Norway

The Kingdom of Norway lies in the western part of the Scandinavian Peninsula and shares borders with Finland, Sweden and Russia. The country's landscape is primarily mountainous and rugged, and some parts are topped with spectacular glaciers. The extensive coastline is home to its famous steep-sloped fjords, as well as a myriad of islets and islands. Norway encompasses the Arctic territories of Jan Mayen and Svalbard. People from all over the world visit this country to marvel at the beauty of nature. The highest point in the country is the Galdhopiggen, at 2,469 metres. Its deepest lake is Hornindalsvatnet, with a maximum depth of 514 metres. This is also the deepest lake in Europe.

The northernmost region of the country is referred to as the Land of the Midnight Sun. As it’s located north of the Arctic Circle, the sun doesn’t set here for part of the summer, and doesn’t rise for a long time in the winter. Norway has a generally moderate climate, especially in the littoral areas. Inland, the weather conditions can get more extreme. Subarctic conditions are found to the north.

The Kingdom of Norway is a constitutional monarchy. Its parliament, Stortinget, has two chambers and 169 members. The country has 19 administrative divisions (fylker) and 431 municipalities. It has around 4.6 million inhabitants, most of whom are of Nordic descent. A small minority in the north is of Finnish or Sami origin. The capital of Norway, Oslo, has the highest number of Sami residents. In the last few years, Norway has experienced a surge in its immigrant population. The main immigrant groups are Swedes, Danes, Pakistanis, Iraqis, Somalis and Vietnamese.

The history of Norway is fascinating. Excavations prove that this territory was settled as far back as 12 millennia ago. In the 800s, Norway was comprised of several small kingdoms. In 872, they were united under Harald Fairhair, who became the first King of Norway. The Viking Age was one of wide-scale expansion. The Norwegians settled in Iceland, Greenland, some British Islands, and the Faroe Islands. These tribes founded the cities of Dublin, Limerick and Cork. King William, who remains in history as William the Conqueror (and alternatively as William the Bastard), was the descendant of a Norwegian ruler. William is remembered for conquering England in 1066.

The royal line of Norway disappeared in 1387. After half of its population was wiped out by the Black Plague, the country came under the control of Queen Margrethe, along with Sweden and Denmark. Norway and Denmark formed the Kalmar Union, which wasn’t dissolved until 1814. Norway's role as the weaker part of this union is referred to as the 400-Year Night.

Norway was neutral in World War I, and attempted to remain so in World War II. However, the Germans invaded the country in 1940 and occupied it for five years. This shook the Norwegians' faith in neutrality, and the country was among the signatories of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty. Norway was also a founding member of the UN.

Moreover, this is a country with a remarkable culture, of which the most striking aspect is mythology. Norse myths and folk tales aren’t as famous as the Greek and Roman ones, which is hard to comprehend. Nevertheless, we owe them some of the most important philosophical and historical symbols recognised around the world. One is the eternal tree, Yggdrasil. Its roots extend into the past, its trunk embodies the present, and its branches stretch up into the future. The image of the tree is circumscribed in a globe. It is infinitely thought-provoking.

When it comes to the economy, it’s a combination of state control and free-market activity. The government controls the petrol sector, a key economic area. The country has many rich natural resources, including petroleum, fish, hydro-power, minerals and forests. It has succeeded in achieving one of the highest standards of living on an international scale. It ranked fifth out of 232 countries in terms of GDP per capita in 2008. Recent years have seen Norway rise to the top of the international human development index. The country also leads the indexes measuring press freedom, anti-corruption measures, women's rights, children's rights and economic competitiveness.