Country Profile: Norway
Total Area324, 220 sq km
Population4,644,457, 0.3% growth rate,
15 density per sq km.
Capital CityOslo, 791, 500
LanguagesBokmal Norwegian, Nynorsk Norwegian
ReligionEvangelical Lutheran 86%
National HolidayConstitution Day, May 17
ClimateCold winters, milder summers
Economic SummaryGDP: $247.4 billion
Major industries: Petroleum, gas, shipbuilding, pulp and paper products, metals, chemicals, timber, mining, fishing, textiles
Natural resources: petroleum, copper, natural gases, fish, metals
Major trading partnersUK, Germany, US, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, China
Norway is a founding member of NATO and is a member of the EEA. It has a wealth of natural resources, including gas fields, hydropower, fish, forests and minerals - and is a leading exporter of seafood. Norway's other key industries include shipbuilding, food processing, metals, chemicals and mining. It was ranked in 2007 as the most peaceful country in the world. Norway's is a mixed economy, made up of government ownership and free market.
Norway was inhabited from as early as the 6th millennium BC. However, it was only after the unification of the petty states by Harold Hairfair that Norway became one united country, and so started the Viking period between the 8th and 11th centuries. This era was a time of expansion and emigration, with many Norwegians leaving the country to settle in Iceland, Greenland and parts of Britain and Ireland. By the 11th century, many Norse traditions were being replaced by Christian ideologies, with St. Olav Haakon the Good the country's first Christian king. In 1319 Norway and Sweden were joined, and in 1349 the Black Death killed 60% of the population, leading to a period of economic decline. There were many unions between the Nordic countries, bringing Norway, Sweden and Denmark together under the Kalmar Union, which Norway remained in until 1814. Later, during the romanticism of the 19th century, this period was known as the "Four Hundred Year Night", because all of the country's intellectual, political and royal power was centred in Denmark.
Norway formed a disastrous alliance with Napoleon, which led to mass starvation, however was then able to declare independence in 1814 with Christian Frederik crowned king. The country formed an alliance with Sweden which was peacefully broken in 1905. During the First World War, Norway remained neutral, but during World War II was invaded by German forces, meaning they had to participate. After the war, for over fifteen years, labour held the majority vote in the country, while the wartime alliances with UK and the US prevailed during these years. Norway founded the 1973 State oil company after discovering oil, and was one of the founding nations of the European Free Trade Area. By the 1990s the country had paid off its foreign debts.
Many visitors flock to Norway each year to see its fjord-indented coastlines and mountains and its generally unspoilt natural beauty, lakes and forests, as well as ski resorts and chief historical cities and towns such as Oslo and Bergen
The Norwegian language has two distinct forms, Bokmal and Nynorsk. They are both official and hold equal status in administration, schools and in the media - however, despite this Bokmal is used by the majority of Norwegian speakers. 95% of the population speak Norwegian as their mother tongue, however there are many differing dialects which although mostly understandable to standard Norwegian speakers, still differ greatly. There are many speakers of the Sami language in the country, which is considered another official language. Norwegian is very similar to other Scandinavian languages, while the main foreign language taught in schools is English, with the majority of the population fluent in this as a second language.
Norwegian literature started with pagan poems coming out of the oral tradition in the 12th and 13th centuries. There was a relative lull in aritistic output then, but this ended with the National Romanticism movement in the late 18th century, with writers such as Weregelland, Moe and Collett. The 19th century golden-age of Nordic literature featured four key writers: Ibsen, Bjornson, Kielland and Lie. Ibsen remains the country's chief dramatist, but in the 20th century three writers won the Nobel prize for literature. Prominent contemporary writers include Jostein Gaarder, Per Petterson and Johan Borgen.
Grieg is the most famous of Norway's classical composers, with his ballet Peer Gynt an enduring favourite in the classical canon. Norway has a long-standing tradition of folk music, and now embraces a wide range of musical forms, including blues, jazz, pop and rock.
Although Norway has now embraced contemporary European cuisines such as Italian and French, its own cooking is based on game and fish. Smoked salmon is a Norwegian delicacy which now has worldwide popularity, and other forms of seafood are eaten across the country. Kjottkaker is the name for Norwegian meatballs, while Svinestek is a roasted pork dish, eaten on Sundays.
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