|Flag||Coat of Arms|
|Monarch||King Harald V|
|Prime minister||Erna Solberg|
|Area||148,746 sq mi|
|GDP per capita||$46,300 (2006)|
Norway is a country in the peninsula of Scandinavia. The capital is Oslo, and the principal language in Norwegian, though Sami languages are also spoken in the far north. Norway is one of the few former Western Bloc nations not in the European Union but is a member of the Schengen Agreement group of countries which permit cross-border travel without passport control. It belongs to NATO and is a strong ally of the United States.
Norway has escaped the Recession of 2008 largely unscathed, partly by tapping into its oil and gas-fueled sovereign wealth fund — currently valued at more than 2.4 trillion kroner ($400 billion). Unemployment stands at 3%, among the lowest in Europe.
Oil and gas pumped from North Sea platforms have made the country of 4.8 million people one of the world's richest nations. Norway is the world's third largest exporter of natural gas and the sixth largest exporter of oil. While oil production has been falling in recent years, natural gas production continues to rise.
- 1 Geography
- 2 People
- 3 Government
- 4 Economy
- 5 History
- 6 See also
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
- 9 References
Norway is located in Northern Europe, bordering the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Sweden. It has an area of 385 186 km2. Its climate is temperate along coast; rainy year-round on west coast. Border countries are Finland, Sweden and Russia. Its longest river is the Glomma and its highest mountain the Galdhøpiggen with 2, 469 m. Norway population is estimated in 5,053,500 persons by the end of 2012.
Large areas of Norway consist of forests and mountains. We generally divide the country into northern and southern Norway but geographically we can refer to 4 regions. Southeast Norway contains extensive areas of forest, gentle valleys and rich arable land. In the southwest, nature is more dramatic with deep fjords penetrating 200 km or more into the heart of the country where mountain glaciers lie. The central region also has fjords and a coastline but here the mountains are more gentle and there are also extensive lowland areas. In northern Norway the landscape is a mixture of valleys, fjords, mountains and islands. 
Jan Mayen is a small volcanic island located in the Arctic Ocean. It is a part of Norway. While the island has no natural resources itself, there are substantial fish populations, and potentially untapped petroleum resources, in the surrounding waters. It was named after the first recorded visitor Dutch whaler, although it is possible that it was visited by the Vikings.
Ethnically, Norwegians are predominantly Germanic, although in the far north there are communities of Sami (Lapps) who came to the area more than 10,000 years ago (according to secular archeology), probably from central Asia. In recent years, Norway has become home to increasing numbers of immigrants, foreign workers, and asylum-seekers from various parts of the world. Immigrants now total over 300,000; some have obtained Norwegian citizenship.
More than 10% of Norway's residents have foreign origins. They include many asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea. Their status is increasingly a political issue. Siv Jensen, leader of the conservative Progress Party, demands tighter restrictions on immigration, claiming Norway is being "Islamified".
In 2012 Norway removed the Lutheran church as it's state religion which had held that position since it replaced Catholicism. Norway has complete religious freedom. Education is free through the university level and is compulsory from ages 6 to 16. At least 12 months of military service and training are required of every eligible male. Norway's socialist health system includes free hospital care, physician's compensation, cash benefits during illness and pregnancy, and other medical and dental plans. There is a public pension system.
Norway is in the top rank of nations in the number of books printed per capita, even though Norwegian is one of the world's smallest language groups. Norway's most famous writer is the dramatist Henrik Ibsen. Artists Edvard Munch and Christian Krogh were Ibsen's contemporaries. Munch drew part of his inspiration from Europe and in turn exercised a strong influence on later European expressionists. Sculptor Gustav Vigeland has a permanent exhibition in the Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo. Musical development in Norway since Edvard Grieg has followed either native folk themes or international trends.
The Lutheran religion replaced Catholicism around 1536.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church has been a state-funded and state-controlled church since 1660. It is led by 11 bishops who report to the government's ministry of church and cultural affairs. The king and at least one half of his ministers are required by law to belong to the established church. Lay councils are very active in parish life, especially among the fundamentalists of the south and west. As a result, the church has been able to support much social work and important missions in Africa and India. In relation to population, Norway has sent abroad the largest number of missionaries. The first woman minister was appointed in 1961. Although 88% of Norwegians belong to the Church of Norway, and 82% if babies are baptized in it, only 10% attend ten or more services a year. During the 1970s and 1980s, a movement to sever the strong connection between the state and the Lutheran Church failed.
Lutheranism remained the only religious option until the Dissenter Law of 1845 legalized free church congregations. Historians see this law as a restricted reform: Norwegians could leave the Lutheran Church only after they turned eighteen, and civil service jobs were still restricted to Lutherans. Thereafter, liberal groups such as the Norwegian Council of Dissenting Churches worked to end legal discrimination on the basis of religion. In 1969, religious restrictions on the hiring of public school teachers were finally lifted. Today Norwegians enjoy complete freedom of worship. By a law passed in 1969 the state provides financing for the officially registered dissenting churches. Dissenters include 44,000 Pentecostals; a Lutheran Free Church, with about 20,000 members; a Methodist Episcopal Church, with about 20,000 members; 12,000 Baptists; about 21,500 Roman Catholics, and over 76,000 Muslims, the fastest growing group. According to polls some 31-72% of Norwegians are either agnostics or atheists. 
In 1992, heavy metal musician Varg Vikernes was believed responsible for burning down a number of churches. The motivation behind this occurrence appeared at the time to be rooted in Paganism and Satanism. Vikernes was not convicted of this crime, however two years later he was jailed for murdering his friend Øystein Aarseth in another bizzare incident.
The functions of the king are mainly ceremonial, but he has influence as the symbol of national unity. Although the 1814 constitution grants important executive powers to the king, these are almost always exercised by the Council of Ministers in the name of the king (King's Council). The Council of Ministers consists of a prime minister--chosen by the political parties represented in the Storting--and other ministers.
The 169 members of the Storting are elected from 19 fylker (counties) for 4-year terms according to a complicated system of proportional representation. After elections, the Storting divides into two chambers, the Odelsting and the Lagting, which meet separately or jointly depending on the legislative issue under consideration.
The special High Court of the Realm hears impeachment cases; the regular courts include the Supreme Court (17 permanent judges and a president), courts of appeal, city and county courts, the labor court, and conciliation councils. Judges attached to regular courts are appointed by the king in council after nomination by the Ministry of Justice.
Each fylke is headed by a governor appointed by the king in council, with one governor exercising authority in both Oslo and the adjacent county of Akershus.
Norway's left-leaning government narrowly defeated a splintered center-right opposition in the September 2009 elections. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's ruling Labor Party government came under challenge by Siv Jensen and her right-wing populist Progress Party (which has gained support by calling for lowering Norway's notoriously high taxes and tightening immigration rules), as well as Erna Solberg and her center-right Conservative Party. Debate centered on how to manage the Nordic welfare state's oil wealth.
Until the 1981 election, Norway had been governed by majority Labor Party governments since 1935, except for three periods (1963, 1965-71, and 1972-73). The Labor Party lost its majority in the Storting in the 1981 elections. Since that time, minority and coalition governments have been the rule. The two conservative parties in, the old Conservative Party and the younger Progressive Party increased their electoral support from 23% in 1975 to 34% in the election of 1987. The electoral mobilization by these conservative parties was mainly based on an ideologically inspired rhetoric of reduced government spending and corresponding tax reductions.
From 1981 to 1997, governments alternated between Labor minority governments under Gro Harlem Brundtland and Conservative-led coalition governments under Kåre Willoch and Jan P. Syse. The first government coalition led by Christian Democrat Kjell Magne Bondevik came to power in 1997, but fell in March 2000 over the issue of proposed gas-fired power plants, opposed by Bondevik due to their impact on climate change. The Labor Party's Jens Stoltenberg, a Brundtland protégé, took over in a minority Labor government but lost power in the September 2001 election when Labor posted its worse performance since World War I. Bondevik once again became Prime Minister, this time as head of a minority government with the Conservatives and Liberals in a coalition heavily dependent upon the right-populist Progress Party.
The September 2005 elections ended the Bondevik government, and the Labor party came back with its most substantial victory in years, securing 60 of the 169 seats in Parliament. While this election result once more made Labor the undisputed heavyweight in Norwegian politics, Stoltenberg, chastened by his previous stint as the head of a minority government, reached out to the far left Socialist Left party and agrarian Center party to form a coalition government that commanded a majority of seats in Parliament. The current government is the first majority government in Norway in over 20 years, but the governing coalition has had to bridge substantial policy differences to build this majority.
Principal Government Officials
- King, Harald V
- Prime Minister, Erna Solberg
- Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre
- Minister of Defense, Anne-Grethe Strøm-Erichsen
- Ambassador to the United States, Wegger Christian Strømmen
- Ambassador to NATO, Kim Traavik
- Ambassador to the United Nations, Johan Ludvik Løvald
Norway supports international cooperation and the peaceful settlement of disputes, recognizing the need for maintaining a strong national defense through collective security. Accordingly, the cornerstones of Norwegian policy are active membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and support for the United Nations and its specialized agencies. Norway also pursues a policy of economic, social, and cultural cooperation with other Nordic countries--Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland--through the Nordic Council.
In addition to strengthening traditional ties with developed countries, Norway seeks to build friendly relations with developing countries and has undertaken humanitarian and development aid efforts with selected African and Asian nations. Norway also is dedicated to encouraging democracy, assisting refugees, and protecting human rights throughout the world.
The Economist magazine Intelligence Unit used measures of military spending and actions and violent crime rates to find that Norway is the most peaceful country in the world.
Norway spends about 1.8% of GDP on defense, about the NATO average. Military spending has fallen from 7.4% of the national budget in 1990 to 4.8% in 2004.
The principle of universal military service has long been accepted by most Norwegians. All men between the ages of 19 and 45 must serve 12 months in the army or 15 months in the navy or air force. The army, based on five regional commands, has a peacetime strength of about 19,000 and is posted mainly in the north near Russia. A home defense force of some 85,000 is trained for special tasks in local areas. The navy has 5 frigates, 15 submarines, and numerous small craft for patrolling the coast.
The Royal Norwegian Air Force (Luftforsvaret) became an independent service in 1944. In peacetime, it has about 3,000 personnel, and in time of war, some 17,500. It has 10 squadrons that operate from seven air stations and fly a variety of aircraft and helicopters, including F-16 fighters. It also operates six missile batteries and 10 short-range point defense missile systems.
In 2009, 500 Norwegian soldiers serve under NATO command in Afghanistan.
Norway is one of the world's richest countries in per capita terms. It has an important stake in promoting a liberal environment for foreign trade. Its large shipping fleet is one of the most modern among maritime nations. Metals, pulp and paper products, chemicals, shipbuilding, and fishing are the most significant traditional industries.
Norway's emergence as a major oil and gas producer in the mid-1970s transformed the economy. Large sums of investment capital poured into the offshore oil sector, leading to greater increases in Norwegian production costs and wages than in the rest of Europe up to the time of the global recovery of the mid-1980s. The influx of oil revenue also permitted Norway to expand an already extensive social welfare system. Norway has established a state Petroleum Fund that exceeded $132.6 billion as of December 2004. The fund primarily will be used to help finance government programs once oil and gas resources become depleted. Norway is currently enjoying large foreign trade surpluses thanks to high oil prices. Unemployment remains currently low (3%-4% range), and the prospects for economic growth are encouraging thanks to the government's stimulative fiscal policy and economic recovery in the United States and Europe.
Norway voted against joining the European Union (EU) in a 1994 referendum. With the exception of the agricultural and fisheries sectors, however, Norway enjoys free trade with the EU under the framework of the European Economic Area. This agreement aims to apply the four freedoms of the EU's internal market (goods, persons, services, and capital) to Norway. As a result, Norway normally adopts and implements most EU directives. Norwegian monetary policy is aimed at maintaining a stable exchange rate for the krone against European currencies, of which the euro is a key operating parameter. Norway is not a member of the EU's Economic and Monetary Union and does not have a fixed exchange rate. Its principal trading partners are in the EU; the United States ranks sixth.
Norway has a highly-developed oil and natural gas sector. Norway's oil production peaked in 2001 at 3.42 million barrels per day (bbl/d) and has been steadily declining since, reaching 2.47 million bbl/d in 2008. Natural gas production, on the other hand, has been steadily increasing since 1993, reaching 3.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2008. All of Norway's oil and natural gas fields are located subsea on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Most of the new discoveries being made are natural gas. The Norwegian government is committed to developing the frontier Barents Sea region as existing North Sea fields mature.
Offshore hydrocarbon deposits were discovered in the 1960s, and development began in the 1970s. Norway is now the world's third-largest gas exporter and provides much of Europe's crude oil and gas requirements. In 2003, Norwegian oil and gas exports accounted for 56% of total merchandise exports. In addition, offshore exploration and production have stimulated onshore economic activities. Foreign companies, including many American ones, participate actively in the petroleum sector.
One issue that has hampered the development of oil and natural gas reserves in the northern Barents Sea area has been the lack of a defined maritime boundary between Norway and Russia. However, on June 5, 2009, Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom and Norwegian state-controlled oil company StatoilHydro signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding to work together in exploring and developing their Arctic sea regions. According to a joint statement, the two companies will work together on development of the Shtokman field, some 345 miles from land in 1,148 feet of water. It holds estimated gas reserves of around 113 trillion cubic feet.
Hydropower provides nearly all of Norway's electricity, and all of the gas and most of the oil produced is exported.
Hunting tribes were displaced by farmers after 3000 B.C. By 400 AD the inhabitants had contacts with Gaul, used runic writing, and expanded their settlements. After 400 AD, migrations brought in new peoples from the south to "Northern Way", or Norway. The first local kingdoms were created to bolster local defenses. For example, the Ynglings, a branch of the first Swedish royal house, established one of the earliest kingdoms west of the Oslofjord.
The Viking period (9th to 11th centuries) was one of national unification and expansion.
About 900 AD Harald Fairhair established a large kingdom by winning, in alliance with the earl of Lade (Trøndelag) a victory over other local kings. Harald's victory caused disgruntled subordinate chieftains to join the growing Viking movement. The growth in population forced some Norwegians to spread inland on to poorer soils and others to seek their fortunes as raiders, traders, or settlers across the North Sea. The Vikings proved to be superb sailors and ferocious warriors; their raids turned into landing operations and settlements.
The sparsely inhabited Scottish islands were settled first; the first recorded Viking raid on England came in 793 AD. In the following two centuries Norse Vikings plundered far and wide. Kingdoms were carved out in Ireland, Scotland, northeast England, and northern France, and the Faeroes, Iceland, and eventually Greenland were colonized. In addition to advanced ships, the Vikings had good iron tools and weapons and were expert wood-carvers. Overseas, the Vikings developed trade wherever they settled. In Norway, markets, the forerunners of towns that grew up in the 11th century, sprang up beside the fjords.
Inside Norway the Middle Ages were a time of political turmoil. Harald Fairhair's throne was fought over for nearly a century bloody civil wars among kings and earls, pagans and Christians, and between Norwegians and Danes. Olav II (reigned 1016-1028) briefly united Norway and introduced Christianity. He was killed in 1030 by rebel nobles who had allied themselves with Denmark. After his death Olav was hailed almost at once as a national saint; he was canonized in 1154. Trondheim cathedral was founded in his honor, and his family regained and kept the throne after a brief period of Danish rule (1028-1035).
English Christian missionaries had a major impact; their monasteries became the owners of large estates. The Viking traditions died out, surviving in the carvings on the new churches of dragons and other pagan symbols. Harald Hardraade (Hard Ruler) was the last Norwegian king to claim England (1066), but he was killed in England. In 1170 the papacy made Trondheim the seat of an archbishop, with five suffragan bishops in Norway and six in the western islands, Iceland, and Greenland. Norway became the ecclesiastical center for the widely dispersed Norse peoples.
The civil wars over control of the throne died out during the long reign of Haakon IV (1217-1263), and Norway entered upon the brief "age of greatness." Haakon reorganized the national government, with a royal council, regional governors, and judicial officers all appointed by the king. A national legal code was established in 1274. Iceland and Greenland accepted the king of Norway as ruler, and effective power was exerted in the Faeroes, Shetland, and Orkney in Scotland. Overseas trade flourished during this period, and Haakon IV, who usually resided in Bergen where the trade was centered, concluded his first commercial treaty with the English king.
The 13th century was the last period of early Norwegian independence and greatness. During the 100 years from the reign of Haakon IV to that of Haakon V (1299-1319) the Norwegian sagas, the stories of Norway's past, were gathered. In Iceland, Snorri Sturluson wrote the "Heimskringla" and the "Younger Edda," and Sturla Thordsson, a nephew of Snorri, wrote the "Islendingasaga," the "Sturlingasaga," and the "Haakon Haakonssonsaga, which comprise the earliest masterpieces of Scandinavian literature.
Union of Kalmar
The Norwegian royal line died out in 1387, and the country entered a dark period under the control of Denmark. The Norwegian merchant class began to decline after 1250 when the German Hanseatic League (the mercantile organization of north German towns) established agents in Bergen, who supplied essential imports of Baltic grain in exchange for north Norway's traditional export of dried cod. The aristocracy collapsed during the Black Plague, which killed half the population in 1349. The resulting economic calamity destroyed most of the dairy farming, the dominant form of agriculture on most aristocratic estates. Thus Norway was already the weakest Scandinavian kingdom when the extinction of the royal lines in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark led to the union of the three countries (1397) under the Union of Kalmar. Norway lost its king and court and aristocracy, its commerce declined; it stopped producing great literature. Outsiders, mostly Danish-speaking Danes, were in control; Norwegian tradition claims the harshness of the Danish misrule created a greater unity among Norwegians.
The population grew slowly, from 500,000 in 1660 to 900,000 in 1814--the vast majority were poor and eked out a living as farmers and/or fishermen.
In 1814, as a result of the Napoleonic wars, Norway was separated from Denmark and combined with Sweden. Norway at last had its own government--the Storthing or parliament was now comprised of Norwegians--with a Swedish viceroy representing the king of Sweden. The king tried to stop the growing independence of the Storthing but failed; by the 1830s the peasants comprised half the Storthing and they demanded strict economy and stripped the remaining nobles (mostly Danes) of their aristocratic titles and pretensions.
As nationalism emerged across Europe it appeared as well in Norway; the "Young Norway" movement romanticized the peasants and ridiculed the king. An upper class party of merchants also emerged--both parties were led by poets who celebrated the Norwegian language. The new king Oscar I (reigned 1844-57) allowed a separate Norwegian flag for merchant ships, which increasingly became important on the Atlantic. Whaling became a major industry, as the economy began to improve in the 1840s. The first railway opened, and steamships provided easy travel along the long coastline.
The threat of socialism emerged when The Thranittforeningene (Workers' Associations), started by socialist Marcus Thrane, formed Norway's first modern mass political movement. At its peak in 1849-50 the Thranites included both propertied and unpropertied and urban and rural Norwegians brought together by anxieties over maintaining their economic position in a period marked by international economic depression and the beginnings of Norway's transition to a modern society.
By the 1880s the peasants could sell their holdings and buy passages to America. About a fourth of the families, specially the younger ones, did so, and headed to Minnesota and neighboring states. About one in four returned to Norway, but their tales of life in the New World only stimulated more emigration.
The viceroy system was dropped and Norway had its own prime minister from 1873--albeit one chosen by the king. Norway celebrated its 1000th anniversary as a nation as serious political tensions with the king continued throughout the latter part of the 19th century. By the 1890s the Norwegians demanded a role in diplomacy, which the Swedes refused to allow. The union with Sweden persisted until 1905, when Norway demanded and received complete independence, and could now have its own king and diplomats.
All men were given the vote in 1898, and most women in 1907.
The Norwegian Government offered the throne of Norway to Danish Prince Carl in 1905. After a plebiscite approving the establishment of a monarchy, the Parliament unanimously elected him king. He took the name of Haakon VII, after the kings of independent Norway.
Before 1900 Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe, with an economy focused on farming, forestry, and fishing. Norway's harsh environment--the high latitudes and short growing seasons, the poor soils, the excessive precipitation, and the cool summers--have made farming difficult. Today only 3% of the land is used for farming; the main products are forage grains and dairy products. About one of every four Norwegian families cultivates its own garden plot.
In the 20th century new industries based on cheap water power and raw materials harvested from Norway's farms, forests, seas, and mines replaced agriculture as the prime employer. The very large merchant fleet became a major contributor to the nation's wealth. After 1970 vast offshore oil resources made the country rich.
World War II
Norway tried and failed to be neutral during World War I, but was invaded by the Germans in 1940 and ruled by traitors, led by Quisling. The king and the government escaped to Britain in 1940, serving as symbolic leader of a nation under occupation by the Nazis. In 1940-45, sharp jokes about the occupiers circulated widely among Norwegians. The jokes contained contempt for the oppressors, ridicule of Nazi ideology, depictions of the cruelty of Nazi methods, and mockery of the inflated self-image of the Germans. All of the jokes served to boost morale, educate Norwegians about the occupation, and encourage a sense of solidarity.
King Haakon returned in triumph in 1945. He died in 1957 and was succeeded by his son, Olav V, who died in January 1991. Upon Olav's death, his son Harald was crowned as King Harald V.
The Scandinavian countries first established strong welfare states in the 1920s and 1930s. Benefits for the middle as well as lower classes became lavish, and Social Democrats raised income taxes until they became the world's highest. Despite this, Norway (and the rest of Scandinavia) retained private enterprise. Unlike France, England, and Germany, Scandinavian states owned and ran very few companies other than public utilities and railroads. Across Scandinavia the major sompanies like Saab, Ericsson, Nokia, and Volvo have always belonged to stockholders.
The Norwegian Labor Party won a majority in 1945, a time that required cooperation among Norwegian political parties for national reconstruction after the German occupation. Labor Party leaders were willing to recognize a role for privately owned business and for market forces in economic planning both on pragmatic grounds and because party leaders in exile in London during the war had seen successful cooperation between British industry and government. The Labor Party acknowledged that private ownership was more effective than state management in improving efficiency. The state's role expanded in the direction of redistributing, rather than producing, national wealth. Although the Labor Party moved toward democratic socialism, the tension between broader participation, particularly by workers in management, and effective planning persisted into the 1970s.
In 1945, all Norwegian political parties right and left agreed that extensive government economic controls would be needed for a period of postwar reconstruction. The Labor government's objectives were economic growth through expansion of the manufacturing sector and modernization. When government controls potentially interfered with the effort to increase industrial exports, the latter got priority. Similarly, although the private sector resisted attempts to institutionalize state corporatism, the government's flexibility led to increased cooperation between the government and manufacturing industries. The Labor Party and its opponents disagreed not on the need for modernization in postwar Norway but on the direction to take to the common goal.
In Norway (and the rest of Scandinavia) marginal tax rates on wages, and the value added taxes (which are assessed like sales taxes) remain the highest in the world. But capital gains taxes and real estate assessments are low or non-existent. The region is ahead of the United States in a few areas of market reforms: All four countries have school vouchers and allow individual control over some social security taxes.
The wartime horrors led Norwegians to reject neutrality in the Cold War, and they turned instead to collective security in alliance with the United States. Norway was one of the signers of the NATO Treaty in 1949 and was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945. Indeed, the first UN General Secretary, Trygve Lie, was a Norwegian. Under the terms of the will of Alfred Nobel, the Storting (Parliament) elects the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee who award the Nobel Peace Prize to champions of peace.
- Norway (Eyewitness Travel Guides) by Snorre Evensberget (2003) excerpt and text search
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- See Karl Ritter, "Norway election focused on oil wealth," AP Sept. 14, 2009
- Sweden allows same sex marriage
- See report
- For current statistics, see Energy Information Administration, "Norway Energy Profile" (2009)
- The other Norse territories in Scotland were formally surrendered in 1266 to the Scottish king.
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- Eli Lehrer, "Scandinavia's Surprising Turn from Socialism." The American Enterprise v. 13 #8 Dec. 2002. pp 42+ online at Questia
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