(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||Two centuries of Viking raids into Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity by King Olav TRYGGVASON in 994. Conversion of the Norwegian kingdom occurred over the next several decades. In 1397, 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 then invaded 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 1905 referendum 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 Nazi Germany (1940-45). In 1949, neutrality was abandoned and Norway became a member of NATO. Discovery of oil and gas in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway’s economic fortunes. The current focus is on containing spending on the extensive welfare system and planning for the time when petroleum reserves are depleted. In referenda held in 1972 and 1994, Norway rejected joining the EU.|
|History||Archaeological findings indicate that Norway was inhabited at least since early 10th millennium BC. Most historians agree that the core of the populations colonizing Scandinavia came from the present-day Germany. In the first centuries AD, Norway consisted of a number of petty kingdoms. According to tradition, Harald Fairhair unified them into one, in 872 AD after the Battle of Hafrsfjord, thus becaming the first king of a united Norway.
The Viking age, 8-11th centuries AD, was characterized by expansion and immigration. Many Norwegians left the country to live in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and parts of Britain and Ireland. The modern-day Irish cities of Limerick, Dublin, and Waterford were founded by Norwegian settlers. Norse traditions were slowly replaced by Christianity in the 9th and 10th centuries, and this is largely attributed to the missionary kings Olav Tryggvasson and St. Olav. Haakon the Good was Norway’s first Christian king, in the mid tenth century, though his attempt to introduce the religion was rejected.
In 1349, the Black Death killed between 40% and 50% of the population, resulting in a period of decline, both socially and economically. Ostensibly, royal politics at the time resulted in several personal unions between the Nordic countries, eventually bringing the thrones of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden under the control of Queen Margrethe I of Denmark when the country entered into the Kalmar Union. Although Sweden broke out of the union in 1523, Norway remained till 1814, a total of 434 years. The National romanticism of the 19th century, the centralization of the kingdom’s royal, intellectual, and administrative powers in Copenhagen, Denmark, the dissolution of the archbishopric in Trondheim with the introduction of Protestantism in 1537, as well as the distribution of the church’s incomes to the court in Copenhagen meant that 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 cultural and economic life in the rest of Europe. The steady decline was high lightened by the loss of the provinces Båhuslen, Jemtland, and Herjedalen to Sweden, as a result of the wars.
After Denmark–Norway was attacked by Great Britain, it entered into an alliance with Napoleon, with the war leading to dire conditions and mass starvation in 1812. As the kingdom found itself on the losing side in 1814 it was forced to cede Norway to the kingdom of Sweden, while the old Norwegian provinces of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands remained with the Danish crown. Norway took this opportunity to declare independence, adopted a constitution based on American and French models, and elected the Danish crown prince Christian Fredrik as king on May 17, 1814. This caused the Norwegian-Swedish War to break out between Sweden and Norway but as Sweden’s military was not strong enough to defeat the Norwegian forces outright, Norway agreed to enter a personal union with Sweden. Under this arrangement, Norway kept its liberal constitution and independent institutions, except for the foreign service.
This period also saw the rise of the Norwegian romantic nationalism cultural movement, as Norwegians sought to define and express a distinct national character. The movement covered all branches of culture, including literature (Henrik Wergeland, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, Jørgen Moe, Henrik Ibsen), painting (Hans Gude, Adolph Tidemand), 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.
Christian Michelsen, a Norwegian shipping magnate and statesman, Prime Minister of Norway from 1905 to 1907 played a central role in the peaceful separation of Norway from Sweden on June 7, 1905. After a national referendum confirmed the people’s preference for a monarchy over a republic, the Norwegian government offered the throne of Norway to the Danish Prince Carl and Parliament unanimously elected him king. He took the name of Haakon VII, after the medieval kings of independent Norway. In 1898, all men were granted universal suffrage, followed by all women in 1913.
During both World wars Norway claimed neutrality but during World War II it was invaded by German forces on April 9, 1940 while the allies also had plans in mind for an invasion of the country. In April 1940, the British fleet mined Norwegian territorial waters. Norway was unprepared for the German surprise attack, but military resistance continued for two months. During the Norwegian Campaign, the Kriegsmarine lost many ships including the cruiser Blücher. The battles of Vinjesvingen and Hegra eventually became the last strongholds of Norwegian resistance in southern Norway in May, while the armed forces in the north launched an offensive against the German forces in the Battles of Narvik, until they were forced to surrender on June 10. On the day of the invasion, the collaborative leader of the small National-Socialist party Nasjonal Samling — Vidkun 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 collaborationist government under German control. At the time of the invasion, Norway had the fourth largest merchant marine in the world led by the shipping company Nortraship, which under the Allies took part in every war operation from the evacuation of Dunkirk to the Normandy landings.
Following the war, the Social Democrats came to power and ruled the country for much of the cold war. Norway joined NATO in 1949, and became a close ally of the United States. Two plebiscites to join the European Union failed by narrow margins in 1972 and 1994. Large reserves of petroleum and natural gas were discovered in the 1960s, which led to a continuing boom in the economy.
|Geography||Location: Northern Europe, bordering the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Sweden
Geographic coordinates: 62 00 N, 10 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 323,802 sq km
land: 307,442 sq km
water: 16,360 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than New Mexico
Land boundaries: total: 2,542 km
border countries: Finland 727 km, Sweden 1,619 km, Russia 196 km
Coastline: 25,148 km (includes mainland 2,650 km, as well as long fjords, numerous small islands, and minor indentations 22,498 km; length of island coastlines 58,133 km)
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 10 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm
Climate: temperate along coast, modified by North Atlantic Current; colder interior with increased precipitation and colder summers; rainy year-round on west coast
Terrain: glaciated; mostly high plateaus and rugged mountains broken by fertile valleys; small, scattered plains; coastline deeply indented by fjords; arctic tundra in north
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Norwegian Sea 0 m
highest point: Galdhopiggen 2,469 m
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, titanium, pyrites, nickel, fish, timber, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 2.7%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 97.3% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,270 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 381.4 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.4 cu km/yr (23%/67%/10%)
per capita: 519 cu m/yr (1996)
Natural hazards: rockslides, avalanches
Environment – current issues: water pollution; acid rain damaging forests and adversely affecting lakes, threatening fish stocks; air pollution from vehicle emissions
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: about two-thirds mountains; some 50,000 islands off its much indented coastline; strategic location adjacent to sea lanes and air routes in North Atlantic; one of most rugged and longest coastlines in the world
|Politics||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. As it stands, 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 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 have in the 20th century in reality been symbolic, but has on a few occasions been important such as in World War II, when the Monarch said he would step down if the government should accept the German demand. The Council of State consists of a Prime Minister and other ministers, formally appointed by the King. Parliamentarism has evolved since 1884 and entails that the cabinet must not have the parliament against it, and that the appointment by the King is a formality when there is a clear majority in Parliament for a party or a coalition of parties. But after elections resulting in no clear majority to any party or coalition, the leader of the party most likely to be able to form a government is appointed Prime Minister by the King. Norway has often been ruled by minority governments. The King has government meetings every Friday at the Royal Palace (Council of State), but the government decisions are decided in advance in government conferences, headed by the Prime Minister, every Tuesday and Thursday. The King opens the Parliament every October, he receives ambassadors to the Norwegian court, and he is the symbolically Supreme Commander of the Norwegian Defence Force and the Head of the Church of Norway.
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 nineteen counties for four-year terms according to a system of proportional representation. In addition, 19 seats, the socalled “levelling seats” are allocated on a nationwide basis to make the representation in parliament correspond better with the popular vote. There is a 4% election threshold to gain levelling seats. When voting on legislation, the Storting – until the 2009 election – divides itself into two chambers, the Odelsting and the Lagting. Laws are in most cases proposed by the government through a Member of the Council of State, or in some cases by a member of the Odelsting in case of repeated disagreement in the joint Storting. Nowadays, however, the Lagting rarely disagrees, effectively rubber-stamping the Odelsting’s decisions. A constitutional amendment of February 20, 2007 will repeal the division after the 2009 general election.
Impeachment cases are very rare (the last being in 1927, when Prime Minister Abraham Berge was acquitted) and may be brought against Members of the Council of State, of the Supreme Court (Høyesterett), or of the Storting for criminal offenses which they may have committed in their official capacity.
Prior to an amendment to the Norwegian Constitution on February 20, 2007 indictments were raised by the Odelsting and judged by the Lagting and the Supreme Court justices as part of the High Court of the Realm. In the new system impeachment cases will be heard by the five highest ranking Supreme Court justices and six lay members in one of the Supreme Court courtrooms (previously cases were heard in the Lagting chamber). Storting representatives may not perform as lay judges. Indictments will be raised by the Storting in a plenary session.
The Storting otherwise functions as a unicameral parliament and after the 2009 general election the division into Odelsting and Lagting for passing legislation will be abolished. Legislation will then have to go through two – three in case of dissent – readings before being passed and sent to the King for assent.
The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court (eighteen 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.
In order to form a government, more than half the membership of the Council of State is required to belong to the Church of Norway. Currently, this means at least ten out of nineteen members.
In December each year, Norway gives a Christmas tree to the United Kingdom, in thanks for the UK’s assistance during World War II. A ceremony takes place to erect the tree in Trafalgar Square.
In its 2007 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Norway at a shared 1st place (with Iceland) out of 169 countries.
Corporal punishment of children has been illegal in Norway since 1983.
|People||Population: 4,644,457 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 18.8% (male 446,146/female 426,166)
15-64 years: 66.2% (male 1,559,750/female 1,516,217)
65 years and over: 15% (male 297,175/female 399,003) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 39 years
male: 38.2 years
female: 39.9 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.35% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 11.12 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 9.33 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.71 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.96 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.24 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.81 years
male: 77.16 years
female: 82.6 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.78 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 2,100 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 100 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Norwegian(s)
Ethnic groups: Norwegian, Sami 20,000
Religions: Church of Norway 85.7%, Pentecostal 1%, Roman Catholic 1%, other Christian 2.4%, Muslim 1.8%, other 8.1% (2004)
Languages: Bokmal Norwegian (official), Nynorsk Norwegian (official), small Sami- and Finnish-speaking minorities; note – Sami is official in six municipalities
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 100%