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Finished: 10 PM Mon 03 Nov 14 UTC
Private Fords Drama 2.0001
12 hours /phase
Pot: 70 D - Autumn, 1909, Finished
Classic, Survivors-Win Scoring
1 excused missed turn
Game won by Bigboybomb (67 D X)
15 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: Common yall hurry up
16 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: How did the game get paused?
16 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: EVerybody click unpause
17 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: ZAKEE UNPAUSE GOD DAMNIT
17 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: who here hype for club dante?
17 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: Club Dante thoooooooooo ;)
17 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: hit unpause
17 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: Zakee finna get hella turn at club Dante
19 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: Why is this game still paused
19 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: Next drama we need to tell Zakee to unpause
19 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: YEA
20 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: i could txt him rn fr fr
21 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: Should we just create a new game
21 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: yeah im down
21 Oct 14 UTC Spring, 1901: Wait I don't have any coins
22 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1901: Did they rewind it?
22 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1901: Nvm
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Can you hold St. Petersburg again with Moscow?
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: You know this is the global chat
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: thats awkward
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Right
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: oyoyoyoyoyooyoyoy
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: .
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Iceland[6] Listeni/ˈaɪslənd/ (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]) is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 325,671 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.[7] The capital and largest city is Reykjavík; the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.[8] In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944.

Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services. In 2008, affected by the worldwide crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed, resulting in substantial political unrest. In the wake of the crisis, Iceland instituted "capital controls" that made it impossible for foreign investors to take money out of the country, leading to the Icesave dispute. The economy has since then made a significant recovery.[9][10][11]

Iceland has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries.[12] It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens.[13] Iceland ranks high in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index.[5]

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and mediaeval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, its lightly armed coast guard being in charge of defence.

Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262
1.2 The Middle Ages
1.3 Reformation and the Early Modern period
1.4 Independence movement 1814–1918
1.5 Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944
1.6 Independent republic 1944–present
1.6.1 Economic boom and crisis
2 Geography
2.1 Geology
2.2 Climate
2.3 Biodiversity
3 Politics
3.1 Government
3.2 Administrative divisions
3.3 Foreign relations
3.4 Military
4 Economy
4.1 Economic contraction
4.2 Transport
4.3 Energy
4.4 Education and science
5 Demographics
5.1 Urbanisation
5.2 Language
5.3 Health
5.4 Religion
6 Culture
6.1 Literature
6.2 Art
6.3 Music
6.4 Media
6.5 Cuisine
6.6 Sports
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links
History[edit]
Main articles: History of Iceland and Timeline of Icelandic history
Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262[edit]

Norsemen Landing in Iceland - a 19th Century depiction by Oscar Wergeland.
See also: Settlement of Iceland, Icelandic Commonwealth and Christianisation of Iceland

Ingólfr Arnarson (modern Icelandic: Ingólfur Arnarson), the first permanent Scandinavian settler in Iceland
According to both Landnámabók and Íslendingabók, Celtic monks known as the Papar lived in Iceland before the Scandinavian settlers arrived, possibly members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula. Carbon dating indicates that it was abandoned somewhere between 770 and 880, suggesting that Iceland was populated well before 874. This archaeological find may also indicate that the monks left Iceland before the Scandinavians arrived.[14]

Swedish Viking explorer Garðar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland in 870 and establish that it was an island.[15] He stayed over winter and built a house in Húsavík. Garðar departed the following summer but one of his men, Náttfari, decided to stay behind with two slaves. Náttfari settled in what is now known as Náttfaravík and became the first permanent resident of Iceland.[16][17]

Ingólfur Arnarson built his homestead in present-day Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Scandinavians and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land had been claimed; the Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Lack of arable land also served impetus to the settlement of Greenland starting in 986.[18] Christianity was adopted around 999–1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for years.[citation needed]

The Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.[19] The period of these early Celtic and Viking settlements coincided with the Medieval Warm Period, and about 25% of Iceland was covered with forest compared to 1% now.[20]

The Middle Ages[edit]

Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside Bolungarvík

A 19th-century depiction of the Alþingi of the Commonwealth in session at Þingvellir
See also: Age of the Sturlungs
The internal struggles and civil strife of the Age of the Sturlungs led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Kalmar Union in 1415, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united. After the break-up of the union in 1523, it technically remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmark–Norway.

In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402–04 and again in 1494–95.[21] The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.[22]

Reformation and the Early Modern period[edit]
See also: Icelandic Reformation, Danish-Icelandic Trade Monopoly and Móðuharðindin
Around the middle of the 16th century, as part of the Protestant Reformation, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became officially Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, severely decimated the population. Pirates from several countries, including the Barbary Coast, raided its coastal settlements. During this period many Europeans were also taken captive by Mediterranean pirates and sometimes sold into slavery in the Arab world.[23][24] A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population.[25][26] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects.[27] In the years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), over half of all livestock died in the country. During the resulting famine, around a quarter of the population died.[28]

Independence movement 1814–1918[edit]
See also: Icelandic independence movement and Fjölnir (journal)
In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to get colder, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly to Manitoba in Canada. About 15,000 people emigrated, out of a total population of 70,000.[29]

Inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe, a national consciousness arose. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, based on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the Fjölnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in 1904, and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944[edit]
See also: Kingdom of Iceland, Invasion of Iceland and Iceland during World War II

HMS Berwick led the British invasion of Iceland
The Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918 and valid for 25 years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.

During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government should assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States, so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities.

Independent republic 1944–present[edit]

British and Icelandic vessels collide in the Atlantic Ocean during the Cod Wars
See also: Founding of the Republic of Iceland, Iceland in the Cold War and Cod Wars
On 31 December 1943, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution.[30] Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as its first president.

In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland. The nation formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland as the Iceland Defence Force, and remained throughout the Cold War. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.

Iceland had prospered during the war. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at USD 209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at USD 109).[31][32]

The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars — several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits to 200 miles offshore. Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994, after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. International economic relations increased further after 2001, when Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debt, contributing to a 32% increase in Iceland's Gross national income between 2002 and 2007.[33][34]

Iceland hosted a summit in Reykjavík in 1986 between United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, during which they took significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR. Throughout the 1990s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes. To that end, Iceland provided aid and expertise to various NATO-led interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.[35]

Economic boom and crisis[edit]
See also: 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis and 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests
In the years 2003–2007, following the privatization of the banking sector under the government of Davíð Oddsson, Iceland moved toward having an economy based on international investment banking and financial services.[36] It was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world but was hit hard by a major financial crisis.[36] The crisis resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with a net emigration of 5,000 people in 2009.[37] Iceland's economy stabilised under the government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and grew by 1.6% in 2012.[38] Many Icelanders, however, have remained unhappy with the state of the economy and government austerity policies. The centre-right Independence Party was returned to power in coalition with the Progressive Party in the 2013 elections.[39]

Geography[edit]

General topographic map
For more details on this topic, see Geography of Iceland.
Iceland is located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63° and 67° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.

Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (290 km (180 mi)). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (420 km (260 mi)); Jan Mayen Island (570 km (350 mi)); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 740 km (460 mi); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 750 km (470 mi). The mainland of Norway is about 970 km (600 mi) away.


A sample of three typical Icelandic landscapes.
Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km2 (39,315 sq mi), but the entire country is 103,000 km2 (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated.[40] The largest lakes are Þórisvatn (Reservoir): 83–88 km2 (32.0–34.0 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km2 (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lagarfljót and Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake, at 248 m (814 ft).[41]

Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.[42]

Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 4,970 kilometres (3,088 miles) long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, nearby Reykjanesbær where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.[43] Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.[44] The country is considered a "strong performer" in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University's Environmental Performance Index of 2012.[45]


Iceland, as seen from space on 29 January 2004


Suðureyri


Norðfjörður


The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull


South of Iceland, off the Ring Road, looking north, late afternoon in winter 2001
Geology[edit]
Main article: Geology of Iceland
See also: Iceland plume

The erupting Geysir in Haukadalur valley, the oldest known geyser in the world
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell.[46] The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population.[47] In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.[48]

Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with approx. 30 volcanic systems active.[49]

Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968.[43] Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.[50]

On 21 March 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.[51] Additional eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes.[52] The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.[53]

Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Grímsvötn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull activity, with ash and lava 20 km (12 mi) hurled into the atmosphere creating a large cloud.[citation needed]
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Iceland[6] Listeni/ˈaɪslənd/ (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]) is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 325,671 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.[7] The capital and largest city is Reykjavík; the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.[8] In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944.

Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services. In 2008, affected by the worldwide crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed, resulting in substantial political unrest. In the wake of the crisis, Iceland instituted "capital controls" that made it impossible for foreign investors to take money out of the country, leading to the Icesave dispute. The economy has since then made a significant recovery.[9][10][11]

Iceland has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries.[12] It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens.[13] Iceland ranks high in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index.[5]

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and mediaeval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, its lightly armed coast guard being in charge of defence.

Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262
1.2 The Middle Ages
1.3 Reformation and the Early Modern period
1.4 Independence movement 1814–1918
1.5 Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944
1.6 Independent republic 1944–present
1.6.1 Economic boom and crisis
2 Geography
2.1 Geology
2.2 Climate
2.3 Biodiversity
3 Politics
3.1 Government
3.2 Administrative divisions
3.3 Foreign relations
3.4 Military
4 Economy
4.1 Economic contraction
4.2 Transport
4.3 Energy
4.4 Education and science
5 Demographics
5.1 Urbanisation
5.2 Language
5.3 Health
5.4 Religion
6 Culture
6.1 Literature
6.2 Art
6.3 Music
6.4 Media
6.5 Cuisine
6.6 Sports
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links
History[edit]
Main articles: History of Iceland and Timeline of Icelandic history
Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262[edit]

Norsemen Landing in Iceland - a 19th Century depiction by Oscar Wergeland.
See also: Settlement of Iceland, Icelandic Commonwealth and Christianisation of Iceland

Ingólfr Arnarson (modern Icelandic: Ingólfur Arnarson), the first permanent Scandinavian settler in Iceland
According to both Landnámabók and Íslendingabók, Celtic monks known as the Papar lived in Iceland before the Scandinavian settlers arrived, possibly members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula. Carbon dating indicates that it was abandoned somewhere between 770 and 880, suggesting that Iceland was populated well before 874. This archaeological find may also indicate that the monks left Iceland before the Scandinavians arrived.[14]

Swedish Viking explorer Garðar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland in 870 and establish that it was an island.[15] He stayed over winter and built a house in Húsavík. Garðar departed the following summer but one of his men, Náttfari, decided to stay behind with two slaves. Náttfari settled in what is now known as Náttfaravík and became the first permanent resident of Iceland.[16][17]

Ingólfur Arnarson built his homestead in present-day Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Scandinavians and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land had been claimed; the Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Lack of arable land also served impetus to the settlement of Greenland starting in 986.[18] Christianity was adopted around 999–1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for years.[citation needed]

The Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.[19] The period of these early Celtic and Viking settlements coincided with the Medieval Warm Period, and about 25% of Iceland was covered with forest compared to 1% now.[20]

The Middle Ages[edit]

Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside Bolungarvík

A 19th-century depiction of the Alþingi of the Commonwealth in session at Þingvellir
See also: Age of the Sturlungs
The internal struggles and civil strife of the Age of the Sturlungs led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Kalmar Union in 1415, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united. After the break-up of the union in 1523, it technically remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmark–Norway.

In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402–04 and again in 1494–95.[21] The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.[22]

Reformation and the Early Modern period[edit]
See also: Icelandic Reformation, Danish-Icelandic Trade Monopoly and Móðuharðindin
Around the middle of the 16th century, as part of the Protestant Reformation, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became officially Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, severely decimated the population. Pirates from several countries, including the Barbary Coast, raided its coastal settlements. During this period many Europeans were also taken captive by Mediterranean pirates and sometimes sold into slavery in the Arab world.[23][24] A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population.[25][26] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects.[27] In the years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), over half of all livestock died in the country. During the resulting famine, around a quarter of the population died.[28]

Independence movement 1814–1918[edit]
See also: Icelandic independence movement and Fjölnir (journal)
In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to get colder, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly to Manitoba in Canada. About 15,000 people emigrated, out of a total population of 70,000.[29]

Inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe, a national consciousness arose. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, based on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the Fjölnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in 1904, and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944[edit]
See also: Kingdom of Iceland, Invasion of Iceland and Iceland during World War II

HMS Berwick led the British invasion of Iceland
The Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918 and valid for 25 years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.

During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government should assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States, so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities.

Independent republic 1944–present[edit]

British and Icelandic vessels collide in the Atlantic Ocean during the Cod Wars
See also: Founding of the Republic of Iceland, Iceland in the Cold War and Cod Wars
On 31 December 1943, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution.[30] Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as its first president.

In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland. The nation formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland as the Iceland Defence Force, and remained throughout the Cold War. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.

Iceland had prospered during the war. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at USD 209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at USD 109).[31][32]

The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars — several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits to 200 miles offshore. Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994, after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. International economic relations increased further after 2001, when Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debt, contributing to a 32% increase in Iceland's Gross national income between 2002 and 2007.[33][34]

Iceland hosted a summit in Reykjavík in 1986 between United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, during which they took significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR. Throughout the 1990s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes. To that end, Iceland provided aid and expertise to various NATO-led interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.[35]

Economic boom and crisis[edit]
See also: 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis and 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests
In the years 2003–2007, following the privatization of the banking sector under the government of Davíð Oddsson, Iceland moved toward having an economy based on international investment banking and financial services.[36] It was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world but was hit hard by a major financial crisis.[36] The crisis resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with a net emigration of 5,000 people in 2009.[37] Iceland's economy stabilised under the government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and grew by 1.6% in 2012.[38] Many Icelanders, however, have remained unhappy with the state of the economy and government austerity policies. The centre-right Independence Party was returned to power in coalition with the Progressive Party in the 2013 elections.[39]

Geography[edit]

General topographic map
For more details on this topic, see Geography of Iceland.
Iceland is located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63° and 67° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.

Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (290 km (180 mi)). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (420 km (260 mi)); Jan Mayen Island (570 km (350 mi)); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 740 km (460 mi); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 750 km (470 mi). The mainland of Norway is about 970 km (600 mi) away.


A sample of three typical Icelandic landscapes.
Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km2 (39,315 sq mi), but the entire country is 103,000 km2 (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated.[40] The largest lakes are Þórisvatn (Reservoir): 83–88 km2 (32.0–34.0 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km2 (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lagarfljót and Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake, at 248 m (814 ft).[41]

Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.[42]

Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 4,970 kilometres (3,088 miles) long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, nearby Reykjanesbær where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.[43] Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.[44] The country is considered a "strong performer" in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University's Environmental Performance Index of 2012.[45]


Iceland, as seen from space on 29 January 2004


Suðureyri


Norðfjörður


The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull


South of Iceland, off the Ring Road, looking north, late afternoon in winter 2001
Geology[edit]
Main article: Geology of Iceland
See also: Iceland plume

The erupting Geysir in Haukadalur valley, the oldest known geyser in the world
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell.[46] The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population.[47] In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.[48]

Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with approx. 30 volcanic systems active.[49]

Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968.[43] Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.[50]

On 21 March 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.[51] Additional eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes.[52] The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.[53]

Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Grímsvötn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull activity, with ash and lava 20 km (12 mi) hurled into the atmosphere creating a large cloud.[citation needed]
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Iceland[6] Listeni/ˈaɪslənd/ (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]) is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 325,671 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.[7] The capital and largest city is Reykjavík; the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.[8] In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944.

Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services. In 2008, affected by the worldwide crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed, resulting in substantial political unrest. In the wake of the crisis, Iceland instituted "capital controls" that made it impossible for foreign investors to take money out of the country, leading to the Icesave dispute. The economy has since then made a significant recovery.[9][10][11]

Iceland has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries.[12] It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens.[13] Iceland ranks high in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index.[5]

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and mediaeval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, its lightly armed coast guard being in charge of defence.

Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262
1.2 The Middle Ages
1.3 Reformation and the Early Modern period
1.4 Independence movement 1814–1918
1.5 Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944
1.6 Independent republic 1944–present
1.6.1 Economic boom and crisis
2 Geography
2.1 Geology
2.2 Climate
2.3 Biodiversity
3 Politics
3.1 Government
3.2 Administrative divisions
3.3 Foreign relations
3.4 Military
4 Economy
4.1 Economic contraction
4.2 Transport
4.3 Energy
4.4 Education and science
5 Demographics
5.1 Urbanisation
5.2 Language
5.3 Health
5.4 Religion
6 Culture
6.1 Literature
6.2 Art
6.3 Music
6.4 Media
6.5 Cuisine
6.6 Sports
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links
History[edit]
Main articles: History of Iceland and Timeline of Icelandic history
Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262[edit]

Norsemen Landing in Iceland - a 19th Century depiction by Oscar Wergeland.
See also: Settlement of Iceland, Icelandic Commonwealth and Christianisation of Iceland

Ingólfr Arnarson (modern Icelandic: Ingólfur Arnarson), the first permanent Scandinavian settler in Iceland
According to both Landnámabók and Íslendingabók, Celtic monks known as the Papar lived in Iceland before the Scandinavian settlers arrived, possibly members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula. Carbon dating indicates that it was abandoned somewhere between 770 and 880, suggesting that Iceland was populated well before 874. This archaeological find may also indicate that the monks left Iceland before the Scandinavians arrived.[14]

Swedish Viking explorer Garðar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland in 870 and establish that it was an island.[15] He stayed over winter and built a house in Húsavík. Garðar departed the following summer but one of his men, Náttfari, decided to stay behind with two slaves. Náttfari settled in what is now known as Náttfaravík and became the first permanent resident of Iceland.[16][17]

Ingólfur Arnarson built his homestead in present-day Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Scandinavians and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land had been claimed; the Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Lack of arable land also served impetus to the settlement of Greenland starting in 986.[18] Christianity was adopted around 999–1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for years.[citation needed]

The Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.[19] The period of these early Celtic and Viking settlements coincided with the Medieval Warm Period, and about 25% of Iceland was covered with forest compared to 1% now.[20]

The Middle Ages[edit]

Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside Bolungarvík

A 19th-century depiction of the Alþingi of the Commonwealth in session at Þingvellir
See also: Age of the Sturlungs
The internal struggles and civil strife of the Age of the Sturlungs led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Kalmar Union in 1415, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united. After the break-up of the union in 1523, it technically remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmark–Norway.

In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402–04 and again in 1494–95.[21] The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.[22]

Reformation and the Early Modern period[edit]
See also: Icelandic Reformation, Danish-Icelandic Trade Monopoly and Móðuharðindin
Around the middle of the 16th century, as part of the Protestant Reformation, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became officially Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, severely decimated the population. Pirates from several countries, including the Barbary Coast, raided its coastal settlements. During this period many Europeans were also taken captive by Mediterranean pirates and sometimes sold into slavery in the Arab world.[23][24] A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population.[25][26] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects.[27] In the years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), over half of all livestock died in the country. During the resulting famine, around a quarter of the population died.[28]

Independence movement 1814–1918[edit]
See also: Icelandic independence movement and Fjölnir (journal)
In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to get colder, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly to Manitoba in Canada. About 15,000 people emigrated, out of a total population of 70,000.[29]

Inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe, a national consciousness arose. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, based on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the Fjölnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in 1904, and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944[edit]
See also: Kingdom of Iceland, Invasion of Iceland and Iceland during World War II

HMS Berwick led the British invasion of Iceland
The Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918 and valid for 25 years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.

During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government should assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States, so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities.

Independent republic 1944–present[edit]

British and Icelandic vessels collide in the Atlantic Ocean during the Cod Wars
See also: Founding of the Republic of Iceland, Iceland in the Cold War and Cod Wars
On 31 December 1943, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution.[30] Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as its first president.

In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland. The nation formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland as the Iceland Defence Force, and remained throughout the Cold War. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.

Iceland had prospered during the war. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at USD 209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at USD 109).[31][32]

The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars — several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits to 200 miles offshore. Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994, after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. International economic relations increased further after 2001, when Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debt, contributing to a 32% increase in Iceland's Gross national income between 2002 and 2007.[33][34]

Iceland hosted a summit in Reykjavík in 1986 between United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, during which they took significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR. Throughout the 1990s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes. To that end, Iceland provided aid and expertise to various NATO-led interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.[35]

Economic boom and crisis[edit]
See also: 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis and 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests
In the years 2003–2007, following the privatization of the banking sector under the government of Davíð Oddsson, Iceland moved toward having an economy based on international investment banking and financial services.[36] It was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world but was hit hard by a major financial crisis.[36] The crisis resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with a net emigration of 5,000 people in 2009.[37] Iceland's economy stabilised under the government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and grew by 1.6% in 2012.[38] Many Icelanders, however, have remained unhappy with the state of the economy and government austerity policies. The centre-right Independence Party was returned to power in coalition with the Progressive Party in the 2013 elections.[39]

Geography[edit]

General topographic map
For more details on this topic, see Geography of Iceland.
Iceland is located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63° and 67° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.

Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (290 km (180 mi)). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (420 km (260 mi)); Jan Mayen Island (570 km (350 mi)); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 740 km (460 mi); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 750 km (470 mi). The mainland of Norway is about 970 km (600 mi) away.


A sample of three typical Icelandic landscapes.
Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km2 (39,315 sq mi), but the entire country is 103,000 km2 (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated.[40] The largest lakes are Þórisvatn (Reservoir): 83–88 km2 (32.0–34.0 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km2 (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lagarfljót and Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake, at 248 m (814 ft).[41]

Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.[42]

Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 4,970 kilometres (3,088 miles) long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, nearby Reykjanesbær where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.[43] Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.[44] The country is considered a "strong performer" in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University's Environmental Performance Index of 2012.[45]


Iceland, as seen from space on 29 January 2004


Suðureyri


Norðfjörður


The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull


South of Iceland, off the Ring Road, looking north, late afternoon in winter 2001
Geology[edit]
Main article: Geology of Iceland
See also: Iceland plume

The erupting Geysir in Haukadalur valley, the oldest known geyser in the world
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell.[46] The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population.[47] In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.[48]

Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with approx. 30 volcanic systems active.[49]

Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968.[43] Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.[50]

On 21 March 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.[51] Additional eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes.[52] The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.[53]

Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Grímsvötn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull activity, with ash and lava 20 km (12 mi) hurled into the atmosphere creating a large cloud.[citation needed]
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Iceland[6] Listeni/ˈaɪslənd/ (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]) is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 325,671 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.[7] The capital and largest city is Reykjavík; the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.[8] In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944.

Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services. In 2008, affected by the worldwide crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed, resulting in substantial political unrest. In the wake of the crisis, Iceland instituted "capital controls" that made it impossible for foreign investors to take money out of the country, leading to the Icesave dispute. The economy has since then made a significant recovery.[9][10][11]

Iceland has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries.[12] It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens.[13] Iceland ranks high in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index.[5]

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and mediaeval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, its lightly armed coast guard being in charge of defence.

Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262
1.2 The Middle Ages
1.3 Reformation and the Early Modern period
1.4 Independence movement 1814–1918
1.5 Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944
1.6 Independent republic 1944–present
1.6.1 Economic boom and crisis
2 Geography
2.1 Geology
2.2 Climate
2.3 Biodiversity
3 Politics
3.1 Government
3.2 Administrative divisions
3.3 Foreign relations
3.4 Military
4 Economy
4.1 Economic contraction
4.2 Transport
4.3 Energy
4.4 Education and science
5 Demographics
5.1 Urbanisation
5.2 Language
5.3 Health
5.4 Religion
6 Culture
6.1 Literature
6.2 Art
6.3 Music
6.4 Media
6.5 Cuisine
6.6 Sports
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links
History[edit]
Main articles: History of Iceland and Timeline of Icelandic history
Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262[edit]

Norsemen Landing in Iceland - a 19th Century depiction by Oscar Wergeland.
See also: Settlement of Iceland, Icelandic Commonwealth and Christianisation of Iceland

Ingólfr Arnarson (modern Icelandic: Ingólfur Arnarson), the first permanent Scandinavian settler in Iceland
According to both Landnámabók and Íslendingabók, Celtic monks known as the Papar lived in Iceland before the Scandinavian settlers arrived, possibly members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula. Carbon dating indicates that it was abandoned somewhere between 770 and 880, suggesting that Iceland was populated well before 874. This archaeological find may also indicate that the monks left Iceland before the Scandinavians arrived.[14]

Swedish Viking explorer Garðar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland in 870 and establish that it was an island.[15] He stayed over winter and built a house in Húsavík. Garðar departed the following summer but one of his men, Náttfari, decided to stay behind with two slaves. Náttfari settled in what is now known as Náttfaravík and became the first permanent resident of Iceland.[16][17]

Ingólfur Arnarson built his homestead in present-day Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Scandinavians and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land had been claimed; the Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Lack of arable land also served impetus to the settlement of Greenland starting in 986.[18] Christianity was adopted around 999–1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for years.[citation needed]

The Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.[19] The period of these early Celtic and Viking settlements coincided with the Medieval Warm Period, and about 25% of Iceland was covered with forest compared to 1% now.[20]

The Middle Ages[edit]

Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside Bolungarvík

A 19th-century depiction of the Alþingi of the Commonwealth in session at Þingvellir
See also: Age of the Sturlungs
The internal struggles and civil strife of the Age of the Sturlungs led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Kalmar Union in 1415, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united. After the break-up of the union in 1523, it technically remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmark–Norway.

In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402–04 and again in 1494–95.[21] The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.[22]

Reformation and the Early Modern period[edit]
See also: Icelandic Reformation, Danish-Icelandic Trade Monopoly and Móðuharðindin
Around the middle of the 16th century, as part of the Protestant Reformation, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became officially Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, severely decimated the population. Pirates from several countries, including the Barbary Coast, raided its coastal settlements. During this period many Europeans were also taken captive by Mediterranean pirates and sometimes sold into slavery in the Arab world.[23][24] A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population.[25][26] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects.[27] In the years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), over half of all livestock died in the country. During the resulting famine, around a quarter of the population died.[28]

Independence movement 1814–1918[edit]
See also: Icelandic independence movement and Fjölnir (journal)
In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to get colder, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly to Manitoba in Canada. About 15,000 people emigrated, out of a total population of 70,000.[29]

Inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe, a national consciousness arose. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, based on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the Fjölnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in 1904, and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944[edit]
See also: Kingdom of Iceland, Invasion of Iceland and Iceland during World War II

HMS Berwick led the British invasion of Iceland
The Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918 and valid for 25 years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.

During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government should assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States, so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities.

Independent republic 1944–present[edit]

British and Icelandic vessels collide in the Atlantic Ocean during the Cod Wars
See also: Founding of the Republic of Iceland, Iceland in the Cold War and Cod Wars
On 31 December 1943, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution.[30] Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as its first president.

In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland. The nation formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland as the Iceland Defence Force, and remained throughout the Cold War. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.

Iceland had prospered during the war. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at USD 209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at USD 109).[31][32]

The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars — several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits to 200 miles offshore. Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994, after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. International economic relations increased further after 2001, when Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debt, contributing to a 32% increase in Iceland's Gross national income between 2002 and 2007.[33][34]

Iceland hosted a summit in Reykjavík in 1986 between United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, during which they took significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR. Throughout the 1990s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes. To that end, Iceland provided aid and expertise to various NATO-led interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.[35]

Economic boom and crisis[edit]
See also: 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis and 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests
In the years 2003–2007, following the privatization of the banking sector under the government of Davíð Oddsson, Iceland moved toward having an economy based on international investment banking and financial services.[36] It was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world but was hit hard by a major financial crisis.[36] The crisis resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with a net emigration of 5,000 people in 2009.[37] Iceland's economy stabilised under the government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and grew by 1.6% in 2012.[38] Many Icelanders, however, have remained unhappy with the state of the economy and government austerity policies. The centre-right Independence Party was returned to power in coalition with the Progressive Party in the 2013 elections.[39]

Geography[edit]

General topographic map
For more details on this topic, see Geography of Iceland.
Iceland is located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63° and 67° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.

Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (290 km (180 mi)). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (420 km (260 mi)); Jan Mayen Island (570 km (350 mi)); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 740 km (460 mi); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 750 km (470 mi). The mainland of Norway is about 970 km (600 mi) away.


A sample of three typical Icelandic landscapes.
Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km2 (39,315 sq mi), but the entire country is 103,000 km2 (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated.[40] The largest lakes are Þórisvatn (Reservoir): 83–88 km2 (32.0–34.0 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km2 (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lagarfljót and Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake, at 248 m (814 ft).[41]

Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.[42]

Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 4,970 kilometres (3,088 miles) long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, nearby Reykjanesbær where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.[43] Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.[44] The country is considered a "strong performer" in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University's Environmental Performance Index of 2012.[45]


Iceland, as seen from space on 29 January 2004


Suðureyri


Norðfjörður


The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull


South of Iceland, off the Ring Road, looking north, late afternoon in winter 2001
Geology[edit]
Main article: Geology of Iceland
See also: Iceland plume

The erupting Geysir in Haukadalur valley, the oldest known geyser in the world
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell.[46] The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population.[47] In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.[48]

Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with approx. 30 volcanic systems active.[49]

Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968.[43] Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.[50]

On 21 March 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.[51] Additional eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes.[52] The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.[53]

Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Grímsvötn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull activity, with ash and lava 20 km (12 mi) hurled into the atmosphere creating a large cloud.[citation needed]
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Iceland[6] Listeni/ˈaɪslənd/ (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]) is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 325,671 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.[7] The capital and largest city is Reykjavík; the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.[8] In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944.

Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services. In 2008, affected by the worldwide crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed, resulting in substantial political unrest. In the wake of the crisis, Iceland instituted "capital controls" that made it impossible for foreign investors to take money out of the country, leading to the Icesave dispute. The economy has since then made a significant recovery.[9][10][11]

Iceland has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries.[12] It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens.[13] Iceland ranks high in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index.[5]

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and mediaeval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, its lightly armed coast guard being in charge of defence.

Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262
1.2 The Middle Ages
1.3 Reformation and the Early Modern period
1.4 Independence movement 1814–1918
1.5 Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944
1.6 Independent republic 1944–present
1.6.1 Economic boom and crisis
2 Geography
2.1 Geology
2.2 Climate
2.3 Biodiversity
3 Politics
3.1 Government
3.2 Administrative divisions
3.3 Foreign relations
3.4 Military
4 Economy
4.1 Economic contraction
4.2 Transport
4.3 Energy
4.4 Education and science
5 Demographics
5.1 Urbanisation
5.2 Language
5.3 Health
5.4 Religion
6 Culture
6.1 Literature
6.2 Art
6.3 Music
6.4 Media
6.5 Cuisine
6.6 Sports
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links
History[edit]
Main articles: History of Iceland and Timeline of Icelandic history
Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262[edit]

Norsemen Landing in Iceland - a 19th Century depiction by Oscar Wergeland.
See also: Settlement of Iceland, Icelandic Commonwealth and Christianisation of Iceland

Ingólfr Arnarson (modern Icelandic: Ingólfur Arnarson), the first permanent Scandinavian settler in Iceland
According to both Landnámabók and Íslendingabók, Celtic monks known as the Papar lived in Iceland before the Scandinavian settlers arrived, possibly members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula. Carbon dating indicates that it was abandoned somewhere between 770 and 880, suggesting that Iceland was populated well before 874. This archaeological find may also indicate that the monks left Iceland before the Scandinavians arrived.[14]

Swedish Viking explorer Garðar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland in 870 and establish that it was an island.[15] He stayed over winter and built a house in Húsavík. Garðar departed the following summer but one of his men, Náttfari, decided to stay behind with two slaves. Náttfari settled in what is now known as Náttfaravík and became the first permanent resident of Iceland.[16][17]

Ingólfur Arnarson built his homestead in present-day Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Scandinavians and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land had been claimed; the Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Lack of arable land also served impetus to the settlement of Greenland starting in 986.[18] Christianity was adopted around 999–1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for years.[citation needed]

The Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.[19] The period of these early Celtic and Viking settlements coincided with the Medieval Warm Period, and about 25% of Iceland was covered with forest compared to 1% now.[20]

The Middle Ages[edit]

Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside Bolungarvík

A 19th-century depiction of the Alþingi of the Commonwealth in session at Þingvellir
See also: Age of the Sturlungs
The internal struggles and civil strife of the Age of the Sturlungs led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Kalmar Union in 1415, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united. After the break-up of the union in 1523, it technically remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmark–Norway.

In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402–04 and again in 1494–95.[21] The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.[22]

Reformation and the Early Modern period[edit]
See also: Icelandic Reformation, Danish-Icelandic Trade Monopoly and Móðuharðindin
Around the middle of the 16th century, as part of the Protestant Reformation, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became officially Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, severely decimated the population. Pirates from several countries, including the Barbary Coast, raided its coastal settlements. During this period many Europeans were also taken captive by Mediterranean pirates and sometimes sold into slavery in the Arab world.[23][24] A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population.[25][26] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects.[27] In the years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), over half of all livestock died in the country. During the resulting famine, around a quarter of the population died.[28]

Independence movement 1814–1918[edit]
See also: Icelandic independence movement and Fjölnir (journal)
In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to get colder, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly to Manitoba in Canada. About 15,000 people emigrated, out of a total population of 70,000.[29]

Inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe, a national consciousness arose. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, based on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the Fjölnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in 1904, and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944[edit]
See also: Kingdom of Iceland, Invasion of Iceland and Iceland during World War II

HMS Berwick led the British invasion of Iceland
The Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918 and valid for 25 years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.

During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government should assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States, so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities.

Independent republic 1944–present[edit]

British and Icelandic vessels collide in the Atlantic Ocean during the Cod Wars
See also: Founding of the Republic of Iceland, Iceland in the Cold War and Cod Wars
On 31 December 1943, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution.[30] Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as its first president.

In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland. The nation formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland as the Iceland Defence Force, and remained throughout the Cold War. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.

Iceland had prospered during the war. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at USD 209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at USD 109).[31][32]

The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars — several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits to 200 miles offshore. Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994, after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. International economic relations increased further after 2001, when Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debt, contributing to a 32% increase in Iceland's Gross national income between 2002 and 2007.[33][34]

Iceland hosted a summit in Reykjavík in 1986 between United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, during which they took significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR. Throughout the 1990s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes. To that end, Iceland provided aid and expertise to various NATO-led interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.[35]

Economic boom and crisis[edit]
See also: 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis and 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests
In the years 2003–2007, following the privatization of the banking sector under the government of Davíð Oddsson, Iceland moved toward having an economy based on international investment banking and financial services.[36] It was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world but was hit hard by a major financial crisis.[36] The crisis resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with a net emigration of 5,000 people in 2009.[37] Iceland's economy stabilised under the government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and grew by 1.6% in 2012.[38] Many Icelanders, however, have remained unhappy with the state of the economy and government austerity policies. The centre-right Independence Party was returned to power in coalition with the Progressive Party in the 2013 elections.[39]

Geography[edit]

General topographic map
For more details on this topic, see Geography of Iceland.
Iceland is located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63° and 67° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.

Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (290 km (180 mi)). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (420 km (260 mi)); Jan Mayen Island (570 km (350 mi)); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 740 km (460 mi); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 750 km (470 mi). The mainland of Norway is about 970 km (600 mi) away.


A sample of three typical Icelandic landscapes.
Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km2 (39,315 sq mi), but the entire country is 103,000 km2 (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated.[40] The largest lakes are Þórisvatn (Reservoir): 83–88 km2 (32.0–34.0 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km2 (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lagarfljót and Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake, at 248 m (814 ft).[41]

Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.[42]

Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 4,970 kilometres (3,088 miles) long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, nearby Reykjanesbær where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.[43] Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.[44] The country is considered a "strong performer" in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University's Environmental Performance Index of 2012.[45]


Iceland, as seen from space on 29 January 2004


Suðureyri


Norðfjörður


The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull


South of Iceland, off the Ring Road, looking north, late afternoon in winter 2001
Geology[edit]
Main article: Geology of Iceland
See also: Iceland plume

The erupting Geysir in Haukadalur valley, the oldest known geyser in the world
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell.[46] The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population.[47] In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.[48]

Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with approx. 30 volcanic systems active.[49]

Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968.[43] Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.[50]

On 21 March 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.[51] Additional eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes.[52] The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.[53]

Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Grímsvötn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull activity, with ash and lava 20 km (12 mi) hurled into the atmosphere creating a large cloud.[citation needed]
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Iceland[6] Listeni/ˈaɪslənd/ (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]) is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 325,671 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.[7] The capital and largest city is Reykjavík; the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.[8] In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944.

Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services. In 2008, affected by the worldwide crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed, resulting in substantial political unrest. In the wake of the crisis, Iceland instituted "capital controls" that made it impossible for foreign investors to take money out of the country, leading to the Icesave dispute. The economy has since then made a significant recovery.[9][10][11]

Iceland has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries.[12] It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens.[13] Iceland ranks high in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index.[5]

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and mediaeval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, its lightly armed coast guard being in charge of defence.

Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262
1.2 The Middle Ages
1.3 Reformation and the Early Modern period
1.4 Independence movement 1814–1918
1.5 Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944
1.6 Independent republic 1944–present
1.6.1 Economic boom and crisis
2 Geography
2.1 Geology
2.2 Climate
2.3 Biodiversity
3 Politics
3.1 Government
3.2 Administrative divisions
3.3 Foreign relations
3.4 Military
4 Economy
4.1 Economic contraction
4.2 Transport
4.3 Energy
4.4 Education and science
5 Demographics
5.1 Urbanisation
5.2 Language
5.3 Health
5.4 Religion
6 Culture
6.1 Literature
6.2 Art
6.3 Music
6.4 Media
6.5 Cuisine
6.6 Sports
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links
History[edit]
Main articles: History of Iceland and Timeline of Icelandic history
Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262[edit]

Norsemen Landing in Iceland - a 19th Century depiction by Oscar Wergeland.
See also: Settlement of Iceland, Icelandic Commonwealth and Christianisation of Iceland

Ingólfr Arnarson (modern Icelandic: Ingólfur Arnarson), the first permanent Scandinavian settler in Iceland
According to both Landnámabók and Íslendingabók, Celtic monks known as the Papar lived in Iceland before the Scandinavian settlers arrived, possibly members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula. Carbon dating indicates that it was abandoned somewhere between 770 and 880, suggesting that Iceland was populated well before 874. This archaeological find may also indicate that the monks left Iceland before the Scandinavians arrived.[14]

Swedish Viking explorer Garðar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland in 870 and establish that it was an island.[15] He stayed over winter and built a house in Húsavík. Garðar departed the following summer but one of his men, Náttfari, decided to stay behind with two slaves. Náttfari settled in what is now known as Náttfaravík and became the first permanent resident of Iceland.[16][17]

Ingólfur Arnarson built his homestead in present-day Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Scandinavians and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land had been claimed; the Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Lack of arable land also served impetus to the settlement of Greenland starting in 986.[18] Christianity was adopted around 999–1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for years.[citation needed]

The Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.[19] The period of these early Celtic and Viking settlements coincided with the Medieval Warm Period, and about 25% of Iceland was covered with forest compared to 1% now.[20]

The Middle Ages[edit]

Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside Bolungarvík

A 19th-century depiction of the Alþingi of the Commonwealth in session at Þingvellir
See also: Age of the Sturlungs
The internal struggles and civil strife of the Age of the Sturlungs led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Kalmar Union in 1415, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united. After the break-up of the union in 1523, it technically remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmark–Norway.

In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402–04 and again in 1494–95.[21] The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.[22]

Reformation and the Early Modern period[edit]
See also: Icelandic Reformation, Danish-Icelandic Trade Monopoly and Móðuharðindin
Around the middle of the 16th century, as part of the Protestant Reformation, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became officially Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, severely decimated the population. Pirates from several countries, including the Barbary Coast, raided its coastal settlements. During this period many Europeans were also taken captive by Mediterranean pirates and sometimes sold into slavery in the Arab world.[23][24] A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population.[25][26] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects.[27] In the years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), over half of all livestock died in the country. During the resulting famine, around a quarter of the population died.[28]

Independence movement 1814–1918[edit]
See also: Icelandic independence movement and Fjölnir (journal)
In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to get colder, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly to Manitoba in Canada. About 15,000 people emigrated, out of a total population of 70,000.[29]

Inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe, a national consciousness arose. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, based on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the Fjölnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in 1904, and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944[edit]
See also: Kingdom of Iceland, Invasion of Iceland and Iceland during World War II

HMS Berwick led the British invasion of Iceland
The Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918 and valid for 25 years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.

During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government should assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States, so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities.

Independent republic 1944–present[edit]

British and Icelandic vessels collide in the Atlantic Ocean during the Cod Wars
See also: Founding of the Republic of Iceland, Iceland in the Cold War and Cod Wars
On 31 December 1943, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution.[30] Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as its first president.

In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland. The nation formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland as the Iceland Defence Force, and remained throughout the Cold War. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.

Iceland had prospered during the war. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at USD 209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at USD 109).[31][32]

The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars — several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits to 200 miles offshore. Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994, after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. International economic relations increased further after 2001, when Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debt, contributing to a 32% increase in Iceland's Gross national income between 2002 and 2007.[33][34]

Iceland hosted a summit in Reykjavík in 1986 between United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, during which they took significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR. Throughout the 1990s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes. To that end, Iceland provided aid and expertise to various NATO-led interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.[35]

Economic boom and crisis[edit]
See also: 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis and 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests
In the years 2003–2007, following the privatization of the banking sector under the government of Davíð Oddsson, Iceland moved toward having an economy based on international investment banking and financial services.[36] It was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world but was hit hard by a major financial crisis.[36] The crisis resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with a net emigration of 5,000 people in 2009.[37] Iceland's economy stabilised under the government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and grew by 1.6% in 2012.[38] Many Icelanders, however, have remained unhappy with the state of the economy and government austerity policies. The centre-right Independence Party was returned to power in coalition with the Progressive Party in the 2013 elections.[39]

Geography[edit]

General topographic map
For more details on this topic, see Geography of Iceland.
Iceland is located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63° and 67° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.

Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (290 km (180 mi)). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (420 km (260 mi)); Jan Mayen Island (570 km (350 mi)); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 740 km (460 mi); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 750 km (470 mi). The mainland of Norway is about 970 km (600 mi) away.


A sample of three typical Icelandic landscapes.
Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km2 (39,315 sq mi), but the entire country is 103,000 km2 (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated.[40] The largest lakes are Þórisvatn (Reservoir): 83–88 km2 (32.0–34.0 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km2 (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lagarfljót and Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake, at 248 m (814 ft).[41]

Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.[42]

Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 4,970 kilometres (3,088 miles) long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, nearby Reykjanesbær where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.[43] Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.[44] The country is considered a "strong performer" in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University's Environmental Performance Index of 2012.[45]


Iceland, as seen from space on 29 January 2004


Suðureyri


Norðfjörður


The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull


South of Iceland, off the Ring Road, looking north, late afternoon in winter 2001
Geology[edit]
Main article: Geology of Iceland
See also: Iceland plume

The erupting Geysir in Haukadalur valley, the oldest known geyser in the world
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell.[46] The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population.[47] In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.[48]

Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with approx. 30 volcanic systems active.[49]

Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968.[43] Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.[50]

On 21 March 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.[51] Additional eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes.[52] The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.[53]

Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Grímsvötn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull activity, with ash and lava 20 km (12 mi) hurled into the atmosphere creating a large cloud.[citation needed]
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Iceland[6] Listeni/ˈaɪslənd/ (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]) is a Nordic country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 325,671 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.[7] The capital and largest city is Reykjavík; the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.[8] In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944.

Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services. In 2008, affected by the worldwide crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed, resulting in substantial political unrest. In the wake of the crisis, Iceland instituted "capital controls" that made it impossible for foreign investors to take money out of the country, leading to the Icesave dispute. The economy has since then made a significant recovery.[9][10][11]

Iceland has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries.[12] It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens.[13] Iceland ranks high in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index.[5]

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and mediaeval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, its lightly armed coast guard being in charge of defence.

Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262
1.2 The Middle Ages
1.3 Reformation and the Early Modern period
1.4 Independence movement 1814–1918
1.5 Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944
1.6 Independent republic 1944–present
1.6.1 Economic boom and crisis
2 Geography
2.1 Geology
2.2 Climate
2.3 Biodiversity
3 Politics
3.1 Government
3.2 Administrative divisions
3.3 Foreign relations
3.4 Military
4 Economy
4.1 Economic contraction
4.2 Transport
4.3 Energy
4.4 Education and science
5 Demographics
5.1 Urbanisation
5.2 Language
5.3 Health
5.4 Religion
6 Culture
6.1 Literature
6.2 Art
6.3 Music
6.4 Media
6.5 Cuisine
6.6 Sports
7 See also
8 References
9 Further reading
10 External links
History[edit]
Main articles: History of Iceland and Timeline of Icelandic history
Settlement and Commonwealth 874–1262[edit]

Norsemen Landing in Iceland - a 19th Century depiction by Oscar Wergeland.
See also: Settlement of Iceland, Icelandic Commonwealth and Christianisation of Iceland

Ingólfr Arnarson (modern Icelandic: Ingólfur Arnarson), the first permanent Scandinavian settler in Iceland
According to both Landnámabók and Íslendingabók, Celtic monks known as the Papar lived in Iceland before the Scandinavian settlers arrived, possibly members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula. Carbon dating indicates that it was abandoned somewhere between 770 and 880, suggesting that Iceland was populated well before 874. This archaeological find may also indicate that the monks left Iceland before the Scandinavians arrived.[14]

Swedish Viking explorer Garðar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland in 870 and establish that it was an island.[15] He stayed over winter and built a house in Húsavík. Garðar departed the following summer but one of his men, Náttfari, decided to stay behind with two slaves. Náttfari settled in what is now known as Náttfaravík and became the first permanent resident of Iceland.[16][17]

Ingólfur Arnarson built his homestead in present-day Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Scandinavians and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land had been claimed; the Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Lack of arable land also served impetus to the settlement of Greenland starting in 986.[18] Christianity was adopted around 999–1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for years.[citation needed]

The Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.[19] The period of these early Celtic and Viking settlements coincided with the Medieval Warm Period, and about 25% of Iceland was covered with forest compared to 1% now.[20]

The Middle Ages[edit]

Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside Bolungarvík

A 19th-century depiction of the Alþingi of the Commonwealth in session at Þingvellir
See also: Age of the Sturlungs
The internal struggles and civil strife of the Age of the Sturlungs led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Kalmar Union in 1415, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united. After the break-up of the union in 1523, it technically remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmark–Norway.

In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402–04 and again in 1494–95.[21] The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.[22]

Reformation and the Early Modern period[edit]
See also: Icelandic Reformation, Danish-Icelandic Trade Monopoly and Móðuharðindin
Around the middle of the 16th century, as part of the Protestant Reformation, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became officially Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, severely decimated the population. Pirates from several countries, including the Barbary Coast, raided its coastal settlements. During this period many Europeans were also taken captive by Mediterranean pirates and sometimes sold into slavery in the Arab world.[23][24] A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population.[25][26] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects.[27] In the years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), over half of all livestock died in the country. During the resulting famine, around a quarter of the population died.[28]

Independence movement 1814–1918[edit]
See also: Icelandic independence movement and Fjölnir (journal)
In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to get colder, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly to Manitoba in Canada. About 15,000 people emigrated, out of a total population of 70,000.[29]

Inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe, a national consciousness arose. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, based on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the Fjölnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in 1904, and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944[edit]
See also: Kingdom of Iceland, Invasion of Iceland and Iceland during World War II

HMS Berwick led the British invasion of Iceland
The Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918 and valid for 25 years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.

During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government should assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States, so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities.

Independent republic 1944–present[edit]

British and Icelandic vessels collide in the Atlantic Ocean during the Cod Wars
See also: Founding of the Republic of Iceland, Iceland in the Cold War and Cod Wars
On 31 December 1943, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution.[30] Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as its first president.

In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland. The nation formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland as the Iceland Defence Force, and remained throughout the Cold War. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.

Iceland had prospered during the war. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at USD 209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at USD 109).[31][32]

The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars — several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits to 200 miles offshore. Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994, after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. International economic relations increased further after 2001, when Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debt, contributing to a 32% increase in Iceland's Gross national income between 2002 and 2007.[33][34]

Iceland hosted a summit in Reykjavík in 1986 between United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, during which they took significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR. Throughout the 1990s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes. To that end, Iceland provided aid and expertise to various NATO-led interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.[35]

Economic boom and crisis[edit]
See also: 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis and 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests
In the years 2003–2007, following the privatization of the banking sector under the government of Davíð Oddsson, Iceland moved toward having an economy based on international investment banking and financial services.[36] It was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world but was hit hard by a major financial crisis.[36] The crisis resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with a net emigration of 5,000 people in 2009.[37] Iceland's economy stabilised under the government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and grew by 1.6% in 2012.[38] Many Icelanders, however, have remained unhappy with the state of the economy and government austerity policies. The centre-right Independence Party was returned to power in coalition with the Progressive Party in the 2013 elections.[39]

Geography[edit]

General topographic map
For more details on this topic, see Geography of Iceland.
Iceland is located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63° and 67° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.

Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (290 km (180 mi)). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (420 km (260 mi)); Jan Mayen Island (570 km (350 mi)); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 740 km (460 mi); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 750 km (470 mi). The mainland of Norway is about 970 km (600 mi) away.


A sample of three typical Icelandic landscapes.
Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km2 (39,315 sq mi), but the entire country is 103,000 km2 (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated.[40] The largest lakes are Þórisvatn (Reservoir): 83–88 km2 (32.0–34.0 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km2 (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lagarfljót and Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake, at 248 m (814 ft).[41]

Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.[42]

Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 4,970 kilometres (3,088 miles) long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, nearby Reykjanesbær where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.[43] Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.[44] The country is considered a "strong performer" in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University's Environmental Performance Index of 2012.[45]


Iceland, as seen from space on 29 January 2004


Suðureyri


Norðfjörður


The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull


South of Iceland, off the Ring Road, looking north, late afternoon in winter 2001
Geology[edit]
Main article: Geology of Iceland
See also: Iceland plume

The erupting Geysir in Haukadalur valley, the oldest known geyser in the world
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell.[46] The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population.[47] In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.[48]

Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with approx. 30 volcanic systems active.[49]

Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968.[43] Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.[50]

On 21 March 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.[51] Additional eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes.[52] The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.[53]

Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Grímsvötn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull activity, with ash and lava 20 km (12 mi) hurled into the atmosphere creating a large cloud.[citation needed]
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: sent-day Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Scandinavians and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land had been claimed; the Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Lack of arable land also served impetus to the settlement of Greenland starting in 986.[18] Christianity was adopted around 999–1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for years.[citation needed]

The Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.[19] The period of these early Celtic and Viking settlements coincided with the Medieval Warm Period, and about 25% of Iceland was covered with forest compared to 1% now.[20]

The Middle Ages[edit]

Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside Bolungarvík

A 19th-century depiction of the Alþingi of the Commonwealth in session at Þingvellir
See also: Age of the Sturlungs
The internal struggles and civil strife of the Age of the Sturlungs led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Kalmar Union in 1415, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united. After the break-up of the union in 1523, it technically remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmark–Norway.

In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402–04 and again in 1494–95.[21] The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.[22]

Reformation and the Early Modern period[edit]
See also: Icelandic Reformation, Danish-Icelandic Trade Monopoly and Móðuharðindin
Around the middle of the 16th century, as part of the Protestant Reformation, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. Jón Arason, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became officially Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, severely decimated the population. Pirates from several countries, including the Barbary Coast, raided its coastal settlements. During this period many Europeans were also taken captive by Mediterranean pirates and sometimes sold into slavery in the Arab world.[23][24] A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population.[25][26] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects.[27] In the years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), over half of all livestock died in the country. During the resulting famine, around a quarter of the population died.[28]

Independence movement 1814–1918[edit]
See also: Icelandic independence movement and Fjölnir (journal)
In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to get colder, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly to Manitoba in Canada. About 15,000 people emigrated, out of a total population of 70,000.[29]

Inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe, a national consciousness arose. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, based on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the Fjölnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in 1904, and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944[edit]
See also: Kingdom of Iceland, Invasion of Iceland and Iceland during World War II

HMS Berwick led the British invasion of Iceland
The Danish–Icelandic Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918 and valid for 25 years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.

During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government should assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States, so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities.

Independent republic 1944–present[edit]

British and Icelandic vessels collide in the Atlantic Ocean during the Cod Wars
See also: Founding of the Republic of Iceland, Iceland in the Cold War and Cod Wars
On 31 December 1943, the Danish–Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution.[30] Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as its first president.

In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland. The nation formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland as the Iceland Defence Force, and remained throughout the Cold War. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.

Iceland had prospered during the war. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at USD 209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at USD 109).[31][32]

The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars — several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits to 200 miles offshore. Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994, after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. International economic relations increased further after 2001, when Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debt, contributing to a 32% increase in Iceland's Gross national income between 2002 and 2007.[33][34]

Iceland hosted a summit in Reykjavík in 1986 between United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, during which they took significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR. Throughout the 1990s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes. To that end, Iceland provided aid and expertise to various NATO-led interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.[35]

Economic boom and crisis[edit]
See also: 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis and 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests
In the years 2003–2007, following the privatization of the banking sector under the government of Davíð Oddsson, Iceland moved toward having an economy based on international investment banking and financial services.[36] It was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world but was hit hard by a major financial crisis.[36] The crisis resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with a net emigration of 5,000 people in 2009.[37] Iceland's economy stabilised under the government of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and grew by 1.6% in 2012.[38] Many Icelanders, however, have remained unhappy with the state of the economy and government austerity policies. The centre-right Independence Party was returned to power in coalition with the Progressive Party in the 2013 elections.[39]

Geography[edit]

General topographic map
For more details on this topic, see Geography of Iceland.
Iceland is located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63° and 67° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.

Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (290 km (180 mi)). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (420 km (260 mi)); Jan Mayen Island (570 km (350 mi)); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 740 km (460 mi); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 750 km (470 mi). The mainland of Norway is about 970 km (600 mi) away.


A sample of three typical Icelandic landscapes.
Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826 km2 (39,315 sq mi), but the entire country is 103,000 km2 (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated.[40] The largest lakes are Þórisvatn (Reservoir): 83–88 km2 (32.0–34.0 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km2 (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lagarfljót and Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is the deepest lake, at 248 m (814 ft).[41]

Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.[42]

Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 4,970 kilometres (3,088 miles) long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, nearby Reykjanesbær where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.[43] Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.[44] The country is considered a "strong performer" in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University's Environmental Performance Index of 2012.[45]


Iceland, as seen from space on 29 January 2004


Suðureyri


Norðfjörður


The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull


South of Iceland, off the Ring Road, looking north, late afternoon in winter 2001
Geology[edit]
Main article: Geology of Iceland
See also: Iceland plume

The erupting Geysir in Haukadalur valley, the oldest known geyser in the world
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell.[46] The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population.[47] In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.[48]

Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with approx. 30 volcanic systems active.[49]

Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968.[43] Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.[50]

On 21 March 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.[51] Additional eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes.[52] The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.[53]

Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Grímsvötn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull activity, with ash and lava 20 km (12 mi) hurled into the atmosphere creating a large cloud.[citation needed]
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: I
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: am
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: reading
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: a
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: book
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: I own a glass of water
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Does anybody want 6 slices of Pizza?
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: Okay then
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: What r u doing
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: .
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: What is that.
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: just chillin'
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: jack wtf
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1905: ??? What
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1906: Larry goo
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1906: no
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1906: u gonna die nig
29 Oct 14 UTC Autumn, 1906: stfu

Start Backward Open large map Forward End

Turkey
Bigboybomb (67 D X)
Won. Bet: 10 D, won: 41 D
19 supply-centers, 16 units
Germany
jmol72 (0 D X)
Survived. Bet: 10 D, won: 30 D
13 supply-centers, 12 units
France
svd1399 (100 D)
Survived. Bet: 10 D, won: D
0 supply-centers, 2 units
England
Zavicii (100 D)
Resigned. Bet: 10 D
2 supply-centers, 2 units
Italy
BetaBrigadier (100 D)
Resigned. Bet: 10 D
0 supply-centers, 1 units
Austria
andrweis (100 D)
Defeated. Bet: 10 D
Russia
ThatBuhlLarry (100 D)
Defeated. Bet: 10 D
Civil Disorders
Zavicii (100 D)England (Autumn, 1902) with 3 centres.
BetaBrigadier (100 D)Italy (Autumn, 1908) with 1 centres.
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