Constitutional monarchy in the Scandinavian peninsula. It is limited to the north by the Barents Sea, to the northwest by Finland and Russia, to the east by Sweden, to the south by the Skagerrak Strait and by the North Sea and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The coast, very cut by fjords and islands, stretches for 21,925 km in length. Its surface is 323,877 km2. Oslo is the capital.
Norwegian possessions in the Arctic Glacial Ocean are the Svalbard archipelago and the volcanic island of Jan Majen; southwest of the Cape of Good Hope is Bouvet Island. Norway also claims rights over Peter I Island and the area of Antarctica known as Queen Maud’s Land.
Territory and resources
Norwegian territory is very mountainous with approximately one third located north of the Arctic Circle. Its coastline, in proportion to its area, is larger than that of all other major countries in the world. It is divided into five major regions: Vestlandet (western country), Ostlandet (eastern country), Trøndelag (Trondeim region), Nord Norge (northern Norway) and Sørlandet (southern country).
The highest altitudes of the Scandinavian hills are found in southern Norway and separate the Vestlandet from the Ostlandet. Vestlandet is an area characterized by the steep descent of the mountains towards the sea. The fjords were formed during the quaternary glaciations, with the deepening of the ice masses in the old river valleys.
In Ostlandet, the eastern slopes of the mountains are more gentle; it is a territory of valleys and hills, suitable for agriculture. Trondelag, which lies to the north of the highest mountains, resembles Ostlandet. In the center is the great fjord of Trondheim, surrounded by very productive arable land. The Nord Norge, an extensive region of fjords and mountains, is the so-called land of the midnight sun. The Lofoten archipelago and the Vesterålen islands are formed by the glacial peaks of a partially submerged mountain range.
The Glomma is the longest river and, with its tributaries, drains one eighth of the country’s surface. In Norway, lakes of glacial origin are numerous; the biggest one is Mjosa.
The climate is much more temperate than that of other territories located on the same latitude, thanks to the moderating effects of the warm waters of the North Atlantic derivation (an extension of the Gulf Stream). The islands and lowlands have a maritime climate. Winters are cool and summers generally have a temperate climate. Inland, a more continental climate prevails. In the highlands of Nord Norge, the climate is polar continental, but the coastal areas of this region have a moderate maritime climate and most ports, including in the far north, do not suffer from the effects of ice in winter.
The forests cover a quarter of Norway’s surface. To the south and southwest, the forests are deciduous like oaks, ash, hazel, elms, maples and linden trees. Towards the east and the north, the number of conifers, birches, alders, willows – weeping and rowan trees increases. In the extreme north and at higher altitudes, the tundra predominates. With regard to fauna, reindeers, polar foxes, polar hares, wolves and lemmings are common in the northern part and in the highest mountains. In the south and southeast, live the moose, the deer, the foxes, the nutria and the mink. Freshwater and saltwater fish abound.
Population and government
The population is ethnically homogeneous
The only minority groups of any importance are the Sami and a people of Finnish origin who live in Nord Norge. In 1993, the population of Norway was 4,324,815 inhabitants, with a density of 13.3 inhabitants / km2, the lowest in Europe. Oslo is the main port, the capital and the largest industrial center, with a population of 477,781 inhabitants (1993). Other cities are Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger. The two forms of the Norwegian language are officially recognized: Bokmål (written language), used by 80% of the population and Nynorsk (neo-Norwegian), spoken by the remaining 20%. Sami (Lapps) speak a Ural-Altaic language. About 89% of the population belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran church in Norway. There are Pentecostal groups and other Protestant factions (11%).
Norway is a hereditary constitutional and parliamentary monarchy. The Constitution was promulgated in 1814. The king has executive power, although his powers are nominal and his administrative functions are exercised by the Council of Ministers. The king makes all governmental appointments at the nomination of the party with the parliamentary majority. Parliament, called Storting, is the legislative authority.
In 1994, the gross domestic product was 123.3 billion dollars. Although the Norwegian economy is based on free enterprise, the government has considerable control. Norway has one of the highest living standards in the world: per capita income in 1992 was $ 27,524. The weight of agriculture is not very significant, neither in the active population nor in the gross domestic product. In Østlandet and Trøndelag, cereals are grown; the regions of Vestlandet and Nord Norge are specialized in cattle breeding.
Norway has one of the most important fishing industries in the world and since the early 1970s has been developing fish farming activities (mainly with river and sea salmon). In 1993, Norway refused to accept the 1988 whaling ban, arguing that the whale was not threatened. Norway’s main mineral resources are oil and natural gas, extracted from the large reserves on the continental shelf of the North Sea. Its mineral resources of iron, copper, zinc and coal are modest. The electrochemical and electrometallurgical industries constitute the most important segment of the secondary sector. Shipbuilding, traditionally important, has drastically emptied since the late 1970s due to financial problems.
The monetary unit is the crown
During World War I, Sweden, Norway and Denmark agreed to declare themselves neutral, a policy that continued after the war. The 1929 depression deeply affected Norway. The Labor Party gained power in 1935 and continued its policy of moderation and liberalism. Despite their neutrality at the beginning of World War II, in 1940 German forces invaded Norway. Vidkun Quisling, head of the National Union, proclaimed himself head of the government. King Haakom and his council of ministers withdrew to London. Political leaders refused to cooperate with German commissioner Josef Terboven, who dissolved all parties and announced the abolition of the monarchy. These and other measures faced massive resistance from the Norwegians. In May 1945, German forces surrendered and Haakom returned from exile.
The Labor Party won a majority in the 1945 general elections and remained in power for the next twenty years. Under his administration, Norway has consolidated itself as one of the states whose social welfare is one of the most advanced in the world. He was a founding member of the United Nations (UN) and his entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) presupposed the abandonment of his traditional neutrality. In 1959, Norway signed, as a founding member, the agreement of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
In the 1961 elections, the Labor Party lost the majority it held since 1935. In 1965, it was defeated in the general election, and King Olavo V, successor to Haakom VII, asked the head of the conservative forces coalition to form the government. But economic policy has not undergone major changes, and since then coalitions of conservative parties have alternated in power. In 1970, Norway applied for membership of the European Community (now the European Union), which created strong dissension among politicians. The Norwegians, in the 1972 referendum, did not endorse this request, forcing a new change of government.
King Olavo V died in January 1991 and was succeeded by his son, Harald V. In 1994, the European Parliament approved the entry of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Austria into the European Union (EU), but, in a new referendum, the Norwegians rejected their entry into the EU for the second time.