Iceland

Iceland

Overview
Iceland described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

 and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Mid-Atlantic Ridge
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a mid-ocean ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary located along the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, and part of the longest mountain range in the world. It separates the Eurasian Plate and North American Plate in the North Atlantic, and the African Plate from the South...

. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103000 km² (39,769 sq mi). The capital and the largest city is Reykjavík
Reykjavík
Reykjavík is the capital and largest city in Iceland.Its latitude at 64°08' N makes it the world's northernmost capital of a sovereign state. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxaflói Bay...

, with the surrounding areas in the southwestern region of the country being home to two-thirds of the country's population.
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Timeline

1783   The volcano Laki, in Iceland, begins an eight-month eruption which kills over 9,000 people and starts a seven-year famine.

1783   A poisonous cloud caused by the eruption of the Laki volcano in Iceland reaches Le Havre in France.

1899   Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur Iceland's first football club is founded.

1918   Iceland becomes a sovereign state, yet remains a part of the Danish kingdom.

1935   Iceland becomes the first Western country to legalize therapeutic abortion.

1941   World War II: U.S. forces land in Iceland, taking over from an earlier British occupation.

1941   World War II: The destroyer USS ''Reuben James'' is torpedoed by a German U-boat near Iceland, killing more than 100 United States Navy sailors. It is the first U.S. Navy vessel sunk by enemy action in WWII.

1944   Iceland declares independence from Denmark and becomes a republic.

1946   Afghanistan, Iceland and Sweden join the United Nations.

1949   A riot breaks out in Austurvöllur square in Reykjavík, when Iceland joins NATO.

 
Encyclopedia
Iceland described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

 and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Mid-Atlantic Ridge
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a mid-ocean ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary located along the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, and part of the longest mountain range in the world. It separates the Eurasian Plate and North American Plate in the North Atlantic, and the African Plate from the South...

. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103000 km² (39,769 sq mi). The capital and the largest city is Reykjavík
Reykjavík
Reykjavík is the capital and largest city in Iceland.Its latitude at 64°08' N makes it the world's northernmost capital of a sovereign state. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxaflói Bay...

, with the surrounding areas in the southwestern region of the country being home to two-thirds of the country's population. Iceland is volcanically
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

 and geologically active. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterised by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream
Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean...

 and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

.

According to Landnámabók
Landnámabók
Landnámabók , often shortened to Landnáma, is a medieval Icelandic written work describing in considerable detail the settlement of Iceland by the Norse in the 9th and 10th centuries AD.-Landnáma:...

, the settlement of Iceland
Settlement of Iceland
The settlement of Iceland is generally believed to have begun in the second half of the 9th century, when Norse settlers migrated across the North Atlantic. The reasons for the migration may be traced to a shortage of arable land in Scandinavia, and civil strife brought about by the ambitions of...

 began in AD 874 when the chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson
Ingólfur Arnarson
Ingólfr Arnarson is recognized as the first permanent Nordic settler of Iceland. According to Landnáma he built his homestead in Reykjavík in 874...

 became the first permanent Norse
Norse
Norse may refer to:In history:* Norsemen, the Scandinavian people before the Christianization of Scandinavia** Norse mythology** Norse paganism** Norse art** Norse activity in the British IslesIn language:...

 settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the following centuries, Norsemen
Norsemen
Norsemen is used to refer to the group of people as a whole who spoke what is now called the Old Norse language belonging to the North Germanic branch of Indo-European languages, especially Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, Swedish and Danish in their earlier forms.The meaning of Norseman was "people...

 settled Iceland, bringing with them slaves of Gaelic
Gaels
The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

 origin. From 1262 to 1918 Iceland was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 monarchies. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic population
Icelanders
Icelanders are a Scandinavian ethnic group and a nation, native to Iceland.On 17 June 1944, when an Icelandic republic was founded the Icelanders became independent from the Danish monarchy. The language spoken is Icelandic, a North Germanic language, and Lutheranism is the predominant religion...

 relied largely on fisheries and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Aid brought prosperity in the years after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area
European Economic Area
The European Economic Area was established on 1 January 1994 following an agreement between the member states of the European Free Trade Association and the European Community, later the European Union . Specifically, it allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to participate in the EU's Internal...

, which made it possible for the economy to diversify into economic and financial services.

Iceland has a free market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade...

 countries, while maintaining a Nordic welfare system
Nordic model
The Nordic model refers to the economic and social models of the Nordic countries . This particular adaptation of the mixed market economy is characterised by "universalist" welfare states , which are aimed specifically at enhancing individual autonomy, ensuring the universal provision of basic human...

 providing universal health care
Universal health care
Universal health care is a term referring to organized health care systems built around the principle of universal coverage for all members of society, combining mechanisms for health financing and service provision.-History:...

 and tertiary education
Tertiary education
Tertiary education, also referred to as third stage, third level, and post-secondary education, is the educational level following the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school, secondary school, university-preparatory school...

 for its citizens. In recent years, Iceland has been one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 2011, it was ranked as the 14th most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index
Human Development Index
The Human Development Index is a composite statistic used to rank countries by level of "human development" and separate "very high human development", "high human development", "medium human development", and "low human development" countries...

, and the fourth most productive country per capita. In 2008, political unrest
2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests
The 2009-2011 Icelandic financial crisis protests, also referred to as the Kitchenware Revolution or Icelandic Revolution occurred in the wake of the Icelandic financial crisis. There had been sporadic protests since October 2008 against the Icelandic government's handling of the financial crisis...

 occurred as the nation's entire banking system systemically failed.

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Norse heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse (particularly from Western Norway) and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic
Icelandic language
Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. Its closest relative is Faroese.Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the...

, a North Germanic language
North Germanic languages
The North Germanic languages or Scandinavian languages, the languages of Scandinavians, make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages, a sub-family of the Indo-European languages, along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Germanic languages...

, is closely related to Faroese
Faroese language
Faroese , is an Insular Nordic language spoken by 48,000 people in the Faroe Islands and about 25,000 Faroese people in Denmark and elsewhere...

 and some West Norwegian dialects
Norwegian dialects
The Norwegian dialects are commonly divided into 4 main groups, North Norwegian , Trøndelag Norwegian , West Norwegian , and East Norwegian...

. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine
Icelandic cuisine
Important parts of Icelandic cuisine are lamb, dairy, and fish, due to Iceland's proximity to the ocean. Popular foods in Iceland include skyr, hangikjöt , kleinur, laufabrauð and bollur...

, poetry, and the medieval Icelanders' sagas. Currently, Iceland has the smallest population among NATO members and is the only one with no standing army.

Settlement and the Commonwealth 860–1262



One theory suggests the first people to have visited Iceland were members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission
Hiberno-Scottish mission
The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a mission led by Irish and Scottish monks which spread Christianity and established monasteries in Great Britain and continental Europe during the Middle Ages...

 or hermits, also known as Papar
Papar
The Papar were, according to early Icelandic historical sources, a group of Irish or Scottish monks resident in parts of Iceland at the time of the arrival of the Norsemen...

, who came in the 8th century, though no archaeological discoveries support this hypothesis. The monks are supposed to have left with the arrival of Norsemen, who systematically settled in the period circa AD 870–930.

Recently archeologists have found the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula (close to Keflavík Airport). Carbon dating reveals that the cabin was abandoned between 770 to 880 AD, suggesting that someone had come to Iceland well before 874 AD.
The first known permanent Norse settler was Ingólfur Arnarson
Ingólfur Arnarson
Ingólfr Arnarson is recognized as the first permanent Nordic settler of Iceland. According to Landnáma he built his homestead in Reykjavík in 874...

, who built his homestead in Reykjavík in the year 874. Ingólfur was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Norsemen and their Irish slaves. By 930, most arable
Arable land
In geography and agriculture, arable land is land that can be used for growing crops. It includes all land under temporary crops , temporary meadows for mowing or pasture, land under market and kitchen gardens and land temporarily fallow...

 land had been claimed and the Althing
Althing
The Alþingi, anglicised variously as Althing or Althingi, is the national parliament of Iceland. The Althingi is the oldest parliamentary institution in the world still extant...

, a legislative and judiciary parliament, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth
Icelandic Commonwealth
The Icelandic Commonwealth, Icelandic Free State, or Republic of Iceland was the state existing in Iceland between the establishment of the Althing in 930 and the pledge of fealty to the Norwegian king in 1262...

. Christianity was adopted circa 999–1000.

In the 11th century, three Armenian
Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 bishops, Petros, Abraham and Stephannos are recorded by Icelandic sources as Christian missionaries in Iceland. Their presence has been explained in terms of the service of King Harald of Norway (c.1047-1066) in Constantinople, where he had met Armenians serving in the Byzantine Imperial Army. The Commonwealth lasted until 1262 when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.

Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era 1262–1814


The internal struggles and civil strife of the Sturlung Era led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Denmark-Norway around 1380, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 were united in the Kalmar Union
Kalmar Union
The Kalmar Union is a historiographical term meaning a series of personal unions that united the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway , and Sweden under a single monarch, though intermittently and with a population...

. In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries settled by Europeans. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

 swept Iceland in 1402–04 and 1494–95, the first time killing as much as 50% to 60% of the population, and 30% to 50% in the second.

Around the middle of the 16th century, King Christian III of Denmark
Christian III of Denmark
Christian III reigned as king of Denmark and Norway. He was the eldest son of King Frederick I and Anna of Brandenburg.-Childhood:...

 began to impose Lutheranism
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 on all his subjects. Jón Arason
Jón Arason
Jón Arason was an Icelandic Roman Catholic bishop and poet, who was executed in his struggle against the imposition of the Protestant Reform in Iceland.-Background:...

, the last Catholic bishop of Hólar
Hólar
Hólar is a small community located in the Skagafjörður district and situated in northern Iceland.-Location:Hólar is located in the Hjaltadalur valley, some from the national capital at Reykjavík. Hólar has a population of around 100...

, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became fully Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland, while pirates from several countries raided its coasts. A great smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population. In 1783 the Laki
Laki
Łąki may refer to the following places in Poland:*Łąki, Lower Silesian Voivodeship *Łąki, West Pomeranian Voivodeship *Łąki, Lublin Voivodeship...

 volcano erupted, with devastating effects. The years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), saw the death of over half of all livestock in the country, with ensuing famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

 in which around a quarter of the population died.

The Independence Movement 1814–1918



In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel
Treaty of Kiel
The Treaty of Kiel or Peace of Kiel was concluded between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Kingdom of Sweden on one side and the Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway on the other side on 14 January 1814 in Kiel...

. Iceland, however, remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to grow worse, resulting in mass emigration to the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

, particularly Manitoba
Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

 in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. About 15,000 out of a total population of 70,000 left. However, a new national consciousness had arisen, inspired by romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 and nationalist
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 ideas from mainland Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. An Icelandic independence movement
Icelandic independence movement
The Icelandic Independence movement is the term used to describe the various efforts made by Icelanders to achieve self-determination and independence from the Kingdom of Denmark throughout the 19th and early 20th century, until full independence was granted in 1918, followed by the severance of...

 arose in the 1850s under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson
Jón Sigurðsson
Jón Sigurðsson was the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement.Born at Hrafnseyri, near Arnarfjörður in the Westfjords area of Iceland, he was the son of a pastor, Sigurður Jónsson. He moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1833 to study grammar and history at the university there...

. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule, which was expanded in 1904.

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944



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 the King of Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen. However, it requested that Denmark should handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world would display 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 declared that the Icelandic Government should assume the Danish king's duties, taking control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British Armed Forces
British Armed Forces
The British Armed Forces are the armed forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, the British Armed Forces encompasses three professional uniformed services, the Royal Navy, the...

 occupied Iceland, violating the country's declared neutrality. In 1941, the occupation of Iceland was taken over by the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 so that Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 could use its troops elsewhere.

On 31 December 1943, the Act of Union agreement expired after 25 years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with the King of Denmark and establish a republic. The vote was 97% in favour of ending the union and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution. Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson
Sveinn Björnsson
Sveinn Björnsson , son of Björn Jónsson and Elísabet Sveinsdóttir, was the first President of the Republic of Iceland.He became a member of Reykjavík town council in 1912 and was its president during 1918–1920....

 as the first President.

Republic of Iceland 1944–present



In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland, which formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots
1949 anti-NATO riot in Iceland
The Icelandic NATO riot of March 30, 1949 is arguably the most famous riot in Icelandic history. It was prompted by the decision of Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, to join the newly formed NATO, thereby involving Iceland directly in the Cold War, opposing the Soviet Union and re-militarizing...

. 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
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

; the US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.

The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth
Economic growth
In economics, economic growth is defined as the increasing capacity of the economy to satisfy the wants of goods and services of the members of society. Economic growth is enabled by increases in productivity, which lowers the inputs for a given amount of output. Lowered costs increase demand...

, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the Marshall Plan
Marshall Plan
The Marshall Plan was the large-scale American program to aid Europe where the United States gave monetary support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948...

 programme. The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars—several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits. The economy was greatly diversified and liberalised when Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994.

In the years 2003–2007, Iceland developed from a nation best known for its fishing industry into a country providing sophisticated financial services, but was consequently hit hard by the 2008 global financial crisis. The crisis has resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with 5000 Icelanders emigrating in 2009.

Geography



Iceland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey
Grímsey
Grímsey is a small island in the country of Iceland, off the north coast of the main island of Iceland and straddling the Arctic Circle. In January 2011 it had 86 inhabitants....

 off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63°
63rd parallel north
The 63rd parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 63 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Asia and North America....

 and 67° N
67th parallel north
The 67th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 67 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane, about 50km north of the Arctic Circle. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Asia and North America....

, and longitudes 25°
25th meridian west
The meridian 25° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Verde Islands, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 13° W
13th meridian west
The meridian 13° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

.

Though Iceland is nearer to Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

 (North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

) than mainland Europe, the island is generally included in Europe for cultural reasons. Geologically the island is part of both continental plates. The closest bodies of land are Greenland (287 km (178 mi)) and the Faroe Islands
Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are an island group situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands are a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, along with Denmark proper and Greenland...

 (420 km (261 mi)). The closest distance to the mainland of Europe is 970 km (603 mi) (to Norway).

Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island following Great Britain. The main island is 101826 km² (39,315 sq mi) but the entire country is 103000 km² (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra
Tundra
In physical geography, tundra is a biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The term tundra comes through Russian тундра from the Kildin Sami word tūndâr "uplands," "treeless mountain tract." There are three types of tundra: Arctic tundra, alpine...

. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated island of Grímsey
Grímsey
Grímsey is a small island in the country of Iceland, off the north coast of the main island of Iceland and straddling the Arctic Circle. In January 2011 it had 86 inhabitants....

 and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3%; only 23% is vegetated. The largest lakes are Þórisvatn
Þórisvatn
Þórisvatn, is the largest lake of Iceland, situated at the south end of Sprengisandur highland road within the highlands of Iceland.It is a reservoir of a surface about 88 km² and uses the energy of the river Þjórsá, which comes down from the glacier Hofsjökull. Here in the south, it is exploited...

 (Reservoir
Reservoir
A reservoir , artificial lake or dam is used to store water.Reservoirs may be created in river valleys by the construction of a dam or may be built by excavation in the ground or by conventional construction techniques such as brickwork or cast concrete.The term reservoir may also be used to...

): 83 – and Þingvallavatn
Þingvallavatn
Þingvallavatn is a lake in south-western Iceland. With a surface of 84 km² it is the largest natural lake in Iceland. Its greatest depth is at 114 m. At the northern shore of the lake, at Þingvellir , the Alþingi, the national parliament, was founded in the year 930.The lake is part of the...

: 82 km² (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lagarfljót
Lagarfljót
The lake Lagarfljót is situated in the east of Iceland near Egilsstaðir. Its surface is measuring 53 km² and it is 25 km long, its greatest width is 2.5 km and its greatest depth 112 m...

 and Mývatn
Mývatn
Mývatn is a shallow eutrophic lake situated in an area of active volcanism in the north of Iceland, not far from Krafla volcano. The lake and its surrounding wetlands have an exceptionally rich fauna of waterbirds, especially ducks...

. Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón
Jökulsárlón is the largest glacier lagoon or lake in Iceland. Situated in south eastern Iceland, at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier branching from the Vatnajökull, between Skaftafell National Park and Höfn, it evolved into a lagoon after the glacier started receding from the edge of...

 is the deepest lake, at 248 m (814 ft).

Geologically, Iceland is a part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the ridge along which the oceanic crust
Oceanic crust
Oceanic crust is the part of Earth's lithosphere that surfaces in the ocean basins. Oceanic crust is primarily composed of mafic rocks, or sima, which is rich in iron and magnesium...

 spreads and forms new oceanic crust. In addition, this part of the mid-ocean ridge is located atop a mantle plume causing Iceland to be subaerial
Subaerial
The term subaerial is mainly used in geology to describe events or structures that are located at the Earth's surface...

. Iceland marks the boundary between both the Eurasian Plate
Eurasian Plate
The Eurasian Plate is a tectonic plate which includes most of the continent of Eurasia , with the notable exceptions of the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian subcontinent, and the area east of the Chersky Range in East Siberia...

 and the North American Plate
North American Plate
The North American Plate is a tectonic plate covering most of North America, Greenland, Cuba, Bahamas, and parts of Siberia, Japan and Iceland. It extends eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Chersky Range in eastern Siberia. The plate includes both continental and oceanic crust...

 since it has been created by rift
Rift
In geology, a rift or chasm is a place where the Earth's crust and lithosphere are being pulled apart and is an example of extensional tectonics....

ing, and accretion
Accretion (geology)
Accretion is a process by which material is added to a tectonic plate or a landmass. This material may be sediment, volcanic arcs, seamounts or other igneous features.-Description:...

 through volcanism, along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge—where the two plates meet.

Many fjord
Fjord
Geologically, a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.-Formation:A fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by abrasion of the surrounding bedrock. Glacial melting is accompanied by rebound of Earth's crust as the ice...

s punctuate its 4,970 km-long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland
Highlands of Iceland
The Highlands of Iceland cover most of the interior of Iceland. They are situated above 400–500 metres and are mostly an uninhabitable volcanic desert, because the water precipitating as rain or snow infiltrates so quickly into the ground that it is unavailable for plant growth, which results...

, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand and mountains. The major towns are the capital of Reykjavík, along with its outlying towns of Kópavogur
Kópavogur
Kópavogur is a city and Iceland's second largest municipality, with a population of 30,779.It lies immediately south of Reykjavík and is part of the Greater Reykjavík Area. The name literally means seal pup bay...

, Hafnarfjörður
Hafnarfjörður
Hafnarfjörður is a port town and municipality located on the south-west coast of Iceland, about 10 km south of Reykjavík....

 and Garðabær
Garðabær
Garðabær is a municipality in the Greater Reykjavík area of Iceland.As of January 2011, its population was 10,909....

, Reykjanesbær
Reykjanesbær
Reykjanesbær is a municipality on the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland.It is made up of the towns Keflavík, Njarðvík, the village of Hafnir and, since 2006, Ásbrú. The municipality was created in 1995 when the inhabitants of the three towns voted to merge them into one...

, where the international airport is located, and Akureyri
Akureyri
Akureyri is a town in northern Iceland. It is Iceland's second largest urban area and fourth largest municipality ....

, in northern Iceland. The island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland. Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland was founded on June 7, 2008. It is the largest national park in Europe, covering around 12,000 km² , including all of Vatnajökull glacier, and the former Skaftafell National Park, Jökulsárgljúfur National Park and surrounding area.The construction of four new...

, Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir
|Thing]] Fields) is a place in Bláskógabyggð in southwestern Iceland, near the peninsula of Reykjanes and the Hengill volcanic area. Þingvellir is a site of historical, cultural, and geological importance and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. It is the site of a rift...

.




Geology




A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot
Iceland hotspot
The Iceland hotspot is a hotspot which is partly responsible for the high volcanic activity which has formed the island of Iceland.-Description:...

 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
Hekla
Hekla is a stratovolcano located in the south of Iceland with a height of . Hekla is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes; over 20 eruptions have occurred in and around the volcano since 874. During the Middle Ages, Icelanders called the volcano the "Gateway to Hell."Hekla is part of a volcanic...

, Eldgjá
Eldgjá
Eldgjá is a volcanic canyon in Iceland. Eldgjá and the Katla volcano are part of the same volcanic system in the south of the country. Eldgjá means "fire canyon" in Icelandic....

, Herðubreið
Herðubreið
Herðubreið is a tuya in north-east Iceland. It is situated in the Highlands of Iceland in the midst of the Ódáðahraun desert and close to Askja volcano. The desert is a large lava field originating from eruptions of Trölladyngja...

 and Eldfell
Eldfell
Eldfell is a composite volcanic cone just over high on the Icelandic island of Heimaey. It formed in a volcanic eruption which began without warning just outside the town of Heimaey on 23 January 1973. Its name means Mountain of Fire in Icelandic....

. The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population; the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward.

Iceland has many geyser
Geyser
A geyser is a spring characterized by intermittent discharge of water ejected turbulently and accompanied by a vapour phase . The word geyser comes from Geysir, the name of an erupting spring at Haukadalur, Iceland; that name, in turn, comes from the Icelandic verb geysa, "to gush", the verb...

s, including Geysir
Geysir
Geysir , sometimes known as The Great Geysir, was the first geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans. The English word geyser derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, "to gush", the verb from Old Norse...

, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur
Strokkur
Strokkur is a fountain geyser in the geothermal area beside the Hvítá River in Iceland in the southwest part of the country, east of Reykjavik...

, 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 then grown more quiet and does not erupt often.

With the widespread availability of geothermal power
Geothermal power
Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth's geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet and from radioactive decay of minerals...

, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

, most residents have inexpensive hot water and home heat. The island itself is composed primarily of basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

, a low-silica lava
Lava
Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at...

 associated with effusive volcanism
Effusive eruption
An effusive eruption is a volcanic eruption characterized by the outpouring of lava onto the ground...

 as has occurred also in Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (Composite- & Fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite
Rhyolite
This page is about a volcanic rock. For the ghost town see Rhyolite, Nevada, and for the satellite system, see Rhyolite/Aquacade.Rhyolite is an igneous, volcanic rock, of felsic composition . It may have any texture from glassy to aphanitic to porphyritic...

 and andesite
Andesite
Andesite is an extrusive igneous, volcanic rock, of intermediate composition, with aphanitic to porphyritic texture. In a general sense, it is the intermediate type between basalt and dacite. The mineral assemblage is typically dominated by plagioclase plus pyroxene and/or hornblende. Magnetite,...

. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes within approx. 30 volcanic systems active

Surtsey
Surtsey
Surtsey is a volcanic island off the southern coast of Iceland. At it is also the southernmost point of Iceland. It was formed in a volcanic eruption which began 130 metres below sea level, and reached the surface on 15 November 1963. The eruption lasted until 5 June 1967, when the island...

, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr
Surtr
In Norse mythology, Surtr or Surt is an eldjötunn. Surtr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson...

, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968. Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.

On 21 March 2010, a volcano in Eyjafjallajökull
2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull
The 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull were volcanic events at Eyjafjöll in Iceland which, although relatively small for volcanic eruptions, caused enormous disruption to air travel across western and northern Europe over an initial period of six days in April 2010. Additional localised disruption...

 in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes. Further eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes. The resultant cloud of volcanic ash
Volcanic ash
Volcanic ash consists of small tephra, which are bits of pulverized rock and glass created by volcanic eruptions, less than in diameter. There are three mechanisms of volcanic ash formation: gas release under decompression causing magmatic eruptions; thermal contraction from chilling on contact...

 brought major disruption to air travel
Air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption
In response to concerns that volcanic ash ejected during the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland would damage aircraft engines, the controlled airspace of many European countries was closed to instrument flight rules traffic, resulting in the largest air-traffic shut-down since World War II...

 across Europe.

Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it is the Grímsvötn
Grímsvötn
The Grímsvötn sub-glacial lakes and the volcano of the same name are in South-East Iceland. They are in the highlands of Iceland at the northwestern side of the Vatnajökull ice-cap. The lakes are at , at an elevation of...

 volcano, located under the thick ice of one of Europes largest glaciers, the Vatnajökull. It is one of Icelands most active volcanoes. Primarily it had a much more powerful eruption than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Grímsvötn first spew its ashes about 20 km (12.43 mi) up in the atmosphere, about twice as high as the previous year's eruption from Eyjafjallajökull. A huge ash cloud that could be a danger for flight engines in the northern hemisphere of the world is spreading, and the eruption had not yet stopped as of 24 May 2011

Climate



The climate of Iceland's coast is subpolar oceanic
Oceanic climate
An oceanic climate, also called marine west coast climate, maritime climate, Cascadian climate and British climate for Köppen climate classification Cfb and subtropical highland for Köppen Cfb or Cwb, is a type of climate typically found along the west coasts at the middle latitudes of some of the...

. The warm North Atlantic Current
North Atlantic Current
The North Atlantic Current is a powerful warm ocean current that continues the Gulf Stream northeast. West of Ireland it splits in two; one branch, the Canary Current, goes south, while the other continues north along the coast of northwestern Europe...

 ensures generally higher annual temperatures than in most places of similar latitude in the world. Regions in the world with similar climate include the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula
Alaska Peninsula
The Alaska Peninsula is a peninsula extending about to the southwest from the mainland of Alaska and ending in the Aleutian Islands. The peninsula separates the Pacific Ocean from Bristol Bay, an arm of the Bering Sea....

, and Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of a main island Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego divided between Chile and Argentina with an area of , and a group of smaller islands including Cape...

, although these regions are closer to the equator. Despite its proximity to the Arctic, the island's coasts remain ice-free through the winter. Ice incursions are rare, the last having occurred on the north coast in 1969.

There are some variations in the climate between different parts of the island. Generally speaking, the south coast is warmer, wetter and windier than the north. The Central Highlands are the coldest part of the country. Low-lying inland areas in the north are the most arid. Snowfall in winter is more common in the north than the south.

The highest air temperature recorded was 30.5 °C (86.9 °F) on 22 June 1939 at Teigarhorn on the southeastern coast. The lowest was −38 °C on 22 January 1918 at Grímsstaðir and Möðrudalur in the northeastern hinterland. The temperature records for Reykjavík are 26.2 °C (79.2 °F) on 30 July 2008, and −24.5 °C on 21 January 1918.

Biodiversity


There are around 1,300 known species of insects in Iceland, which is a rather low number compared with other countries (over one million species have been described worldwide). The only native land mammal when humans arrived was the Arctic Fox
Arctic fox
The arctic fox , also known as the white fox, polar fox or snow fox, is a small fox native to Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and is common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. The Greek word alopex, means a fox and Vulpes is the Latin version...

, which came to the island at the end of the ice age, walking over the frozen sea. On rare occasions, bats which have been carried to the island with the winds can be seen, but they are not able to breed there. Polar bears have also shown up through the history, yet they are just visitors, and no Icelandic populations exist. There are no native or free living reptiles or amphibians on the island.


Phytogeographically
Phytogeography
Phytogeography , also called geobotany, is the branch of biogeography that is concerned with the geographic distribution of plant species...

, Iceland belongs to the Arctic province of the Circumboreal Region
Circumboreal Region
The Circumboreal Region is a floristic region within the Holarctic Kingdom in Eurasia and North America, as delineated by such geobotanists as Josias Braun-Blanquet and Armen Takhtajan....

 within the Boreal Kingdom
Boreal Kingdom
The Boreal Kingdom or Holarctic Kingdom is a floristic kingdom identified by botanist Ronald Good , which includes the temperate to Arctic portions of North America and Eurasia. Its flora is inherited from the ancient supercontinent of Laurasia...

. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature
World Wide Fund for Nature
The World Wide Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States...

, the territory of Iceland belongs to the ecoregion of Iceland boreal birch forests and alpine tundra
Alpine tundra
Alpine tundra is a natural region that does not contain trees because it is at high altitude. Alpine tundra is distinguished from arctic tundra, because alpine soils are generally better drained than arctic soils...

. Approximately three quarters of the island are barren of vegetation; plant life consists mainly of grassland which is regularly grazed by livestock. The most common tree native to Iceland is the Northern Birch (Betula pubescens), which formerly formed forest over much of Iceland along with Aspen (Populus tremula
Populus tremula
Populus tremula, commonly called aspen, common aspen, Eurasian aspen, European aspen, trembling poplar, or quaking aspen, is a species of poplar native to cool temperate regions of Europe and Asia, from the British Isles east to Kamchatka, north to inside the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia and...

), Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia
Sorbus aucuparia
Sorbus aucuparia , is a species of the genus Sorbus, native to most of Europe except for the far south, and northern Asia...

) and Common Juniper (Juniperus communis
Juniperus communis
Juniperus communis, the Common Juniper, is a species in the genus Juniperus, in the family Cupressaceae. It has the largest range of any woody plant, throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic south in mountains to around 30°N latitude in North America, Europe and Asia.-...

) and other smaller trees.

When the island was first settled, it was extensively forested. In the late twelfth-century Íslendingabók
Íslendingabók
Íslendingabók, Libellus Islandorum or The Book of Icelanders is an historical work dealing with early Icelandic history. The author was an Icelandic priest, Ari Þorgilsson, working in the early 12th century. The work originally existed in two different versions but only the younger one has come...

, Ari the Wise described it as "forested from mountain to sea shore". Permanent human settlement greatly disturbed the isolated ecosystem of thin, volcanic soils and limited species diversity
Species richness
Species richness is the number of different species in a given area. It is represented in equation form as S.Species richness is the fundamental unit in which to assess the homogeneity of an environment. Typically, species richness is used in conservation studies to determine the sensitivity of...

. The forests were heavily exploited over the centuries for firewood and timber. Deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

, climatic deterioration during the Little Ice Age
Little Ice Age
The Little Ice Age was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period . While not a true ice age, the term was introduced into the scientific literature by François E. Matthes in 1939...

 and overgrazing by sheep, caused a loss of critical topsoil due to erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

. Today, many farms have been abandoned and three-quarters of Iceland's hundred thousand square kilometers are affected by soil erosion, eighteen thousand square kilometers so seriously as to be useless. Only a few small birch stands now exist in isolated reserves. The planting of new forests has increased the number of trees, but does not compare to the original forests. Some of the planted forests include introduced species
Introduced species
An introduced species — or neozoon, alien, exotic, non-indigenous, or non-native species, or simply an introduction, is a species living outside its indigenous or native distributional range, and has arrived in an ecosystem or plant community by human activity, either deliberate or accidental...

.

The animals of Iceland include the Icelandic sheep
Icelandic sheep
The Icelandic sheep is a breed of domestic sheep. The Icelandic breed is one of the Northern European short-tailed sheep, which exhibit a fluke-shaped, naturally short tail. The Icelandic is a mid-sized breed, generally short legged and stocky, with face and legs free of wool...

, cattle, chicken
Icelandic chicken
Icelandic chickens are a breed of chicken from Iceland. Called íslenska hænan, Haughænsni or landnámshænan in the Icelandic language, they are a landrace fowl which are rare outside its native country. They are an old breed of chicken, having been present on the island since introduction by Norse...

, goat, the sturdy Icelandic horse
Icelandic horse
The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse developed in Iceland. Although the horses are small, at times pony-sized, most registries for the Icelandic refer to it as a horse. Icelandic horses are long-lived and hardy. In their native country they have few diseases; Icelandic law prevents horses from...

, and the Icelandic Sheepdog
Icelandic Sheepdog
The Icelandic sheepdog is a breed of dog of spitz type originating from the dogs brought to Iceland by the Vikings. It is of similar type to the Norwegian Buhund and to the ancestor of the modern Shetland sheepdog and Welsh corgi. They are still commonly used to herd sheep in the Icelandic...

. Many varieties of fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 live in the ocean waters surrounding Iceland, and the fishing industry
Fishing industry
The fishing industry includes any industry or activity concerned with taking, culturing, processing, preserving, storing, transporting, marketing or selling fish or fish products....

 is a main contributor to Iceland's economy, accounting for more than half of the country's total exports. Wild mammals include the Arctic Fox
Arctic fox
The arctic fox , also known as the white fox, polar fox or snow fox, is a small fox native to Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and is common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. The Greek word alopex, means a fox and Vulpes is the Latin version...

, mink
Mink
There are two living species referred to as "mink": the European Mink and the American Mink. The extinct Sea Mink is related to the American Mink, but was much larger. All three species are dark-colored, semi-aquatic, carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae, which also includes the weasels and...

, mice, rats, rabbits and reindeer
Reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

. Polar bear
Polar Bear
The polar bear is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak Bear, which is approximately the same size...

s occasionally visit the island, travelling on icebergs from Greenland. In June 2008, two polar bears arrived in the same month. Birds, especially seabirds, are a very important part of Iceland's animal life. Puffins, skua
Skua
The skuas are a group of seabirds with about seven species forming the family Stercorariidae and the genus Stercorarius. The three smaller skuas are called jaegers in North America....

s, and kittiwakes nest on its sea cliffs.

Commercial whaling is practised intermittently along with scientific whale hunts. Whale watching has become an important part of Iceland's economy since 1997. In early 2010, Iceland's proposed quota in killing fin whales was much larger than the amount of whale meat
Whale meat
Whale meat is the flesh of whales used for consumption by humans or other animals. It is prepared in various ways, and is historically part of the diet and cuisine of various communities that live near an ocean, including those of Japan, Norway, Iceland, and the Arctic...

 the Japanese market could absorb. In negotiations with Marc Wall, Economic Minister-Counselor at the US embassy in Tokyo, Jun Yamashita of the Japanese Fisheries Agencies, however, rejected a proposal to suggest to Iceland to reduce the number of killed fin whales to a more reasonable number.

Politics


Iceland has a left–right
Left-Right politics
The left–right political spectrum is a common way of classifying political positions, political ideologies, or political parties along a one-dimensional political spectrum. The perspective of Left vs. Right is a binary interpretation of complex questions...

 multi-party system
Multi-party system
A multi-party system is a system in which multiple political parties have the capacity to gain control of government separately or in coalition, e.g.The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom formed in 2010. The effective number of parties in a multi-party system is normally...

. The biggest parties are the Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin), the centre-right
Centre-right
The centre-right or center-right is a political term commonly used to describe or denote individuals, political parties, or organizations whose views stretch from the centre to the right on the left-right spectrum, excluding far right stances. Centre-right can also describe a coalition of centrist...

 Independence Party
Independence Party (Iceland)
The Independence Party is a centre-right political party in Iceland. Liberal conservative and Eurosceptic, it is the second-largest party in the Althing, with sixteen seats. The chairman of the party is Bjarni Benediktsson and vice chairman is Ólöf Nordal....

 (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) and the Left-Green Movement
Left-Green Movement
The Left-Green Movement is a left-wing political party in Iceland.It was founded in 1999 by a few members of Alþingi who did not approve of the planned merger of the left parties in Iceland that resulted in the founding of the Social Democratic Alliance...

 (Vinstrihreyfingin – grænt framboð). Other political parties with seats in the Althing are the centrist
Centrism
In politics, centrism is the ideal or the practice of promoting policies that lie different from the standard political left and political right. Most commonly, this is visualized as part of the one-dimensional political spectrum of left-right politics, with centrism landing in the middle between...

 Progressive Party
Progressive Party (Iceland)
The Progressive Party is an agrarian, liberal and centrist party in Iceland. The party is a member of the Liberal International. Current chairman of the party is Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. He was elected on January 18, 2009. His predecessor was Valgerður Sverrisdóttir, who only served as...

 (Framsóknarflokkurinn) and The Movement
The Movement (Iceland)
The Movement is a political movement in Iceland. It has 3 members of parliament in the Alþingi . All of them are former Citizens' Movement MPs.*Þór Saari, economist*Margrét Tryggvadottir, editor...

 (Hreyfingin). Many other parties exist on the municipal level, most of which only run locally in a single municipality.

Government



Iceland is a representative democracy
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

 and a parliamentary republic
Parliamentary republic
A parliamentary republic or parliamentary constitutional republic is a type of republic which operates under a parliamentary system of government - meaning a system with no clear-cut separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. There are a number of variations of...

. The modern parliament, Alþingi (English: Althing
Althing
The Alþingi, anglicised variously as Althing or Althingi, is the national parliament of Iceland. The Althingi is the oldest parliamentary institution in the world still extant...

), was founded in 1845 as an advisory body to the Danish monarch
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

. It was widely seen as a re-establishment of the assembly founded in 930 in the Commonwealth
Icelandic Commonwealth
The Icelandic Commonwealth, Icelandic Free State, or Republic of Iceland was the state existing in Iceland between the establishment of the Althing in 930 and the pledge of fealty to the Norwegian king in 1262...

 period and suspended in 1799. Consequently, "it is arguably the world's oldest parliamentary democracy
Parliamentary system
A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined....

." It currently has 63 members, elected for a maximum period of four years. The president is elected by popular vote for a term of four years, with no term limit. The government and local councils are elected separately from the presidential elections every four years.

The president of Iceland
President of Iceland
The President of Iceland is Iceland's elected head of state. The president is elected to a four-year term by universal adult suffrage and has limited powers. The president is not the head of government; the Prime Minister of Iceland is the head of government. There have been five presidents since...

 is a largely ceremonial head of state and serves as a diplomat but can block a law voted by the parliament and put it to a national referendum. The current president is Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is the fifth and current President of Iceland. He has served as President since 1996; he was unopposed in 2000, re-elected for a third term in 2004, and re-elected unopposed for a fourth term in 2008. He is the longest-serving left-wing president in the history of...

. The head of government is the prime minister (currently Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir , , is the Prime Minister of Iceland. Many years a politician, she was previously Iceland's Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security from 1987–1994 and 2007–2009. She has been a member of the Althing for Reykjavík constituencies since 1978, winning re-election on eight...

) who, together with the cabinet, is responsible for executive
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

 government. The cabinet is appointed by the president after a general election to the Althing; however, the appointment is usually negotiated by the leaders of the political parties, who decide among themselves after discussions which parties can form the cabinet and how its seats are to be distributed, under the condition that it has a majority support in the Althing. Only when the party leaders are unable to reach a conclusion by themselves in a reasonable time does the president exercise this power and appoint the cabinet himself or herself. This has not happened since the republic was founded in 1944, but in 1942 the regent of the country (Sveinn Björnsson
Sveinn Björnsson
Sveinn Björnsson , son of Björn Jónsson and Elísabet Sveinsdóttir, was the first President of the Republic of Iceland.He became a member of Reykjavík town council in 1912 and was its president during 1918–1920....

 who had been installed in that position by the Althing in 1941) did appoint a non-parliamentary government. The regent had, for all practical purposes, the position of a president, and Sveinn in fact became the country's first president in 1944.

The governments of Iceland have almost always been coalitions with two or more parties involved, as no single political party has received a majority of seats in the Althing during the republic. The extent of the political power possessed by the office of the president is disputed by legal scholars in Iceland; several provisions of the constitution appear to give the president some important powers but other provisions and traditions suggest differently. In 1980, Icelanders elected Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir is an Icelandic politician who served as the fourth President of Iceland from 1980 to 1996. In addition to being both Iceland's and Europe's first female president, she was the world's first democratically elected female head of state...

 as president, the country's first directly elected female head of state. She retired from office in 1996.

Administrative divisions


Iceland is divided into regions, constituencies, counties, and municipalities. There are eight regions which are primarily used for statistical purposes; the district court jurisdictions also use an older version of this division. Until 2003, the constituencies for the parliamentary elections were the same as the regions, but by an amendment to the constitution, they were changed to the current six constituencies:
  • Reykjavík North
    Constituencies of Iceland
    Iceland is divided into 6 constituencies for the purpose of selecting representatives to the Alþingi .-History:The current division was established by a 1999 constitution amendment and was an attempt to balance the weight of different districts of the country whereby voters in the rural districts...

    and Reykjavík South
    Constituencies of Iceland
    Iceland is divided into 6 constituencies for the purpose of selecting representatives to the Alþingi .-History:The current division was established by a 1999 constitution amendment and was an attempt to balance the weight of different districts of the country whereby voters in the rural districts...

    (city regions);
  • Southwest
    Constituencies of Iceland
    Iceland is divided into 6 constituencies for the purpose of selecting representatives to the Alþingi .-History:The current division was established by a 1999 constitution amendment and was an attempt to balance the weight of different districts of the country whereby voters in the rural districts...

    (four geographically separate
    Enclave and exclave
    In political geography, an enclave is a territory whose geographical boundaries lie entirely within the boundaries of another territory.An exclave, on the other hand, is a territory legally or politically attached to another territory with which it is not physically contiguous.These are two...

     suburban areas around Reykjavík);
  • Northwest
    Constituencies of Iceland
    Iceland is divided into 6 constituencies for the purpose of selecting representatives to the Alþingi .-History:The current division was established by a 1999 constitution amendment and was an attempt to balance the weight of different districts of the country whereby voters in the rural districts...

    and Northeast
    Constituencies of Iceland
    Iceland is divided into 6 constituencies for the purpose of selecting representatives to the Alþingi .-History:The current division was established by a 1999 constitution amendment and was an attempt to balance the weight of different districts of the country whereby voters in the rural districts...

    (north half of Iceland, split); and,
  • South
    Constituencies of Iceland
    Iceland is divided into 6 constituencies for the purpose of selecting representatives to the Alþingi .-History:The current division was established by a 1999 constitution amendment and was an attempt to balance the weight of different districts of the country whereby voters in the rural districts...

    (south half of Iceland, excluding Reykjavík and suburbs).


The redistricting change was made in order to balance the weight of different districts of the country, since previously a vote cast in the sparsely populated areas around the country would count much more than a vote cast in the Reykjavík city area. The imbalance between districts has been reduced by the new system, but still exists.





Iceland's 23 counties are, for the most part, historical divisions. Currently, Iceland is split up among 26 magistrates (sýslumenn, singular sýslumaður
Sýslumaður
Sýslumaður is an office or title created in Iceland when it submitted to the King of Norway in 1262-1264. This sort of office had already been established in Norway, called sysselmann in contemporary Norwegian...

) who represent government in various capacities. Among their duties are tax collection, administering bankruptcy declarations, and performing civil marriages. After a police
Icelandic Police
The Icelandic National Police is the main police force of Iceland. It is responsible for law enforcement on all Icelandic territories except at sea where the Icelandic Coast Guard enforces the law. The two services assist each other as needed.- History :...

 reorganisation in 2007, which combined police forces in multiple counties, about half of them are in charge of police forces.

There are 79 municipalities in Iceland which govern local matters like schools, transport and zoning. These are the actual second-level subdivision
Administrative division
An administrative division, subnational entity, or country subdivision is a portion of a country or other political division, established for the purpose of government. Administrative divisions are each granted a certain degree of autonomy, and are required to manage themselves through their own...

s of Iceland, as the constituencies have no relevance except in elections and for statistical purposes. Reykjavík is by far the most populous municipality, about four times more populous than Kópavogur
Kópavogur
Kópavogur is a city and Iceland's second largest municipality, with a population of 30,779.It lies immediately south of Reykjavík and is part of the Greater Reykjavík Area. The name literally means seal pup bay...

, the second one.

Foreign relations


Iceland maintains diplomatic and commercial relations with practically all nations, but its ties with the Nordic countries, Germany, the US, and the other NATO nations are particularly close. Historically, and due to continuing cultural, economic and linguistic similarities, Iceland is considered politically one of the Nordic countries
Nordic countries
The Nordic countries make up a region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and their associated territories, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland...

, and it participates in intergovernmental co-operation through the Nordic Council
Nordic Council
The Nordic Council is a geo-political, inter-parliamentary forum for co-operation between the Nordic countries. It was established following World War II and its first concrete result was the introduction in 1952 of a common labour market and free movement across borders without passports for the...

.

Iceland is a member of the European Economic Area
European Economic Area
The European Economic Area was established on 1 January 1994 following an agreement between the member states of the European Free Trade Association and the European Community, later the European Union . Specifically, it allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to participate in the EU's Internal...

 (EEA), which allows the country access to the single market of the European Union (EU). It is not a member of EU, but in July 2009 the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, voted in favour of application for EU membership and officially applied on July 17, 2009. EU officials mentioned 2011 or 2012 as possible accession dates. Iceland is also a member of the UN, NATO, EFTA
European Free Trade Association
The European Free Trade Association or EFTA is a free trade organisation between four European countries that operates parallel to, and is linked to, the European Union . EFTA was established on 3 May 1960 as a trade bloc-alternative for European states who were either unable to, or chose not to,...

 and OECD.

Military


Iceland has no standing army
Standing army
A standing army is a professional permanent army. It is composed of full-time career soldiers and is not disbanded during times of peace. It differs from army reserves, who are activated only during wars or natural disasters...

. The U.S. Air Force maintained four to six interceptors at the Keflavík base
Naval Air Station Keflavik
United States Naval Air Station Keflavik is a former NATO facility at Keflavík International Airport, Iceland. It is located on the Reykjanes peninsula on the south-west portion of the island...

, until 30 September 2006 when they were withdrawn. Since May 2008 NATO nations have periodically deployed fighters to patrol Icelandic airspace under the Icelandic Air Policing
Icelandic Air Policing
Icelandic Air Policing is a NATO operation conducted to patrol Iceland's airspace. As Iceland does not have an air force, it requested that its NATO allies periodically deploy fighter aircraft to Keflavik Air Base to provide protection of its airspace in 2006...

 mission. Iceland supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

 despite much controversy in Iceland, deploying a Coast Guard
Icelandic Coast Guard
The Icelandic Coast Guard is the service responsible for Iceland's coastal defense and maritime and aeronautical search and rescue. Origins of the Icelandic Coast Guard can be traced to 1859, when the corvette Ørnen started patrolling Icelandic waters...

 EOD team to Iraq which was replaced later by members of the Iceland Crisis Response Unit. Iceland has also participated in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front launched Operation Enduring Freedom...

 and the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia
1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia
The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was NATO's military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War. The strikes lasted from March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999...

. Despite the ongoing financial crisis the first new patrol ship in decades was launched on 29 April 2009.

Icelanders remain especially proud of the role Iceland played in hosting the historic 1986 Reagan–Gorbachev summit
Reykjavik Summit
The Reykjavík Summit was a summit meeting between U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, held in the famous house of Höfði in Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, on October 11–12, 1986...

 in Reykjavík, which set the stage for the end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. Iceland's principal historical international disputes involved disagreements over fishing rights. Conflict with the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 led to a series of so-called Cod Wars in 1952–1956 due to the extension of Iceland's fishing zone from 3 nmi (5.6 km; 3.5 mi), 1958–61 following a further extension to 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi), 1972–73 with another extension to 50 nmi (92.6 km; 57.5 mi); and in 1975–76 another extension to 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi).

Economy



In 2007, Iceland was the seventh most productive country in the world per capita (US$54,858), and the fifth most productive by GDP at purchasing power parity
Purchasing power parity
In economics, purchasing power parity is a condition between countries where an amount of money has the same purchasing power in different countries. The prices of the goods between the countries would only reflect the exchange rates...

 ($40,112). Except for its abundant hydroelectric
Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

 and geothermal power
Geothermal power
Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth's geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet and from radioactive decay of minerals...

, Iceland lacks natural resources; historically its economy depended heavily on fishing, which still provides 40% of export earnings and employs 7% of the work force. The economy is vulnerable to declining fish stocks and drops in world prices for its main material exports: fish and fish products, aluminium
Aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

, and ferrosilicon
Ferrosilicon
Ferrosilicon, or ferrosilicium, is a ferroalloy, an alloy of iron and silicon with between 15% and 90% silicon. It contains a high proportion of iron silicides. Its melting point is about 1200 °C to 1250 °C with a boiling point of 2355 °C...

. Whaling in Iceland
Whaling in Iceland
Whaling in Iceland began with spear-drift whaling which was practiced from as early as the 12th century and continued in a relic form until the late 19th century...

 has been historically significant. Iceland still relies heavily on fishing, but its importance is diminishing from an export share of 90% in the 1960s to 40% in 2006.

While Iceland is a highly developed country, until the 20th century it was among the poorest countries in Western Europe. However, strong economic growth has led Iceland to be ranked first in the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

' Human Development Index
Human Development Index
The Human Development Index is a composite statistic used to rank countries by level of "human development" and separate "very high human development", "high human development", "medium human development", and "low human development" countries...

 report for 2007/2008, and the 14th longest-living nation with a life expectancy at birth
Life expectancy
Life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience...

 of 80.67 years. Many political parties remain opposed to EU membership, primarily due to Icelanders' concern about losing control over their natural resources.
The national currency of Iceland is the Icelandic króna
Icelandic króna
The króna is the currency of Iceland. The króna is technically subdivided into 100 aurar , but in practice this subdivision is no longer used....

 (ISK). A poll, released on 5 March 2010, by Capacent Gallup showed that 31% of respondents were in favour of adopting the euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

 and 69% opposed. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, including software production, biotechnology
Biotechnology
Biotechnology is a field of applied biology that involves the use of living organisms and bioprocesses in engineering, technology, medicine and other fields requiring bioproducts. Biotechnology also utilizes these products for manufacturing purpose...

, and financial services. Despite the decision to resume commercial whale hunting in 2006, the tourism sector is expanding, with the recent trends in ecotourism
Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

 and whale-watching. Iceland's agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 industry consists mainly of potato
Potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

es, green vegetables (in greenhouse
Greenhouse
A greenhouse is a building in which plants are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to very large buildings...

s), mutton and dairy products. The financial centre is Borgartún
Borgartún
Borgartún is a street in Reykjavík, Iceland that has in the recent years become the city's financial district. Although relatively small, Iceland has become a major European financial centre hosting at least 4 large investment banks and numerous smaller banks.3 of these four largest Icelandic...

 in Reykjavík, hosting a large number of companies and three investment banks. Iceland's stock market
Stock market
A stock market or equity market is a public entity for the trading of company stock and derivatives at an agreed price; these are securities listed on a stock exchange as well as those only traded privately.The size of the world stock market was estimated at about $36.6 trillion...

, the Iceland Stock Exchange
Iceland Stock Exchange
NASDAQ OMX Iceland or ICEX was established in 1985 as a joint venture of several banks and brokerage firms on the initiative of the central bank. Trading began in 1986 in Icelandic government bonds, and trading in equities began in 1990. Equities trading increased rapidly thereafter...

 (ISE), was established in 1985.

Iceland ranked 5th in the Index of Economic Freedom
Index of Economic Freedom
The Index of Economic Freedom is a series of 10 economic measurements created by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. Its stated objective is to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world's nations....

 2006 and 14th in 2008. Iceland has a flat tax
Flat tax
A flat tax is a tax system with a constant marginal tax rate. Typically the term flat tax is applied in the context of an individual or corporate income that will be taxed at one marginal rate...

 system. The main personal income tax rate is a flat 22.75% and combined with municipal taxes the total tax rate is not more than 35.72%, and there are many deductions. The corporate tax
Corporate tax
Many countries impose corporate tax or company tax on the income or capital of some types of legal entities. A similar tax may be imposed at state or lower levels. The taxes may also be referred to as income tax or capital tax. Entities treated as partnerships are generally not taxed at the...

 rate is a flat 18%, one of the lowest in the world. Other taxes include a value added tax
Value added tax
A value added tax or value-added tax is a form of consumption tax. From the perspective of the buyer, it is a tax on the purchase price. From that of the seller, it is a tax only on the "value added" to a product, material or service, from an accounting point of view, by this stage of its...

; a net wealth tax
Wealth tax
A wealth tax is generally conceived of as a levy based on the aggregate value of all household holdings actually accumulated as purchasing power stock , including owner-occupied housing; cash, bank deposits, money funds, and savings in insurance and pension plans; investment in real estate and...

 was eliminated in 2006. Employment regulations are relatively flexible. Property rights are strong and Iceland is one of the few countries where they are applied to fishery management
Fisheries management
Fisheries management draws on fisheries science in order to find ways to protect fishery resources so sustainable exploitation is possible. Modern fisheries management is often referred to as a governmental system of appropriate management rules based on defined objectives and a mix of management...

. Taxpayers pay various subsidies to each other, similar to European countries with welfare state
Welfare state
A welfare state is a "concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those...

, but the spending is less than in most European countries.

Despite low tax rates, agricultural assistance is the highest among OECD countries and a potential impediment to structural change. Also, health care
Health care
Health care is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans. Health care is delivered by practitioners in medicine, chiropractic, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, allied health, and other care providers...

 and education spending have relatively poor return by OECD measures. OECD Economic survey of Iceland 2008 highlighted Iceland's challenges in currency and macroeconomic policy. There was a currency crisis
Currency crisis
A currency crisis, which is also called a balance-of-payments crisis, is a sudden devaluation of a currency caused by chronic balance-of-payments deficits which usually ends in a speculative attack in the foreign exchange market. It occurs when the value of a currency changes quickly, undermining...

 that started in the spring of 2008, and on 6 October trading in Iceland's banks was suspended as the government battled to save the economy.

Economic Contraction


Iceland has been hit especially hard by the ongoing late-2000s recession, because of the failure of its banking system and a subsequent economic crisis. Before the crash of the three largest banks in Iceland, Glitnir
Glitnir (bank)
Glitnir was an international Icelandic bank. It was created by the state-directed merger of the country's three privately held banks - Alþýðubanki , Verzlunarbanki and Iðnaðarbanki - and one failing publicly held bank - Útvegsbanki - to form Íslandsbanki in 1990...

, Landsbanki
Landsbanki
Landsbanki, also commonly known as Landsbankinn in Iceland, is a private Icelandic bank with international operations...

 and Kaupthing, their combined debt exceeded approximately six times the nation's gross domestic product of €14 billion ($19 billion). In October 2008, the Icelandic parliament passed emergency legislation to minimise the impact of the financial crisis. The Financial Supervisory Authority of Iceland used permission granted by the emergency legislation to take over the domestic operations of the three largest banks. Icelandic officials, including central bank governor Davíð Oddsson
Davíð Oddsson
Davíð Oddsson is an Icelandic politician and the longest-serving Prime Minister of Iceland, holding office from 1991 to 2004. He also served as Foreign Minister from 2004 to 2005. Previously, he was Mayor of Reykjavík from 1982 to 1991, and he chaired the board of governors of the Central Bank of...

, stated that the state did not intend to take over any of the banks' foreign debts or assets. Instead, new banks were established around the domestic operations of the banks, and the old banks will be run into bankruptcy.

On 28 October 2008, the Icelandic government raised interest rates to 18%, (as of August 2010, it was 7%) a move which was forced in part by the terms of acquiring a loan from the IMF. After the rate hike, trading on the Icelandic króna finally resumed on the open market, with valuation at around 250 ISK per Euro, less than one-third the value of the 1:70 exchange rate during most of 2008, and a significant drop from the 1:150 exchange ratio of the week before. Iceland has appealed to Nordic countries for an additional €4 billion in aid to avert the continuing crisis.

On 26 January 2009, the coalition government collapsed due to the public dissent over the handling of the financial crisis. A new left-wing government was formed a week later and immediately set about removing Central Bank governor Davíð Oddsson and his aides from the bank through changes in law. Oddsson was removed on 26 February 2009.

Thousands of Icelanders
Icelanders
Icelanders are a Scandinavian ethnic group and a nation, native to Iceland.On 17 June 1944, when an Icelandic republic was founded the Icelanders became independent from the Danish monarchy. The language spoken is Icelandic, a North Germanic language, and Lutheranism is the predominant religion...

 have moved from the country after the collapse, and many of those moved to Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. In 2005, 293 people moved from Iceland to Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

; in 2009, the figure was 1,625. In April 2010, the Icelandic Parliament‘s Special Investigation Commission published the findings of its investigation, revealing the extent of control fraud in this crisis.

Transport



Iceland has a high level of car ownership per capita; with a car for every 1.5 inhabitants, it is the main form of transport. Iceland has 13034 km (8,099 mi) of administered roads, of which 4617 km (2,869 mi) are paved and 8338 km (5,181 mi) are not. A great number of roads remain unpaved to this day, mostly little used rural roads. The road speed limits are 50 km/h (31 mph) in towns, 80 km/h (50 mph) on gravel country roads and 90 km/h (56 mph) is the limit on hard-surfaced roads. Iceland currently has no railways.

Route 1
Route 1 (Iceland)
Route 1 or the Ring Road is a main road in Iceland that runs around the island and connects all habitable parts of the country . The total length of the road is ....

, or the Ring Road (Icelandic: Þjóðvegur 1 or Hringvegur), was completed in 1974, and is a main road that runs around Iceland and connects all the inhabited parts of the island, with the interior of the island being uninhabited. This paved road is 1337 km (831 mi) long with one lane in each direction, except near larger towns and cities and in the Hvalfjörður Tunnel
Hvalfjörður Tunnel
Hvalfjörður Tunnel is a road tunnel under the Hvalfjörður fjord in Iceland and a part of the Route 1 . It is 5,762m long and reaches depth of 165m below sea level. Opened on 11 July 1998, it shortens the distance from Reykjavík to the western and northern parts of the island by 45 km...

 where it has more lanes. Many bridges on it, especially in the north and east, are single lane and made of timber and/or steel.

The main hub for international transport is Keflavík International Airport
Keflavík International Airport
-Cargo airlines:-Ground transport:Transport between the airport and Reykjavik city is by road only. The distance is 50 km. A new fast freeway was opened 2008. The buses have a timetable adapted to the flight schedule. They go to and from the Reykjavik bus terminal, taking around 45 minutes...

, which serves Reykjavík and the country in general. It is 48 km (30 mi) to the west of Reykjavík. Domestic flights, flights to Greenland and the Faroe Islands and business flights operate mostly out of Reykjavík Airport
Reykjavík Airport
Reykjavík Airport Reykjavík Airport Reykjavík Airport (Icelandic: Reykjavíkurflugvöllur, is the chiefly domestic airport serving Reykjavík, Iceland. The airport lies two kilometres from Reykjavík's city centre. Possessing rather short runways, it normally only serves flights within Iceland and to...

, which lies in the city centre. Most general aviation traffic is also in Reykjavík. There are 103 registered airports and airfields in Iceland; most of them are unpaved and located in rural areas. The biggest airport in Iceland is Keflavík International Airport and the biggest airfield is Geitamelur, a four-runway field around 100 km (62 mi) east of Reykjavík, dedicated exclusively to gliding.

Energy



Renewable sources
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

geothermal
Geothermal power
Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth's geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet and from radioactive decay of minerals...

 and hydropower
Hydropower
Hydropower, hydraulic power, hydrokinetic power or water power is power that is derived from the force or energy of falling water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes. Since ancient times, hydropower has been used for irrigation and the operation of various mechanical devices, such as...

—provide effectively all of Iceland's electricity and around 80% of the nation's total energy, with most of the remainder from imported oil used in transportation and in the fishing fleet. Iceland expects to be energy-independent by 2050. Iceland's largest geothermal power plants are Hellisheiði
Hellisheiði Power Station
The Hellisheiði Power Station is the second largest geothermal power station in the world, and the largest in Iceland. The facility is located in Hengill, southwest Iceland, from the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station. As of October 2011, the plant produces of electricity and 133 MW of hot...

 and Nesjavellir, while Kárahnjúkavirkjun
Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Project
Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant is a hydroelectric power plant in eastern Iceland designed to produce 4,600 GWh annually for Alcoa's Fjardaál aluminum smelter to the east in Reyðarfjörður. The project, named after nearby Mount Kárahnjúkur, involves damming the Jökulsá á Dal River and the Jökulsá...

 is the country's largest hydroelectric power station.

Icelanders emit 6.29 tonnes of CO2 in 2009 equivalent of greenhouse gases per capita. Iceland is one of the few countries that have filling stations dispensing hydrogen fuel for cars powered by fuel cell
Fuel cell
A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. Hydrogen is the most common fuel, but hydrocarbons such as natural gas and alcohols like methanol are sometimes used...

s. It is also one of a few countries currently capable of producing hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 in adequate quantities at a reasonable cost, because of Iceland's plentiful renewable sources of energy.

On January 22, 2009, Iceland announced its first round of offshore
Oil platform
An oil platform, also referred to as an offshore platform or, somewhat incorrectly, oil rig, is a lаrge structure with facilities to drill wells, to extract and process oil and natural gas, and to temporarily store product until it can be brought to shore for refining and marketing...

 licences for companies wanting to conduct hydrocarbon exploration and production in a region northeast of Iceland, known as the Dreki area.

Education and science



The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture
Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (Iceland)
The Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture is a cabinet-level ministry divided into three departments: the Department of Education, the Department of Science and the Department of Cultural Affairs. Since 1 February 2009, the minister is Katrín Jakobsdóttir of the Left-Green Movement....

 is responsible for the policies and methods that schools must use, and they issue the National Curriculum Guidelines. However, the playschools and the primary and lower secondary schools are funded and administered by the municipalities.

Nursery school
Nursery school
A nursery school is a school for children between the ages of one and five years, staffed by suitably qualified and other professionals who encourage and supervise educational play rather than simply providing childcare...

, or leikskóli, is non-compulsory education for children younger than six years, and is the first step in the education system. The current legislation concerning playschools was passed in 1994. They are also responsible for ensuring that the curriculum is suitable so as to make the transition into compulsory education as easy as possible.

Compulsory education, or grunnskóli, comprises primary and lower secondary education, which often is conducted at the same institution. Education is mandatory by law for children aged from 6 to 16 years. The school year lasts nine months, beginning between 21 August and 1 September, ending between 31 May and 10 June. The minimum number of school days was once 170, but after a new teachers' wage contract, it increased to 180. Lessons take place five days a week. All public schools have mandatory education in Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 although exemption may be considered by the Minister of Education. The Programme for International Student Assessment
Programme for International Student Assessment
The Programme for International Student Assessment is a worldwide evaluation in OECD member countries of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance, performed first in 2000 and repeated every three years...

, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks the Icelandic secondary education as the 27th in the world, significantly below the OECD average.

Upper secondary education, or framhaldsskóli, follows lower secondary education. These schools are also known as gymnasia
Gymnasium (school)
A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...

 in English. It is not compulsory, but everyone who has had a compulsory education has the right to upper secondary education. This stage of education is governed by the Upper Secondary School Act of 1996. All schools in Iceland are mixed sex schools. The largest seat of higher education is the University of Iceland
University of Iceland
The University of Iceland is a public research university in Reykjavík, Iceland, and the country's oldest and largest institution of higher education. Founded in 1911, it has grown steadily from a small civil servants' school to a modern comprehensive university, providing instruction for about...

, which has its main campus in central Reykjavík. Other schools offering university-level instruction include Reykjavík University
Reykjavík University
Reykjavík University is a private university in Reykjavík, Iceland, and is chartered by the Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Icelandic Industries, and the Confederation of Icelandic Employers....

, University of Akureyri
University of Akureyri
The University of Akureyri is a young institution, founded on September 5, 1987 in the city of Akureyri in the north part of Iceland. It has grown since then, especially in the last few years as more facilities have been established...

 and Bifröst University.

Demographics



The original population of Iceland was of Nordic and Gaelic origin. This is evident from literary evidence dating from the settlement period as well as from later scientific studies such as blood type
Blood type
A blood type is a classification of blood based on the presence or absence of inherited antigenic substances on the surface of red blood cells . These antigens may be proteins, carbohydrates, glycoproteins, or glycolipids, depending on the blood group system...

 and genetic analyses. One such genetics study has indicated that the majority of the male settlers were of Nordic origin while the majority of the women were of Gaelic
Gaels
The Gaels or Goidels are speakers of one of the Goidelic Celtic languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx. Goidelic speech originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to western and northern Scotland and the Isle of Man....

 origin.

Iceland has extensive genealogical records dating back to the late 17th century and fragmentary records extending back to the Age of Settlement
Settlement of Iceland
The settlement of Iceland is generally believed to have begun in the second half of the 9th century, when Norse settlers migrated across the North Atlantic. The reasons for the migration may be traced to a shortage of arable land in Scandinavia, and civil strife brought about by the ambitions of...

. The biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics
Decode Genetics
deCODE genetics, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company based in Reykjavík, Iceland. The company was founded in 1996 to identify human genes associated with common diseases using population studies, and apply the knowledge gained to guide the development of candidate drugs...

 has funded the creation of a genealogy
Genealogy
Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral traditions, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members...

 database which attempts to cover all of Iceland's known inhabitants. It sees the database, called Íslendingabók, as a valuable tool for conducting research on genetic diseases, given the relative isolation of Iceland's population.

The population of the island is believed to have varied from 40,000–60,000 in the period from initial settlement until the mid-19th century. During that time, cold winters, ashfall from volcanic eruptions, and bubonic plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

s adversely affected the population several times. According to Bryson
Reid Bryson
Reid Bryson was an American atmospheric scientist, geologist and meteorologist. He was a professor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He completed a B.A. in geology at Denison University in 1941 and a Ph.D. in meteorology from University of Chicago in 1948...

 (1974), there were 37 famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

 years in Iceland between 1500 and 1804. The first census was carried out in 1703 and revealed that the population was then 50,358. After the destructive volcanic eruptions of the Laki volcano during 1783–84 the population reached a low of about 40,000. Improving living conditions have triggered a rapid increase in population since the mid-19th century—from about 60,000 in 1850 to 320,000 in 2008.
In December 2007, 33,678 people (13.5% of the total population) living in Iceland had been born abroad, including children of Icelandic parents living abroad. 19,000 people (6% of the population) held foreign citizenship. Polish people make up the far largest minority nationality (see table on the right for more details), and still form the bulk of the foreign workforce. About 8,000 Poles now live in Iceland, 1,500 of them in Reyðarfjörður
Reyðarfjörður
Reyðarfjörður is a town in Iceland. It has a population of 1,102 and is one of the most populated villages that constitute the municipality of Fjarðabyggð.-History:...

 where they make up 75% of the workforce who are building the Fjarðarál aluminium plant. The recent surge in immigration has been credited to a labour shortage because of the booming economy at the time, while restrictions on the movement of people from the Eastern European countries that joined the EU / European Economic Area in 2004 have been lifted. Large-scale construction projects in the east of Iceland (see Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Project
Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Project
Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant is a hydroelectric power plant in eastern Iceland designed to produce 4,600 GWh annually for Alcoa's Fjardaál aluminum smelter to the east in Reyðarfjörður. The project, named after nearby Mount Kárahnjúkur, involves damming the Jökulsá á Dal River and the Jökulsá...

) have also brought in many people whose stay is expected to be temporary. Many Polish immigrants were also considering leaving in 2008 as a result of the Icelandic financial crisis.

The southwest corner of Iceland is the most densely populated region. It is also the location of the capital Reykjavík, the northernmost capital in the world. The largest towns outside the Greater Reykjavík area are Akureyri
Akureyri
Akureyri is a town in northern Iceland. It is Iceland's second largest urban area and fourth largest municipality ....

 and Reykjanesbær
Reykjanesbær
Reykjanesbær is a municipality on the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland.It is made up of the towns Keflavík, Njarðvík, the village of Hafnir and, since 2006, Ásbrú. The municipality was created in 1995 when the inhabitants of the three towns voted to merge them into one...

, although the latter is relatively close to the capital.

Greenland was first settled by some 500 Icelanders under the leadership of Erik the Red
Erik the Red
Erik Thorvaldsson , known as Erik the Red , is remembered in medieval and Icelandic saga sources as having founded the first Nordic settlement in Greenland. The Icelandic tradition indicates that he was born in the Jæren district of Rogaland, Norway, as the son of Thorvald Asvaldsson, he therefore...

 in the late 10th century. The total population reached a high point of perhaps 5,000 and developed independent institutions before disappearing by 1500. From Greenland the Norsemen launched expeditions to settle in Vinland
Vinland
Vinland was the name given to an area of North America by the Norsemen, about the year 1000 CE.There is a consensus among scholars that the Vikings reached North America approximately five centuries prior to the voyages of Christopher Columbus...

, but these attempts to colonise North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 were soon abandoned in the face of hostility from the indigenous peoples. Emigration to the United States and Canada began in the 1870s. Today, Canada has over 88,000 people of Icelandic
Icelandic Canadian
Canada has the largest ethnic Icelandic population outside Iceland, with about 88,875 people of Icelandic descent as of the Canada 2006 Census. Many Icelandic Canadians are descendants of people who fled an eruption of the Icelandic volcano Askja in 1875....

 descent. There are more than 40,000 Americans of Icelandic descent according to the 2000 US census.

Urbanization


Iceland's 10 most populous urban area
Urban area
An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.Urban areas are created and further...

s:

Language


Iceland's official written and spoken language is Icelandic
Icelandic language
Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. Its closest relative is Faroese.Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the...

, a North Germanic language
North Germanic languages
The North Germanic languages or Scandinavian languages, the languages of Scandinavians, make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages, a sub-family of the Indo-European languages, along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Germanic languages...

 descended from Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

. It has changed less from Old Norse than the other Nordic languages, has preserved more verb and noun inflection
Inflection
In grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, grammatical mood, grammatical voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case...

, and has to a considerable extent developed new vocabulary based on native roots rather than borrowings from other languages. It is the only living language to retain the runic letter Þ. The closest living language to Icelandic is Faroese
Faroese language
Faroese , is an Insular Nordic language spoken by 48,000 people in the Faroe Islands and about 25,000 Faroese people in Denmark and elsewhere...

. In education, the use of Icelandic Sign Language
Icelandic Sign Language
The Icelandic sign language is the sign language of the deaf community in Iceland. It is based on the Danish Sign Language; until 1910, deaf Icelandic people were sent to school in Denmark, but the languages have diverged since then...

 for Iceland's deaf community is regulated by the National Curriculum Guide.

English is widely spoken as a secondary language. Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

 is also widely understood and spoken. Studying both languages is a part of the compulsory school curriculum. Other commonly spoken languages are German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

 and Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

. Danish is mostly spoken in a way largely comprehensible to Swedes and Norwegians—it is often referred to as skandinavíska (i. e. Scandinavian) in Iceland.

Rather than using family names, as is the custom in all mainland European nations, the Icelanders use patronymics or matronymics. The patronymic and matronymic follows the person's given name, e.g. Elísabet Jónsdóttir ("Elísabet, Jón's daughter") or Ólafur Katrínarson ("Ólafur, Katrín's son"). Consequently, the Icelandic telephone directory is listed alphabetically by first name rather than by surname.

Religion


Icelanders enjoy freedom of religion under the constitution of Iceland
Constitution of Iceland
The Constitution of Iceland is the supreme law of Iceland. It is composed of 80 articles in seven sections, and within it the leadership arrangement of the country is determined and the human rights of its citizens are preserved. The current constitution was first instituted on June 17, 1944; since...

, though the Church of Iceland
Church of Iceland
The National Church of Iceland, or Þjóðkirkjan, formally called the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, is the state church in Iceland. Like the established churches in the other Nordic countries, the National Church of Iceland professes the Lutheran branch of Christianity. Its head is the...

, a Lutheran
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 body, is the state church
State church
State churches are organizational bodies within a Christian denomination which are given official status or operated by a state.State churches are not necessarily national churches in the ethnic sense of the term, but the two concepts may overlap in the case of a nation state where the state...

. The National Registry keeps account of the religious affiliation of every Icelandic citizen. In 2005, Icelanders were divided into religious groups as follows:
  • 80.7% members of the National Church of Iceland.
  • 6.2% members of unregistered religious organisations or with no specified religious affiliation.
  • 4.9% members of the Free Lutheran Churches of Reykjavík and Hafnarfjörður.
  • 2.8% not members of any religious group.
  • 2.5% members of the Roman Catholic Church, which has a Diocese of Reykjavík
    Diocese of Reykjavík
    The Roman Catholic Diocese of Reykjavík is a diocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church which covers the whole of the country of Iceland, which had 10,207 Catholics on January 1, 2011...

     (see also Bishop of Reykjavík (Catholic)
    Bishop of Reykjavik (Catholic)
    -The Christianization of Iceland:The Norsemen who settled in Iceland from the end of the ninth century were pagans; and it was one of the functions of their chieftains, called goði, to conduct religious services...

    ).

The remaining 2.9% includes around 20–25 other Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 denominations while around 1% belong to non-Christian religious organisations. There are about 100 Jews Living in Iceland, they gather for holidays. The largest non-Christian denomination is Ásatrúarfélagið, a neopagan
Germanic neopaganism
Germanic neopaganism is the contemporary revival of historical Germanic paganism. Precursor movements appeared in the early 20th century in Germany and Austria. A second wave of revival began in the early 1970s...

 group.

Religious attendance is relatively low, as in the other Nordic countries. The above statistics represent administrative membership of religious organisations which does not necessarily closely reflect the belief demographics of the population of Iceland. According to a study published in 2001, 23% of the inhabitants are either atheist or agnostic.

Culture


Icelandic culture has its roots in Norse traditions. Icelandic literature
Icelandic literature
Icelandic literature refers to literature written in Iceland or by Icelandic people. It is best known for the sagas written in medieval times, starting in the 13th century. As Icelandic and Old Norse are almost the same, and because Icelandic works constitute most of Old Norse literature, Old Norse...

 is popular, in particular the sagas
Icelanders' sagas
The Sagas of Icelanders —many of which are also known as family sagas—are prose histories mostly describing events that took place in Iceland in the 10th and early 11th centuries, during the so-called Saga Age. They are the best-known specimens of Icelandic literature.The Icelanders'...

 and edda
Edda
The term Edda applies to the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, both of which were written down in Iceland during the 13th century in Icelandic, although they contain material from earlier traditional sources, reaching into the Viking Age...

s which were written during the High
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

 and Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages
The Late Middle Ages was the period of European history generally comprising the 14th to the 16th century . The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern era ....

. Icelanders place relatively great importance on independence and self-sufficiency; in a European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

 public opinion analysis over 85% of Icelanders found independence to be "very important" contrasted with the EU25 average of 53%, and 47% for the Norwegians, and 49% for the Danes.

Some traditional beliefs remain today; for example, some Icelanders either believe in elves
Huldufólk
Huldufólk are elves in Icelandic folklore. Building projects in Iceland are sometimes altered to prevent damaging the rocks where they are believed to live. According to these Icelandic folk beliefs, one should never throw stones because of the possibility of hitting the huldufólk...

 or are unwilling to rule out their existence.

Iceland is progressive in terms of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgendered (LGBT
LGBT
LGBT is an initialism that collectively refers to "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender" people. In use since the 1990s, the term "LGBT" is an adaptation of the initialism "LGB", which itself started replacing the phrase "gay community" beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s, which many within the...

) matters. In 1996, the Icelandic parliament passed legislation to create registered partnerships for same-sex couples, covering nearly all the rights and benefits of marriage. In 2006, by unanimous vote of the parliament, further legislation was passed, granting same-sex couples the same rights as different-sex couples in adoption, parenting and assisted insemination treatment. On 11 June 2010, the Icelandic parliament amended the marriage law, making it gender neutral and defining marriage as between two individuals, thereby legalising same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

. The law took effect on 27 June 2010. The amendment to the law also means registered partnerships for same-sex couples are now no longer possible, and marriage is their only option—identical to the existing situation for opposite-sex couples.

Literature



Iceland's best-known classical works of literature are the Icelanders' sagas
Icelanders' sagas
The Sagas of Icelanders —many of which are also known as family sagas—are prose histories mostly describing events that took place in Iceland in the 10th and early 11th centuries, during the so-called Saga Age. They are the best-known specimens of Icelandic literature.The Icelanders'...

, prose epics set in Iceland's age of settlement. The most famous of these include Njáls saga, about an epic blood feud, and Grænlendinga saga and Eiríks saga, describing the discovery and settlement of Greenland and Vinland (modern Newfoundland
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. Situated in the country's Atlantic region, it incorporates the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador with a combined area of . As of April 2011, the province's estimated population is 508,400...

). Egils saga
Egils saga
Egils saga is an epic Icelandic saga. The oldest transcript dates back to 1240 AD. The saga is centered on the life of Egill Skallagrímsson, an Icelandic farmer, viking and skald...

, Laxdæla saga, Grettis saga
Grettis saga
Grettis saga is one of the Icelanders' sagas. It details the life of Grettir Ásmundarson, a bellicose Icelandic outlaw.- Overview :...

, Gísla saga
Gísla saga
Gísla saga Súrssonar is one of the Sagas of Icelanders. It tells the story of Gisli, a tragic hero who must kill one of his brothers-in-law to avenge another brother-in-law. Gisli is outlawed and forced to stay on the run for thirteen years before he is finally hunted down and killed...

and Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu are also notable and popular Icelanders' sagas.

A translation of the Bible was published in the 16th century. Important compositions since the 15th to the 19th century include sacred verse, most famously the Passion Hymns
Passion Hymns
The Passíusálmar or Passion Hymns are a collection of 50 poetic texts written by the Icelandic priest and poet, Hallgrímur Pétursson. The texts explore the Passion narrative, as traditionally presented, from the point where Christ enters the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial...

 of Hallgrímur Pétursson
Hallgrímur Pétursson
Hallgrímur Pétursson was one of Iceland's most famous poets and a minister at Hvalneskirkja and Saurbær in Hvalfjörður. The Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík and the Hallgrímskirkja in Saurbær are named after him. He was one of the most influential pastors during the Age of Orthodoxy...

, and rímur
Rímur
In Icelandic literature, a ríma is an epic poem written in any of the so-called rímnahættir . They are rhymed, they alliterate and consist of two to four lines per stanza...

, rhyming epic poems. Originating in the 14th century, rímur were popular into the 19th century, when the development of new literary forms was provoked by the influential, National-Romantic
Romantic nationalism
Romantic nationalism is the form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs...

 writer Jónas Hallgrímsson
Jónas Hallgrímsson
Jónas Hallgrímsson was an Icelandic poet, author and naturalist. He was one of the founders of the Icelandic journal Fjölnir, which was first published in Copenhagen in 1835...

. In recent times, Iceland has produced many great writers, the best-known of which is arguably Halldór Laxness
Halldór Laxness
Halldór Kiljan Laxness was a twentieth-century Icelandic writer. Throughout his career Laxness wrote poetry, newspaper articles, plays, travelogues, short stories, and novels...

 who received the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 in 1955. Steinn Steinarr
Steinn Steinarr
Steinn Steinarr was an Icelandic poet.Many Icelanders regard Steinn Steinarr as their greatest poet, although he remains almost unknown outside of Iceland, due perhaps to a lack of effective translations of his poetry...

 was an influential modernist poet.

Art


The distinctive rendition of the Icelandic landscape by its painters can be linked to nationalism and the movement to home rule and independence, which was very active in this period.

Contemporary Icelandic painting is typically traced to the work of Þórarinn Þorláksson, who, following formal training in art in the 1890s in Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, returned to Iceland to paint and exhibit works from 1900 to his death in 1924, almost exclusively portraying the Icelandic landscape. Several other Icelandic men and women artists studied at Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts at that time, including Ásgrímur Jónsson
Ásgrímur Jónsson
Ásgrímur Jónsson was an Icelandic painter, and one of the first in the country to make art a professional living. He studied at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen between 1900-1903 and traveled widely after graduation....

, who together with Þórarinn created a distinctive portrayal of Iceland's landscape in a romantic naturalistic style. Other landscape artists quickly followed in the footsteps of Þórarinn and Ásgrímur. These included Jóhannes Kjarval
Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval
Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval was an Icelandic painter. He is one of the most famous artists of Iceland.The paintings of Kjarval vary greatly in style. Most of them are rather realistic presentations of the Icelandic landscape whereas others are more influenced by a somewhat mythical style...

 and Júlíana Sveinsdóttir
Júlíana Sveinsdóttir
Júlíana Sveinsdóttir was one of Iceland's first woman painters and textile artists. Taught initially by prominent Icelandic artist Þórarinn B...

. Kjarval in particular is noted for the distinct techniques in the application of paint that he developed in a concerted effort to render the characteristic volcanic rock
Volcanic rock
Volcanic rock is a rock formed from magma erupted from a volcano. In other words, it is an igneous rock of volcanic origin...

 that dominates the Icelandic environment. Einar Hákonarson
Einar Hákonarson
Einar Hákonarson is one of Iceland's best known artists. He is an expressionistic and figurative painter who brought the figure back into Icelandic painting in 1968. He is a pioneer in the Icelandic art scene and art education...

 is an expressionistic and figurative painter who by some is considered to have brought the figure back into Icelandic painting. In the 1980s, many Icelandic artists worked with the subject of the new painting in their work.

In the recent years artistic practice has multiplied, and the Icelandic art scene has become a setting for many large scale projects and exhibitions. The artist run gallery space Kling og Bang, members of which later ran the studio complex and exhibition venue Klink og Bank has been a significant portion of the trend of self-organised spaces, exhibitions and projects. The Living Art Museum, Reykjavík Municipal Art Museum, Reykjavik Art Museum
Reykjavik Art Museum
Reykjavik Art Museum is the largest visual art institution in Iceland. It occupies three locations in Reykjavík; in Harbour House by the old harbour at Kjarvalsstaðir by Klambratún and in Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum in Laugardalur...

 and the National Gallery of Iceland
National Gallery of Iceland
The National Gallery of Iceland is located in Reykjavík, and contains a collection of Icelandic art. The gallery features artwork of famous Icelandic artists and artwork that helps explain the traditional Icelandic culture.- External links :* including...

 are the larger, more established institutions, curating shows and festivals.



Music


Icelandic music is related to Nordic music
Nordic music
Nordic folk music includes a number of traditions in Northern European, especially Scandinavian, countries. The Nordic countries are generally taken to include Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The Nordic Council, an international organization, also includes the autonomous territories...

, and includes vibrant, folk
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

 and pop
Pop music
Pop music is usually understood to be commercially recorded music, often oriented toward a youth market, usually consisting of relatively short, simple songs utilizing technological innovations to produce new variations on existing themes.- Definitions :David Hatch and Stephen Millward define pop...

 traditions, including medieval music group Voces Thules
Voces Thules
Voces Thules is an Icelandic music ensemble formed in 1992.The ensemble consists of five male singers who have studied in Reykjavik, London and Vienna, specializing in Icelandic medieval and contemporary music...

, alternative rock band The Sugarcubes
The Sugarcubes
The Sugarcubes were an Icelandic alternative rock band formed in 1986 and disbanded in 1992. They received critical and popular acclaim internationally.-History:...

, singers Björk
Björk
Björk Guðmundsdóttir , known as Björk , is an Icelandic singer-songwriter. Her eclectic musical style has achieved popular acknowledgement and popularity within many musical genres, such as rock, jazz, electronic dance music, classical and folk...

 and Emilíana Torrini
Emilíana Torrini
Emilíana Torrini Davíðsdóttir is an Icelandic singer, best known for her 2009 single Jungle Drum, 1999 album Love in the Time of Science and for performing "Gollum's Song" for Peter Jackson's film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.-Early life:Torrini grew up in Kópavogur, where, at the age of...

, and post-rock
Post-rock
Post-rock is a subgenre of rock music characterized by the influence and use of instruments commonly associated with rock, but using rhythms and "guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures" not traditionally found in rock...

 band Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós is an Icelandic post-rock band with classicaland minimalist elements. The band is known for its ethereal sound, and frontman Jónsi Birgisson's falsetto vocals and use of bowed guitar. In January 2010, the band announced that they will be on hiatus. Since then, it has since been announced...

. The national anthem
National anthem
A national anthem is a generally patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people.- History :Anthems rose to prominence...

 of Iceland is Lofsöngur
Lofsöngur
"Lofsöngur" , also known as "Ó Guð vors lands" , is the national anthem of Iceland. The lyrics are by Matthías Jochumsson and the music by Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson. The anthem contains three stanzas, but only the first one is commonly sung. The melody is by many considered difficult to sing, and...

, written by Matthías Jochumsson
Matthías Jochumsson
Matthías Jochumsson was an Icelandic poet, playwright, and translator. He is best known for his lyrical poetry and for writing the national anthem of Iceland, Lofsöngur, in 1874. He was born in Skógar into a poor family and traveled to the continent to further his education...

, with music by Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson
Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson
Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson , was an Icelandic composer best known for composing Lofsöngur, the National Anthem of Iceland....

.

Traditional Icelandic music is strongly religious. Hallgrímur Pétursson wrote many Protestant hymns in the 17th century. Icelandic music was modernised in the 19th century, when Magnús Stephensen brought pipe organs, which were followed by harmonium
Harmonium
A harmonium is a free-standing keyboard instrument similar to a reed organ. Sound is produced by air being blown through sets of free reeds, resulting in a sound similar to that of an accordion...

s.

Other vital traditions of Icelandic music are epic alliterative and rhyming ballads called rímur. Rímur are epic tales, usually a cappella
A cappella
A cappella music is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It is the opposite of cantata, which is accompanied singing. A cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato...

, which can be traced back to skald
Skald
The skald was a member of a group of poets, whose courtly poetry is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age, who composed and performed renditions of aspects of what we now characterise as Old Norse poetry .The most prevalent metre of skaldic poetry is...

ic poetry, using complex metaphors and elaborate rhyme schemes. The best known rímur poet of the 19th century was Sigurður Breiðfjörð
Sigurður Breiðfjörð
Sigurður Breiðfjörð was an Icelandic poet. He learned cooperage for four years in Copenhagen and worked as a cooper in Iceland and Greenland. He was a prolific and popular traditional poet, known for his rímur cycles. Núma rímur is his best known work.-References:* Neijmann, Daisy L....

 (1798–1846). A modern revitalisation of the tradition began in 1929 with the formation of the organisation Iðunn.

Icelandic contemporary music consists of a big group of bands, ranging from pop-rock groups such as Bang Gang
Bang Gang
Bang Gang is a melodic pop band from Iceland founded by songwriter/producer Bardi Johannsson . The band was formed in 1996, in Johannsson’s hometown of Reykjavik...

, Quarashi
Quarashi
Quarashi was a rap and hip-hop group from Reykjavík, Iceland. It was composed of Hössi Ólafsson , who was the lead vocalist and frontman of the group, Ómar Swarez , rapper and hype man, and Steini a.k.a. Stoney , also rapper and hype man...

 and Amiina
Amiina
Amiina is an Icelandic band composed of Hildur Ársælsdóttir , Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir , Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir , and Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir . They frequently perform live and in the studio along with Sigur Rós...

 to solo ballad singers like Bubbi Morthens
Bubbi Morthens
Bubbi Morthens , is a singer and songwriter from Iceland. His name of birth is Ásbjörn Kristinsson Morthens, Bubbi being the affectionate form of Ásbjörn.- History :...

, Megas
Megas
Megas , is a rock and roll singer, songwriter and writer who is well-known in his native country of Iceland.-Interest in music:...

 and Björgvin Halldórsson
Björgvin Halldórsson
Björgvin Helgi Halldórsson is an Icelandic pop singer from Hafnarfjörður...

. Independent music is also very strong in Iceland, with bands such as múm
Múm
múm are an experimental Icelandic musical group whose music is characterized by soft vocals, electronic glitch beats and effects, and a variety of traditional and unconventional instruments.- History :...

, Sugarcubes, HAM
HAM (band)
HAM is an Icelandic rock band which was active in the years 1988 to 1994. They are often listed as a heavy metal band but have never categorized themselves as such. They did not attain significant popularity while active, but have gradually come to be acknowledged as an important part of...

, Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós is an Icelandic post-rock band with classicaland minimalist elements. The band is known for its ethereal sound, and frontman Jónsi Birgisson's falsetto vocals and use of bowed guitar. In January 2010, the band announced that they will be on hiatus. Since then, it has since been announced...

 (of which lead singer Jón Þór Birgisson
Jón Þór Birgisson
Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson is the guitarist and vocalist for the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós. He is known for his use of a cello bow on guitar and his falsetto voice. He is also blind in his right eye and is openly gay. His boyfriend Alex Somers has done much of the graphic design for...

 also has prominent success with bands Jónsi and Jónsi & Alex), as well as solo artists Emilíana Torrini
Emilíana Torrini
Emilíana Torrini Davíðsdóttir is an Icelandic singer, best known for her 2009 single Jungle Drum, 1999 album Love in the Time of Science and for performing "Gollum's Song" for Peter Jackson's film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.-Early life:Torrini grew up in Kópavogur, where, at the age of...

 and Mugison
Mugison
Mugison is an Icelandic musician and singer who originally performed as a one-man band using a guitar and computer, but now often performs with a band. He studied in London to become a record producer....

 being fairly well known outside Iceland.

Many Icelandic artists and bands have had great success internationally, most notably Björk and Sigur Rós but also Quarashi, Hera
Hera Hjartardóttir
Hera is a singer-songwriter from Iceland who now lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She divides her time between her home in New Zealand and a regular European touring schedule. In 2002 she was named Best Female Singer at the Icelandic Music Awards.A unique aspect of her performance is her...

, Ampop
Ampop
Ampop is an Icelandic melodic-pop/rock band from Reykjavík, Iceland. The name of the band is actually the name of the first song they ever wrote, and is made from the words ambient and pop, which they thought was the definition of the music they were making at that time.The band was originally a...

, Mínus
Mínus
Mínus is an Icelandic alternative rock/hardcore band from Reykjavík. They are signed to the record label Smekkleysa. Mínus have shared the stage with, among others, Metallica, Foo Fighters, and Queens of the Stone Age...

 and múm
Múm
múm are an experimental Icelandic musical group whose music is characterized by soft vocals, electronic glitch beats and effects, and a variety of traditional and unconventional instruments.- History :...

. The main music festival is arguably Iceland Airwaves
Iceland Airwaves
Iceland Airwaves is an annual music festival held in Reykjavík, Iceland on the third weekend of October. The festival spans five days and its main focus is showcasing new music, both Icelandic and international.-Festival:...

, an annual event on the Icelandic music scene, where Icelandic bands along with foreign ones occupy the clubs of Reykjavík for a week.

Electronic music
Electronic music
Electronic music is music that employs electronic musical instruments and electronic music technology in its production. In general a distinction can be made between sound produced using electromechanical means and that produced using electronic technology. Examples of electromechanical sound...

 has risen highly amongst the Icelanders, with producers like Thor and GusGus
GusGus
GusGus are a band from Reykjavík, Iceland. They were founded in 1995. Their discography consists of eight studio albums and one live record.- History :...

.

Media



Iceland's largest television stations are the state-run Sjónvarpið
Sjónvarpið
RÚV is the television channel of RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, launched in 1966. The channel broadcasts primarily news, sports, cultural programs, children's material, American, British & Nordic films and entertainment programming...

 and the privately owned Stöð 2
Stöð 2
Stöð 2 is an Icelandic television channel, owned and operated by 365. Founded in 1986, It was the first privately owned television station in Iceland following the lifting of the state monopoly on television broadcasting...

, SkjárEinn and ÍNN
ÍNN
ÍNN is a privately owned, Icelandic television station, which launched on October 2, 2007. The channel is controlled by Ingvi Hrafn Jónsson, former news director of the Icelandic governmental TV station RÚV and Stöð 2....

. Smaller stations exist, many of them local. Radio is broadcast throughout the country, including some parts of the interior. The main radio stations are Rás 1
Rás 1
Rás 1 is an Icelandic radio station belonging to and operated by Ríkisútvarpið , Iceland's national broadcasting service. Rás 1 carries primarily news, weather, current affairs coverage, and cultural programming dealing with the arts, history, the Icelandic language, literature, and social and...

, Rás 2
Rás 2
Rás 2 is an Icelandic radio station of RÚV, the National Icelandic Broadcasting Service. Rás 2 broadcasts primarily news, current affairs and pop and rock music programs. The station was launched in 1983. It is the highest rated radio station in Iceland. Rás 2 is broadcasted on frequencies 90.1...

, FM957 and Bylgjan. The daily newspapers are Morgunblaðið
Morgunblaðið
Morgunblaðið is a newspaper published in Iceland, founded by Vilhjálmur Finsen & Olaf Björnsson, brother to the first president. The first issue, only eight pages long, was published on 2 November 1913. Six years later, in 1919, the corporation Árvakur bought out the company...

 and Fréttablaðið
Fréttablaðið
Fréttablaðið is the Icelandic newspaper with the largest circulation. Fréttablaðið is in Icelandic and is distributed free of charge to homes in parts of the country.It is published by the media group 365 prentmiðlar....

. The most popular websites are the news sites Vísir and Mbl.is.

Iceland is home to LazyTown
LazyTown
LazyTown is a children's television program that was produced in Iceland with a cast and crew from Iceland, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was created by Magnús Scheving, a gymnastics champion and CEO of LazyTown Entertainment, who also stars in the show...

(Icelandic: Latibær), a children's television programme created by Magnús Scheving
Magnús Scheving
Magnús Örn Eyjólfsson Scheving was born 10 November 1964 to Þórveig Hjartardóttir and Eyjólfur Magnússon Scheving. He is an Icelandic writer, producer, entrepreneur, and a famous athlete. He is the creator and co-star of the children's television show LazyTown.-Career:In 1992 he became the...

. It has become a very popular programme for children and adults and is shown in over 100 countries, including the UK, the Americas and Sweden. The LazyTown studios are located in Garðabær
Garðabær
Garðabær is a municipality in the Greater Reykjavík area of Iceland.As of January 2011, its population was 10,909....

.

In 1992 the Icelandic film industry achieved its greatest recognition hitherto, when Friðrik Þór Friðriksson
Friðrik Þór Friðriksson
Friðrik Þór Friðriksson , sometimes credited as Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, is an Icelandic film director....

 was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film is one of the Academy Awards of Merit, popularly known as the Oscars, handed out annually by the U.S.-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences...

 for his film, Children of Nature
Children of Nature
Children of Nature is a 1991 Icelandic film directed by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson. A man becomes too old to run his farm and he is made unwelcome in his daughter and son-in-law's urban dwelling. Dumped in a home for the elderly, he meets an old girlfriend from his youth, and they elope to the wilds...

. Actress Guðrún S. Gísladóttir, who is Icelandic, played one of the major roles in fabled Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky was a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, writer, film editor, film theorist, theatre and opera director, widely regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century....

´s 1986 film, The Sacrifice
The Sacrifice
The Sacrifice is a 1986 film, and the final film by Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky, who died shortly after completing it.-Synopsis:...

. Anita Briem
Anita Briem
Anita Briem is an Icelandic actress. She is known for her role as Jane Seymour on The Tudors and her role as Hanna in Journey to the Center of the Earth.-Personal life:...

, known for her performance in Showtime's The Tudors
The Tudors
The Tudors is a Canadian produced historical fiction television series filmed in Ireland, created by Michael Hirst and produced for the American premium cable television channel Showtime...

, is also Icelandic. Briem starred in the 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth
Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008 film)
Journey to the Center of the Earth is an American 2008 3D adventure film starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem...

, which shot scenes in Iceland. The 2002 James Bond
James Bond
James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

 movie, Die Another Day
Die Another Day
Die Another Day is the 20th spy film in the James Bond series, and the fourth and last film to star Pierce Brosnan as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond; it is also the last Bond film of the original timeline with the series being rebooted with Casino Royale...

 is set for a large-part in Iceland.
On 17 June 2010, the parliament passed a resolution proposing the government draft legislation protecting the free speech rights and identity of journalists and whistleblowers
Icelandic Modern Media Initiative
The International Modern Media Institute is an international institution developing havens for freedom of information, speech, and expression. It creates supportive and attractive jurisdiction for the publication of investigative journalism and other threatened online media...

, the strongest journalist protection law in the world.

CCP Games's (developers of EVE Online and Dust 514) headquarters is based in Reykjavik. CCP Games hosts the third most populated MMO in the world which also has the largest total game area for an online game. EVE Online has won multiple game awards and is notorious for its extreme learning curve.

Cuisine


Most of Iceland's cuisine is based on fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

, lamb, and dairy product
Dairy product
Dairy products are generally defined as foods produced from cow's or domestic buffalo's milk. They are usually high-energy-yielding food products. A production plant for such processing is called a dairy or a dairy factory. Raw milk for processing comes mainly from cows, and, to a lesser extent,...

s. Þorramatur
Þorramatur
Þorramatur is a selection of traditional Icelandic food, consisting mainly of meat and fish products cured in a traditional manner, cut into slices or bits and served with rúgbrauð , butter and brennivín...

 is a selection of traditional cuisine consisting of many dishes, and is usually consumed around the month of Þorri, which begins on the first Friday, after 19 January. Traditional dishes also include skyr
Skyr
Skyr is an Icelandic cultured dairy product, similar to strained yogurt. Technically it is a very soft cheese. It is very popular in Icelandic cuisine. Skyr was originally discovered by accident. A group of farmers in Iceland in the early settlement days poured skim milk over barrels of meat to...

, cured ram scrota, cured shark, singed sheep heads, and black pudding. One of the most traditional dishes is hákarl
Hákarl
Hákarl or kæstur hákarl is a food from Iceland. It is a Greenland or basking shark which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months...

, which consists of beheaded, gutted shark which is left buried underground to ferment
Fermentation (food)
Fermentation in food processing typically is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions. Fermentation in simple terms is the chemical conversion of sugars into ethanol...

 for several months.

Sports



Sport is an important part of Icelandic culture. The main traditional sport in Iceland is Glíma
Glima
Glíma is the Icelandic national style of folk wrestling.There are four points that differentiate it from other forms of wrestling:*The opponents must always stand erect.*The opponents step clockwise around each other...

, a form of wrestling
Wrestling
Wrestling is a form of grappling type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position...

 thought to have originated in medieval times.

Popular sports include association football, track and field
Track and field
Track and field is a sport comprising various competitive athletic contests based around the activities of running, jumping and throwing. The name of the sport derives from the venue for the competitions: a stadium which features an oval running track surrounding a grassy area...

, handball
Team handball
Handball is a team sport in which two teams of seven players each pass a ball to throw it into the goal of the other team...

 and basketball
Basketball
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules...

. Handball is often referred to as the national sport, and Iceland's team
Iceland national handball team
The Iceland national handball team is the national handball team of Iceland and is controlled by the Icelandic Handball Association.- World Championships :- European Championships :- Olympic games :- Current squad :...

 is one of the top-ranked teams in the world. Icelandic women do well at football relative to the size of the country, the national team ranked 16th by FIFA
FIFA
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association , commonly known by the acronym FIFA , is the international governing body of :association football, futsal and beach football. Its headquarters are located in Zurich, Switzerland, and its president is Sepp Blatter, who is in his fourth...

. Iceland has excellent conditions for skiing
Skiing
Skiing is a recreational activity using skis as equipment for traveling over snow. Skis are used in conjunction with boots that connect to the ski with use of a binding....

, snowboarding
Snowboarding
Snowboarding is a sport that involves descending a slope that is covered with snow on a snowboard attached to a rider's feet using a special boot set onto mounted binding. The development of snowboarding was inspired by skateboarding, sledding, surfing and skiing. It was developed in the U.S.A...

, ice climbing
Ice climbing
Ice climbing, as the term indicates, is the activity of ascending inclined ice formations. Usually, ice climbing refers to roped and protected climbing of features such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water. For the purposes of...

 and rock climbing
Rock climbing
Rock climbing also lightly called 'The Gravity Game', is a sport in which participants climb up, down or across natural rock formations or artificial rock walls. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a pre-defined route without falling...

 (much of the volcanic rock is, however, too brittle), although mountain climbing and hiking
Hiking
Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. People often hike on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking...

 are preferred by the general public. Iceland is also a world-class destination for alpine ski touring and Telemark skiing
Telemark skiing
Telemark skiing is a form of skiing using the Telemark turn. Unlike alpine skiing equipment, the skis used for telemarking either have a binding that only connects the boot to the ski at the toes, just as in cross-country skiing, or may be released to only connect there.Telemark turns are led with...

 with the Troll Peninsula in Northern Iceland being the center of activity. Iceland also has the most World's Strongest Man
World's Strongest Man
The World's Strongest Man is a well recognised event in strength athletics and has been described by a number of highly respected authorities in the sport as the premier event in strongman. Organized by TWI, an IMG Media company, it is broadcast around the end of December each year...

 competition wins, with eight titles shared evenly between Magnús Ver Magnússon
Magnús Ver Magnússon
Magnús Ver Magnússon is a former powerlifter and strongman competitor from Egilsstaðir, Iceland. Magnus won the title of World's Strongest Man four times ....

 and Jón Páll Sigmarsson
Jón Páll Sigmarsson
Jón Páll Sigmarsson was a strongman, a powerlifter , and a bodybuilder from Iceland who won the World's Strongest Man Competition four times . In 1984 Jón won the Icelandic bodybuilding title in the +90 kg. class...

.

The oldest sport association in Iceland is the Reykjavík Shooting Association, founded in 1867. Rifle shooting became very popular in the 19th century and was heavily encouraged by politicians and others pushing for Icelandic independence. Shooting remains popular and all types of shooting with small arms are practised in the country.

Iceland has also produced many chess masters and hosted the historic World Chess Championship 1972 in Reykjavik during the height of the cold war
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

.

See also


  • List of international rankings
  • New Iceland
    New Iceland
    New Iceland is the name of a region on Lake Winnipeg in the Canadian province Manitoba which was named for settlers from Iceland. It was settled in 1875.- Background :...

     in Manitoba, Canada


External links