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  Officially Kingdom of Norway

Copyright © 1994-2002 Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

Country of northern Europe that occupies the western half of the Scandinavian peninsula. The country, called Norge in traditional Norwegian and Noreg in New Norwegian, has an area of 125,004 square miles (323,758 square km), excluding the dependencies of Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Bouvet Island, and Peter I Island. With the Barents Sea to the north, the Norwegian Sea and the North Sea to the west, and Skagerrak (Skager Strait) to the south, Norway has land borders only to the east—with Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Nearly half of the inhabitants of the country live in the far south, in the region around Oslo, the capital. About two-thirds of Norway is mountainous, and off its much-indented coastline lie some 50,000 islands.

Norway has always depended heavily on its economic relations with foreign countries; this has been the case both during its periods of independence and during those times when it has been politically united with fellow Scandinavian nations Sweden and Denmark. These foreign links are illustrated by the heritage of the Vikings, who plundered the coasts from the British Isles to the Mediterranean Sea and sailed the Atlantic Ocean to North America. Later the Norwegians turned to trading in fish and lumber, and the modern nation emerged as a major maritime transporter of the world's goods as well as a world leader in specialized shipbuilding. In the 1970s the exploitation of offshore oil and natural gas became the major maritime industry, with Norway emerging in the 1990s as one of the world's leading petroleum exporters.

Lying on the northern outskirts of the European continent and thus avoiding the characteristics of a geographic crossroads, Norway (the “northern way”) has maintained a great homogeneity among its peoples and their way of life. Its projections for life expectancy are among the highest in the world. The main political division reflects differing views on the importance of free market forces; but the socialists long ago stopped insisting on nationalization of the nation's industry, and the nonsocialists have accepted extensive governmental control of the country's economy. Such evident national consensus—along with abundant waterpower, offshore oil, and peaceful labour relations—has been a major factor in the rapid growth of Norway as an industrial nation in the 20th century and in the creation of one of the highest standards of living in the world.

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