Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a sovereign and unitary monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula plus Jan Mayen and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the Kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land. Until 1814, the Kingdom included the Faroe Islands (since 1035), Greenland (1261), and Iceland (1262).
Norway has a total area of 385,252 square kilometres (148,747 sq mi) and a population of 5,109,059 people (2014). The country shares a long eastern border with Sweden (1,619 km or 1,006 mi long). Norway is bordered by Finland and Russia to the north-east, and the Skagerrak Strait to the south, with Denmark on the other side. Norway has an extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea.
King Harald V of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg is the current monarch of Norway. Erna Solberg became Prime Minister in 2013, replacing Jens Stoltenberg. A constitutional monarchy since 1814, state power is divided between the Parliament, the King and his Council, and the Supreme Court. Between 1661 and 1814, Norway was an absolute monarchy, and before 1661, the King shared power with the Norwegian nobility. Traditionally established in 872 and originating in one of the petty kingdoms, Norway is one of the oldest still existing kingdoms in Europe and world-wide. The Kingdom has existed continuously for over 1,100 years, and the list of Norwegian monarchs includes over sixty kings and earls.
Norway has both administrative and political subdivisions on two levels, known as counties (fylke) and municipalities (kommune). The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act. Norway maintains close ties with the European Union and its member countries (despite rejecting full EU membership in two referenda), as well as with the United States. Norway is a founding member of the United Nations, NATO, the Council of Europe, the Antarctic Treaty and the Nordic Council; a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO and the OECD; and is also a part of the Schengen Area.
Norway is considered to be one of the most developed democracies and states of justice in the world. From 1814, c. 45 percent of men (25 years and older) had the right to vote, whereas England had c. 20 percent (1832), Sweden c. 5 percent (1866), and Belgium c. 1.15 percent (1840). From 2010 to 2012, Norway was classified as the world’s most democratic country by the Democracy Index. On the other hand, Norway has a rough history in regards to discrimination of ethnic and religious minorities, including the Sámi people, Jews, and Roma.
The country maintains a combination of market economy and a Nordic welfare model with universal health care and a comprehensive social security system. Norway has extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, fresh water, and hydropower. The petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product.The country has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world on the World Bank and IMF lists, as well as ninth-highest on a more comprehensive CIA list. On a per-capita basis, it is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas outside the Middle East. From 2001 to 2006, and then again from 2009 to 2014, Norway had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world. Norway has also topped the Legatum Prosperity Index for the last five years.The OECD ranks Norway fourth in the 2013 equalised Better Life Index and third in intergenerational earnings elasticity.
Around 994 A.D., two centuries of Viking raids to southern and western areas of Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity. Norway then expanded its overseas territory to parts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. Norwegian power peaked in 1265. Competition from the Hanseatic League, and the spread of the Black Death, weakened the country. In 1397, Norway became part of the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden. The Union lasted until Sweden left in 1523. The remaining union with Denmark lasted nearly three centuries. In 1814, Norwegians adopted a constitution before being forced into a personal union with Sweden. In 1905, Norway ended the union, subsequently confirmed in a referendum, ending over 500 years of monarchs residing outside the country. In the same year, the country confirmed the election of its own king. Despite its declaration of neutrality in World War II, Norway was occupied for 5 years by forces of Nazi Germany. In 1949 it abandoned neutrality, becoming a founding member of NATO. Discovery of oil in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway’s economic fortunes.