Nor. Norge, officially Kingdom of Norway, constitutional monarchy
(1994 pop. 4,347,695), 125,181 sq mi (324,219 sq km), N Europe,
occupying the western part of the Scandinavian peninsula. Extending
from the Skagerrak, which it borders in the south, c.1,100 mi (1,770
km) northeast to North Cape and Vardø on the Barents Sea
in the extreme northeast, the country forms a narrow mountainous
strip along the North Sea in the southwest and in the west the Atlantic
Ocean, whose local waters are also called the Norwegian Sea. It
has a long land frontier with Sweden in the east and in the northeast
borders on Finland and Russia. Oslo is the capital and largest city.
The nation's outlying possessions are Svalbard and Jan Mayen in
the Arctic Ocean and Bouvet and Peter I islands in the S Atlantic;
Norway also has claims in Antarctica.
The coastline, c.1,700 mi (2,740 km) long, is fringed with islands
(notably the Lofoten islands and Vesterålen) and is deeply
indented by numerous fjords. Sognafjorden, Hardangerfjord, Nordfjord,
and Oslofjord are among the largest and best known. From the coast
the land rises sharply to high plateaus such as Dovrefjell and the
Hardangervidda. Galdhøpiggen, in the Jotunheimen range, is
the high point (8,098 ft/2,468 m); west of it lies Jostedalsbreen,
the largest glacier field in Europe. The mountains and plateaus
are intersected by fertile valleys, such as Gudbrandsdalen, and
by rapid rivers, which furnish hydroelectric power and are used
for logging. The Glåma, in the south, is the most important
river. Because of the North Atlantic Drift, Norway has a mild and
humid climate for a northern country.
Most of the population is concentrated along the southern coast
and valleys, where the chief cities-Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Kristiansand,
and Drammen-are located. Farther north along the coast is Trondheim,
and in the extreme north are Narvik, Tromsø, and Hammerfest.
The majority of Norwegians are of Scandinavian stock, but in the
northern county of Finnmark, Lapps and Finns predominate.
The literary language of Norway for many years was Danish, from
which Riksmål (officially Bokmål), one of the two official
idioms of Norway, is derived (see Norwegian language and Norwegian
literature). Landsmål (officially Nynorsk), the other official
idiom, is similar. Frequent spelling reforms account for the variation
in Norwegian place names.
The Lutheran Church is the state church, but all other religions
enjoy freedom of worship. The king nominates the nine bishops and
other clergy of the Lutheran Church. The educational level in Norway
is very high; the leading universities are in Oslo (founded 1811)
and Bergen (founded 1946).