The Kingdom of Norway is a Nordic country on the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, bordering Sweden, Finland and Russia, with territorial waters bordering Danish and British waters. It has a very elongated form and has an extensive coastline along the North Atlantic Ocean, where Norway's famous fjords are found. The nearby island territories of Svalbard and Jan Mayen are under Norwegian sovereignty and are considered as part of Norway as a kingdom, while Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean and Peter I Island in the South Pacific Ocean are Norwegian dependencies, which are not considered part of the kingdom. Additionally, Norway has a claim for Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica.
Main article: History of Norway
The Viking period (9th to 11th centuries) was one of national unification and expansion. The Norwegian royal line died out in 1387, and the country entered a long period as the weaker part of a union with Denmark. With the forced introduction of Protestantism in 1537, Norway lost the steady stream of pilgrims to the relics of Saint Olav at the Nidaros shrine. With them, ironically, went much of the contact with the cultural and economical life of the rest of Europe. In light of national romanticism during the 19th century, this period was by some called the "400-year night".
After Denmark-Norway sided with Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars, Norway was ceded to the king of Sweden in 1814. However, Norway declared her independence, adopted her own constitution and elected the Danish prince Christian Fredrik as king on 17 May 1814. Norway was forced into a personal union with Sweden, but kept its liberal constitution and independent institutions, except for the foreign service. Growing Norwegian dissatisfaction with the union during the late 19th century spawned its dissolution 7 June 1905. The Norwegian government offered the throne of Norway to Danish Prince Carl. After a plebiscite confirming the monarchy, the Parliament unanimously elected him king. He took the name of Haakon VII, after the medieval kings of independent Norway.
Norway was a neutral country during World War I. Norway also attempted to claim neutrality during World War II, but was invaded by German forces on the 9th of April 1940 (Operation Weserübung). The Allies also had plans to operate from Norway, in order to take advantage of her strategically important Atlantic coast. Armed resistance in Norway went on for two months, but the King and government continued the fight from exile in Britain. On the day of the invasion, the collaborative leader of the small National-Socialist party Nasjonal Samling – Vidkun Quisling – tried to seize power, but was forced by the German occupiers to step aside. Real power was wielded by the leader of the German occupation authority, Reichskommissar Josef Terboven. Quisling, as minister president, later formed a government under German control.
In 1944, the Germans evacuated the provinces of Finnmark and northern Troms, using a scorched earth tactic. The Red Army moved in shortly after, and peacefully returned the area to Norwegian control after the war, despite president Roosevelt having offered them parts of northern Norway. The Germans in Norway surrendered on 8 May 1945.
The occupation during World War II made Norwegians generally more skeptical of the concept of neutrality. They turned instead to collective security. Norway was one of the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 and was a founding member of the United Nations, providing its first secretary general – Trygve Lie. Norway has twice voted against joining the European Union (in 1972 and 1994), but is associated with the EU via the European Economic Area. The EU-debate rages on to this day with currently a small majority for membership.
== Politics ==Main article: Politics of Norway Norway is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. The Royal House is a branch of the princely family of Glücksburg, originally from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany.  The functions of the King, Harald V, are mainly ceremonial, but he has influence as the symbol of national unity. Although the constitution of 1814 grants important executive powers to the king, these are almost always exercised by the Council of State in the name of the King (King's Council). The Council of State or cabinet consists of a Prime Minister and his council, formally appointed by the King. Since 1884, parliamentarism has ensured that the cabinet must have the support of the parliament, so the appointment by the King is a formality.
The 165 members of the unicameral Norwegian parliament, the Storting (Norwegian: Stortinget), are elected from the 19 counties for 4-year terms according to a 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 regular courts include the Supreme Court or Høyesterett (17 permanent judges and a president), courts of appeal, district courts and conciliation councils. Judges attached to regular courts are appointed by the King in council after nomination by the Ministry of Justice. The special High Court of the Realm hears impeachment cases.
Main article: Counties of Norway
Norway is divided into 19 administrative regions, called fylker (singular fylke) and 433 kommuner (singular kommune). Fylke and kommune are officially translated to English as county and municipality. The fylke is the intermediate administration between state and municipality.
Main article: Geography of Norway
The landscape is generally rugged and mountainous, topped by glaciers and its coastline of over 83,000 km  is punctuated by steep-sloped inlets known as fjords, as well as a multitude of islands and islets. The Northern part of the country is also known as the Land of the Midnight Sun because of its northern location, north of the Arctic Circle, where in summer the sun does not set, and in winter many of its valleys remain dark for long periods.
Norway straddles the North Atlantic Ocean for its entire length, bound by three different seas: the North Sea to the southwest and its large inlet the Skagerrak to the south, the Norwegian Sea to the west and the Barents Sea to the northeast. Norway's highest point is the Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 m.
The Norwegian climate is fairly temperate, especially along the coast under the influence of the Gulf Stream. The inland climate can be more severe and to the north more subarctic conditions are found.
Main article: Economy of Norway
The Norwegian economy is a prosperous bastion of social capitalism, featuring a combination of free market activity and government intervention. The government controls key areas, such as the vital petroleum sector (through large-scale state enterprises). The country is richly endowed with natural resources - petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals - and is highly dependent on its oil production and international oil prices; in 1999, oil and gas accounted for 35% of exports. Only Saudi Arabia and Russia export more oil than Norway, which is outside OPEC.
Norway opted to stay out of the European Union during a referendum in 1972, and again in November 1994. However, Norway, together with Iceland and Liechtenstein, participate in the EU's single market via the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement.
Economic growth picked up in 2000 to 2.7%, compared with the meager 0.8% of 1999, but fell back to 1.3% in 2001. The government moved ahead with privatisation in 2000, selling one-third of the then 100% state-owned oil company Statoil.
With arguably the highest quality of life worldwide, Norwegians still worry about that time in the next two decades when the oil and gas begin to run out. Accordingly, Norway has been saving its oil-boosted budget surpluses in a Government Petroleum Fund, which is invested abroad and at the end of 2004 was valued at 164 billion US dollars.
Main article: Demographics of Norway
The Norwegian population is 4.6 million and increases by 0.4% per year (estimate July 2004). Ethnically most Norwegians are Nordic / North Germanic, while small minorities in the north are Cwen. The Sami are instead considered as an indigenous people, thus making Norway the only state in Europe to have an indigenous people among its boundaries. In recent years immigration has accounted for more than half the population growth, and 7.3% of the population are immigrants as of 1 January 2003. But the country only takes in a very limited number of asylum seekers and is willing to repatriate these people to other countries as soon as possible. The largest immigrant groups are Swedes, Danes, Vietnamese and Pakistanis ().
Approximately 86% of the inhabitants are members of the Evangelic Lutheran Church of Norway (state church). Other Christian societies total about 4.5% (The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church, The Catholic Church, Pentecostal congregations, The Methodist Church etc.) Among the non-Christian religions Islam is the largest in Norway with only about 1.5%, and other religions less than 1%. About 1.5% belong to the secular Human Ethical Union. As of 1 January 2003 approximately 5% of the population are unaffiliated ().
The Norwegian language has two official written forms, called Bokmål and Nynorsk, which do not differ greatly, as well as the unofficial Riksmål, which is an intermediate form between Bokmål and Danish. Bokmål and Riksmål are written by almost 90 % of the population, although many speak dialects that differ significantly from the written language. Nevertheless, most or all of the Norwegian dialects are interintelligible. Several Sami languages are spoken and written in the northern regions by the Sami people. The Germanic Norwegian language and the Finno-Ugric Sami languages are entirely unrelated.
Main article: Culture of Norway
Famous Norwegians include playwright Henrik Ibsen, explorers Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen, expressionist painter Edvard Munch, romanticist composer Edvard Grieg and playwright/novelists Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset, winners of the 1903, 1920 and 1928 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Norwegians celebrate their national day on May 17, Constitution Day. Many people wear bunad (traditional costumes) and most participate in or watch the May 17th Parade through the towns. Henrik Wergeland was the founder of the 17th May parade.