The Nordic countries (Greenland not shown)
The Nordic countries is a term used collectively for five countries in Northern Europe. The Nordic countries have an aggregate population of about 24 million. The Nordic Countries are also the member countries of the Nordic Council:
In addition, the following autonomous territories are associated members of the Nordic Council:
They enjoy a degree of self-government and have distinct separate identities within their respective countries.
Besides the existing countries, Lapland also has a distinct identity. However, there is no movement for complete autonomy. The Sami Parliament, founded in the 1990s, has very weak political influence, far from autonomy. Although formally similar to a government structure, the parliament does not strive for sovereignty. Besides minorities, there are also some groups that consider themselves to have a unique identity, rather than being derived from the Swedish culture, such as Dalecarlia and Scania.
In loose usage, the term Scandinavia is sometimes used as a synonym for Nordic countries. Strictly speaking, however, political Scandinavia only includes Sweden, Norway and Denmark; geographical Scandinavia only includes Sweden and Norway; and geological Scandinavia comprises Sweden, Norway and Greenland.
Before 17th century, the Nordic or Northern was used to mean Northern Europe, including European Russia, the Baltic countries (at that time Livonia and Courland) and Greenland.
In the European Union, the Northern dimension refers to external and cross-border policies covering the Nordic countries, Baltic states and Russia.
The Nordic countries are loosely united by historical and cultural ties. During the Viking era, the Scandinavian countries all shared a common culture, language and religion; Old Norse and Norse mythology. After being Christianised around the year 1000, the process of unification established Denmark, Norway and Sweden as separate kingdoms. Sweden eventually came to include Finland, whereas Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Shetland Islands and large parts of Scotland and Ireland belonged to Norway. The Danish king for long periods dominated over large parts of England. In the 14th century Norway, Denmark and Sweden united under one regent, in the Kalmar Union. Denmark quickly gained the upper hand, and in the early 16th century Sweden re-established itself as a separate kingdom, but the union of Denmark and Norway would last until 1814.
After establishing itself as one of the Great powers in Europe during the 17th century Sweden would ultimately lose its foreign Dominions one by one, culminating with the loss of Finland to Russia in 1809. The 19th century saw the political union between Sweden and Norway, and the rise of Scandinavism, which unsuccessfully strove once again to unite the three Scandinavian countries into one kingdom.
After World War I ended in 1917, Finland emerged for the first time as an independent nation and the perspective of a Nordic community was able to replace the dream of a united Scandinavia. Following World War II, Iceland gained its independence from Denmark and the foundations for the Nordic council were laid.
The Nordic countries share similar traits in the policies implemented under the after-war period, especially in the social area. All Nordic countries have a large tax funded public welfare sectors and extensive social legislation. In most cases, this is due to the political ambitions of the many Social Democrat governments that came to power during the interwar period in each of the Nordic countries.
After converting to Christianity around the close of the first millennium, the Nordic countries followed the Protestant Reformation of the Western church during the 16th century. The Nordic countries all adopted Lutheran state churches, which till today have a large membership count.
All Nordic countries, including the Faroe and Åland Islands, have a similar flag design, all based on the Dannebrog, the Danish flag. They display a cross with the intersection left of the center, the "Scandinavian cross". Only Greenland and the Sami people have flags with no cross.
See also: Scandinavia, Baltic sea countries, Baltic states, Northern Europe
- Nordic FAQ (http://www.lysator.liu.se/nordic/) - For a full definition and many facts about the Nordic countries
- Nordic Council (http://www.norden.org/)