Where Are the Scandinavian Countries?

A street in Aalborg, Denmark. Scandinavian countries share common cultural and historical characteristics.

The term Scandinavian refers to the countries of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Together, these countries form the Scandinavian Peninsula. The term originates from the word Scania, a region that is now Swedish and was once Danish. Scandinavian countries share a common history and culture, which comes from North Germanic Heritage.

Contrary to popular belief, Finland, Greenland and Iceland are not technically part of Scandinavia. The term Scandinavia only refers to the region of the Scandinavian peninsula, the Danish Isles, and the Jutland peninsula. While Sweden, Norway, and Denmark share similar, mutually intelligible languages, the Finnish language is completely different. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark also share a common North Germanic ethnohistory that does not include Finland.

Greenland is not considered to be part of Scandinavia because it is geographically part of North America. Iceland, too, is too geographically distant from Sweden, Denmark, and Norway to be considered Scandinavian. However, all of the aforementioned countries and grouped together in another subset called Nordic Countries.

3. Sweden

Editorial credit: RPBaiao / Shutterstock.com.

The Kingdom of Sweden encompasses an area of 173,860 square miles, the largest areawise among the Scandinavian countries, and is located on the eastern side of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The Scandinavian mountain range to the west separates the country from Finland. Agricultural practices are concentrated in the south and about 65% of the country, particularly in the north, is covered in forests.

From the 8th century until the 11th century, the Vikings ruled the area. They were Norsemen who explored and traded around Europe via waterways. The fall of the Viking-era occurred when Christianity and royalty were established. The switch between Vikings and royalty began with Eric the Victorious, the first Swedish king from 970 to 995 AD. From 1150 until 1293, the various kings experienced internal conflict and led raids against Finland and began colonizing its coastal regions. From 1349 until 1351, Sweden was ravaged by the Black Death and by 1397, the Queen of Denmark joined Sweden to Norway and Denmark. The Swedish royalty rebelled against this union for over a century when, in 1520, the King of Denmark ordered the death of Swedish nobility. In 1523, Sweden declared a new king who went on to split away from the Catholic Church and promote Protestantism, often considered the birth of modern Sweden. The country gained power within Europe, although this was lost in the 18th century. In 1814, Sweden started war with Norway and forced the country into a union which lasted for nearly 100 years. During that same time, nearly 1 million Swedes moved to the United States.

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. Minority languages include Finnish, Meankieli, Sami, Romani, and Yiddish. Nearly 90% of Swedes are able to speak English.

2. Norway

The Kingdom of Norway is made up of an area of 148,747 square miles and is mapped to the western area of the Scandinavian Peninsula. It is bordered to the east by Sweden. The majority of Norway is covered in granite mountain ranges, and the coastline is filled with fjords, deep sided inlets filled with seawater.

Like Sweden, Norway was under Viking rule between the 8th and 11th centuries. Christianity began to replace their traditions in the 10th and 11th centuries by newly arriving Christian kings. Haakon the Good was the first Christian king of Norway from 934 until 960. The Hanseatic League, an association of merchants, controlled the economy here for a few centuries. It was at its most powerful in the 1400’s and lost power and control by the end of the 1500’s. During this time, Norway suffered great population loss due to the Black Death and was under the rule of several different kings. Denmark and Norway had entered a union that left the Queen of Denmark in control in 1388. Norway remained in the Union until 1814 when Denmark was forced to give Norway to the Kingdom of Sweden. Norway fought to retain some of its independence and elected their own king. The two countries separated completely in 1905.

Today, the population of Norway is 5,254,694, the lowest among the Scandinavian countries. Approximately 86% of the population has one parent that was born in the country. Immigration has shaped present-day Norway, and the country is now home to people from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, etc.

1. Denmark

The Kingdom of Denmark has an area of 16,573 square miles. The country is made up of the Jutland Peninsula and 1,419 islands, 443 of which have names. The terrain is mainly plains and deforested lands.

As with the other Scandinavian countries, this area was ruled by Vikings from the 8th to the 11th centuries. The Kingdom was unified in the 10th century, and Christianity became the major religion in 965 AD. This was a political move to remain in good standing with the Roman Empire, an important trade partner. In the early 1000’s, Denmark was united with Norway and England for around 30 years. As previously mentioned, Queen Margaret I united Denmark with Norway and Sweden in 1397. The 125-year union was to ensure equality among the nations. However, Denmark was always favored by the ruler. The country became predominantly Lutheran in 1536, the year it also joined a union with Norway. That union lasted until 1905. In 1849, Denmark was declared a constitutional monarchy, which continues today.

The population is approximately 5.7 million, the second highest among the three Scandinavian countries. Around 87.7% of the people here are of Danish descent. Immigration has played a key role in shaping the society; the majority of its immigrants are from Poland, Germany, Turkey, and Iraq. Danish is the national language, and about 86% of the people speak English.

Scandinavian Countries

RankScandinavian CountryPopulation

More in Society