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Nordic FAQ - 6 of 7 - NORWAY
Section - 6.2 General information

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  6.2.1 Geography, climate, vegetation
   Norway is located on the Scandinavian peninsula; its long, craggy
   coast forms the western margin of the peninsula and fronts the
   Atlantic Ocean (sometimes known as the Norwegian Sea) for most of the
   country's length. To the southwest the North Sea separates Norway from
   the British Isles, and directly to the south the Skagerrak separates
   it from Denmark. In the east Norway shares an extensive border with
   Sweden and for a shorter one with Finland and Russia in the north.
   From north to south, Norway is about 1,770 km long, but for much of
   the distance it is very narrow, exceeding 160km of breadth only in the
   south. About one third of the country lies within the Arctic Circle,
   where the sun shines 24 hours at the height of the summer.
   Characteristic of the terrain are rugged mountains interrupted by
   valleys that cut into the land. Along much of the coast cliffs drop
   impressively to the sea, forming the fjords which are among the most
   distinctive features of Norwegian geography. The longest and deepest
   of them is the Sogne Fjord. About 150,000 offshore islands serve as a
   barrier that helps to protect Norway's coast from Atlantic storms.
   Among these, the Lofoten Islands are the largest and also a very
   popular tourist attraction.
   The climate is temperate, and the severity of winter along the coast
   is moderated by southerly air currents brought in above the waters of
   the North Atlantic Drift, which is warmed by the Gulf Stream. Summers
   are relatively cool throughout the country; rainfall is high
   everywhere, most of all on the coasts, of course. The rivers contain
   abundant salmon and trout, which are among the country's most famous
   exports. Spruce and pine are the most common trees in Norway's
   forests, and deciduous trees, such as birch and ash, are common in the
   lowlands. In the mountain regions, heather is abundant, as well as low
   bushes that provide numerous delicious berries. Timber is one of the
   foremost natural resources. In addition, Norway has tremendous
   resources in its offshore oil and gas fields in the North Sea as well
   as in the hydroelectric potential of the numerous rapids and
   waterfalls. Iron and copper are also mined.
  6.2.2 Economy
   Only about 3% of Norway is arable land; for this reason Norway's main
   source of livelihood has traditionally been fishery. Norway emerged as
   an industrial nation from the beginning of this century, partly due to
   local elites investing money in shipbuilding, woolspinning, timber and
   pulp production, and partly because of foreign companies building up
   on electrochemical industry based upon cheap hydro-electric power.
   Norway has also had one of the biggest merchant fleets of the world.
   The financial surplus made by this type of service made it possible to
   outweigh the deficit of trade with other countries, and hence is an
   important economic and political factor in Norwegian history.
   Production of petroleum and gas has, however, become the foremost
   industry with the discovery of offshore fields. Food, beverage, and
   tobacco processing rank second. The manufacture of transportation
   equipment, primarily ships and boats (the major export), ranks third,
   followed by production of metal and metal products.
  6.2.3 Population, language, culture
   Norway's population is primarily Germanic. The largest ethnic minority
   are Sámi (Lapps) living Northern Norway (Finnmark) who number about
   20,000; a few thousand Norwegian Finns (Kvens) live in northern
   Norway. Norwegian is a Germanic language developed from the Old Norse
   spoken in the viking age; it is closely related to both Danish and
   Swedish. Norway has hundreds of dialects of spoken Norwegian
   (corresponding to different geographical regions or locales) and two
   official written norms, Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål, which has its
   basis in large part in the Danish spoken during the period of Danish
   rule, serves as the written norm for most of the dialects of the
   larger urban centers. Nynorsk, created by the philologist Ivar Andreas
   Aasen (1813-96) who drew it from the old rural dialects that preserve
   Norwegian as it descended from Old Norse, serves as the written norm
   for most of the dialects of rural areas and some smaller urban
   centers. Norway, while becoming increasingly urbanized, is still one
   of the least urbanized countries in Europe. Population is extremely
   sparse in northern Norway and inland; except for Iceland, it is the
   lowest in Europe.
   It's worth to note that both Nynorsk and Bokmål are pure written
   languages. No one actually speaks these languages - in Norway all
   spoken languages are regarded as dialects. But one has to remember
   that over 80% of the pupils in Norwegian schools chose to learn
   Bokmål, and that the vocabulary of Bokmål is influenced by Danish
   whereas the vocabulary of Nynorsk lies closer to Swedish. The minority
   language Nynorsk is thus protected by laws, ensuring for instance that
   at least 25% of the radio and tv transmissions are in Nynorsk, and a
   national theater Det Norske Teatret playing in Nynorsk,
   Frequently questions about common Scandinavian names come up in the
   newsgroup. The national statistical office of Norway has made tables
   over the most common names to make your choice easier. :-)
   Norway has a strongly developed tradition of folk music; its most
   distinguished classical composers were Edvard Grieg (1843-1907),
   Christian Sinding (1856-1941), and Johan Svendsen (1840-1911), all of
   whom made much use of traditional music. The painting of Edvard Munch
   (1863-1944) has achieved worldwide recognition. Gustav Vigeland
   (1869-1943) produced a vast body of sculpture, which has been
   collected in Frogner Park in Oslo. For Norwegian literature, see
   section 6.5.
  6.2.4 Government
   Norway is a hereditary constitutional monarchy, with a constitution
   that was drafted in 1814. It gives broad powers to the king, but the
   council of ministers, headed by the prime minister, generally
   exercises this power as king in council. The 165 members of the
   Storting, or parliament, are elected for a fixed term of 4 years by
   all Norwegians 18 years of age or older.
   The major political parties are the Labor party (Arbeiderpartiet), the
   largest single party, the Conservative party (Høyre), and the Center
   Party (Senterpartiet). The Labor party, which was responsible for
   creating the social-democratic welfare state, headed the government
   for 37 years during the period 1935-81. A debate about high taxes and
   rising inflation caused the Labor party to lose ground to center-right
   groups. The Conservatives under Kare Willoch were in office from 1981
   to 1986, when they were ousted by Labor, led by Gro Harlem Brundtland,
   Norway's first woman premier. Brundtland has since resigned as the
   party leader (the office is currently held by Torbjørn Jagland), but
   still represents the party as the prime minister. In the current
   election period (1993-1997), Senterpartiet (Center Party) is bigger
   than Høyre.

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