Friday, July 22, 2011


Norway, Norge (Bokmål) or Noreg (Nynorsk)), officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy occupying the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, as well as Jan Mayen, the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island (is not subject to the Antarctic Treaty). Norway has a total area of 385,252 square kilometres (148,747 sq mi) and a population of about 4.9 million. It is the second least densely populated country in Europe. The majority of the country shares a border to the east with Sweden; its northernmost region is bordered by Finland to the south and Russia to the east; in its south Norway borders the Skagerrak Strait, across which Denmark is situated. The capital city of Norway is Oslo. Norway's extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea, is home to its famous fjords.
Two centuries of Viking raids tapered off following the adoption of Christianity by King Olav Tryggvason in 994. A period of civil war ended in the 13th century when Norway expanded its control overseas to parts of the British Isles, Iceland, and Greenland. Norwegian territorial power peaked in 1265, but competition from the Hanseatic League and the spread of the Black Death weakened the country. In 1397, Norway was absorbed into a union with Denmark that lasted more than four centuries. In 1814, Norwegians resisted the cession of their country to Sweden and adopted a new constitution. Sweden then invaded Norway but agreed to let Norway keep its constitution in return for accepting the union under a Swedish king. Rising nationalism throughout the 19th century led to a 1905 referendum granting Norway independence. Although Norway remained neutral in World War I, it suffered heavy losses to its shipping. Norway proclaimed its neutrality at the outset of World War II, but was nonetheless occupied for five years by the Third Reich. In 1949, neutrality was abandoned and Norway became a founding member of NATO. Discovery of oil and gas in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway's economic fortunes. In referenda held in 1972 and 1994, Norway rejected joining the EU. Key domestic issues include immigration and integration of ethnic minorities, maintaining the country's extensive social safety net with an aging population, and preserving economic competitiveness.
Norway is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, with King Harald V as its head of state and Jens Stoltenberg as its prime minister. It is a unitary state with administrative subdivisions on two levels known as counties (fylker) and municipalities (kommuner). The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act. Although having rejected European Union membership in two referenda, Norway maintains close ties with the union and its member countries, as well as with the United States. Norway remains one of the biggest financial contributors to the United Nations, and participates with UN forces in international missions, notably in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sudan and Libya. Norway is a founding member of the United Nations, NATO, the Council of Europe, and the Nordic Council, a member also of the European Economic Area, the WTO, the OECD and is a part of Schengen Area.
Norway has extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, fresh water, and hydropower. On a per-capita basis, it is the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas outside of the Middle East, and the petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country's gross domestic product. The country maintains a Nordic welfare model with universal health care, subsidized higher education, and a comprehensive social security system. From 2001 to 2007, and then again in 2009 and 2010, Norway had the highest human development index ranking in the world.

Norway comprises the western part of Scandinavia in Northern Europe. The rugged coastline, broken by huge fjords and thousands of islands, stretches 25,000 kilometres (16,000 mi) and 83,000 kilometres (52,000 mi) including fjords and islands. Norway shares a 1,619-kilometre (1,006 mi) land border with Sweden, 727 kilometres (452 mi) with Finland and 196 kilometres (122 mi) with Russia at the east. To the north, west and south, Norway is bordered by the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea and Skagerrak.
At 385,252 square kilometres (148,747 sq mi) (including Svalbard and Jan Mayen), (and 323,802 square kilometres (125,021 sq mi) without) much of the country is dominated by mountainous or high terrain, with a great variety of natural features caused by prehistoric glaciers and varied topography. The most noticeable of these are the fjords: deep grooves cut into the land flooded by the sea following the end of the Ice Age. The longest is Sognefjorden at 204 kilometres (127 mi). Sognefjorden is the world's second deepest fjord, and the world's longest. Hornindalsvatnet is the deepest lake in all Europe. Frozen ground all year can be found in the higher mountain areas and in the interior of Finnmark county. Numerous glaciers are found in Norway.
Norway lies between latitudes 57° and 81° N, and longitudes 4° and 32° E.
The land is mostly made of hard granite and gneiss rock, but slate, sandstone and limestone are also common, and the lowest elevations contain marine deposits. Because of the Gulf Stream and prevailing westerlies, Norway experiences higher temperatures and more precipitation than expected at such northern latitudes, especially along the coast. The mainland experiences four distinct seasons, with colder winters and less precipitation inland. The northernmost part has a mostly maritime Subarctic climate, while Svalbard has an Arctic tundra climate.

The southern and western parts of Norway experience more precipitation and have milder winters than the southeastern part. The lowlands around Oslo have the warmest and sunniest summers but also cold weather and snow in wintertime (especially inland).
Because of Norway's high latitude, there are large seasonal variations in daylight. From late May to late July, the sun never completely descends beneath the horizon in areas north of the Arctic Circle (hence Norway's description as the "Land of the Midnight Sun"), and the rest of the country experiences up to 20 hours of daylight per day. Conversely, from late November to late January, the sun never rises above the horizon in the north, and daylight hours are very short in the rest of the country.
The total number of species include 16,000 species of insects (probably 4,000 more species yet to be described), 20,000 species of algae, 1,800 species of lichen, 1,050 species of mosses, 2,800 species of vascular plants, up to 7,000 species of fungi, 450 species of birds (250 species nesting in Norway), 90 species of mammals, 45 fresh-water species of fish, 150 salt-water species of fish, 1,000 species of fresh-water invertebrates and 3,500 species of salt-water invertebrates. About 40,000 of these species have been described by science. The red list of 2006 encompasses 3,886 species.
Seventeen species are listed mainly because they are endangered on a global scale, such as the European Beaver, even if the population in Norway is not seen as endangered. There are 430 species of fungi on the red list, many of these are closely associated with the small remaining areas of old-growth forests. There are also 90 species of birds on the list and 25 species of mammals. 1,988 current species are listed as endangered or vulnerable as of 2006; of these are 939 listed as vulnerable (VU), 734 species are listed as endangered (EN), and 285 species are listed as critically endangered (CR) in Norway, among these are the gray wolf, the arctic fox (healthy population on Svalbard) and the pool frog.
The largest predator in Norwegian waters is the sperm whale, and the largest fish is the basking shark. The largest predator on land is the polar bear, while the brown bear is the largest predator on the Norwegian mainland, where the common moose (also known as the "European Elk") is the largest animal.

Throughout Norway, one will find stunning and dramatic scenery and landscape. The west coast of southern Norway and the coast of northern Norway present some of the most visually impressive coastal sceneries in the world. National Geographic has listed the Norwegian fjords as the world's top tourist attraction. The 2008 Environmental Performance Index put Norway in second place, after Switzerland, based on the environmental performance of the country's policies.

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