Norway is a narrow country in northern Europe. It shares the Scandinavian Peninsula with Sweden and Finland. Norway’s coastline is famous for its fjords (fyords), which are sea inlets between steep cliffs. The fjords were carved out by glaciers, as were the country’s mountains.
Norway has many mountains. Some of the peaks are so steep that no one has ever tried to climb them. In addition to the mainland on the Scandinavian Peninsula, Norway also owns the Svalbard island chain and three islands in the Antarctic.
Map created by National Geographic Maps
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Most Norwegians are closely related to Danes and Swedes. A population of Kvener migrated to Norway from Finland in the 18th and 19th centuries. Norway is also home to the Sami, a herding people once known as the Lapps. The Sami people are often shorter than most Norwegians and have darker complexions. They herd reindeer.
Norwegians are proud of their traditions of equality and humanitarianism. The country often takes in refugees and people seeking asylum from other countries.
The people of Norway have one of the highest standards of living in the world. Businesses are usually open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a short break for lunch. When families have a new baby, both parents can share 42 weeks of paid time off. Norwegian children don't begin school until they are seven years old.
Arctic animals such as reindeer (also known as caribou) and wolverines live throughout Norway. The sea cliffs are filled with nesting birds, including puffins, cormorants, and gulls. There are about 2,000 different plant species found here, with a few that are only found in Norway. Berries grow throughout the country.
GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY
Norway is divided into 19 counties called fylker (FEWL-ker). The king appoints a governor to each fylker. Each district also has a community council made up of elected officials. Members of Norway's parliament, called the Storting (Stoor-TING), are elected every four years. Norwegian citizens age 18 and older can vote in the parliamentary elections.
The Norwegian government also has a cabinet made up of the prime minister and other elected officials.
Humans have lived in Norway as early as 9,000 to 8,000 B.C. The earliest inhabitants lived in caves and tents. Germanic tribes moved to the area. The people began farming instead of hunting and gathering. Farming settlements organized themselves into small independent states.
By the eighth century A.D., there were 30 of these states. In the 9th to 11th centuries, Viking warriors set out from the Scandinavian countries to raid Europe and expand their territories.
In 872, Harald Fairhair was the first ruler to unite most of western Norway. Denmark and Sweden invaded Norway during the rule of Harald Fairhair’s descendant. Denmark ruled Norway for the next century. In 1319, control of Norway was passed to Sweden. In 1397 Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were united as the Union of Kalmar by Queen Margrethe in the late 14th century.
Sweden broke away from the Union in 1523, but Denmark ruled Norway until 1814. During part of the 19th century, Norway went back under Swedish control. Norway became an independent country in 1905.
Norway remained neutral during World War I, but during World War II Germany invaded the country in a surprise attack in April 1940. Germany occupied Norway until the end of the war.