Overall History of Norway The Kingdom of Norway is located on the west part of the Scandinavian peninsula. Geographically, it extends northward from the North Sea over 1,000 miles along the Norwegian Sea into the Arctic Circle, farther north than any other European land. Sweden, Finland, and the U.S.S.R. all share borders with Norway on the east and the northeast. With an area of over 125,000 square miles, Norway is slightly larger than New Mexico. The Kingdom of Norway is located on the west part of the Scandinavian peninsula. Over 70% of Norway has very little vegetation, is covered by mountains, glaciers, and rivers, and is uninhabitable.
Its numerous and deep fjords give Norway over 12,000 miles of oceanfront and tens of thousands of islands off the cost from a sheltered coastal shipping channel. Norway also has sovereignty over five islands, the largest being Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean. Norway north of Bodo experiences the midnight sun for a few weeks on either side of the summer solstice (June 21). Norse Vikings raided the northwestern coast of Europe repeatedly from the 8th to the 11th century. More than just pillagers, the Vikings explored Iceland, Greenland, and the New World extensively. This time period and its myths are chronicled in the Icelandic Sagas.
There are various open-air and Viking museums throughout Scandinavia to see how people used to live in this rugged land. In 872 the first ruler of a united Norway, Harold the Fair haired, came to power. Norway was part of the Danish kingdom for almost 500 years until Sweden won control in 1814. The country became officially independent in 1905 with a Danish prince on the Norwegian throne (King Olav V). Norway was committed to neutrality in World War I. The country was occupied by the Germans for five years during World War II. Abandoning its neutrality, Norway joined the N.A.T.O. alliance in 1949.
However Norway does have good relations with its neighbor, the Old Soviet Union. After a referendum in 1972, which divided the country, Norway decided not to join the European Common Market (EC). This was again a major debate in 1995, but Norway surprised the world by again voting not to join the EC. Norway's government is a constitutional monarchy, with King Harald as its head.
The monarch shares executive power with a Cabinet composed of a Prime Minister and seven other members. Norway's Parliament, the Storting, has 157 members who are elected by proportional representation. Major political parties in Norway include the Labor party, led by Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Conservative Party, the Christian Democrats, the Center Party, the Socialist Left Party, and the Party of Progress. Norway has one of the highest standards of living in the world, but it is also extremely expensive - even compared to the rest of Scandinavia. The gross national product is close to $60 billion, and the low unemployment has been enviable for the last decade at less than 3 1/2%. The per capita income is high as well at almost $14,000.
The Norwegian labor force is composed of 8% agriculture workers, 20% industrial workers, 32% service workers, and 29% government employees. Norway is lucky to have extensive hydroelectric power resources upon which its industrialization is based. The discovery of the North Sea oil fields has attributed to Norway's wealth as well. A 200-nautical-mile zone off Norway's shores gives the government control over the resources in one of the most productive sea areas on earth. Norway has one of the world's largest merchant marines.
Only 3-4% of the country's surface area is cultivatable and therefore most grain is imported. The majority of the country's forests are owned privately and feed the large timber, furniture, and paper industries. Norway exports oil and gas, metals, chemicals, and fish. In addition, paper products, ships, and oil rigs are exported, Norway's chief trading partners are the European Common Market, the Nordic countries, the U.S., and Japan. Exports account for almost 40% of the gross national product. The population of Norway is a stable 4.2 million people.
Most Norwegians live near the coast, as much of the interior is uninhabitable. As a result, the overall population density is a low 33.6 persons per square mile. At birth, Norwegian males can expect to live 73 years and females, almost 80 years. Oslo, Norway's capital, is also its largest city with a population of close to half a million. Bergen is Norway's next largest city with a population of over 200,000.
The 16th Winter Olympics was hosted in Lillehammer, Norway in 1994. Culture Like the rest of Scandinavia, Norway has for the last two decades or so eagerly been debating a broader definition of the term culture, reflecting a widespread wish to attribute cultural value not only to the more exclusive art forms, but also to popular activities 7 among other things as a prelude to obtaining public sector support also for the latter. Examples of what this broader concept might comprise are sports, amateur choirs and study circles. The idea of culture more broadly defined has wind in its sails, and at the local level, in counties and municipalities, cultural administrations have been built up which are doing valuable work in preparing the ground for future public investment. Education in Norway Norway has invested a great deal in education. Out of a population of 4.3 million, almost 900,000 are undergoing some form of education or training, and a further 1.3 million a year follow adult education courses.
During the school year 1993-94 there were about 470,000 pupils at primary and lower secondary school and almost 210,000 at upper secondary level, including vocational training. Over 95 per cent of all young people go on to upper secondary education after lower secondary school. There are about 160,000 students at universities and colleges, a figure which increased by 60 per cent from 1988 to 1993. There are also more than 8,000 Norwegian students studying abroad, and about 5,000 foreign students in Norway.
The educational level of the population has risen considerably in recent years. In 1970, 30 per cent of the population had upper secondary or higher education; in 1992 this figure was over 60 per cent. The Norwegian school system can be traced back to the cathedral schools of the Middle Ages. By the 1700's the state administration had begun to be seriously interested in the education of the common people, and in 1739 the first Education Act was passed, relating to rural schools. One of the basic principles of Norwegian educational policy is that all children and young people have an equal right to education and training irrespective of domicile, sex, social or cultural background and aptitude.
All state education is free. Education and the development of skills have high political priority. The objective is an education system that combines the highest academic standards with breadth, i.e. that includes the largest possible proportion of the population. This will result in a high general educational standard for the whole population an thus in a better quality of life for individuals. It is also one of the main conditions for increased productivity and for ensuring the progress of the Norwegian welfare state. Language Norwegian, which is a Germanic language, is thus only spoken by four million people.
Besides, it exists in two forms, a standard or Dano-Norwegian, and a new Norwegian based on Norwegian dialects, and the two camps have engaged in many struggles over the respective justification and status of their languages. Standard Norwegian is used by the majority. Sami, a Fin no-Ugric language quite different from Norwegian, is spoken by a small minority, mostly in northernmost Norway. Norway has the world's largest foreign trade per capita, and its prosperity and progress are completely dependent on the international approach of its industry. But because their language is only understood by Scandinavians, Norwegians have had to get used to communicating in foreign languages 7 chiefly English. The impact of English, and to some extent of Swedish, on Norwegian is so considerable as to be a cause of anxiety among the culturally aware, who are demanding that steps be taken, for instance in schools, to strengthen Norse-gians's else of their own language.
A modest population, scattered settlement and the language situation all present large challenges when it comes to providing a varied range of cultural activities and preserving and developing the cultural heritage. Radio & Television Only one Norwegian TV channel today covers the whole country, though a channel 2 has been debated and planned for years. The main cause of delay has been divided opinion over its financing: should it be public, and if not, would commercial sponsorship channel necessary funding away from other priorities, such as newspapers? In the public debate, great emphasis has been placed on the need to produce top-quality programs in Norwegian; the fear is that both the language and the culture will suffer if too many programs are simply bought in from abroad.
The second of two national radio networks came on the air a few years ago. There are also a number of independent local radio stations and a few TV stations which cover limited regions. Newspapers Daily newspapers are considered an essential commodity in Norway, in their contribution not only to the workings of democracy but also to cultural life. In relation to its population, Norway probably has Europe's highest number of dailies, with each town, as well as more sparsely settled districts, provided with a local paper. In order to sustain such a press structure, Norway has developed a resource-consuming system of public support, in the form of subsidies towards paper, government advertising, direct grants, loan arrangements, and cheaper distribution.
Certain newspapers may be receiving annual subsidies of up to 20 million in Norwegian currency. In addition, the Norwegian daily press is exempt from VAT. It has been calculated that subsidies to the press as a whole account for about 20 per cent of all newspaper income. Music Of the forms of music current in Norway today, folk music, with roots going back to Norse times, is easily the oldest.
It is still very much alive, represents a genuine and unbroken tradition, and is attracting increasing interest today. There was a distinct blossoming of Norwegian musical life from the mid-1700's on. In 1765, for instance, Musikselskabet Harmonien's orchestra was founded in Bergen. In uninterrupted activity to this day, it is one of the world's oldest orchestras.
Known now as the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, it is like the younger Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra constantly adding to its artistic stature and international reputation. Other orchestras which have made international names for themselves include the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, which was toured widely, even giving a concert recently at La Scala, Milano, and performed with leading soloists. In the mid-nineteenth century, the romance genre was made popular through the compositions of Half dan Kjerulf. Ricard Nord raak underlined the importance of folk music as a source of inspiration, and thus exercised a marked influence on Edvard Grieg. Grieg made Norwegian music known abroad, and his bold harmonies and characteristic musical idiom impressed many foreign composers.
National themes have inspired more recent composers, too, such as Spare Olsen, Eivind Grove and Geir r Tveitt, not to mention the senior modern figure of Harald Saeverud. Many composers have of course worked in other veins, from Johan Svendsen to our most prominent contemporary composer, Arne Nord heim. The first Norwegian performer to win international renown was the nineteenth-century violinist Ole Bull. Among the many prominent Norwegian musicians welcomed on world stages today are the violinist Are Tellefsen, the pianists Eva Knar dahl, Einar Steen-No kleberg and Hak on Austro, and the singers Edith Thallaug, Ingrid Boner, Knut Skr am and Ragnar Ul fung; joined more recently by such brilliant young soloists as the pianist Sve in Ove And snes, the trumpeter Ole Edvard Anton sen, the cellist Truly Mork and the singers Marianne Hirst i and Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz. The eminent jazz musicians Jan Garbarek (wind) and Karin K rog (vocalist) have also been highly acclaimed outside Norway. In the world of amateur music, choirs and bands play a very large part.
Many Norwegian choirs and bands have achieved very high levels of performance and have international prizes to their credit. Norway's musical life receives substantial public support. Almost 90 per cent of operating expenses are met for five symphony orchestras and various festivals, of which the Bergen Festival is best known abroad.