The Viking period (9th to 11th centuries) was one of national unification and expansion. The Norwegian royal line died out in 1387, and the country entered a period of union with Denmark, since 1450 bound by treaty. This marked the start of what is known in Norway as the "400-year night" — the weaker part in a union with Denmark. After Denmark-Norway sided with Napoleon, Norway was ceded to the king of Sweden in 1814. Norway adopted its own constitution, declared its independence, and elected its own king 17 May1814. After a short war with Sweden, Norway was forced into a personal union, but kept its constitution and independent institutions, except for the foreign service.
Growing Norwegian irritation during the 19th century spawned the dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden in 1905. The Norwegian government offered the throne of Norway to Danish Prince Carl. After a plebiscite approving the establishment of a monarchy, the Parliament unanimously elected him king. He took the name of Haakon VII, after the medieval kings of independent Norway.
Norway was a nonbelligerent during World War I, but was invaded by German forces in 1940 (Operation Weserübung). Resistance in Norway continued for two months, but the king and government continued the fight from exile in Britain. The Germans set up a puppet government under Vidkun Quisling. Parts of Northern Norway were liberated by the Red Army in 1944. The Germans in Norway surrendered 8 May1945. The occupation during World War II made Norwegians generally more skeptical of the concept of neutrality. They turned instead to collective security. Norway was one of the signers of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 and was a founding member of the United Nations. Norway has twice voted against joining the European Union (in 1972 and 1994), but is associated with it via the European Economic Area.
The special High Court of the Realm hears impeachment cases; the regular courts include the Supreme Court or Høyesterett (17 permanent judges and a president), courts of appeal, city and county courts, the labour court, and conciliation councils. Judges attached to regular courts are appointed by the King in council after nomination by the Ministry of Justice.
The landscape is generally rugged and mountainous, topped by glaciers and its coastline of over 20,000 km (10% more than the coastline of the United States) is punctuated by steep-sloped inlets known as fjords, as well as a multitude of islands and islets. It is also known as the Land of the Midnight Sun because of its northern location, as part of Norway lies above the Arctic Circle, where in summer the sun does not set, and in winter many of its valleys remain dark for long periods.
The Norwegian climate is fairly temperate, especially along the coast under the influence of the Gulf Stream. The inland climate can be more severe and to the north more subarctic conditions are found.
The Norwegian economy is a prosperous bastion of welfare capitalism, featuring a combination of free market activity and government intervention. The government controls key areas, such as the vital petroleum sector (through large-scale state enterprises). The country is richly endowed with natural resources - petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals - and is highly dependent on its oil production and international oil prices; in 1999, oil and gas accounted for 35% of exports. Only Saudi Arabia and Russia export more oil than Norway.
Economic growth picked up in 2000 to 2.7%, compared with the meager 0.8% of 1999, but fell back to 1.3% in 2001. The government moved ahead with privatisation in 2000, selling one-third of the then 100% state-owned oil company Statoil.
With arguably the highest quality of life worldwide, Norwegians still worry about that time in the next two decades when the oil and gas begin to run out. Accordingly, Norway has been saving its oil-boosted budget surpluses in a Government Petroleum Fund , which is invested abroad and is (as of 26 November 2003) valued at 114 billion US dollar.
The Norwegian language has two official written forms, called Bokmål and Nynorsk, which do not differ greatly. Bokmål is written by the majority. Several Sami languages are spoken and written in the northern regions by the Sami people. The Germanic Norwegian language and the Finno-UgricSami languages are entirely unrelated.