Background: Two centuries of Viking raids into Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity by King Olav TRYGGVASON in 994. Conversion of the Norwegian kingdom occurred over the next several decades. In 1397, Norway was absorbed into a union with Denmark that lasted more than four centuries. In 1814, Norwegians resisted the cession of their country to Sweden and adopted a new constitution. Sweden then invaded Norway but agreed to let Norway keep its constitution in return for accepting the union under a Swedish king. Rising nationalism throughout the 19th century led to a 1905 referendum granting Norway independence. Although Norway remained neutral in World War I, it suffered heavy losses to its shipping. Norway proclaimed its neutrality at the outset of World War II, but was nonetheless occupied for five years by Nazi Germany (1940-45). In 1949, neutrality was abandoned and Norway became a member of NATO. Discovery of oil and gas in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway's economic fortunes. In referenda held in 1972 and 1994, Norway rejected joining the EU. Key domestic issues include immigration and integration of ethnic minorities, maintaining the country's extensive social safety net with an aging population, and preserving economic competitiveness.
Location: Northern Europe, bordering the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Sweden
Area land: 304,282 sq km
Area water: 19,520 sq km
Coastline: 25,148 km (includes mainland 2,650 km, as well as long fjords, numerous small islands, and minor indentations 22,498 km; length of island coastlines 58,133 km)
Country name conventional long form: Kingdom of Norway
Country name conventional short form: Norway
Country name former: Kingdom of Norway
Population: 4,691,849 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 18% (male 431,111/female 412,864); 15-64 years: 66% (male 1,568,729/female 1,529,799); 65 years and over: 16% (male 326,711/female 422,635) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 0.329% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 10.84 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 9.24 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.054 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female; total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.52 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 3.85 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 3.17 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 80.2 years; male: 77.53 years; female: 83.02 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 1.77 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 4,000 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: fewer than 100 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Norwegian(s); adjective: Norwegian;
Ethnic groups: Norwegian 94.4% (includes Sami, about 60,000), other European 3.6%, other 2% (2007 estimate);
Religions: Church of Norway 85.7%, Pentecostal 1%, Roman Catholic 1%, other Christian 2.4%, Muslim 1.8%, other 8.1% (2004);
Languages: Bokmal Norwegian (official), Nynorsk Norwegian (official), small Sami- and Finnish-speaking minorities; note - Sami is official in six municipalities;
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 100%; male: 100%; female: 100%;
GDP (purchasing power parity): $276.4 billion (2010 est.); $272.3 billion (2009 est.); $276.2 billion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $413.5 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 1.5% (2010 est.); -1.4% (2009 est.); 1.8% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $59,100 (2010 est.); $58,400 (2009 est.); $59,500 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 2.1%; industry: 40.1%; services: 57.8% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: NA%;
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.9%; highest 10%: 21% (2008);
Labor force: 2.59 million (2010 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 2.9%; industry: 21.1%; services: 76% (2008);
Unemployment rate: 3.6% (2010 est.); 3.2% (2009 est.);
Budget: revenues: $226.8 billion; expenditures: $187 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: petroleum and gas, food processing, shipbuilding, pulp and paper products, metals, chemicals, timber, mining, textiles, fishing;
Industrial production growth rate: 0.3% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 142.7 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 128.8 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - exports: 17.29 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - imports: 3.414 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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(Monthly of Norwegian Union of Journalists), Oslo
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With oil prices tumbling and new oil projects being scrapped, Norway may need to begin building a post-oil economy sooner than it thought.
In an article for Oslo's conservative Aftenposten, Harald Stanghelle reviews some of the controversy surrounding British and American claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass-destruction.
As a female Muslim stand-up comedian in Norway, 26-year-old Shabana Rehman is breaking a host of stereotypes at once.
World Press Review correspondents report on how journalists from newspapers around the world are reporting the war in Iraq.