The Kingdom of Norway consists of the western and northern parts of the Scandinavian peninsula as well as the northern territories of Jan Mayen and the Svalbard archipelago, and Bouvet Island, Peter I Island, and Queen Maud Land in the southern hemisphere. Europe's sixth largest country in terms of land mass, Norway is sparsely populated and ranks only 28th in terms of population. The length of Norway's mainland coast, including fjords and bays, exceeds 20 000 km.
To the east, Norway shares borders with Sweden, Finland and Russia, and to the north, west and south the country is surrounded by ocean areas. These include the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea and the Skagerrak.
Only a small percentage of Norway's land area is suitable for productive agriculture or forestry, but the country is richly endowed with natural resources, including petroleum, natural gas, various ores, fish, timber and hydropower. These resources, particularly in the offshore sector, have helped Norway to develop into one of the world's richest countries per capita. This is partly due to the country's proximity to the important markets of Western Europe and its easy access to energy, widespread industrialization, political stability and high educational standards.
The 1900s heralded a period of increasing wealth, with the development of hydropower starting in 1905 and the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas starting in the 1970s. Norway also has longstanding maritime traditions, and is the fourth largest shipping nation in the world.
An active policy of social distribution has been implemented as a means of sharing the increase in national wealth. This policy has led to overall income equalization independent of place, gender, age or profession, and has helped to create a financially and socially cohesive society.
According to history, the petty kingdoms of Norway were united into a single realm in approximately 885 AD by the Viking King Harald the Fairhaired. Christianity was introduced just before 1000 AD. In the 1200s, Norway became a regional power under the kingship of HÃ¥kon HÃ¥konsson. After 1319, Norway lost its independence and in 1380 it entered into a union with Denmark lasting for more than four centuries. Norway was reduced to a dependency in 1536. In 1814, Denmark ceded Norway to Sweden as part of the Kiel Peace Agreement. Wishing instead to regain its independence, Norway drafted and adopted the Constitution still in effect today. Sweden agreed to allow Norway to keep its Constitution in exchange for accepting the union under a Swedish king. The union with Sweden was formally dissolved in 1905, although Norway functioned for the most part as an independent country for much of that time.
The name Norway is thought to mean "Path to the North".
Edited from Aschehoug and Gyldendal’s Norwegian Encyclopedia, sourced from Norway.org.