Nordic Countries

Political map of the Nordic countries and associated territories.

The Nordic countries are a northern European geographical region. Also sometimes referred to as Norden, the area includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Aland Islands. These countries share a common historical and cultural identity. This article takes a look at each of the Nordic countries.

8. Aland Islands (Finland)

The Aland Islands are considered a region of Finland and are located in the Baltic Sea at the Gulf of Bothnia. Although a Finnish region, the Aland Islands are autonomous and Swedish speaking. Along with Finland, these islands were made part of the Swedish Empire during the 1200’s. In 1809, Sweden was forced to give territory to Russia. The Aland Islands and other Finnish land were included in the treaty, and the area became the Grand Duchy of Finland. The islands were demilitarized by the 1856 Treaty of Paris. After the Finnish Civil War, in 1919, the residents of the Aland Islands voted to secede from Finland and join Sweden. Finland disputed, offering them autonomy. The disagreement was settled by the League of Nations, and the Aland Islands became an autonomous territory.

The population is just over 29,000, and the vast majority of the people here live on Fasta Aland. Around 90% of the population speak Swedish, and 5% speak Finnish. They are considered either ethnic Swedes or Swedish-speaking Finns, an ongoing controversial issue.

7. Faroe Islands (Denmark)

Located between Norway and Iceland, the 541-square mile archipelago of the Faroe Islands is an autonomous territory of Denmark. Research has shown that the islands were first inhabited in 400 AD, about 400 years before the arrival of the Vikings. The Vikings and emigrants from Norway occupied and controlled the area until Sigmundur Brestisson took possession for Norway between 995 and 1000 AD. Norway maintained control until the 1814 Kalmar Union with Denmark. In the early 1900’s, the people of the islands began developing their own political parties. During World War II, the British invaded the area and built its only airport. Denmark once again took control after the war, but by then, the islands had a high level of autonomy. In the 1970’s, the people declined to join what is now the European Union and today, sentiment for independence is high.

The population is approximately 49,188 and the majority of them belong to the Faroese ethnicity, descendants of Celts and Norse. Faroese, a Germanic language, is the main language spoken. The majority of the people, 84.1%, practice Lutheranism under the state church, Faroese People’s Church.

6. Greenland (Denmark)

Greenland is located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans and covers 836,109 square miles. Norsemen arrived in the 10th century and Inuit in the 13th, however, the area has been inhabited for over 4,000 years. In 1499, with the decline of the Norse population, Portugal explored and claimed the country. They held this claim until the early 18th century when Denmark-Norway took control. When the Denmark-Norway union ended in 1814, Denmark won reign over Greenland. Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953 when it was incorporated as part of the Danish realm. It earned home rule power in 1979 and 2008, Greenland voted to hold more power under Greenlandic government than under Danish government.

The population is approximately 56,370 and 88% are of Greenlandic Inuit descent. The majority of the people live in the southwestern part of the main island.

5. Sweden

The Kingdom of Sweden encompasses an area of 173,860 square miles and is located on the eastern side of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Once ruled by the Vikings, Christian monarchs took over with Eric the Victorious, the first Swedish king from 970 to 995 AD. From 1150 until 1293, various kings experienced internal conflict, led raids against Finland, and began colonizing its coastal regions. In 1397, the Queen of Denmark joined Sweden to Norway and Denmark. In 1520, the King of Denmark ordered the death of Swedish nobility in order to stop their rebellion against the Union. In response, Sweden declared a new king in 1523 who went on to promote Protestantism and move away from the Catholic Church. Over the next few centuries, the country became an economic center for Europe, although this power was lost in the 18th century. In 1814, Sweden started war with Norway and forced the country into the Kalmar Union which lasted for nearly 100 years.

Today, the population of Sweden is approximately 9.8 million. Around 85% of the people live in urban areas which are mainly located in the southern region of the country. Around 20% of the population is either foreign-born or born to foreign parents. The official language is Swedish.

4. Norway

The Kingdom of Norway is made up of an area of 148,747 square miles and is located in the western part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Christianity began to replace traditional Viking beliefs between the 10th and 11th centuries. Haakon the Good, Norway's first Christian King, ruled from 934 until 960. The Hanseatic League, an association of merchants, controlled the economy here for several centuries. It reached its height during the 1400’s and fell by the end of the 1500’s. While under influence of the Hanseatic League, Norway experienced the rule of numerous kings. In 1388, Denmark and Norway entered a union that left the Queen of Denmark in control of the country. Norway remained in this union until 1814, when Denmark was forced to give Norway to the Kingdom of Sweden. Norway took advantage of that moment to retain some independence and elected their own king. The two countries separated completely in 1905.

Today, the population of Norway is 5,096,300. Approximately 86% of the population was either born in the country or was born to at least one Norwegian parent. Most of the population growth here has been due to immigration from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East (to name a few countries).

3. Iceland

Iceland is a 40,000-square mile island in the North Atlantic Ocean. Settlement began in 874 AD mainly by people from Norway, although a small population settled here from other Scandinavian countries. Norway ruled the country from 1262 until 1814 when it separated from Denmark. Denmark held control for approximately 100 years. In 1918, Iceland became an independent kingdom, though still in union with Denmark. The country voted to end the union and establish a Republic in 1944. Following World War II, the economy was very strong. In 1994, the country joined what today, is the European Union.

The population is over 325,000. Just over 13% of the population was born in a foreign country. The largest minority group is from Poland.

2. Finland

The Republic of Finland is a peninsular country that shares borders with Sweden, Norway, and Russia. Populated by the Sami culture for many generations, Swedish kings invaded and took over the area between the 12th and 13th centuries. Because of this control, Swedish became the language of the elite while Finnish was spoken by lower-class people. Because of its position between Russia and Sweden, Finland was desired by both countries. Russia controlled the area on two separate occasions in the 1700’s. By 1809, Finland became a Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire. In 1863, Finnish became the official language which encouraged a Finnish nationalistic movement. This led to the desire for independence and Finland became an independent state in 1917.

Today, the population is about 5.5 million. The people live mainly in the southern region of the country, particularly in the Greater-Helsinki metropolitan area. Nearly 6% of the population is made up of people from Russia, Estonia, Somalia, Iraq, and Yugoslavia.

1. Denmark

The Kingdom of Denmark has an area of 16,573 square miles. The country is made up of the Jutland Peninsula and 443 islands with names. The Kingdom was first unified in the 10th century, which is when Christianity also became a major religion. Some researchers believe that this was a political move in order to continue trade with the Roman Empire. Denmark was united with Norway and England at the beginning of the 11th century for about 30 years. As previously mentioned, Queen Margaret I united Denmark with Norway and Sweden in 1397. The country became predominantly Lutheran in 1536 when it also joined a new union with Norway. That union lasted until 1905. In 1849, Denmark became a constitutional monarchy, which continues to be its current form of government.

The population is approximately 5.7 million. Around 87.7% of the people here are of Danish descent, and Danish is the national language.

Nordic Countries

RankScandinavian CountryPopulation (2016)
6Greenland 56,483
7Faroe Islands 49,188
8Aland Islands29,013

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