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NORWAY is a constitutional monarchy occupying the western part of the Scandinavian Peninsula in northern Europe. Most of Norway’s eastern boundary shared with Sweden, but in the northeast, the border is with Finland and, for a short distance, with Russia.

In the far north, Norway’s coastline runs along the Barents Sea, which is part of the Arctic Ocean, and the upper third of the country lies within the Arctic Circle. The Norwegian Sea or the North Sea bounds the country’s long western coast, and, in total, the coastline extends for some 2,720-kilo­meters or 1,700 miles. In the southeast, the extension of the North Sea called the Skagerrak separates southern Norway from Denmark.

Five political/geographical regions recognized in Norway. These are North Norway, Trondelag, Vestlandet, Sorlandet, and 0stlandet.

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Norway is shaped like a long finger running from northeast to southwest, narrowing out in the north but broadening out in the south. Nowhere in Norway is far from an inlet of the sea. Mainland Norway is dominated by high rugged mountainous terrain. This consists of a series of high plateaux, called vidder, which are up to 1,067 meters or 3,500 feet above sea level, from which rise the mountain peaks.

One of the most extensive areas is the Hardangervidda in the south. The highest mountain range, however, the Jotunheimen (“land of the giants”) lies somewhat farther north above the Sogne Fjord and includes Glittertind (2,470 meters or 8,082 feet) and Galdhopiggen (2,469 meters or 8,100 feet).

The highest mountains are permanently covered in snow and ice, which includes several glaciers. Farther north, the mountains become lower, but some of the most extensive glaciers in Europe are found in the Arctic region of Finnmark.

During the last Ice Age, an ice sheet covered the whole of Scandinavia. The glaciers excavated and scoured the underlying valleys, creating the Norwegian landscape’s most remarkable feature, its spectacular series of fjords. Fjords extend along the whole length of the western coast.

Scattered close to the mainland throughout most of the coastline’s length are hundreds of islands known as the Skerryguard. These provide some shelter from the open sea and protect the many boats upon which the seafaring Norwegians have always depended. The largest islands are the Lofoten and Vesterálen group in the north of the country. The Jan Mayen and Svalbard Islands in the Arctic Ocean, northeast of Iceland, and Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic are also Norwegian territories.

Along the western seaboard, people live mainly in villages and towns built on the small areas of flat land available near the mouths and along the sides of the fjords and on the islands. In the southeast and east, the mountain slopes are more gentle, and there are a series of long, deep valleys, the lower reaches of which provide more land for settlement and agriculture. North of the Jottunheim Mountains lies the Trondelag or Trondheim region, centered on the Trondheim Fjord. Here there is a slightly greater area of flatter land available, making this an important area for farming and settlement.

North Norway is a large area of vidder, mountains, and fjords lying within the Arctic Circle. It is a harsh region for human beings and is fairly thinly populated, with most people living along the coast or on the islands of the Lofoten and Vesterálen group. It includes the area of Finnmark, which is home to the Saami or Lapp people, whose territory also extends into Sweden and Finland.

Also included in the last Ice Age’s legacy are many glacial lakes scattered throughout Norway, which were formed when the ice retreated and melted.

Numerous rivers and streams drain the country, and those in the west, descending the steep mountainsides, are short and fast-flowing with many spectacular waterfalls. The rivers in the east and south follow a gentler, generally more extended course, and it is here that Norway’s longest river, the Gláma, is located.

Almost 80 percent of the rivers and lakes in southern Norway have been severely affected by acid rain caused by industrial pollution, which originates in the British Isles and is carried eastwards by the prevailing winds. This is a cause of great concern to the Norwegians who themselves operate rigorous antipollution policies within their country.

Despite its northerly position, Norway is fortunate that it lies in the path of the warm ocean currents of the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift. These keep even its Arctic ports free of ice in the winter and have a considerable ameliorating effect on the climate. Most coastal areas have a temperate maritime climate with a relatively mild winter and cool summer, although becoming colder in the north. Inland and south, a more continental type of climate are experienced with colder winters and hotter summers. In the north and the high mountains, sub-Arctic conditions, with winter snowfall, prevail. Precipitation falls all year but more often in the summer and autumn and on the coast.

The capital and largest city are Oslo, located in the southeast, while the second in size and importance is Bergen in the southwest. About half the Norwegian population lives in the southeast, a quarter in Oslo itself, and the rest in the other towns, villages, or urban areas. Nearly all Norwegians live within easy reach of the sea, which has historically played an important part in the country’s development.

Because of the lack of suitable flat land, fairly unproductive soils, and a short growing season in much of the country, agriculture is a small-scale enterprise in Norway. Only 3 percent of the land can be cultivated, and most of this is in the southeast and the Trondelag. Some crops are grown, and these include hay for fodder, cereals (rye, oats, barley, wheat), potatoes, and some other vegetables. Most farms raise livestock, and the principal animals are sheep, cattle, and pigs. Dairy products and meat are produced for home consumption.

Productive forests are located mainly in the south and east of the country, and Norway has many sawmills supplying an important wood pulp and paper industry.

Fishing has always been an essential part of the Norwegian economy and has remained strong despite the difficulties caused by declining fish stocks.

Norway’s fishing fleet operates far afield, particularly in the waters off Newfoundland, and among the most important species caught are mackerel, cod, herring, capelin, and sand eels. Salmon, sea trout, and prawns are also significant. In recent years, Norway has established many fish farms for the rearing of salmon and sea trout, and the country is now a leading exporter, mainly of salmon. Despite strong international opposition, Norway, as a traditional whaling country, continues to hunt a yearly quota of minké whales.

Norway has modest reserves of lead, iron, coal, copper, and zinc extracted. Still, the central area of production is in oil and natural gas, which were discovered in Norwegian waters during the 1970s and now form an essential part of the economy.

Norway has exploited its abundant potential for hydroelectric power to the full and is one of the leading producers of this form of electricity, some of which are exported. The availability of cheap electricity has enabled Norway to develop a significant metallurgical industry, and the production of aluminum, iron, and steel is of particular importance. The country was traditionally a stronghold for heavy industries, particularly shipbuilding, but these have significantly declined.

Many of the former yards have now diversified to produce equipment and machinery for the petroleum industry. Other manufactured goods include wood products and furniture, processed foods, advanced technology components, sports equipment, and chemicals.

Norway is also a popular tourist destination.

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The West Country (Vestlandet) is an area in Norway that consists of five geographic regions. Carved by glaciers and features majestic Fjords and the abrupt slope of the western Scandinavian Mountains toward the North Sea. Connected to the West Country by numerous valleys, the East Country (Ostlandet) contains rolling hills and valleys that contain some of the country’s richest agricultural soil. The Trondheim (Trøndelag) Depression forms a natural boundary between the country’s northern and southern halves. It is a region of hills, valleys, and fjords north of the high mountain ranges. Farther to the north is North Norway (Nord Norge), marked by fjords, mountains, vast snowfields, and some of Europe’s largest glaciers. In the far south is an area of agricultural lowlands known as South Country (Sorlandet).

Most of the western coast of Norway lies on the Norwegian Sea. Part of the southwest coastline borders the North Sea. Both seas are extensions of the Atlantic Ocean. The northernmost coast of the country borders the Barents Sea, an extension of the Arctic Ocean.

On the southernmost coast of Norway, the Skagerrak Strait separates the country from Denmark. Most of the Norwegian coastline is cut with countless Fjords, for which the country is most famous. High plateaus often surround these fjords, forming breathtaking natural harbors.

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Known as the “land of the midnight sun,” the far northern region of Norway has 24-hour daylight from May through July. Oslo and the rest of the southern region have summer daylight from about 4 A.M. to 11 P.M. Conversely, from November to the end of January, the sun never rises above the north’s horizon.

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