The Kingdom of Norway, is a constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe that occupies the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. 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. The United Kingdom and the Faroe Islands lie to its west across the North Sea, and Denmark lies south of its southern tip across the Skagerrak Strait. Norway's extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea, is home to its famous fjords.
In the 1920s, Norway annexed Jan Mayen and was given the sovereignty over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard under the Spitsbergen Treaty. The polar territories of Bouvet Island, Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land are external dependencies, but not parts of Norway. Norwegian claim for a sector of Antarctic mainland called Queen Maud Land is not recognised by the international community.
Since World War II Norway has experienced rapid economic growth, and is now amongst the wealthiest countries in the world. Norway is the world's fourth largest oil exporter and the petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of GDP.
Norway also has rich resources of gas fields, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals. Norway was the second largest exporter of seafood. Other main industries include food processing, shipbuilding, metals, chemicals, mining, fishing and pulp and paper products. Norway has a Scandinavian welfare model and the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation.
Norway was ranked highest of all countries in human development from 2001 to 2006, and shares first place with Iceland from 2007 to 2008. It was also rated the most peaceful country in the world in a 2007 survey by Global Peace Index. It is a founding member of NATO.
Archaeological findings indicate that Norway was inhabited at least since early in the 6th millennium BC. Most historians agree that the core of the populations colonizing Scandinavia came from the present-day Germany. In the first centuries AD, Norway consisted of a number of petty kingdoms. According to tradition, Harald Fairhair unified them into one, in 872 AD after the Battle of Hafrsfjord in Stavanger, thus becoming the first king of a united Norway.
The Viking age, 8-11th centuries AD, was characterized by expansion and emigration. Many Norwegians left the country to live in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and parts of Britain and Ireland. The modern-day Irish cities of Limerick, Dublin, and Waterford were founded by Norwegian settlers. Norse traditions were slowly replaced by Christianity in the 10th and 11th centuries. This is largely attributed to the missionary kings Olav Tryggvasson and St. Olav. Haakon the Good was Norway's first Christian king, in the mid tenth century, though his attempt to introduce the religion was rejected.
Norway comprises the western part of Scandinavia in Northern Europe. The rugged coastline, broken by huge fjords and thousands of islands, stretches over 2,500 km as the crow flies and over 83,000 km including the fjords and islands. Norway shares a 2,542 km land border with Sweden, Finland, and a short border line to Russia at the east. To the west and south, Norway is bordered by the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea, and Skagerak. The Barents Sea washes on Norway's northern coasts.
At 385,252 km² (including Svalbard and Jan Mayen), Norway is slightly larger than Germany, but, unlike Germany, 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. Norway also contains many glaciers and waterfalls.
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. Due to the Gulf Stream and prevailing westerlies, Norway experiences warmer 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 experiences more precipitation, and have milder winters than the southeastern part. The lowlands around the capital Oslo has the warmest and sunniest summers, but also cold weather and snow in wintertime (especially inland). Average temperatures have risen the last decades, decreasing the amount of days with snow cover in the lowlands.
Due to 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. Throughout Norway, one will find stunning and dramatic scenery and landscape. The west coast of southern Norway and the coast of North Norway are among the most impressive coastlines anywhere in the world.
The 2008 Environmental Performance Index put Norway in second place, after Switzerland, based on the environmental performance of the country's policies.