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Possession of Iceland passed from the Kingdom of Norway — to the Kalmar Union in , when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united.
After the break-up of the union in , it remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmark—Norway. In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture.
The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in — and again in — The country subsequently became officially Lutheran and Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, contributed to a decreasing population.
Around a quarter of the population starved to death in the ensuing famine. In , following the Napoleonic Wars , Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel but Iceland remained a Danish dependency.
About 15, people emigrated, out of a total population of 70, A national consciousness arose in the first half of the 19th century, inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe.
In , Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in , and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.
The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark carry out on its behalf certain defence and foreign affairs matters, subject to consultation with the Althing.
Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April , the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government would take control of its own defence and foreign affairs.
A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country , violating Icelandic neutrality. In , the Government of Iceland invited the United States to take over its defence so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere.
Beginning on 20 May , Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic.
On 5 May , a defence agreement was signed with the United States. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September Iceland prospered during the Second World War.
A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognise the independence of Estonia , Latvia , and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR.
Throughout the s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes.
Iceland joined the European Economic Area in , after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. Iceland is at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.
Iceland is generally included in Europe for geographical, historical, political, cultural, linguistic and practical reasons. The island of Ireland is third.
Lakes and glaciers cover Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge , a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust.
This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial above the surface of the sea. The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates , and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.
A geologically young land, Iceland is the surface expression of the Iceland Plateau , a large igneous province forming as a result of volcanism from the Iceland hotspot and along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge , the latter of which runs right through it.
After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.
With the widespread availability of geothermal power , and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity , most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating, and electricity.
The island is composed primarily of basalt , a low- silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii.
Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types composite and fissure , many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite.
Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with about 30 active volcanic systems. Surtsey , one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland.
Named after Surtr , it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November and 5 June Another large eruption occurred on 21 May The warm North Atlantic Current ensures generally higher annual temperatures than in most places of similar latitude in the world.
Regions in the world with similar climates include the Aleutian Islands , the Alaska Peninsula , and Tierra del Fuego , although these regions are closer to the equator.
Ice incursions are rare, the last having occurred on the north coast in The climate varies between different parts of the island.
Generally speaking, the south coast is warmer, wetter, and windier than the north. The Central Highlands are the coldest part of the country.
Low-lying inland areas in the north are the most arid. Snowfall in winter is more common in the north than the south. The highest air temperature recorded was Around 1, species of insects are known in Iceland.
This is low compared with other countries over one million species have been described worldwide. Iceland is essentially free of mosquitoes.
On rare occasions, bats have been carried to the island with the winds, but they are not able to breed there. Polar bears occasionally come over from Greenland , but they are just visitors, and no Icelandic populations exist.
Around three-quarters of the island is barren of vegetation; plant life consists mainly of grassland, which is regularly grazed by livestock.
The most common tree native to Iceland is the northern birch Betula pubescens , which formerly formed forests over much of Iceland, along with aspens Populus tremula , rowans Sorbus aucuparia , common junipers Juniperus communis , and other smaller trees, mainly willows.
When the island was first settled, it was extensively forested. The forests were heavily exploited over the centuries for firewood and timber.
Today, many farms have been abandoned. The planting of new forests has increased the number of trees, but the result does not compare to the original forests.
Some of the planted forests include introduced species. The animals of Iceland include the Icelandic sheep , cattle , chickens , goats , the sturdy Icelandic horse , and the Icelandic Sheepdog , all descendants of animals imported by Europeans.
Wild mammals include the Arctic fox, mink , mice, rats, rabbits, and reindeer. Polar bears occasionally visit the island, travelling on icebergs from Greenland.
In June , two polar bears arrived in the same month. Puffins , skuas , and kittiwakes nest on its sea cliffs. Commercial whaling is practised intermittently   along with scientific whale hunts.
Iceland has a left—right multi-party system. Iceland was the first country in the world to have a political party formed and led entirely by women.
In Iceland was ranked 2nd in the strength of its democratic institutions  and 13th in government transparency. Iceland is a representative democracy and a parliamentary republic.
Althing , was founded in as an advisory body to the Danish monarch. It was widely seen as a re-establishment of the assembly founded in in the Commonwealth period and suspended in The elections for president, the Althing, and local municipal councils are all held separately every four years.
The president of Iceland is a largely ceremonial head of state and serves as a diplomat, but may veto laws voted by the parliament and put them to a national referendum.
The head of government is the prime minister who, together with the cabinet , is responsible for executive government. The cabinet is appointed by the president after a general election to the Althing; however, the appointment is usually negotiated by the leaders of the political parties, who decide among themselves after discussions which parties can form the cabinet and how to distribute its seats, under the condition that it has a majority support in the Althing.
Only when the party leaders are unable to reach a conclusion by themselves within a reasonable time span does the president exercise this power and appoint the cabinet personally.
The governments of Iceland have always been coalition governments, with two or more parties involved, as no single political party has ever received a majority of seats in the Althing throughout the republican period.
The extent of the political power possessed by the office of the president is disputed by legal scholars [ which? She retired from office in Iceland is divided into regions, constituencies and municipalities.
The eight regions are primarily used for statistical purposes. District court jurisdictions also use an older version of this division.
The imbalance between districts has been reduced by the new system, but still exists. Historically, due to cultural, economic and linguistic similarities, Iceland is a Nordic country , and it participates in intergovernmental cooperation through the Nordic Council.
It was not a member of the EU, but in July the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, voted in favour of application for EU membership  and officially applied on 17 July Iceland has no standing army , but the Icelandic Coast Guard which also maintains the Iceland Air Defence System , and an Iceland Crisis Response Unit to support peacekeeping missions and perform paramilitary functions.
Air Force maintained four to six interceptor aircraft at the Naval Air Station Keflavik , until they were withdrawn on 30 September Despite the ongoing financial crisis the first new patrol ship in decades was launched on 29 April According to the Global Peace Index , Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world, due to its lack of armed forces, low crime rate, and high level of socio-political stability.
About 85 percent of total primary energy supply in Iceland is derived from domestically produced renewable energy sources.
Whaling in Iceland has been historically significant. Until the 20th century, Iceland was among the poorest countries in Europe.
Currently, it remains one of the most developed countries in the world. Nevertheless, according to the Economist Intelligence Index of , Iceland has the 2nd highest quality of life in the world.
Iceland is the only country in the world to have a population under two million yet still have a floating exchange rate and an independent monetary policy.
On average, Iceland receives around 1. Iceland is ranked 27th in the Index of Economic Freedom , lower than in prior years but still among the freest in the world.
Employment regulations are relatively flexible and the labour market is one of the freest in the world. Property rights are strong and Iceland is one of the few countries where they are applied to fishery management.
Despite low tax rates, agricultural assistance is the highest among OECD countries and a potential impediment to structural change.
Also, health care and education spending have relatively poor returns by OECD measures, though improvements have been made in both areas. Iceland had been hit especially hard by the Great Recession that began in December , because of the failure of its banking system and a subsequent economic crisis.
The Financial Supervisory Authority of Iceland used permission granted by the emergency legislation to take over the domestic operations of the three largest banks.
Instead, new banks were established to take on the domestic operations of the banks, and the old banks will be run into bankruptcy.
On 26 January , the coalition government collapsed due to the public dissent over the handling of the financial crisis. Thousands of Icelanders have moved from the country after the collapse, and many of those moved to Norway.
In , people moved from Iceland to Norway; in , the figure was 1, Iceland has a high level of car ownership per capita; with a car for every 1.
A great number of roads remain unpaved, mostly little-used rural roads. Route 1 , or the Ring Road Icelandic: It serves several international and domestic airline companies.
Iceland has no passenger railways. RKV serves general aviation traffic and has daily- or regular domestic flights to 12 local townships within Iceland.
There are a total of registered airports and airfields in Iceland; most of them are unpaved and located in rural areas. Six main ferry services provide regular access to various outpost communities or shorten travel distances.
On 22 January , Iceland announced its first round of offshore licences for companies wanting to conduct hydrocarbon exploration and production in a region northeast of Iceland, known as the Dreki area.
As of [update] , the government of Iceland was in talks with the government of the United Kingdom about the possibility of constructing a high-voltage direct-current connector for transmission of electricity between the two countries.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture is responsible for the policies and methods that schools must use, and they issue the National Curriculum Guidelines.
However, playschools, primary schools, and lower secondary schools are funded and administered by the municipalities.
The government does allow citizens to Home educate their children, however under a very strict set of demands. The current legislation concerning playschools was passed in They are also responsible for ensuring that the curriculum is suitable so as to make the transition into compulsory education as easy as possible.
The school year lasts nine months, beginning between 21 August and 1 September, ending between 31 May and 10 June. Lessons take place five days a week.
All public schools have mandatory education in Christianity, although an exemption may be considered by the Minister of Education. These schools are also known as gymnasia in English.
Though not compulsory, everyone who has had a compulsory education has the right to upper secondary education. This stage of education is governed by the Upper Secondary School Act of All schools in Iceland are mixed sex schools.
According to a Eurostat report by the European Commission , Iceland spends around 3. The original population of Iceland was of Nordic and Gaelic origin.
This is evident from literary evidence dating from the settlement period as well as from later scientific studies such as blood type and genetic analyses.
One such genetic study indicated that the majority of the male settlers were of Nordic origin while the majority of the women were of Gaelic origin, meaning many settlers of Iceland were Norsemen who brought Gaelic slaves with them.
Iceland has extensive genealogical records dating back to the late 17th century and fragmentary records extending back to the Age of Settlement.
The population of the island is believed to have varied from 40, to 60, in the period ranging from initial settlement until the midth century. During that time, cold winters, ash fall from volcanic eruptions, and bubonic plagues adversely affected the population several times.
After the destructive volcanic eruptions of the Laki volcano during —, the population reached a low of about 40, With a fertility rate of 2.
In December , 33, people Polish people make up the largest minority group by a considerable margin, and still form the bulk of the foreign workforce.
Many Polish immigrants were also considering leaving in as a result of the Icelandic financial crisis. The southwest corner of Iceland is the most densely populated region.
Some Icelanders under the leadership of Erik the Red settled Greenland in the late 10th century. Emigration of Icelanders to the United States and Canada began in the s.
As of [update] , Canada had over 88, people of Icelandic descent,  while there are more than 40, Americans of Icelandic descent, according to the US census.
In grammar and vocabulary, it has changed less from Old Norse than the other Nordic languages; Icelandic has preserved more verb and noun inflection , and has to a considerable extent developed new vocabulary based on native roots rather than borrowings from other languages.
The puristic tendency in the development of Icelandic vocabulary is to a large degree a result of conscious language planning, in addition to centuries of isolation.
The closest living relative of the Icelandic language is Faroese. Icelandic Sign Language was officially recognised as a minority language in English and Danish are compulsory subjects in the school curriculum.
English is widely understood and spoken, while basic to moderate knowledge of Danish is common mainly among the older generations. Rather than using family names , as is the usual custom in most Western nations, Icelanders carry patronymic or matronymic surnames, patronyms being far more commonly practiced.
Patronymic last names are based on the first name of the father, while matronymic names are based on the first name of the mother. Iceland has a universal health care system that is administered by its Ministry of Welfare Icelandic: Unlike most countries, there are no private hospitals, and private insurance is practically nonexistent.
A considerable portion of the government budget is assigned to health care,  and Iceland ranks 11th in health care expenditures as a percentage of GDP  and 14th in spending per capita.
As of [update] , Iceland had 3. Infant mortality is one of the lowest in the world,  and the proportion of the population that smokes is lower than the OECD average.
Iceland has a very low level of pollution, thanks to an overwhelming reliance on cleaner geothermal energy, a low population density, and a high level of environmental consciousness among citizens.
Icelanders have freedom of religion guaranteed under the Constitution , although the Church of Iceland , a Lutheran body, is the state church:.
The Registers Iceland keeps account of the religious affiliation of every Icelandic citizen. In , Icelanders were divided into religious groups as follows:.
Iceland is a very secular country; as with other Nordic nations, church attendance is relatively low. Icelandic culture has its roots in North Germanic traditions.
Icelandic literature is popular, in particular the sagas and eddas that were written during the High and Late Middle Ages. Iceland is liberal with regard to LGBT rights issues.
In , the Icelandic parliament passed legislation to create registered partnerships for same-sex couples, conferring nearly all the rights and benefits of marriage.
In , parliament voted unanimously to grant same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in adoption, parenting and assisted insemination treatment.
On 11 June , the Icelandic parliament amended the marriage law , making it gender neutral and defining marriage as between two individuals, making Iceland one of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex marriages.
The law took effect on 27 June Icelanders are known for their deep sense of community: Egalitarianism is highly valued among the people of Iceland, with income inequality being among the lowest in the world.
As in other Nordic countries, equality between the sexes is very high; Iceland is consistently ranked among the top three countries in the world for women to live in.
A translation of the Bible was published in the 16th century. Steinn Steinarr was an influential modernist poet during the early 20th century who remains popular.
Icelanders are avid consumers of literature, with the highest number of bookstores per capita in the world. For its size, Iceland imports and translates more international literature than any other nation.
Most books in Iceland are sold between late September to early November. This time period is known as Jolabokaflod , the Christmas Book Flood.
The distinctive rendition of the Icelandic landscape by its painters can be linked to nationalism and the movement for home rule and independence , which was very active in the midth century.
Kjarval in particular is noted for the distinct techniques in the application of paint that he developed in a concerted effort to render the characteristic volcanic rock that dominates the Icelandic environment.
In the s, many Icelandic artists worked with the subject of the new painting in their work. In the recent years artistic practice has multiplied, and the Icelandic art scene has become a setting for many large scale projects and exhibitions.
The artist run gallery space Kling og Bang, members of which later ran the studio complex and exhibition venue Klink og Bank, has been a significant part of the trend of self-organised spaces, exhibitions and projects.
Traditional Icelandic turf houses. Until the 20th century, the vast majority of Icelanders lived in rural areas. Much Icelandic music is related to Nordic music , and includes folk and pop traditions.
Traditional Icelandic music is strongly religious. Smaller stations exist, many of them local. Radio is broadcast throughout the country, including some parts of the interior.
Iceland is home to LazyTown Icelandic: It has become a very popular programme for children and adults and is shown in over countries, including the Americas, the UK and Sweden.
There, he meets an old girlfriend of his youth and they both begin a journey through the wilds of Iceland to die together. This is the only Icelandic movie to have ever been nominated for an Academy Award.
Briem starred in the film Journey to the Center of the Earth , which shot scenes in Iceland. On 17 June , the parliament passed the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative , proposing greater protection of free speech rights and the identity of journalists and whistle-blowers—the strongest journalist protection law in the world.
CCP Games hosts the third most populated MMO in the world, which also has the largest total game area for an online game.
Strong voices within the community expressed concerns with this, stating that it is impossible to block access to pornography without compromising freedom of speech.
The main meal of the day for most Icelanders is dinner, which usually involves fish or lamb as the main course. Seafood is central to most Icelandic cooking, particularly cod and haddock but also salmon , herring , and halibut.
It is often prepared in a wide variety of ways, either smoked, pickled, boiled, or dried. Additionally, boiled or mashed potatoes, pickled cabbage, green beans, and rye bread are prevalent side dishes.
Coffee is a popular beverage in Iceland, with the country being third placed by per capita consumption worldwide in ,  and is drunk at breakfast, after meals, and with a light snack in mid-afternoon.
Coca-Cola is also widely consumed, to the extent that the country is said to have one of the highest per capita consumption rates in the world.
It is a type of schnapps made from distilled potatoes and flavoured with either caraway seeds or angelica. Martin Miller blends Icelandic water with its England-distilled gin on the island.
Several strong beers are now made by Icelandic breweries. Sport is an important part of Icelandic culture, as the population is generally quite active.
Popular sports include football , track and field , handball and basketball. Handball is often referred to as the national sport. They then lost to hosts and later finalists France in the quarter finals.
For both the European and the world championship, Iceland is to date the smallest nation in terms of population to qualify. Iceland is also the smallest country to ever qualify for Eurobasket.
They did it in both and Although Iceland has had great success qualifying for Eurobasket , they have not managed to win a single game in the European Basketball final stages.
Iceland has excellent conditions for skiing , fishing , snowboarding , ice climbing and rock climbing , although mountain climbing and hiking are preferred by the general public.
Iceland is also a world-class destination for alpine ski touring and Telemark skiing , with the Troll Peninsula in Northern Iceland being the main centre of activity.
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