Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their
associated territories which include the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Svalbard and Åland. Scandinavia
is sometimes used as a synonym
for the Nordic countries, although within the Nordic countries the
terms are considered distinct.
The region's five nation-states
three autonomous regions
share much common history as well as common traits in their
, such as political
systems and the Nordic model
Politically, Nordic countries do not form a separate entity, but
they co-operate in the Nordic
. Linguistically, the area is heterogeneous,
with three unrelated language groups, the North Germanic branch of Indo-European languages and the
Baltic-Finnic and Sami branches of Uralic languages as well as the Eskimo-Aleut language Greenlandic spoken in Greenland.
The Nordic countries have a combined
population of approximately 25 million spread over a land area of
3.5 million km² (Greenland accounts for 60% of the total
Etymology and terminology
The term 'Nordic countries' is derived
from the French
as an equivalent of the local terms Norden
) and Davveriikkat
) with the meaning of
In English usage, the term Scandinavia
used—though not consistently—as a synonym for the Nordic countries.
From the 1850s, it was known Scandinavia
came to include,
, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
Geographically, the Scandinavian Peninsula includes
mainland Sweden and mainland Norway, and also a part of Finland,
while the Jutland
Peninsula includes mainland Denmark and a small part of
Denmark proper has not included any territory on
the Scandinavian Peninsula since 1658
. The Faroe Islands and Iceland are
"Scandinavian" in the sense that they were settled by Scandinavians
and speak Scandinavian languages, but geographically they are not
part of Scandinavia. Having once been a part of Sweden, Finland
has been significantly influenced by Swedish culture and part of it is geographically within Scandinavia, whereas the
Finnish language is not related to the Scandinavian
languages. Greenland was settled by the Norse,
and is currently part of the Danish realm, with the Danish language
spoken by nearly all inhabitants, while geographically it is part
of North America.
, the term for the land area which
lies above sea level on the Baltic
(also known as the Fennoscandian Shield
) is Fennoscandia
(from the Latin
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
defines "Nordic" as an
adjective dated to 1898 with the meaning "of or relating to the
of northern Europe
and especially of
Scandinavia" or "of or relating to a group or physical type of the
Caucasian race characterized by tall stature, long head, light skin
and hair, and blue eyes". In the light of linguistic-based race theories,
Germany would be a
Nordic country instead of Finland whose population generally
features the previously mentioned stereotypical phenotype and a
Uralic majority language. Before the 19th century and romantic nationalism, the term
Nordic may have been used more as a synonym for
Northern to mean Northern
Europe including the Baltic
countries (at that time Lithuania, Livonia and Courland) and occasionally the British Isles and other lands on the shores of the Baltic and North
Use of Nordic countries vs. Scandinavia
While the term Scandinavia
is most commonly used for
Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the term the Nordic countries
is used unambiguously for Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and
Iceland, including their associated territories (Greenland, the
Faroes, and Åland). Scandinavia can thus be considered a subset of
the Nordic countries.
In addition to mainland Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the Nordic
countries consist of:
Estonia has applied for membership in the Nordic Council, referring to its cultural
heritage and close linguistic links to Finland, although normally
Estonia is regarded as one of the Baltic countries.
All Baltic states
have shared historical events with the Nordic countries, including
Scandinavia, during the centuries.
A reconstructed Viking ship
The Nordic countries are characterised by similar structures of
their societies and cultural traits. This results not only from
similar environmental realities and thus traditional livelihoods
but also from a shared history.
The indigenous population of northern half of continental "Norden"
are the Sami people
, whereas the
southern half is the historical "urheimat" of the Norse
cultures and the forefathers of the Finnish
. The western isles may be said to
have been first settled by the Norse, with two caveats: Inuit
arrived on northwestern Greenland more or less
at the same time as the Norse came to the island's southeast; and
in the settlement of Iceland, Celts were also active.
During the Dark Ages
, what are now Norway,
Sweden, Denmark and from 10th century onwards also Iceland shared a
) environment. From ca. the 12th century onwards what
is now Finland (linguistically Baltic-Finnic
and broader Finno-Ugric
) started sharing the
common developments as it was increasingly integrated into the
kingdom of Sweden. As another example of a deeply rooted unifying
past could be taken the indigenous Sami lifestyle (linguistically
Finno-Ugric) across what is now northern Norway, Sweden and Finland
(and beyond). Indeed, all Nordic countries have minority groups
deriving or claiming heritage of a population residing within
another Nordic state.
After being Christianized
year 1000, the process of local unification established Denmark,
Norway and Sweden as separate kingdoms
became part of Sweden in the mid 1200s, whereas Iceland, the Faroe
Islands, the Shetland
Islands, Orkney, Greenland belonged to
All Nordic countries followed the Protestant
Reformation of the Western church during the 16th century and
churches—which still have large membership counts, although their
state affiliation varies. Finland also has a much smaller Orthodox
state church whose members, 1.1%
of population, mainly come from the areas that were outside the
Swedish realm when Christianity was introduced.
In the 14th century, Denmark, Norway (with Iceland) and Sweden
(with Finland) were united under one regent
in the Kalmar Union
dominated, in the early 16th century Sweden reestablished itself as
a separate kingdom. Denmark's domination over Norway lasted until
1814 when the king was forced to cede Norway to the king of Sweden.
Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands remained Danish.
The power balance between the Nordic countries shifted after the
Thirty Year War
where Denmark was
humiliated, but Sweden came out successful and with an alliance
with France. During the 17th century Sweden established itself
among the Powers
of Europe, but
Sweden ultimately lost its foreign Dominions
one by one. This process
culminated in the loss of Finland to Russia in 1809
which became an autonomous Grand
Duchy under the Russian tsar.
The 19th century saw a personal union between Sweden and Norway
which was dissolved in 1905 due to growing dissatisfaction from the
Norwegian part. From 1840s Scandinavism
emerged in Scandinavia. This movement strove to unite the three
Scandinavian kingdoms into one, diminishing after Sweden refused to
help Denmark on war in
In the midst of the Russian
, Finland emerged for the first time as an
independent nation, orienting for a Nordic community. During
World War II
in 1944, Iceland gained
its independence from Denmark. The member states of the Nordic council
(founded in 1952) had thus
The Nordic countries share similar traits in the policies
implemented under the postwar period, especially in the
socioeconomic area. All Nordic countries have large tax-funded
sectors and extensive
socialist legislation. In most cases, this is due to the political
ambitions of the many Social
governments that came to power during the interwar
period in each of the Nordic countries.
Chronology of the Nordic countries
Nordic Passport Union
Union, created in 1954, and implemented on May 1,
1958, allows citizens of the Nordic
countries: Denmark (Faroe Islands included since January 1, 1966, Greenland not included), Sweden, Norway (Svalbard, Jan
Island and Queen Maud's
Land not included), Finland and Iceland (since
September 24, 1965) to cross approved border districts without
carrying and having their passport
Other citizens can also travel between the Nordic
countries' borders without having their passport checked, but still
have to carry some sort of approved travel identification
Since 1996, these countries have joined the larger EU directive
comprising 30 countries in Europe
. Border checkpoints
have been removed
within the Schengen zone and only a national ID
is required. Within the Nordic area any ID card, e.g.
is valid for Nordic
citizens, because of the Nordic Passport Union.
March 25, 2001, the Schengen acquis fully
applied to the five countries of the Nordic Passport Union (except
for the Faroe
There are some areas in the Nordic
Passport Union that give extra rights for Nordic citizens, not
covered by Schengen, such as less paperwork if moving to a
different Nordic country, and fewer requirements for naturalisation
Political dimension and divisions
The Nordic region has a political dimension in the joint official
bodies called the Nordic Council
the Nordic Council of Ministers
this context, several aspects of the common market
as in the European Union
have been implemented decades
before the EU implemented them. Intra-Nordic trade is not covered
by the CISG
, but by local law.
European Union, the Northern
Dimension refers to external and cross-border policies covering
the Nordic countries, the Baltic countries, and Russia.
political cooperation between the Nordic Countries has not led to a
common policy or an agreement on the countries' memberships in the
European Union, Eurozone, and NATO.
Norway and Iceland are only members of NATO, while Finland and
Sweden are only members of the European Union. Denmark alone
participates in both organizations. Only Finland is a member of the
Eurozone. The tasks and policies of the European Union overlap with
the Nordic council significantly, e.g. the Schengen Agreement
the Nordic passport free zone
a common labor market.
Additionally, certain areas of Nordic countries have special
relationships with the EU. For example, Finland's autonomous island
province Åland is
not a part of the EU VAT zone.
Flags and symbols
Nordic countries, including the autonomous territories of Faroe and Åland
Islands, have a similar flag design, all based on the
Dannebrog, the Danish flag.
They display an off-center cross with the intersection closer to
the hoist, the "Nordic cross
Other Nordic flags
and the Sami
people have adopted flags without the Nordic
cross, but they both feature a circle which is placed off-center
like the cross.
Kesayonauringossa.jpg|Repovesi National Park,
File:Skagen aka the skaw northmost point of
denmark 6th may 2006.jpg|The beach Grenen, Skagen in
Denmark.File:PB190187.JPG|Lake Storsjön in Sweden.File:The Seven Sisters & the
Wooer.jpg|The seven sisters waterfall with the famous Geirangerfjord in Western
File:Erupting geysir.jpg|The erupting Great Geysir
valley, Iceland, the oldest known
in the world.File:Hvalba
scenery.jpg|The southernmost island of the Faroe Islands, Suðuroy.
File:Greenland eastcoast.jpg|Southeast coast
of Greenland.File:Mariehamn.jpg|Small houses in the
capital of Åland, Mariehamn.
oil capital in Norway is Stavanger.File:Oresundsbroen HCS.jpg|Oresund
Bridge, between Sweden and Denmark.
HQ.jpg|Headquarters of Nokia
, the largest
Finnish company.File:NesjavellirPowerPlant edit2.jpg|The
Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant services the Greater Reykjavík Area's hot
water needs.File:Klaksvík, Faroe Islands (2).JPG|A local
fisherman in Klaksvík.
File:Ln-rkhcopy.jpg|Scandinavian Airlines System
the largest airline in Scandinavia
turbines near Copenhagen.
Sweden represents almost 40% of the
Nordic population whereas Iceland represents less than 2%.
The three others represent about 20% each.
(Please note that the diagram is approximative since
different sources have been used for each country.)
The total population of the Nordic countries is approximately
25,382,411 (as of 2009).
|Name of country, with flag
|-/+ of Population
Areas with close relations to the Nordic countries
Several areas have a long and close relationship with and often
identify with some or all of the Nordic countries. These are
however for the most part not regarded as part of the Nordic group
themselves, although classified as Northern Europe
by the United Nations
Shetland and Orkney
Northern Isles of Scotland—Orkney and
Shetland—have a long-established Nordic identity.
islands were Norwegian and Danish colonies
for more than 500 years, but ownership defaulted to the crown of Scotland
following non-payment of the marriage dowry
Margaret of Denmark
queen of James III of
During World War II
Shetland and Orkney
were important bases for the Norwegian armed forces in exile. The
was based in Shetland and
smuggled refugees, agents and supplies to and from Norway.
In later years financial relations, particularly in the maritime
industries, have been important. Cultural and sporting exchanges
are frequent. A genetic survey showed that 60% of the male
population of Shetland and Orkney had Western Norwegian
The traditional links to Scandinavia are reflected in the islands'
flags, both of which are based around a Nordic cross
regions of the British
Isles have adopted symbols to allude to a similar Norse
or Norse-Gaelic heritage.
such as Caithness, Sutherland and the Hebrides were under Norse rule for long periods, and the
Bishopric of Trondheim
formerly controlled large sections of north west
The Norn language
was spoken in
eastern Caithness into medieval times.
Even though Estonia is widely considered to be a Baltic state
or part of Eastern Europe
, many Estonians themselves
consider Estonia to be Nordic rather than Eastern European. The
related to the Finnish language
, as an ethnic group, are a
people. The northern part of
Estonia was part of medieval Denmark, but then
sold to the Germans. Later, the Baltic provinces came under
Swedish rule after the Thirty Years War, before being absorbed
into the Russian
Empire in the 19th century.
However, the local
upper classes had
stronger political and cultural dominance in the country from the
12th to the early 20th century than the Swedes, Danes, and
Russians. The name of the Estonian capital, Tallinn, is thought to be derived from the Estonian taani linn, meaning
'Danish town' (see Flag of Denmark
|Flag of Estonia
||Proposed Estonian flag
featuring a Nordic cross
|Flag proposed in 1919
Historically, large parts of Estonia’s north-western coast and
islands have been populated by an indigenous ethnically Swedish
population, the Estonian Swedes
majority of Estonia's Swedish population fled to Sweden in 1944,
escaping the advancing Soviet Army. In 2007, Estonian Swedes were
granted official cultural autonomy under Estonian law. Since regaining
1991, Estonia has expressed interest joining the Nordic Council.
In 1999, Toomas Hendrik Ilves
delivered a speech
entitled "Estonia as a Nordic Country" to the Swedish Institute
for International Affairs
. In 2003, the foreign ministry
also hosted an exhibit
called "Estonia: Nordic with a Twist." In 2005, Estonia also joined
the European Union
's Nordic Battle Group
. However, Estonia is
not considered a Nordic country by the majority of the Nordic
Anglo-Saxon England was founded in part
by Jutes in Kent, the
Wight and the national saga of England is Beowulf, carried to England by the Wuffings of East Anglia. Much of England, particularly East Anglia, Mercia and
Northumbria were once part of the Danelaw.
The story of Lady
and Peeping Tom
, London Bridge Is Falling Down
and Sigurd the Dane
fame come from this period of an
Anglo-Scandinavian "Empire of the North". After England's
population stabilised into a nation-state, Sweyn Forkbeard's family, which went back to
Denmark from the Danish colonies in the West (see Harthacnut of Denmark), took over
with the excuse of St. Brice's
Day massacre and stratified as well as unified the government
of England into four regional jarldoms under control by Dane and Norwegian as well as promoting the English
church in Scandinavia at the expense of the German church.
to the later installment of the Archdiocese of Nidaros, which
administered the Diocese of Sodor and Man formerly belonging to the Province of York (and would later reconnect
upon Norse land cessions) by the English Pope Adrian IV.
between Denmark and England would continue intermittently until the
reign of Eystein II of Norway
but the take overs of both by Eric of
and William of
respectively, divided their focuses to re-attachment
with Continental Europe
a much later interjection of New Sweden
amidst the New
England and Virginia colonies, but the relationship was much different
in that period.
the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in northern Germany were at times part of Denmark and Sweden,
respectively, and have a long history of cooperation dating back to
the medieval Hanseatic
In the 15th century, Stockholm had a German
majority population, and Germans paid more than half of the city's
peninsula was conquered and
reconquered both by the Germans and the Danes, i.e. the border
between Denmark and Germany changed several times over the
centuries. Particularly the northern parts of present
Schleswig-Holstein have a significant ethnic Danish
minority. The region had a Scandinavian identity in
Angeln up until
its transfer to Germany in the mid 19th
century and its subsequent Germanisation.
Today, the Nordic
character of Southern Schleswig's society and its inhabitants is
still very prominent. There are Danish state schools in the area,
and the Danish minority is active both politically and
Pomerania was once part of the Swedish kingdom; a time when
the local University of Greifswald, at that time Sweden's oldest university,
attracted both students and professors from Sweden.
cultural heritage survives in the form of many buildings, though
the Swedish population either left the region when the Swedish Empire
declined or was assimilated
into mainstream German society.
- "Scandinavia" (the term should correctly be
used excluding Finland). In Merriam-Webster's Online
Dictionary. Retrieved 10 January 2008: "Scandinavia:
Denmark, Norway, Sweden—sometimes also considered to include
Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, & Finland." (Merriam-Webster
Online Dictionary defines "Nordic"
as an adjective dated to 1898 with the meaning "of or relating to
the Germanic peoples of northern Europe and especially of
Scandinavia."), "Scandinavia" (2005). The New Oxford American
Dictionary, Second Edition. Ed. Erin McKean. Oxford University
Press, ISBN 0-19-517077-6: "a cultural region consisting of the
countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark and sometimes also of
Iceland, Finland, and the Faroe Islands"; Scandinavia (2001). The Columbia
Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Retrieved January 31, 2007:
"Scandinavia, region of N Europe. It consists of the kingdoms of
Sweden, Norway, and Denmark; Finland and Iceland are usually
considered part of Scandinavia"; Scandinavia. (2007). Encyclopædia Britannica.
Retrieved January 31, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
"Scandinavia, historically Scandia, part of northern Europe,
generally held to consist of the two countries of the Scandinavian
Peninsula, Norway and Sweden, with the addition of Denmark"; and
Scandinavia. (2006). Microsoft Encarta
Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 30, 2007: "Scandinavia
(ancient Scandia), name applied collectively to three countries of
northern Europe—Norway and Sweden (which together form the
Scandinavian Peninsula), and Denmark". Archived
- Nordic. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
Retrieved 3 March 2008.
- This number was derived by adding up the referenced populations
(from the provided table) of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway,
Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Åland.
- "Estonian Life". Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- "Estonian Life". Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- "Estonian Swedes Embrace Autonomy Rights"
- Ilves, Toomas Hendrik. "Estonia as a
Nordic Country". December 14, 1999.
- "Estonia – Nordic with a Twist". Estonian Ministry of
Social Affairs, 2004 (last updated).
- Norden —
the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers'
- Nordregio — a European centre for research, education
and documentation on spatial development, established by the Nordic
Council of Ministers.
- NordRegio Statistics — a collection of thematic maps
and figures of Nordic and Baltic countries by NordRegio.
Scandinavia — official website of the Scandinavian Tourist
Boards in North America.
- Scandinavia House — the Nordic Center in New York, run
by the American-Scandinavian Foundation.
- vifanord – a digital library that provides
scientific information on the Nordic and Baltic countries as well
as the Baltic region as a whole.
- Mid Nordic Committee Nordic organization to
promote sustainable development and growth in the region