Norway (Norwegian: Norge (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 Mayen and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard under the Spitsbergen Treaty. The majority of the country shares a border to the east with Sweden; its northernmost region is bordered by Finland to the south and Russia to the east. The United Kingdom and Faroe Islands lie to its west across the North Sea, Iceland and Greenland lies to its west across the Norwegian Sea, and Denmark lies south of its southern tip across the Skagerrak Strait. Bouvet Island and Peter I Island are dependent territories (Norwegian: biland) of Norway, but not considered part of the Kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land, a claim that has been recognised by Australia, France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Norway's extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea, is home to its famous fjords.
The area currently constituting Norway has been inhabited since at least the 10th millennium BC. The indigenous people of Northern Norway and Central Norway are the Sámi people, though Norse culture arrived very early on the scene 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.
Norway was unified according to tradition by Harald Fairhair (Harald Hårfagre) in 872 AD after the Battle of Hafrsfjord. In fact, though, Harald's realm was mainly a South Norwegian coastal state. The Viking age saw rapid expansion and emigration, Christianity gradually manifesting itself in the 10th and 11th centuries. After the black death, which killed as much as 60% of the population, the country entered into the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden in 1319, remaining united with Denmark when Sweden left in 1521. In 1814, Norway was ceded to the king of Sweden following Denmark-Norway's alliance with Napoleon, the loser of the Napoleonic wars. Norwegian resistance to the forced cession resulted in the adoption of a Constitution, a declaration of independence, and the election of crown prince Christian Frederick as king of Norway. The ensuing war forced Norway to accept a personal union with Sweden, but with its constitution intact and with separate institutions except for the foreign service. Declaring the dissolution of the Union on 7 June 1905, Norway called on a Danish prince to become King Haakon VII; the first king of a fully independent Norway in 586 years. However, independence was temporarily interrupted on 9 April 1940 until 8 May 1945, when Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany.
After the Second World War, the country has experienced rapid economic growth, particularly as a result of large oil deposits discovered in the early 1970s. Today it ranks amongst the wealthiest countries in the world, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation. Norway is the world’s fourth 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 China) 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, free higher education and a comprehensive social security system. Norway was ranked highest of all countries in human development from 2001 to 2006. It was also rated the most peaceful country in the world in a 2007 survey by Global Peace Index.
Although having rejected EU membership at two referendums, it maintains close ties with the Union and its member countries; as well as with the United States. 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 Lanka government and the Tamil Tigers. Norway remains one of the biggest financial contributors to the UN, and participates with forces in international missions, notably in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sudan.
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. It is a founding member of UN, NATO, the Council of Europe and the Nordic Council, and member of the European Economic Area, WTO and OECD.
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