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Norway ( ; (Bokmål), Noreg (Nynorsk) or Norga (North Sami)), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a country in Northern Europe occupying the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, as well as Jan Mayenmarker and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbardmarker under the Spitsbergen Treaty. The majority of the country shares a border to the east with Swedenmarker; its northernmost region is bordered by Finlandmarker to the south and Russiamarker to the east. The United Kingdommarker and Faroe Islandsmarker lie to its west across the North Seamarker, Icelandmarker and Greenlandmarker lie to its west across the Norwegian Seamarker, and Denmarkmarker lies south of its southern tip across the Skagerrak Straitmarker. Bouvet Islandmarker and Peter I Islandmarker are dependent territories ( ) of Norway, but not considered part of the Kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarcticamarker known as Queen Maud Land, a claim that has been recognised by Australia, Francemarker, New Zealandmarker and the United Kingdommarker.Norway's extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Oceanmarker and the Barents Seamarker, is home to its famous fjords.

After the Second World War, the country experienced rapid economic growth, the first two decades due to the Norwegian shipping and merchant marine and domestic industrialization, from the early 1970s a result of large oil deposits discovered in the North Seamarker and Norwegian Seamarker. Today it ranks as the wealthiest country in the world, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation. In August 2009 the nation's sovereign wealth fund announced that it owned approximately 1% of all the stocks in the world, presumably referring to publicly traded stocks. Norway is the world’s seventh largest oil exporter and the petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of its GDP.Following the ongoing financial crisis of 2007-2009, bankers have deemed the Norwegian krone to be one of the most solid currencies in the world.

Norway also has rich resources of gas fields, hydropower, fish, forests and minerals. The country was the second largest exporter of seafood (in value, after the People’s Republic of Chinamarker) in 2006. Other main industries include shipping, food processing, shipbuilding, metals, chemicals, mining, fishing and pulp and paper products. Norway maintains a Scandinavian welfare model with universal healthcare, subsidised higher education and a comprehensive social security system. Norway was ranked highest of all countries in human development from 2001 to 2007, and then again in 2009, and is by the UN ranked as best country to live in. It was also rated the most peaceful country in the world in a 2007 survey by Global Peace Index.

Norway is renowned for being a leader in women's rights, minority rights, and LGBT rights[3355]. In 1993 Norway became the second country to legalize civil union partnerships for same-sex couples, and on January 1, 2009, Norway became the sixth country to grant full marriage equality to same-sex couples.[3356]

Although having rejected EU membership in two referenda, it maintains close ties with the Union and its member countries, as well as with the United Statesmarker. It is considered a prominent participant in diplomacy and international development, having been heavily involved with the failed Oslo Accords and negotiated a truce between the Sri Lankamarker government and the Tamil Tigers. Norway remains one of the biggest financial contributors to the UN, and participates with UN forces in international missions, notably in Afghanistanmarker, Kosovomarker and Sudanmarker.

A unitary state with administrative sub-divisions on two levels known as counties (fylker) and municipalities (kommuner), Norway is a constitutional, hereditary monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with King Harald V as its 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 is a founding member of the UN, NATOmarker, the Council of Europe and the Nordic Council, and is a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO and the OECD.

Etymology

Norway is officially called Kongeriket Norge in the Bokmål written norm, and Kongeriket Noreg in the Nynorsk written norm.

The usual Old Norse form of Norway is Noregr and the usual medieval Latin form Nor(th)vegia, though the earliest known written occurrence of the name is English (in the late-ninth-century account of the travels of Ohthere of Hålogaland), in the form norðweg. Although some medieval texts attribute the name to a mythical King Nórr, it is conventionally derived today from Old Norse *norðvegr, meaning "the northern route" (the way northwards). There is, however, some possibility that medieval forms in norð-, north- are folk-etymologisations, and that the name has other origins.

History

Prehistory

Archaeological findings indicate the area currently constituting Norway has been inhabited since at least the 10th millennium BCE (see Scandinavian prehistory). The indigenous people of Northern Norway and Central Norway are the Sámi people, though Norse culture arrived very early here also. The current monarch of Norway, representing Government, has stated that the kingdom was founded upon the territories of two peoples – the Norwegians and the Sámi.

In the first centuries CE, in iriq consisted of a number of petty kingdoms. According to tradition, Harald Fairhair (Harald Hårfagre) unified them into one in 872 CE after the Battle of Hafrsfjordmarker in Stavangermarker, thus becoming the first king of a united Norway. In fact, though, Harald's realm was mainly a South Norwegian coastal state.

Viking Age

The Kingdom of Norway (green), c.
1300.
The Viking Age, 8–11th centuries AD, was characterized by expansion and emigration by Viking seafarers. Many Norwegians left the country to live in Icelandmarker, the Faroe Islandsmarker, Greenlandmarker, and parts of Britainmarker and Irelandmarker. The modern-day Irishmarker cities of Limerickmarker, Dublinmarker, and Waterfordmarker were founded by Norwegian settlers. Norse traditions were slowly replaced by Christianity in the 10th and 11th centuries. 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.

Kalmar Union, union with Denmark

In 1319, Sweden and Norway were united under King Magnus Eriksson. In 1349, the Black Death killed between 50% and 60% 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, Denmarkmarker, and Swedenmarker 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 1521, Norway remained with Denmark until 1814, a total of 436 years. During the national romanticism of the 19th century, this period was by some referred to as the "400-Year Night", since all of the kingdom's royal, intellectual, and administrative power was centered in Copenhagenmarker in Denmark.

With the introduction of Protestantism in 1536, the archbishopric in Trondheim was dissolved and Norway effectually became a tributary to Denmark and the church's incomes were distributed to the court in Copenhagenmarker in Denmark instead. 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. Additionally, Norway saw its land area decrease in the 17th century with the loss of the provinces Båhuslenmarker, Jemtlandmarker, and Herjedalenmarker to Sweden, as a result of numerous wars between Denmark–Norway and Sweden. To the North, however, its territory was increased by the acquisition of the Northern provinces of Troms and Finnmarkmarker, on the expense of Sweden and Russia.

Union with Sweden (19th century)

After Denmark–Norway was attacked by the United Kingdommarker, it entered into an alliance with Napoleon, with the war leading to dire conditions and mass starvation in 1812. As the Danish kingdom found itself on the losing side in 1814 it was forced to cede Norway to the king 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 crown prince of Denmark-Norway Christian Frederik as king on 17 May 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 and Norway's treasury was not large enough to support a protracted war, and as British and Russian navies blockaded the Norwegian coast, 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, 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), 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.

Modern history

Christian Michelsen, a 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 7 June 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 Parliamentmarker unanimously elected him king, the first king of a fully independent Norway in 586 years. 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.

However, independence was temporarily interrupted on 9 April 1940 until 8 May 1945, when Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany. During World War I, Norway was a neutral country. In reality, however, Norway had been pressured by Great Britain to hand over increasingly large parts of its massive merchant fleet to Britain at low rates, as well as to join the trade blockade against Germany . Norway also claimed neutrality during World War II, but was invaded by German forces on 9 April 1940.

Norway was unprepared for the German surprise attack, so military resistance only lasted for two months. 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 after losing allied help following the fall of France. King Haakon and the Norwegian government escaped to Rotherhithemarker, Londonmarker and supported the fight through inspirational radio speeches from London. 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. During the five years of Nazi occupation, Norwegians built a resistance movement which fought the German occupation forces with both armed resistance and civil disobedience. More important to the Allied war effort, however, was the role of the Norwegian merchant navy. At the time of the invasion, Norway had the fourth largest merchant marine in the world. It was led by the Norwegian shipping company Nortraship under the Allies throughout the war and took part in every war operation from the evacuation of Dunkirk to the Normandy landings. Each December Norway gives a Christmas tree to the United Kingdommarker as thanks for the UK's assistance during World War II. A ceremony takes place to erect the tree in London's famous Trafalgar Squaremarker.

Post-war history

From 1945 to 1961, the Labour Party held an absolute majority in the parliamentmarker. The government, led by prime minister Einar Gerhardsen, embarked on a program inspired by Keynesian economics, emphasizing state financed industrialization, cooperation between trade unions and employers' organizations. Many measures of state control of the economy imposed during the war were continued, although the rationing of dairy products was lifted in 1949, while price control and rationing of housing and cars continued as long as until 1960.

The war time alliance with Britain and the US was continued in the post-war years. Although pursuing the goal of a socialist economy, the Labour Party distanced itself from the communists (especially after Soviet seizure of power in Czechoslovakia in 1948), and strengthened its foreign policy and defence policy ties with the US. Norway received Marshall aid from 1947, joined the OEEC one year later and NATOmarker in 1949.

Around 1975, both the proportion and absolute number of workers in industry peaked. Since then labour intensive industries and services like factory mass production and shipping have largely been off sourced. In 1969 Philips Petroleum discovered petroleum resources at the Ekofisk field. In 1973 the government founded the State oil company, Statoilmarker. Oil production didn't become a net income before the early 1980s due to the heavy capital investments required in the petroleum industry.

Norway was one of the founding members of European Free Trade Area (EFTA). Two referendums to join the European Union failed by narrow margins in 1972 and 1994. In 1981 a conservative government lead by Kåre Willoch replaced Labour with a policy of stimulating the stagflated economy by tax cuts, economic liberalization, deregulation of markets and measures curbing the record high inflation (13,6 % 1981).

Norway's first female prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland of the Labour party, continued many of the reforms of her right wing predecessor, while backing traditional Labour issues like social security, high taxes, industrialization of nature, and feminism. By the late 1990s, Norway had paid off foreign debt and started accumulating a sovereign wealth fund. Since the 1990s, one of the dividing issues in politics has been how much petroleum income the government should spend, relative to how much it should save.

Geography, climate, and environment

One of the many waterfall Norway is famous for.


Norway comprises the western part of Scandinavia in Northern Europe. The rugged coastline, broken by huge fjords and thousands of islands, stretches and including fjords and islands. Norway shares a land border with Swedenmarker, with Finlandmarker and a with Russiamarker at the east. To the west and south, Norway is bordered by the Barents Seamarker, the Norwegian Seamarker, the North Seamarker and Skagerakmarker.

At (including Svalbardmarker and Jan Mayenmarker), 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. The longest is Sognefjordenmarker at . Norway also contains many glaciers and waterfalls.

Glaciated; mostly high plateaus and rugged mountains broken by fertile valleys; small, scattered plains; coastline deeply indented by fjords; arctic tundra only in the extreme northeast (largely found on the Varanger Peninsulamarker). Frozen ground all-year can also be found in the higher mountain areas and in the interior of Finnmarkmarker county. Numerous glaciers are still found in Norway. As a result of the ice carving, Sognefjordenmarker is the world's second deepest fjord and Hornindalsvatnetmarker is the deepest lake in Europe.

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. Due to 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. The southern and western parts of Norway experience more precipitation, and have milder winters than the south-eastern part. The lowlands around the capital Oslo have the warmest and sunniest summers, but also cold weather and snow in wintertime (especially inland). Average temperatures have risen the last decades, decreasing the amount of days with snow cover in the lowlands.

Due to 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 of different lifeforms in Norway and adjacent waters (excluding bacteria and virus). The Norwegian Shelf large marine ecosystem is considered highly productive.

The total number of species include 16,000 species of insects (probably 4,000 more species yet to be described), 20,000 species of algae, 1,800 species of lichen, 1,050 species of mosses, 2,800 species of vascular plants, up to 7,000 species of fungi, 450 species of birds (250 species nesting in Norway), 90 species of mammals, 45 fresh-water species of fish, 150 salt-water species of fish, 1,000 species of fresh-water invertebrates and 3,500 species of salt-water invertebrates . About 40,000 of these species have been described by science. The red list of 2006 encompasses 3,886 species . 17 species are listed mainly because they are endangered on a global scale, such as the European Beaver, even if the population in Norway are not seen as endangered. There are 430 species of fungi on the red list, many of these are closely associated with the small remaining areas of old-growth forests . There are also 90 species of birds on the list and 25 species of mammals. 1,988 current species are listed as endangered or vulnerable as of 2006; of these are 939 listed as vulnerable (VU), 734 species are listed as endangered (EN), and 285 species are listed as critically endangered (CR) in Norway, among these are the gray wolf, the arctic fox (healthy population on Svalbard) and the pool frog.

The largest predator in Norwegian waters is the sperm whale, and the largest fish is the basking shark. The largest predator on land is the polar bear, while the brown bear is the largest predator on the Norwegian mainland, where the common moose is the largest animal.

Due to Norway's high latitude, there are large seasonal variations in daylight. From late May to late July, the sun never completely descends beneath the horizon in areas north of the Arctic Circle (hence Norway's description as the "Land of the Midnight Sun") and the rest of the country experiences up to 20 hours of daylight per day. Conversely, from late November to late January, the sun never rises above the horizon in the north, and daylight hours are very short in the rest of the country.

Throughout Norway, one will find stunning and dramatic scenery and landscape. The west coast of southern Norway and the coast of northern Norway present some of the most visually impressive coastal sceneries in the world. National Geographicmarker has listed the Norwegian fjords as the world's top tourist attraction. The 2008 Environmental Performance Index put Norway in second place, after Switzerlandmarker, based on the environmental performance of the country's policies.



Politics and government

Norway is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. Oslomarker is the capital city.

Constitution

The Constitution of Norway from 1814 was inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the French revolution in 1789 and subsequent constitutions, and was considered to be one of the most radically democratic constitutions in the world at the time of its adoption. Inspired by Montesqieu’s ideas, the Constitution separates power in three branches of government, the executive, legislative and judiciary. Based on the prevailing ideas during Enlightenment concerning distribution of power, the elected national assembly was only partly supposed to control the government, which was appointed by the King and in turn kept at bay by the independent courts. In 1884, a parliamentary system of government ( ) was introduced as customary law, making the Stortingmarker the supreme branch of government. In practice, this meant that any government must have sufficient backing in the national assembly, even though executive power is formally vested in the King. However, the Constitution was amended on February 20, 2007 , so today the parliamentary system of government enjoys explicit legal authority. The powers of the national government stem from the Stortingmarker, or more accurately, its composition following elections.

Monarchy

The Royal Family of Norway is a branch of the princely family of House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, originally from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. Since 1991 the king has been Harald V, the 66th since Unification, but the first king in many hundred years to actually have been born in Norway.Following the introduction of a parliamentary system of government in 1884, the duties of the Monarch have become largely representative and ceremonial. He or she:
  • Is Head of State
  • Opens the Storting
  • Formally dissolves and installs governments
  • Presides over meetings in the Council of State
  • Functions as the nominal head or High Protector of the Church of Norway
  • Is Commander-in-Chief of the Norwegian Defence Force
  • Receives credentials from Ambassadors-in-waiting
  • Represents Norway during state visits both abroad and in Norway
  • Serves as fountain of honour
  • Holds audiences with prominent Norwegian figures within politics, industry, commerce and culture.
However, the Monarch does retain some royal prerogatives. He may issue pardons for prisoners (Article 20) and engage in war (Article 26), although it is unlikely that any of these two prerogatives would be put into use today. However, during the German occupation, Haakon VII said he would abdicate rather than appoint a collaborationist government led by Vidkun Quisling.The Monarch acts a symbol of unity, and a majority of Norwegians are still in favour of retaining the monarchy . There is also broad political consensus on this issue.

The Norwegian monarchy is unique in the sense that in 1905, when Norway declared its independence, a referendum was held asking the electorate to vote for either a monarchy or a republic. Even though only men were allowed to vote at the time, women also organised petitions. The referendum (and the petitions) resulted in a majority in favour of a monarchy.

Council of State

The Council of State consists of the Prime Minister (the head of government) and other ministers, formally appointed by the King. It is the equivalent of a cabinet. 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. 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.

Custom dictates that the King asks the sitting Prime Minister for advice on whom he shall ask to become the next PM. If the suggested person refuses, is unable to form a cabinet or the attempt fails, the King is then free to ask whomever he like... which is what King Haakon VII did when he asked the still revolutionary Labor-party and thus paved the way for Norway's first Labor-government, after Bondepartiet (the sitting PM's suggestion) failed to form a Cabinet.

The King has government meetings every Friday at the Royal Palacemarker (Council of State), but the government decisions are decided in advance in government conferences headed by the Prime Minister every Tuesday and Thursday. 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 19 members. After the negotiations of looser ties between the church and the state, it was decided that this requirement will be abolished in the near future . Nevertheless, only members of the Church of Norway are allowed to discuss matters relating directly to the Church (like the appointment of a bishop) within the Council of State.

Storting



The Norwegian parliament is the Stortingmarker (Stortinget). It currently has 169 members (an increase from 165 effective in the September 2005 elections). 150 members are elected from the 19 counties for four-year terms according to a system of proportional representation. An additional 19 seats ("levelling seats") are allocated on a nationwide basis to make the representation in parliament correspond better with the popular vote. There is a 4 percent election threshold to gain levelling seats. The word Storting means "Grand Assembly".

The Storting is a qualified unicameral body.

Impeachment cases are very rare and may be brought against Members of the Council of State, of the Supreme Courtmarker (Høyesterett), or of the Storting for criminal offenses which they may have committed in their official capacity. The last case was in 1927, when Prime Minister Abraham Berge was acquitted.

Constitutional amendments of 20 February 2007 provide for:
  • The abolition of division after the 2009 general election (making the Storting fully unicameral). Legislation will go through two readings, or three in case of dissent, before being passed and sent to the King for assent.
  • Changes in impeachment procedures. The current system (indictments raised by the Odelsting and judged by the Lagting and the Supreme Court justices as part of the High Court of the Realm) will be replaced by new system (indictments raised by the Storting in plenary session; impeachment cases will be heard by the five highest-ranking Supreme Court justices and six lay members in one of the Supreme Court courtrooms, instead of the Lagting chamber; Storting representatives no longer perform as lay judges).


Supreme Court

The judiciary is referred to as the Courts of Justice of Norway. It consists of a Supreme Courtmarker of 19 permanent judges and a chief justice, appellate courts, city and district courts, and conciliation councils. Judges attached to regular courts are appointed by the king-in-council.

In its 2007 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Norway at a shared 1st place (with Iceland) out of 169 countries. The death penalty was abolished in Norway in 1902. Death penalty for high treason in war and war-crimes was also abolished in 1979. Norway has the lowest murder rate in the world.

Foreign relations and military

Norwegian Leopard tanks in the snow.


Norway maintains embassies in 86 countries. 60 countries maintain an embassy in Norway, all of them in the capital, Oslo.

Norway is a founding member of the United Nations, NATOmarker and the Council of Europe. The Norwegian electorate has twice rejected treaties of accession to the European Union (EU). Most legislation made by the EU is however implemented in the country due to Norway's membership in the European Economic Area (EEA). This ensures Norway's access to the EU's internal market.

The Norwegian Armed Forces currently numbers about 23,000 personnel, including civilian employees. According to the current (as of 2009) mobilization plans, the strength during full mobilization is approximately 83,000 combatant personnel. Norway has conscription for males (6–12 months of training) and voluntary service for females.

Because of the effect of the failed neutrality of Norway during World War II and their subsequent surrender to Germany in June 1940, Norway was one of the founding nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationmarker (NATO) on 4 April 1949, thus abandoning the neutrality policy first imposed. Norway claims to have never formally surrendered to the German invasion. Their monarchy and some government officials fled to the United Kingdommarker.

Norway contributes with forces in international missions organised by NATO, the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), notably in:

Subdivisions and cities

Norway is divided into nineteen first-level administrative regions known as fylker ("counties", singular fylke) and 430 second-level kommuner ("municipalities", singular kommune). The fylke is the intermediate administration between state and municipality. The King is represented in every county by a Fylkesmann ("Governor").

The counties of Norway are:



There are 96 settlements with city status in Norway. In most cases, the city borders are coterminous with the borders of their respective municipalities. Often, Norwegian city municipalities include large non-built up areas; for example, Oslo municipality contains large forests, located north and south-east of the city, and over half of Bergen municipality consists of mountaineous areas. The ten largest municipalities with city status in Norway are (as of 1 July 2009):
The 10 most populous municipalities in Norway
Municipality Population Area Density
Oslomarker 580,229 453 km² 1280/km²
Bergenmarker 253,600 465 km² 545/km²
Trondheimmarker 169,343 341 km² 496/km²
Stavangermarker 122,602 71 km² 1726/km²
Bærummarker 110,381 191 km² 577/km²
Kristiansandmarker 80,748 276 km² 292/km²
Fredrikstadmarker 73,175 290 km² 252/km²
Tromsømarker 66,901 2557 km² 26/km²
Sandnesmarker 64,034 302 km² 212/km²
Drammenmarker 61,958 137 km² 452/km²
Sandvikamarker in Bærummarker municipality (population of 110,381 as of 2008) declared itself a city in 2003 (permitted since 1996), but the "city border" of Sandvika is usually not considered to be coterminous with the municipality border. As Sandvika and most of Bærum in general is included in the Oslo urban area, as defined by Statistics Norway, its population is not possible to estimate.

Norway also has two integral overseas territories, Jan Mayenmarker and Svalbardmarker. There are also three Antarcticmarker and Subantarctic dependencies: Bouvet Islandmarker, Peter I Islandmarker and Queen Maud Land.

Largest cities

Economy

GDP and GDP growth
Norwegians enjoy the second highest GDP per-capita (after Luxembourgmarker) and third highest GDP per-capita in the world. 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 Norwegian economy is an example of a mixed economy, featuring a combination of free market activity and large state ownership in certain key sectors. The state has large ownership positions in key industrial sectors, such as the strategic petroleum sector (Statoilmarker), hydroelectric energy production (Statkraftmarker), aluminum production (Norsk Hydromarker), the largest Norwegian bank (DnB NORmarker) and telecommunication provider (Telenormarker). 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 even higher share in ownership (mainly from direct oil license ownership).Norway is a major shipping nation, and has the world's 6th largest merchant fleet, with 1,412 Norwegian-owned merchant vessels (2009).



Referendums in 1972 and 1994 indicated that the Norwegian people wished to remain outside the European Union (EU). However, Norway, together with Icelandmarker and Liechtensteinmarker, participates in the European Union's single market via the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. The EEA Treaty between the European Union countries and the EFTA countries transposed into Norwegian law via "EØS-loven" describes the procedures for implementing European Union rules in Norway and the other EFTA countries. This makes Norway a highly integrated member of most sectors of the EU internal market. However, 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.
Tourism is important for Norway.
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 continuing boom in the economy. Norway has obtained one of the highest standards of living in the world in part by having a large amount of natural resources compared to the size of the population. The income from natural resources includes a significant contribution from petroleum production and the substantial and well-managed income related to this sector. Norway also has a very low unemployment rate, currently 3% (June 2009). The hourly productivity levels, as well as average hourly wages in Norway are among the highest in the world. The egalitarian values of the Norwegian society ensure that the wage difference between the lowest paid worker and the CEO of most companies is much smaller than in comparable western economies. This is also evident in Norway's low Gini coefficient.

Cost of living is about 30% higher in Norway than in the United States and 25% higher than the United Kingdom.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. Continued oil and gas exports coupled with a healthy economy and substantial accumulated wealth lead to a conclusion that Norway will remain among the richest countries in the world in the foreseeable future.

Resources

Norwegian oil production


Export revenues from oil and gas have risen to 45% of total exports and constitute more than 20% of the GDP. Norway is the world's 7th largest oil exporter and 3rd largest gas exporter but is not an OPEC member. To reduce over-heating from oil money and the uncertainty from the oil income volatility, and to save money for an aging population, the Norwegian state started in 1995 to save petroleum income (taxes, dividends, licensing, sales) in a sovereign wealth fund ("Government Pension Fund — Global"). This also reduces the boom and bust cycle associated with raw material production and the marginalization of non-oil industry (see also Dutch Disease).

The control mechanisms over petroleum resources are a combination of state ownership in major operators in the Norwegian oil fields (Statoilmarker approximately 62% in 2007) and the fully state-owned Petoro (market value of about twice Statoil) and SDFI. Finally the government controls licensing of exploration and production of fields. The fund invests in developed financial markets outside Norway. The budgetary rule ("Handlingsregelen") is to spend no more than 4% of the fund each year (assumed to be the normal yield from the fund ).

By January 2006, the Government Pension Fund of Norway fund had reached a value of USD 200 billion. During the first half of 2007, the pension fund became the largest fund in Europe, with assets of about USD 300 billion (equivalent to over USD 62,000 per capita). The savings equal the Norwegian GDP and are the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation as of April 2007. Projections indicate that the Norwegian pension fund may become the largest capital fund in the world. Currently it is the second-largest state-owned sovereign wealth fund, second only to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority; Conservative estimates tell that the fund may reach USD 800–900 billion by 2017. As of November 2009, the size of the fund is approximately USD 455 billion, and it controls approximately 1.25% of all listed shares in Europe and more than 1% of the all the publicly traded shares in the world. The Norwegian Central Bank operates investment offices in London, New York and Shanghai. New guidelines (implemented in 2007) allow the fund to invest up to 60% of the capital in shares (maximum of 40% prior), while the rest may be placed in bonds and real-estate. As the stock markets tumbled in September 2008, the fund was able to buy more shares at low prices. In this way, the losses incurred by the market turmoil was recuperated by November 2009.

Other natural resource-based economies, such as Russiamarker, are trying to learn from Norway by establishing similar funds. The investment choices of the Norwegian fund are directed by ethical guidelines; for example, the fund is not allowed to invest in companies that produce parts for nuclear weapons. The highly transparent investment scheme is lauded by the international community.

The future size of the fund is of course closely linked to the price of oil and to developments in international financial markets. The Norwegian trade surplus for 2008 reached approximately USD 80 billion. With an enormous amount of cash invested in international financial markets, Norway has financial muscles to avert many of the worst effects of the financial crisis that hit most countries in the fall of 2008. As most western countries struggle with burgeoning foreign debt, Norway remains an island of stowed-away wealth, financial stability and economic power to meet the challenges of the worldwide economic crisis. In spite of the crisis, Norway still runs a 7% state budget surplus, being the only western country to run a surplus as of July 2009.

In 2000, the government sold one-third of the then 100% state-owned oil company Statoilmarker in an IPO. The next year, the main telecom supplier, Telenormarker, was listed on Oslo Stock Exchange. The state also owns significant shares of Norway's largest bank, DnB NORmarker and the airline SAS. Since 2000, economic growth has been rapid, pushing unemployment down to levels not seen since the early 1980s (unemployment in 2007: 1.3%). The international financial crisis has primarily affected the industrial sector, but it is unlikely that unemployment will surpass 5–6% in 2009–2010. Norway is among the least affected countries of the international economic downturn. Neighbouring Swedenmarker is experiencing substantially higher actual and projected unemployment numbers as a result of the ongoing recession, and in 1st quarter 2009 the GNP of Norway surpassed Sweden's for the first time in history.

Norway is also the world's second largest exporter of fish (in value, after China). Hydroelectric plants generate roughly 98–99% of Norways electric power.

Education

Higher education in Norway is offered by a range of seven universities, five specialised colleges, 25 university colleges as well as a range of private colleges. Education follows the Bologna process involving Bachelor (3 years), Master (2 years) and PhD (4 years) degrees. Acceptance is offered after finishing upper secondary school with general study competence.

Public education is virtually free, with an academic year with two semesters, from August to December and from January to June. The ultimate responsibility for the education lies with the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research.

Demography

Demographics in Norway
As of 2009, Norway's population numbers roughly 4.8 million. Most Norwegians are ethnic Norwegians, a North Germanic people. The Sami people traditionally inhabit central and northern parts of Norway and Sweden, as well as in northern Finland and in Russia on the Kola Peninsula. Another national minority are the Kven people who are the descendants of Finnish speaking people that moved to northern Norway in the 18th up to the 20th century. Both the Sami and the Kven were subjected to a strong assimilation policy by the Norwegian government from the 19th century up to the 1970s. Because of this "Norwegianization process", many families of Sami or Kven ancestry now self-identify as ethnic Norwegian. This, combined with a long history of co-habitation of the Sami and North Germanic peoples on the Scandinavian peninsula, makes claims about ethnic population statistics less straightforward than is often suggested  — particularly in central and northern Norway. Other groups recognized as national minorities of Norway are Jews, Forest Finns, Roma/Gypsies and Romani people/Travellers.

In recent years, immigration has accounted for more than half of Norway's population growth. According to Statistics Norway (SSB), a record 61,200 immigrants arrived in the country in 2007 — 35% higher than 2006. At the beginning of 2008, there were 459,600 persons in Norway with an immigrant background (i.e. immigrants, or born of immigrant parents), comprising 9.7% of the total population. 350,000 of these were from a non-Western background, which includes the formerly Communist countries according to the definition used by Statistics Norway. The largest immigrant groups by country of origin, in order of size, are Pakistanismarker, Swedes, Iraqis, Somalis, Vietnamese, Poles, Danes, and Germans. Norwegians of Pakistani descent are the largest visible minority group in Norway, with most of its 30,000 members living around Oslo. The Iraqi immigrant population has shown a large increase in recent years. After the enlargement of the EU in 2004, there has also been an influx of immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, particularly Polandmarker. The largest increase in 2007 was of immigrants from Polandmarker, Germanymarker, Swedenmarker, Lithuaniamarker and Russiamarker.

There are almost 4.7 million Norwegian Americans according to the 2006 U.S. census. The number of Americans of Norwegian descent living in the U.S. today is roughly equal to the current population of Norway. In the 2006 Canadian census, 432,515 Canadian citizens claimed Norwegian ancestry, making up 1.4% of the population of Canada.

Religion



Nearly 83% of Norwegians are members of the state Church of Norway, to which they are registered at baptism. Many remain in the state church to be able to use services such as baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial, rites which have strong cultural standing in Norway. However, only 20% of Norwegians say that religion occupies an important place in their life (according to a recent Gallup poll), making Norway one of the most secular countries of the world (only in Estonia, Sweden and Denmark the percentage of people who considered religion to be important was lower). In the early 1990s, it was estimated that between 4.7% – 5.3% of Norwegians attended church on a weekly basis. Up to 40% of the membership attends church or religious meetings at least once annually.

According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005, 32% of Norwegian citizens responded that "they believe there is a god," whereas 47% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 17% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force." According to Gustafsson and Pettersson(2002), 72% of Norwegians do not believe in a 'personal God.'

Other Christian denominations total about 4.5% of the population. These include the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptists,Pentecostal congregations, the Methodist Church, and Adventists, and others. Among non-Christian religions, Islam is the largest, representing about 1.5% of the population: It is practiced mainly by Somali, Arab, Albanian, and Turkish immigrants, as well as Norwegians of Pakistani descent. Other religions comprise less than 1% each, including Judaism (see Jews in Norway) as well as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Indianmarker immigrants introduced Hinduism to Norway, but account for fewer than 5,000 people, or 1% of non-Lutheran Norwegians. There are eleven Buddhist organizations, grouped under the Buddhistforbundet organisation, which make up 0.42% of the population. Around 1.5% of Norwegians adhere to the secular Norwegian Humanist Association. About 5% of the population is unaffiliated.

Like other Scandinavian countries, the Norse followed a form of native Germanic paganism known as Norse paganism. By the end of the eleventh century, when Norway had been Christianised, the indigenous Norse religion and practices were prohibited. Remnants of the native religion and beliefs of Norway survive today in the form of names, referential names of cities and locations, the days of the week, and other parts of the everyday language.

Parts of the Sami minority retained their shamanistic religion well into the 18th century when they were converted to Christianity by Dano-Norwegian missionaries.

Languages

The North Germanic Norwegian language has two official written forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk. They have officially equal status, i.e. they are both used in public administration, in schools, churches, radio and television, but Bokmål is used by the vast majority, about 85–90%. Around 95% of the population speak Norwegian as their native tongue, although many speak dialects that may differ significantly from the written language. In general Norwegian dialects are inter-intelligible, though some may require significant effort. Several Finno-Ugric Sami languages are spoken and written throughout the country, especially in the north, by the Sami people. Speakers have a right to get education in Sami language no matter where they are living, and receive communications from government in various Sami languages. The Kven minority speak the Finno-Ugric Kven language/Finnish. There is advocacy for making Norwegian Sign Language an official Norwegian language.

In the 19th and 20th century, Norwegian language was subject to strong political and cultural controversy, which led to the creation of Nynorsk in the 19th century and to the formation of alternative spelling standards in the 20th century, notably the Riksmål standard, which is more conservative (that is, more similar to Danish) than Bokmål.

Norwegian is highly similar to the other languages in Scandinavia, Swedish and Danish. All three languages are mutually intelligible and can be and commonly are employed in communication between inhabitants of the Scandinavian countries. As a result of the cooperation within the Nordic Council, inhabitants of all Nordic countries, including Icelandmarker and Finlandmarker, have the right to communicate with the Norwegian authorities in their own language.

Any Norwegian student who is a child of immigrant parents is encouraged to learn the Norwegian language. The Norwegian government offers language instructional courses for immigrants wishing to obtain Norwegian citizenship.

The main foreign language taught in Norwegian elementary school is English. The majority of the population is fluent in English, especially those born after World War II. German, French and Spanish are also commonly taught as a second or, more often, third language. Russian, Japanese, Italian, Latin and rarely Chinese are available in some schools, mostly in the cities. Traditionally, English, German and French were considered the main foreign languages in Norway; these languages were for instance used on Norwegian passports until the 1990s, and university students have a general right to employ these languages when submitting their theses.

Culture

Norwegian culture 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 18th 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.

Cuisine

Norwegian open sandwich.


Norway's culinary traditions show the influence of long seafaring and farming traditions with salmon (fresh and cured), herring (pickled or marinated), trout, codfish and other seafood balanced by cheeses, dairy products and excellent breads (predominantly dark/darker). Lefse is a common Norwegian potato flatbread, common around Christmas. For renowned Norwegian dishes, see lutefisk, smalahove, pinnekjøtt, Krotekaker and fårikål.

Performing arts

Film

Not until fairly recently has the Norwegian cinema received international recognition but as early as 1959, Arne Skouen's Nine Lives was in fact nominated for an Oscar. Flåklypa Grand Prix (English: Pinchcliffe Grand Prix), an animated feature film directed by Ivo Caprino and released in 1975, is based on characters from Norwegian cartoonist Kjell Aukrust. It is the most widely-seen Norwegian film of all time.

There was however a real breakthrough in 1987 with Nils Gaup's Pathfinder which told the story of the Sami. It was nominated for an Oscar and was a huge international success. Berit Nesheim's The Other Side of Sunday was also nominated for an Oscar in 1997.

Since the 1990s, the film industry has thrived with up to 20 feature films each year. Particular successes were Kristin Lavransdatter, The Telegraphist and Gurin with the Foxtail. Knut Erik Jensen was among the more successful new directors together with Erik Skjoldbjaerg remembered for Insomnia.

Music



Along with the classical music of romantic composer Edvard Grieg and the modern music of Arne Nordheim, Norwegian black metal has become something of an export article in recent years.

Norway's classical performers include Leif Ove Andsnes, one of the world's more famous pianists, and Truls Mørk, an outstanding cellist.

The jazz scene in Norway is also thriving. Jan Garbarek, Mari Boine, Arild Andersen, and Bugge Wesseltoft are internationally recognised while Paal Nilssen-Love, Supersilent, Jaga Jazzist and Wibutee are becoming world-class artists of the younger generation.

Norway has a strong folk music tradition which remains popular to this day. Among the most prominent folk musicians are Hardanger fiddlers Andrea Een, Olav Jørgen Hegge, Vidar Lande and Annbjørg Lien, violinist Susanne Lundeng, and vocalists Agnes Buen Garnås, Kirsten Bråten Berg and Odd Nordstoga.

Fine arts

Literature

History of Norwegian literature starts with the pagan Eddaic poems and skaldic verse of the 9th and 10th centuries with poets such as Bragi Boddason and Eyvindr Skáldaspillir. The arrival of Christianity around the year 1000 brought Norway into contact with European medieval learning, hagiography and history writing. Merged with native oral tradition and Icelandic influence this was to flower into an active period of literature production in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Major works of that period include Historia Norwegie, Thidreks saga and Konungs skuggsjá.

Little Norwegian literature came out of the period of the Scandinavian Union and the subsequent Dano-Norwegian union (1387—1814), with some notable exceptions such as Petter Dass and Ludvig Holberg. In his play Peer Gynt, Ibsen characterized this period as "Twice two hundred years of darkness/brooded o'er the race of monkeys", although the latter line is not as frequently quoted as the former. During the union with Denmark, written Norwegian was replaced by Danish.

Two major events precipitated a major resurgence in Norwegian literature. In 1811 a Norwegian university was established in Christianiamarker. Seized by the spirit of revolution following the American and French Revolutions, the Norwegians signed their first Constitution in 1814. Soon, the cultural backwater that was Norway brought forth a series of strong authors recognized first in Scandinavia, and then worldwide; among them were Henrik Wergeland, Peter Asbjørnsen, Jørgen Moe and Camilla Collett.



By the late 19th century, in the Golden Age of Norwegian literature, the so-called Great Four emerged: Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Alexander Kielland, and Jonas Lie. Bjørnson's "peasant novels", such as "En glad gutt" (A Happy Boy) and "Synnøve Solbakken" are typical of the national romanticism of their day, whereas Kielland's novels and short stories are mostly realistic. Although an important contributor to early Norwegian romanticism (especially the ironic Peer Gynt), Henrik Ibsen's fame rests primarily on his pioneering realistic dramas such The Wild Duck and A Doll's House, many of which caused moral uproar because of their candid portrayals of the middle classes.

In the twentieth century, three Norwegian novelists were awarded the Nobel prize in literature: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in 1903, Knut Hamsun for the book "Markens grøde" ("Growth of the Soil") in 1920, and Sigrid Undset in 1928. In the 20th century writers like Dag Solstad, Jon Fosse, Cora Sandel, Olav Duun, Stein Mehren, Kjell Askildsen, Hans Herbjørnsrud, Aksel Sandemose, Bergljot Hobæk Haff, Jostein Gaarder, Erik Fosnes Hansen, Jens Bjørneboe, Kjartan Fløgstad, Lars Saabye Christensen, Johan Borgen, Herbjørg Wassmo, Jan Erik Vold, Rolf Jacobsen, Olaf Bull, Jan Kjærstad, Georg Johannesen, Tarjei Vesaas, Sigurd Hoel, Arnulf Øverland and Johan Falkberget have made important contributions to Norwegian literature.

File:Ludvig Holberg.jpg|Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754)File:AaOVinje1.jpg|Aasmund Olavsson Vinje (1818–1870)File:Ibsen photography.jpg|Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906)File:Bjørnstjerne Martinus Bjørnson.jpg|Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832–1910)File:Jonaslie.jpg|Jonas Lie (1833–1908)File:Kielkopi.jpg|Alexander Kielland (1849–1906)File:Knut Hamsun.jpeg|Knut Hamsun (1859–1952)File:Sigrid Undset 1928.jpg|Sigrid Undset (1882–1949)

Architecture



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.

Norway's conversion to Christianity some 1,000 years ago led to the introduction of stonework architecture, beginning with the construction of Nidaros Cathedralmarker in Trondheimmarker.

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 the Bryggen Wharfmarker in Bergen, consisting of a row of narrow wooden structures along the quayside.
In the 17th century, under the Danish monarchy, cities such as Kongsbergmarker with its Baroque church and Rørosmarker with its wooden buildings were established.

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

At the beginning of the 20th century, the city of Ålesundmarker was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style. The 1930s, when functionalism dominated, became a strong period for Norwegian architecture, but it is only in recent decades that Norwegian architects have truly achieved international renown. One of the most striking modern buildings in Norway is the Sami Parliament in Kárášjohkamarker designed by Stein Halvorson and Christian Sundby. Its debating chamber is an abstract timber version of a Lavvo, the traditional tent used by the nomadic Sami people.

Art

Edvard Munch's The Scream (1893)


For an extended period, the Norwegian art scene was dominated by artwork from Germany and Holland as well as by the influence of Copenhagen. It was in the 19th century that a truly Norwegian era began, first with portraits, later with even more impressive landscapes. Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1857), originally from the Dresden school, eventually returned to paint the landscapes of western Norway, defining Norwegian painting for the first time."

Norway’s new-found independence from Denmark encouraged painters to develop their Norwegian identity, especially with landscape painting by artists such as Kitty Kielland, 1843-1914, an early female painter who studied under Gude; Harriet Backer, 1845-1932, another pioneer among female artists, influenced by impressionism. Frits Thaulow, 1847-1906, an impressionist, was influenced by the art scene in Paris as was Christian Krohg, 1852-1925, a realist painter, famous for his paintings of prostitutes.

Of particular note is Edvard Munch, (1863-1944), a symbolist/expressionist painter who became world famous for The Scream which is said to represent the anxiety of modern man.

Other artists of note include Harald Sohlberg, (1869-1935), a neo-romantic painter remembered for his paintings of Rørosmarker and Odd Nerdrum, (b. 1944), a figurative painter who maintains his work is not art but kitch.

See also



References

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