The country of Norway is a constitutional monarchy on the Scandinavian Peninsula. It borders Sweden, Finland and Russia. In addition to the main landmass, Norway also consists of the island of Jan Mayen, the group of islands known as Svalbard (Spitzbergen), and the most remote island in the world, the subantarctic Bouvet island.
The name Norway comes from Old Norse "nor veg" (norð vegr) and means the "north way" or "way north".
Norway is one of Europes least populated contries, with a total area of 385.252 square kilometers and about five million people.
Norway has extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, fresh water, and hydropower.
There are two official forms of written norwegian: bokmål and nynorsk. In addition to the official language, there are four recognised regional languages:
- Northern Sami
- Lule Sami
- Southern Sami
The first inhabitants are estimated to around 11th to 10th millennia BC., and though it is unclear wether the population consisted of the same ethnic groups all through prehistory, it is established that there was continous settlements and hunter-gatherer groups throughout.
Historically, Norway is probably best know for the Western Vikings. The viking period is generally estimated to be from 793 AD to 1066 AD (the western expantion of the vikings are generally held to have ended at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, a short month before the Normans invaded and defeated England at the battle of Battle of Hastings.)
Two centuries of Viking raids to southern and western areas tapered off following the adoption of Christianity in AD 994. Norway expanded its control overseas to parts of Britain, Ireland, Iceland, and Greenland. Norwegian 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. Later Norway demanded independence, which it gained in a referendum in 1905. Norway remained neutral in World War I. Despite its declaration of neutrality in World War II, Norway was occupied for 5 years by forces of Nazi Germany. In 1949, it abandoned neutrality becoming a founding member of NATO. Discovery of oil in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway's economic fortunes. The country maintains a welfare model with universal health care, subsidised higher education, and a comprehensive social security system. Key domestic issues include immigration and integration of ethnic minorities, maintaining the country's extensive social safety net with an aging population, and preserving economic competitiveness.
King Harald V is Norway's head of state. The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act. Norway maintains close ties with the European Union and its member countries (despite rejecting full EU membership in two referenda), 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.
The country has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world. On a per-capita basis, it is the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas outside the Middle East.
From 2001 to 2006, and then again from 2009 to 2012, Norway had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world. Norway has also topped the Legatum Prosperity Index for the last five years. Also from 2010 to 2012, Norway was classified as the most democratic country by the Democracy Index. The OECD ranks Norway third in social mobility and fourth on the 2013 equalized Better Life Index. Norway was the first independent country to introduce women's suffrage in 1913.
(Source: primarily Wikipedia)