and the Schengen Area. Norway is also bordered by Finland and Russia to the north-east, and the Skagerrak Strait across from Denmark to the south. It shares maritime borders with Russia by the Barents Sea; Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland by the Norwegian Sea; and Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom by the North Sea. Norway’s extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea, is home to its famous fjords. The capital city and the largest with the highest population at almost 1 million is Oslo.
Two centuries of Viking raids tapered off following the adoption of Christianity by King Olav Tryggvason in AD 994. A period of civil war ended in the 13th century when Norway expanded its control overseas to parts of Britain, Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland. Norwegian territorial power peaked in 1265, but competition from the Hanseatic League and the spread of the Black Death weakened the country. In 1380, Norway was absorbed into a union with Denmark that lasted more than four centuries. In 1814, Norwegians resisted the cession of their country to Sweden and adopted a new constitution. Sweden went to war with Norway but agreed to let Norway keep its constitution in return for accepting the union under a Swedish king. Rising nationalism throughout the 19th century led to a referendum in 1905 granting Norway independence. Although Norway remained neutral in World War I, it suffered heavy losses to its shipping. Norway proclaimed its neutrality at the outset of World War II but was nonetheless occupied for five years by the Third Reich. In 1949, neutrality was abandoned, and Norway became a founding member of NATO. Discovery of oil and gas in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway’s economic fortunes. In referenda held in 1972 and 1994, Norway rejected joining the European Union. Key domestic issues include immigration and integration of ethnic minorities, maintaining the country’s extensive social safety net with an ageing population, and preserving economic competitiveness.
King Harald V is Norway’s head of state and Erna Solberg will be the prime minister from the middle of October 2013, replacing Jens Stoltenberg. It has administrative subdivisions on two levels known as counties (fylke) and municipalities (kommuner). The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act. Although having rejected European Union membership in two referenda, Norway maintains close ties with the union and its member countries, as well as with the United States. Norway participates with United Nations forces in international missions, notably in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sudan, and Libya. Norway is a founding member of the United Nations, NATO, the Council of Europe, and the Nordic Council; a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO and the OECD; and is also a part of the Schengen Area.
Norway has extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, fresh water, and hydropower. The is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas outside the Middle East and the petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. The country maintains a welfare model with universal health care, subsidised higher education, and a comprehensive social security system.
Norway was the first independent country to introduce women’s suffrage in 1913.