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Norway

Capital Oslo
Continent Europe
Code +47
Currency Norwegian krone
Languages Norwegian , Sami , Norwegian , Sami

Description

Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe, the mainland territory of which comprises the western and the northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The remote Arctic island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard also form part of Norway. Bouvet Island, located in the Subantarctic, is a dependency of Norway; it also lays claims to the Antarctic territories of Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land. The capital and largest city in Norway is Oslo.

Norway has a total area of 385,207 square kilometers (148,729 sq mi) and had a population of 5,385,300 in November 2020. The country shares a long eastern border with Sweden at a length of 1,619 km (1,006 mi). It is bordered by Finland and Russia to the northeast and the Skagerrak Strait to the south, on the other side of which are Denmark and the United Kingdom. Norway has an extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea. The maritime influence dominates Norway's climate, with mild lowland temperatures on the sea coasts; the interior, while colder, is also a lot milder than areas elsewhere in the world on such northerly latitudes. Even during polar nights in the north, temperatures above freezing are commonplace on the coastline. The maritime influence brings high rainfall and snowfall to some areas of the country.

Harald V of the House of Glücksburg is the current King of Norway. Jonas Gahr Støre has been prime minister since 2021, replacing Erna Solberg. As a unitary sovereign state with a constitutional monarchy, Norway divides state power between the parliament, the cabinet, and the supreme court, as determined by the 1814 constitution. The kingdom was established in 872 as a merger of many petty kingdoms and has existed continuously for 1,150 years. From 1537 to 1814, Norway was a part of the Kingdom of Denmark–Norway, and from 1814 to 1905, it was in a personal union with the Kingdom of Sweden. Norway was neutral during the First World War and remained so until April 1940 when the country was invaded and occupied by Germany until the end of World War II.

Norway has both administrative and political subdivisions on two levels: counties and municipalities. 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 both the European Union and the United States. Norway is also a founding member of the United Nations, NATO, the European Free Trade Association, the Council of Europe, the Antarctic Treaty, and the Nordic Council; a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO, and the OECD; and a part of the Schengen Area. In addition, the Norwegian languages share mutual intelligibility with Danish and Swedish.

Norway maintains the Nordic welfare model with universal health care and a comprehensive social security system, and its values are rooted in egalitarian ideals. The Norwegian state has large ownership positions in key industrial sectors, having extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, and freshwater. The petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). On a per-capita basis, Norway is the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas outside of the Middle East.

The country has the fourth-highest per-capita income in the world on the World Bank and IMF lists. On the CIA's GDP (PPP) per capita list (2015 estimate) which includes autonomous territories and regions, Norway ranks as number eleven It has the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, with a value of US$1 trillion. Norway has had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world since 2009, a position also held previously between 2001 and 2006; it also has the highest inequality-adjusted ranking per 2018. Norway ranked first in the World Happiness Report in 2017 and currently ranks first on the OECD Better Life Index, the Index of Public Integrity, the Freedom Index, and the Democracy Index. Norway also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Although the majority of Norway's population is ethnic Norwegian, in the 21st century, immigration has accounted for more than half of population growth; as of 2021, the five largest minority groups in the country are the descendants of Polish, Lithuanian, Somali, Pakistani, and Swedish immigrants.

History

The history of Norway has been influenced to an extraordinary degree by the terrain and the climate of the region. About 10,000 BC, following the retreat of the great inland ice sheets, the earliest inhabitants migrated north into the territory which is now Norway. They traveled steadily northwards along with the coastal areas, warmed by the Gulf Stream, where life was more bearable. To survive, they fished and hunted reindeer (and other prey). Between 5,000 BC and 4,000 BC, the earliest agricultural settlements appeared around the Oslofjord. Gradually, between 1500 BC and 500 BC, these agricultural settlements spread into the southern areas of Norway – whilst the inhabitants of the northern regions continued to hunt and fish.

The Neolithic period started in 4000 BC. The Migration Period caused the first chieftains to take control and the first defenses to be made. From the last decades of the 8th century, Norwegians started expanding across the seas to the British Isles and later Iceland and Greenland. The Viking Age also saw the unification of the country. Christianization took place during the 11th century and Nidaros became an archdiocese. The population expanded quickly until 1349 (Oslo: 3,000; Bergen: 7,000; Trondheim: 4,000) when it was halved by the Black Death and successive plagues. Bergen became the main trading port, controlled by the Hanseatic League. Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden in 1397.

After Sweden left the union in 1523, Norway became the junior partner in Denmark–Norway. The Reformation was introduced in 1537 and the absolute monarchy was imposed in 1661. In 1814, after being on the losing side of the Napoleonic Wars with Denmark, Norway was ceded to the king of Sweden by the Treaty of Kiel. Norway declared its independence and adopted a constitution. However, no foreign powers recognized the Norwegian independence but supported the Swedish demand for Norway to comply with the treaty of Kiel. After a short war with Sweden, the countries concluded the Convention of Moss, in which Norway accepted a personal union with Sweden, keeping its Constitution, Storting and separate institutions, except for the foreign service. The union was formally established after the extraordinary Storting adopted the necessary amendments to the Constitution and elected Charles XIII of Sweden as king of Norway on 4 November 1814.

Industrialization started in the 1840s and from the 1860s large-scale emigration to North America took place. In 1884 the king appointed Johan Sverdrup as prime minister, thus establishing parliamentarism. The union with Sweden was dissolved in 1905. From the 1880s to the 1920s, Norwegians such as Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen carried out a series of important polar expeditions.

Shipping and hydroelectricity were important sources of income for the country. The following decades saw a fluctuating economy and the rise of the labor movement. Germany occupied Norway between 1940 and 1945 during the Second World War, after which Norway joined NATO and underwent a period of reconstruction under public planning. Oil was discovered in 1969 and by 1995 Norway was the world's second-largest exporter. This resulted in a large increase in wealth. From the 1980s Norway started deregulation in many sectors and experienced a banking crisis.

By the 21st century, Norway became one of the world's most prosperous countries with oil and gas production accounting for 20 percent of its economy. By reinvesting its oil revenues, Norway had the world's largest sovereign wealth fund in 2017.

Geography

Norway's core territory comprises the western and the northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the Kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land. From the Middle Ages,  1814 Norway was part of the Danish kingdom. Norwegian possessions in the North Atlantic, Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland, remained Danish when Norway was passed in Sweden in the Treaty of Kiel. Norway also comprised Bohuslän until 1658, Jämtland and Härjedalen until 1645, Shetland and Orkney until 1468, and the Hebrides and Isle of Man until the Treaty of Perth in 1266.

Norway comprises the western and northernmost part of Scandinavia in Northern Europe. Norway lies between latitudes 57° and 81° N, and longitudes 4° and 32° E. Norway is the northernmost of the Nordic countries and if Svalbard is included also the easternmost. Vardø at 31° 10' 07" east of Greenwich lies further east than St. Petersburg and Istanbul. Norway includes the northernmost point on the European mainland. The rugged coastline is broken by huge fjords and thousands of islands. The coastal baseline is 2,532 kilometers (1,573 mi). The coastline of the mainland including fjords stretches 28,953 kilometers (17,991 mi), when islands are included the coastline has been estimated to be 100,915 kilometers (62,706 mi). Norway shares a 1,619-kilometre (1,006 mi) land border with Sweden, 727 kilometers (452 mi) with Finland, and 196 kilometers (122 mi) with Russia to the east. To the north, west, and south, Norway is bordered by the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea, and Skagerrak. The Scandinavian Mountains form much of the border with Sweden.

At 385,207 square kilometers (148,729 sq mi) (including Svalbard and Jan Mayen) (and 323,808 square kilometers (125,023 sq mi) without), much of the country is dominated by mountainous or high terrain, with a great variety of natural features caused by prehistoric glaciers and varied topography. The most noticeable of these are the fjords: deep grooves cut into the land flooded by the sea following the end of the Ice Age. Sognefjorden is the world's second deepest fjord, and the world's longest at 204 kilometers (127 mi). Hornindalsvatnet is the deepest lake in all of Europe. Norway has about 400,000 lakes. There are 239,057 registered islands. Permafrost can be found all year in the higher mountain areas and the interior of Finnmark county. Numerous glaciers are found in Norway.

The land is mostly made of hard granite and gneiss rock, but slate, sandstone, and limestone are also common, and the lowest elevations contain marine deposits. Because of the Gulf Stream and prevailing westerlies, Norway experiences higher temperatures and more precipitation than expected at such northern latitudes, especially along the coast. The mainland experiences four distinct seasons, with colder winters and less precipitation inland. The northernmost part has a mostly maritime Subarctic climate, while Svalbard has an Arctic tundra climate.

Because of the large latitudinal range of the country and the varied topography and climate, Norway has a larger number of different habitats than almost any other European country. There are approximately 60,000 species in Norway and adjacent waters (excluding bacteria and viruses). The Norwegian Shelf’s large marine ecosystem is considered highly productive.

Politics and government

Norway is considered to be one of the most developed democracies and states of justice in the world. From 1814, c. 45% of men (25 years and older) had the right to vote, whereas the United Kingdom had c. 20% (1832), Sweden c. 5% (1866), and Belgium c. 1.15% (1840). Since 2010, Norway has been classified as the world's most democratic country by the Democracy Index.

According to the Constitution of Norway, which was adopted on 17 May 1814 and was inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence and French Revolution of 1776 and 1789, respectively, Norway is a unitary constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government, wherein the King of Norway is the head of state and the prime minister is the head of government. Power is separated among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government, as defined by the Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.

The monarch officially retains executive power. But following the introduction of a parliamentary system of government, the duties of the monarch have since become strictly representative and ceremonial, such as the formal appointment and dismissal of the Prime Minister and other ministers in the executive government. Accordingly, the Monarch is the commander-in-chief of the Norwegian Armed Forces and serves as the chief diplomatic official abroad and as a symbol of unity. Harald V of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg was crowned King of Norway in 1991, the first since the 14th century who has been born in the country. Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway, is the legal and rightful heir to the throne and the Kingdom.

In practice, the Prime Minister exercises the executive powers. Constitution, legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Norway, but the latter is the supreme legislature and a unicameral body. Norway is fundamentally structured as a representative democracy. The Parliament can pass a law by a simple majority of the 169 representatives, who are elected based on proportional representation from 19 constituencies for four-year terms.

150 are elected directly from the 19 constituencies, and an additional 19 seats ("leveling seats") are allocated on a nationwide basis to make the representation in parliament correspond better with the popular vote for the political parties. A 4% election threshold is required for a party to gain leveling seats in Parliament. There is a total of 169 members of parliament.

The Parliament of Norway called the Stortinget (meaning Grand Assembly), ratifies national treaties developed by the executive branch. It can impeach members of the government if their acts are declared unconstitutional. If an indicted suspect is impeached, Parliament has the power to remove the person from office.

The position of prime minister, Norway's head of government, is allocated to the member of Parliament who can obtain the confidence of a majority in Parliament, usually the current leader, of the largest political party or, more effectively, through a coalition of parties. A single party generally does not have sufficient political power in terms of the number of seats to form a government on its own. Norway has often been ruled by minority governments.

The prime minister nominates the cabinet, traditionally drawn from members of the same political party or parties in the Storting, making up the government. The PM organizes the executive government and exercises its power as vested by the Constitution. Norway has a state church, the Lutheran Church of Norway, which has in recent years, gradually been granted more internal autonomy in day-to-day affairs but still has a special constitutional status. Formerly, the PM had to have more than half the members of the cabinet be members of the Church of Norway, meaning at least ten out of the 19 ministries. This rule was, however, removed in 2012. The issue of separation of church and state in Norway has been increasingly controversial, as many people believe it is time to change this, to reflect the growing diversity in the population. A part of this is the evolution of the public school subject Christianity, a required subject since 1739. Even the state's loss in a battle at the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg in 2007 did not settle the matter. As of 1 January 2017, the Church of Norway is a separate legal entity, and no longer a branch of the civil service.

Through the Council of State, a privy council presided over by the monarch, the prime minister, and the cabinet meeting at the Royal Palace and formally consult the Monarch. All government bills need formal approval by the monarch before and after the introduction to Parliament. The Council reviews and approves all of the monarch's actions as head of state. Although all government and parliamentary acts are decided beforehand, the privy council is an example of a symbolic gesture the king retains.

Members of the Storting are directly elected from party-lists proportional representation in nineteen plural-member constituencies in a national multi-party system. Historically, both the Norwegian Labor Party and Conservative Party have played leading political roles. In the early 21st century, the Labor Party has been in power since the 2005 election, in a Red-Green Coalition with the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party.

Since 2005, both the Conservative Party and the Progress Party have won numerous seats in the Parliament, but not sufficient in the 2009 general election to overthrow the coalition. Commentators have pointed to the poor cooperation between the opposition parties, including the Liberals and the Christian Democrats. Jens Stoltenberg, the leader of the Labor Party, continued to have the necessary majority through his multi-party alliance to continue as PM until 2013.

In national elections in September 2013, voters ended eight years of Labor rule. Two political parties, Høyre and Fremskrittspartiet, elected on promises of tax cuts, more spending on infrastructure and education, better services, and stricter rules on immigration, formed a government. Coming at a time when Norway's economy is in good condition with low unemployment, the rise of the right appeared to be based on other issues. Erna Solberg became prime minister, the second female prime minister after Gro Harlem Brundtland, and the first conservative prime minister since Jan P. Sis. Solberg said her win was "a historic election victory for the right-wing parties". Her center-right government won re-election in the 2017 Norwegian parliamentary election. Norway's new center-left cabinet under Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, the leader of the Labor Party, took office on 14 October 2021.

Economy

Norwegians enjoy the second-highest GDP per-capita among European countries (after Luxembourg), and the sixth-highest GDP (PPP) per-capita in the world. Today, Norway ranks as the second-wealthiest country in the world in monetary value, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation. According to the CIA World Factbook, Norway is a net external creditor debt. Norway maintained first place in the world in the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) for six consecutive years (2001–2006), and then reclaimed this position in 2009. The standard of living in Norway is among the highest in the world. Foreign Policy Magazine ranks Norway last in its Failed States Index for 2009, judging Norway to be the world's most well-functioning and stable country. The OECD ranks Norway fourth in 2013 equalized Better Life Index and third in intergenerational earnings elasticity.

The Norwegian economy is an example of a mixed economy; a prosperous capitalist welfare state features a combination of free-market activity and large state ownership in certain key sectors, influenced by both liberal governments from the late 19th century and later by social democratic governments in the postwar era. Public health care in Norway is free (after an annual charge of around 2000 kroner for those over 16), and parents have 46 weeks of paid parental leave. The state income derived from natural resources includes a significant contribution from petroleum production. Norway has an unemployment rate of 4.8%, with 68% of the population aged 15–74 employed. People in the labor force are either employed or looking for work. 9.5% of the population aged 18–66 receive a disability pension and 30% of the labor force are employed by the government, the highest in the OECD. The hourly productivity levels, as well as average hourly wages in Norway, are among the highest in the world.

The egalitarian values of Norwegian society have kept the wage difference between the lowest paid worker and the CEO of most companies much less than in comparable western economies. This is also evident in Norway's low Gini coefficient.

The state has large ownership positions in key industrial sectors, such as the strategic petroleum sector (Statoil), hydroelectric energy production (Statkraft), aluminum production (Norsk Hydro), the largest Norwegian bank (DNB), and telecommunication provider (Telenor). Through these big companies, the government controls approximately 30% of the stock values at the Oslo Stock Exchange. When non-listed companies are included, the state has an even higher share in ownership (mainly from direct oil license ownership). Norway is a major shipping nation and has the world's sixth-largest merchant fleet, with 1,412 Norwegian-owned merchant vessels.

By referendums in 1972 and 1994, Norwegians rejected proposals to join the European Union (EU). However, Norway, together with Iceland and Liechtenstein, participates in the European Union's single market through the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. The EEA Treaty between the European Union countries and the EFTA countries—transposed into Norwegian law via—describes the procedures for implementing European Union rules in Norway and the other EFTA countries. Norway is a highly integrated member of most sectors of the EU internal market. Some sectors, such as agriculture, oil, and fish, are not wholly covered by the EEA Treaty. Norway has also acceded to the Schengen Agreement and several other intergovernmental agreements between the EU member states.

The country is richly endowed with natural resources, including petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals. Large reserves of petroleum and natural gas were discovered in the 1960s, which led to a boom in the economy. Norway has obtained one of the highest standards of living in the world in part by having a large number of natural resources compared to the size of the population. In 2011, 28% of state revenues were generated from the petroleum industry.

Norway is the first country that banned the cutting of trees (deforestation), to prevent rain forests from vanishing. The country declared its intention at the UN Climate Summit in 2014, alongside Great Britain and Germany. Crops, that are typically linked to forest destruction are timber, soy, palm oil, and beef. Now Norway has to find a new way to provide these essential products without exerting a negative influence on its environment.

Culture

The culture of Norway is closely linked to the country's history and geography. The unique Norwegian farm culture, sustained to this day, has resulted not only from scarce resources and a harsh climate but also from ancient property laws. In the 19th century, it brought about a strong romantic nationalistic movement, which is still visible in the Norwegian language and media. In the 19th century, Norwegian culture blossomed as efforts continued to achieve an independent identity in the areas of literature, art, and music. This continues today in the performing arts and as a result of government support for exhibitions, cultural projects, and artwork.

Norway's food traditions show the influence of sea farming and farming the land, traditions with salmon, herring, trout, cod, and other seafood, balanced by cheese, dairy products, and bread. Lefse is common Norwegian wheat or potato flatbread, eaten around Christmas. Typical Norwegian dishes include: Rakfisk, smalahove, pinnekjøtt, Krotekake, Kompe (also called raspeball) and fårikål.

Several Norwegian authors have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, namely Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in 1903, Knut Hamsun in 1920, and Sigrid Undset in 1928 for Kristin Lavransdatter. Though he was not awarded a Nobel Prize for his plays, as the first of these was awarded after he published his last play in 1899, playwright Henrik Ibsen is probably the best-known figure in Norwegian literature. Ibsen wrote plays such as Peer Gynt, A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, and The Lady from the Sea. Other Norwegian writers from the realism era include Jonas Lie and Alexander Kielland, who are along with Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Henrik Ibsen regarded as the "four greats" of Norwegian literature.

Norway has always had a tradition of building in wood. Indeed, many of today's most interesting new buildings are made of wood, reflecting the strong appeal that this material continues to hold for Norwegian designers and builders.

In the early Middle Ages, stave churches were constructed throughout Norway. Many of them remain to this day and represent Norway's most important contribution to architectural history. A fine example is The Stave Church at Urnes which is now on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Another notable example of wooden architecture is Bryggen (the wharf) in Bergen, consisting of a row of narrow wooden structures along the Quayside.

In the 17th century, under the Danish monarchy, cities such as Kongsberg with its Baroque church and Røros with its wooden buildings were established.

After Norway's union with Denmark was dissolved in 1814, Oslo became the capital. Architect Christian H. Grosch designed the oldest parts of the University of Oslo, the Oslo Stock Exchange, and many other buildings and churches.

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