Iceland (/ËaÉªslÉnd/; Icelandic: Ãsland [Ëistlant]) is a Nordic island country between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. It has a population of 329,100 and an area of 103,000Â km2 (40,000Â sqÂ mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is ReykjavÃk. ReykjavÃk and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.
According to LandnÃ¡mabÃ³k, the settlement of Iceland began in 874Â CE when the Norwegian chieftain IngÃ³lfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was ruled by Norway and later Denmark. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944.
Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services.
Affected by the ongoing worldwide financial crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed in October 2008, leading to a severe depression, substantial political unrest, the Icesave dispute, and the institution of capital controls. The economy has since made a significant recovery, in large part due to a surge in tourism.
Except for the capital controls, Iceland generally has a free-market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks highly in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index.
Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Germanic and Gaelic (Celtic) settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and medieval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, its lightly armed coast guard being in charge of defence.
Settlement and Commonwealth 874â"1262
According to both LandnÃ¡mabÃ³k and ÃslendingabÃ³k, Celtic monks known as the Papar lived in Iceland before Scandinavian settlers arrived, possibly members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed the ruins of a cabin in Hafnir on the Reykjanes peninsula. Carbon dating indicates that it was abandoned somewhere between 770 and 880.
Swedish Viking explorer GarÃ°ar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland in 870 and establish that it was an island. He stayed over winter and built a house in HÃºsavÃk. GarÃ°ar departed the following summer but one of his men, NÃ¡ttfari, decided to stay behind with two slaves. NÃ¡ttfari settled in what is now known as NÃ¡ttfaravÃk and became the first permanent resident of Iceland.
The Norse chieftain IngÃ³lfr Arnarson built his homestead in present-day ReykjavÃk in the year 874. IngÃ³lfr was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Scandinavians and their thralls, many of whom were Irish or Scottish. By 930, most arable land on the island had been claimed; the Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly, was initiated to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth. Lack of arable land also served impetus to the settlement of Greenland starting in 986. The period of these early settlements coincided with the Medieval Warm Period, when temperatures were similar to those of the early 20th century. At this time about 25% of Iceland was covered with forest compared to 1% in the present day. Christianity was adopted by consensus around 999â"1000, although Norse paganism persisted among some segments of the population for some years afterwards.
The Middle Ages
The Icelandic Commonwealth lasted until the 13th century, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains. The internal struggles and civil strife of the Age of the Sturlungs led to the signing of the Old Covenant in 1262, which ended the Commonwealth and brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to the Kalmar Union in 1415, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united. After the break-up of the union in 1523, it remained a Norwegian dependency, as a part of Denmarkâ"Norway.
In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, deforestation and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society where subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland twice, first in 1402â"04 and again in 1494â"95. The former outbreak killed 50% to 60% of the population, and the latter 30% to 50%.
Reformation and the Early Modern period
Around the middle of the 16th century, as part of the Protestant Reformation, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. JÃ³n Arason, the last Catholic bishop of HÃ³lar, was beheaded in 1550 along with two of his sons. The country subsequently became officially Lutheran and Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland. Natural disasters, including volcanic eruption and disease, contributed to a decreasing population. Pirates from several countries, including the Barbary Coast, raided its coastal settlements and abducted people into slavery. A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population. In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects. In the years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: MÃ³Ã°uharÃ°indin), over half of all livestock died in the country. Around a quarter of the population died in the ensuing famine.
Independence movement 1814â"1918
In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel but Iceland remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to grow colder, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly to the region of Gimli, Manitoba in Canada, which was sometimes referred to as New Iceland. About 15,000 people emigrated, out of a total population of 70,000.
A national consciousness arose in the first half of the 19th century, inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from mainland Europe. An Icelandic independence movement took shape in the 1850s under the leadership of JÃ³n SigurÃ°sson, based on the burgeoning Icelandic nationalism inspired by the FjÃ¶lnismenn and other Danish-educated Icelandic intellectuals. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule. This was expanded in 1904, and Hannes Hafstein served as the first Minister for Iceland in the Danish cabinet.
Kingdom of Iceland 1918â"1944
The Danishâ"Icelandic Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918 and valid for 25Â years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark. The Government of Iceland established an embassy in Copenhagen and requested that Denmark handle Icelandic foreign policy. Danish embassies around the world displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.
During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althing replaced the King with a regent and declared that the Icelandic government should assume the control of foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark. A month later, British armed forces invaded and occupied the country, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation was taken over by the United States so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere, an arrangement reluctantly agreed to by the Icelandic authorities.
Independent republic 1944â"present
On 31 December 1943, the Danishâ"Icelandic Act of Union expired after 25Â years. Beginning on 20 May 1944, Icelanders voted in a four-day plebiscite on whether to terminate the personal union with Denmark, abolish the monarchy, and establish a republic. The vote was 97% to end the union, and 95% in favour of the new republican constitution. Iceland formally became a republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn BjÃ¶rnsson as its first president.
In 1946, the Allied occupation force left Iceland. The nation formally became a member of NATO on 30 March 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots. On 5 May 1951, a defence agreement was signed with the United States. American troops returned to Iceland as the Iceland Defence Force, and remained throughout the Cold War. The US withdrew the last of its forces on 30 September 2006.
Iceland had prospered during the war. The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and the US Marshall Plan programme, through which Icelanders received the most aid per capita of any European country (at USD 209, with the war-ravaged Netherlands a distant second at USD 109).
The 1970s were marked by the Cod WarsÂ â" several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits to 200Â miles offshore. Iceland hosted a summit in ReykjavÃk in 1986 between United States President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, during which they took significant steps toward nuclear disarmament. A few years later, Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as they broke away from the USSR. Throughout the 1990s, the country expanded its international role and developed a foreign policy oriented toward humanitarian and peacekeeping causes. To that end, Iceland provided aid and expertise to various NATO-led interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.
Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994, after which the economy was greatly diversified and liberalised. International economic relations increased further after 2001, when Iceland's newly deregulated banks began to raise massive amounts of external debt, contributing to a 32% increase in Iceland's Gross national income between 2002 and 2007.
Economic boom and crisis
In the years 2003â"2007, following the privatization of the banking sector under the government of DavÃÃ° Oddsson, Iceland moved toward having an economy based on international investment banking and financial services. It was quickly becoming one of the most prosperous countries in the world but was hit hard by a major financial crisis. The crisis resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887, with a net emigration of 5,000 people in 2009. Iceland's economy stabilised under the government of JÃ³hanna SigurÃ°ardÃ³ttir, and grew by 1.6% in 2012. Many Icelanders, however, have remained unhappy with the state of the economy and government austerity policies. The centre-right Independence Party was returned to power in coalition with the Progressive Party in the 2013 elections.
Iceland is located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of GrÃmsey off the main island's northern coast. The country lies between latitudes 63Â° and 67Â° N, and longitudes 25Â° and 13Â° W.
Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons. Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates. The closest body of land is Greenland (290Â km (180Â mi)). The closest bodies of land in Europe are the Faroe Islands (420Â km (260Â mi)); Jan Mayen Island (570Â km (350Â mi)); Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, both about 740Â km (460Â mi); and the Scottish mainland and Orkney, both about 750Â km (470Â mi). The mainland of Norway is about 970Â km (600Â mi) away.
Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island after Great Britain. The main island is 101,826Â km2 (39,315Â sqÂ mi), but the entire country is 103,000Â km2 (39,768.5Â sqÂ mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra. There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated GrÃmsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3% of its surface; only 23% is vegetated. The largest lakes are ÃÃ³risvatn (Reservoir): 83â"88Â km2 (32.0â"34.0Â sqÂ mi) and Ãingvallavatn: 82Â km2 (31.7Â sqÂ mi); other important lakes include LagarfljÃ³t and MÃ½vatn. JÃ¶kulsÃ¡rlÃ³n is the deepest lake, at 248Â m (814Â ft).
Geologically, Iceland is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ridge along which the oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust. This part of the mid-ocean ridge is located above a mantle plume, causing Iceland to be subaerial (above the surface of the sea). The ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and Iceland was created by rifting and accretion through volcanism along the ridge.
Many fjords punctuate Iceland's 4,970-kilometre (3,088-mile) long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand, mountains and lava fields. The major towns are the capital city of ReykjavÃk, along with its outlying towns of KÃ³pavogur, HafnarfjÃ¶rÃ°ur and GarÃ°abÃ¦r, nearby ReykjanesbÃ¦r where the international airport is located, and the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland. The island of GrÃmsey on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland. Iceland has three national parks: VatnajÃ¶kull National Park, SnÃ¦fellsjÃ¶kull National Park, and Ãingvellir National Park. The country is considered a "strong performer" in environmental protection, having been ranked 13th in Yale University's Environmental Performance Index of 2012.
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, EldgjÃ¡, HerÃ°ubreiÃ° and Eldfell. The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783â"1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population. In addition, the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward, and affected climates in other areas.
Iceland has many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5â"10Â minutes. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in 2000. Geysir has since grown quieter and does not erupt often.
With the widespread availability of geothermal power, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity. The island is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types (composite and fissure), many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite. Iceland has hundreds of volcanoes with approx. 30 volcanic systems active.
Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland. Named after Surtr, it rose above the ocean in a series of volcanic eruptions between 8 November 1963 and 5 June 1968. Only scientists researching the growth of new life are allowed to visit the island.
On 21 March 2010, a volcano in EyjafjallajÃ¶kull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes. Additional eruptions on 14 April forced hundreds of people to abandon their homes. The resultant cloud of volcanic ash brought major disruption to air travel across Europe.
Another large eruption occurred on 21 May 2011. This time it was the GrÃmsvÃ¶tn volcano, located under the thick ice of Europe's largest glacier, VatnajÃ¶kull. GrÃmsvÃ¶tn is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes, and this eruption was much more powerful than the 2010 EyjafjallajÃ¶kull activity, with ash and lava 20Â km (12Â mi) hurled into the atmosphere creating a large cloud.
The climate of Iceland's coast is subpolar oceanic. The warm North Atlantic Current ensures generally higher annual temperatures than in most places of similar latitude in the world. Regions in the world with similar climates include the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, and Tierra del Fuego, 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.
The climate varies 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 30.5Â Â°C (86.9Â Â°F) on 22 June 1939 at Teigarhorn on the southeastern coast. The lowest was â'38Â Â°C (â'36.4Â Â°F) on 22 January 1918 at GrÃmsstaÃ°ir and MÃ¶Ã°rudalur in the northeastern hinterland. The temperature records for ReykjavÃk are 26.2Â Â°C (79.2Â Â°F) on 30 July 2008, and â'24.5Â Â°C (â'12.1Â Â°F) on 21 January 1918.
There are around 1,300 known species of insects in Iceland, which is low compared with other countries (over one million species have been described worldwide). The only native land mammal when humans arrived was the Arctic fox, which came to the island at the end of the ice age, walking over the frozen sea. On rare occasions, bats have been carried to the island with the winds, but they are not able to breed there. Polar bears occasionally come over from Greenland, but they are just visitors, and no Icelandic populations exist. There are no native or free-living reptiles or amphibians on the island.
Phytogeographically, Iceland belongs to the Arctic province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. Approximately three quarters of the island is 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 forests over much of Iceland, along with aspens (Populus tremula), rowans (Sorbus aucuparia), common junipers (Juniperus communis) and other smaller trees, mainly willows.
When the island was first settled, it was extensively forested. In the late 12th-century, Ari the Wise, described it in ÃslendingabÃ³k as "forested from mountain to sea shore". Permanent human settlement greatly disturbed the isolated ecosystem of thin, volcanic soils and limited species diversity. The forests were heavily exploited over the centuries for firewood and timber. Deforestation, climatic deterioration during the Little Ice Age and overgrazing by sheep imported by settlers caused a loss of critical topsoil due to erosion. Today, many farms have been abandoned. Three-quarters of Iceland's hundred thousand square kilometres are affected by soil erosion, eighteen thousand square kilometres 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. The tallest tree in Iceland is a sitka spruce planted in 1949 in KirkjubÃ¦jarklaustur; it was measured at 25.2 metres (83Â ft) in 2013.
The animals of Iceland include the Icelandic sheep, cattle, chickens, goats, the sturdy Icelandic horse, and the Icelandic Sheepdog, all descendants of animals imported by Europeans. Wild mammals include the Arctic fox, mink, mice, rats, rabbits and reindeer. Polar bears occasionally visit the island, travelling on icebergs from Greenland. In June 2008, two polar bears arrived in the same month. Marine mammals include the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) and harbor seal (Phoca vitulina). Many species of fish live in the ocean waters surrounding Iceland, and the fishing industry is a major part of Iceland's economy, accounting for approximately half of the country's total exports. Birds, especially seabirds, are an important part of Iceland's animal life. Puffins, skuas, 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.
Iceland has a leftâ"right multi-party system. Following the 2013 parliamentary election, the biggest parties are the centre-right Independence Party (SjÃ¡lfstÃ¦Ã°isflokkurinn) and the centrist Progressive Party (FramsÃ³knarflokkurinn). Other political parties with seats in the Althing are the centre-left Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin), Left-Green Movement (VinstrihreyfinginÂ â" grÃ¦nt framboÃ°), Bright Future (BjÃ¶rt framtÃÃ°), and the Pirate Party of Iceland (PÃratar). Many other parties exist on the municipal level, most of which run only locally in a single municipality.
Iceland was the first country in the world to have a political party formed and led entirely by women. Known as the Women's List or Women's Alliance (Kvennalistinn), it was founded in 1983 to advance the political, economic, and social needs of women. After participating in its first parliamentary elections, the Women's List helped increase the proportion of female parliamentarians by 15%. Although it disbanded in 1999, merging with the Social Democratic Alliance, it left a lasting influence on Iceland's politics: every major party has a 40% quota for women, and in 2009 nearly a third of members of parliament were female, compared to the global average of 16%.
In 2011 Iceland was ranked 2nd in the strength of its democratic institutions and 13th in government transparency. The country has a high level of civic participation, with 81.4% voter turnout during the most recent elections, compared to an OECD average of 72%. However, only 50% of Icelanders say they trust their political institutions, slightly less than the OECD average of 56% (and most probably a consequence of the political scandals in the wake of the Icelandic financial crisis).
Iceland is a representative democracy and a parliamentary republic. The modern parliament, AlÃ¾ingi (English: Althing), was founded in 1845 as an advisory body to the Danish monarch. It was widely seen as a re-establishment of the assembly founded in 930 in the Commonwealth period and suspended in 1799. Consequently, "it is arguably the world's oldest parliamentary democracy." 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 elections for president, the Althing and local municipal councils are all held separately every four years.
The president of Iceland is a largely ceremonial head of state and serves as a diplomat, but can veto laws voted by the parliament and put them to a national referendum. The current president is Ã"lafur Ragnar GrÃmsson. The head of government is the prime minister (currently Sigmundur DavÃÃ° Gunnlaugsson) who, together with the cabinet, is responsible for executive 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 within a reasonable time span does the president exercise this power and appoint the cabinet personally. This has not happened since the republic was founded in 1944, but in 1942 regent Sveinn BjÃ¶rnsson, who had been installed in that position by the Althing in 1941, appointed a non-parliamentary government. The regent had, for all practical purposes, the position of a president, and Sveinn would later become the country's first president in 1944.
The governments of Iceland have always been coalition governments, with two or more parties involved, as no single political party has ever received a majority of seats in the Althing throughout the republican period. 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 VigdÃs FinnbogadÃ³ttir as president, the world's first directly elected female head of state. She retired from office in 1996. In 2009, Iceland became the first country with an openly gay head of government when JÃ³hanna SigurÃ°ardÃ³ttir became prime minister.
Iceland is divided into regions, constituencies 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:
- ReykjavÃk North and ReykjavÃk South (city regions);
- Southwest (four non-contiguous suburban areas around ReykjavÃk);
- Northwest and Northeast (northern half of Iceland, split); and,
- South (southern half of Iceland, excluding ReykjavÃk 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 ReykjavÃk city area. The imbalance between districts has been reduced by the new system, but still exists.
There are 74 municipalities in Iceland which govern local matters like schools, transport and zoning. These are the actual second-level subdivisions of Iceland, as the constituencies have no relevance except in elections and for statistical purposes. ReykjavÃk is by far the most populous municipality, about four times more populous than KÃ³pavogur, the second one.
Iceland, which is a member of the UN, NATO, EFTA and OECD, maintains diplomatic and commercial relations with practically all nations, but its ties with the Nordic countries, Germany, the United States, Canada and the other NATO nations are particularly close. Historically, due to cultural, economic and linguistic similarities, Iceland is a Nordic country, and it participates in intergovernmental cooperation through the Nordic Council.
Iceland is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), which allows the country access to the single market of the European Union (EU). It is not a member of the EU, but in July 2009 the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, voted in favour of application for EU membership and officially applied on 17 July 2009. However, in 2013, opinion polls showed that many Icelanders were now against joining the EU; following recent elections the two parties that formed the island's new government â" the centrist Progressive Party and the right-wing Independence Party â" announced they would hold a referendum on EU membership.
Iceland has no standing army. The U.S. Air Force maintained four to six interceptor aircraft at the KeflavÃk base, until they were withdrawn on 30 September 2006. Since May 2008, NATO nations have periodically deployed fighters to patrol Icelandic airspace under the Icelandic Air Policing mission. Iceland supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq despite much domestic controversy, deploying a Coast Guard 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 and the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Despite the ongoing financial crisis the first new patrol ship in decades was launched on 29 April 2009.
Icelanders remain especially proud of their role in hosting the historic 1986 Reaganâ"Gorbachev summit in ReykjavÃk, which set the stage for the end of the Cold War. Iceland's principal historical international disputes involved disagreements over fishing rights. Conflict with the United Kingdom led to a series of so-called Cod Wars in 1952â"1956 due to the extension of Iceland's fishing zone from 3 to 4Â nmi (5.6 to 7.4Â km; 3.5 to 4.6Â mi), 1958â"61 following a further extension to 12Â nmi (22.2Â km; 13.8Â mi), 1972â"73 with another extension to 50Â nmi (92.6Â km; 57.5Â mi); and in 1975â"76 another extension to 200Â nmi (370.4Â km; 230.2Â mi).
According to the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world, due to its lack of armed forces, low crime rate, and high level of socio-political stability.
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 ($40,112). About 85 percent of total primary energy supply in Iceland is derived from domestically produced renewable energy sources. Utilization of abundant hydroelectric and geothermal power has made Iceland the world's largest electricity producer per capita. As a result of its commitment to renewable energy, the 2014 Global Green Economy Index ranked Iceland among the top 10 greenest economies in the world. Historically, Iceland's 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, and ferrosilicon. Whaling in Iceland 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.
Until the 20th century, Iceland was among the poorest countries in Western Europe. Currently, it remains one of the most developed countries in the world. Strong economic growth had led Iceland to be ranked first in the United Nations' Human Development Index report for 2007/2008, although as of 2011 its HDI rating had fallen to 14th place as a result of the economic crisis. Nevertheless, according to the Economist Intelligence Index of 2011, Iceland has the 2nd highest quality of life in the world. Based on the Gini coefficient, Iceland also has one of the lowest rates of income inequality in the world, and when adjusted for inequality, its HDI ranking climbs to 5th place. Iceland's unemployment rate has declined consistently since the crisis, with 4.8% of the labour force being unemployed as of June 2012, compared to 6% in 2011 and 8.1% in 2010.
Many political parties remain opposed to EU membership, primarily due to Icelanders' concern about losing control over their natural resources (particularly fisheries). The national currency of Iceland is the Icelandic krÃ³na (ISK).
A poll released on 5 March 2010 by Capacent Gallup showed that 31% of respondents were in favour of adopting the euro and 69% opposed. Another Capacent Gallup poll conducted in February 2012 found that 67.4% of Icelanders would reject EU membership in a referendum.
Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, including software production, biotechnology, and finance; industry accounts for around a quarter of economic activity, while services comprise close to 70%. Despite the decision to resume commercial whale hunting in 2006, the tourism sector is expanding, especially in ecotourism and whale-watching. On average, Iceland receives around 1.1Â million visitors annually, which is more than three times the native population. Iceland's agriculture industry, accounting for 5.4% of GDP, consists mainly of potatoes, green vegetables (in greenhouses), mutton and dairy products. The financial centre is BorgartÃºn in ReykjavÃk, which hosts a large number of companies and three investment banks. Iceland's stock market, the Iceland Stock Exchange (ISE), was established in 1985.
Iceland is ranked 27th in the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, lower than in prior years but still among the freest in the world. As of 2012, it ranks 30th in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitive Index, one place higher than in 2011. According to INSEAD's Global Innovation Index, Iceland is the 11th most innovative country in the world. Unlike most Western European countries, Iceland has a flat tax system: the main personal income tax rate is a flat 22.75%, and combined with municipal taxes, the total tax rate equals no more than 35.7%, not including the many deductions that are available. The corporate tax rate is a flat 18%, one of the lowest in the world. There is also a value added tax, whereas a net wealth tax was eliminated in 2006. Employment regulations are relatively flexible and the labour market is one of the freest in the world. Property rights are strong and Iceland is one of the few countries where they are applied to fishery management. Like other welfare states, taxpayers pay various subsidies to each other, but with spending being 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 and education spending have relatively poor returns by OECD measures, though improvements have been made in both areas. The OECD Economic Survey of Iceland 2008 had highlighted Iceland's challenges in currency and macroeconomic policy. There was a currency crisis 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. The latest assessment by the OECD determined that Iceland has made progress in many areas, particularly in creating a sustainable fiscal policy and restoring the health of the financial sector; however, challenges remain in making the fishing industry more efficient and sustainable, as well as in improving monetary policy in order to address inflation. Iceland's public debt remains around 120% as of 2012, the 10th highest in the world by proportion of national GDP.
Iceland had been hit especially hard by the Great Recession that began in December 2007, because of the failure of its banking system and a subsequent economic crisis. Before the crash of the country's three largest banks, Glitnir, Landsbanki and Kaupthing, their combined debt exceeded approximately six times the nation's gross domestic product of â¬14Â billion ($19Â 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 DavÃÃ° Oddsson, 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 International Monetary Fund (IMF). After the rate hike, trading on the Icelandic krÃ³na 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. On 20 November 2008, the Nordic countries agreed to lend Iceland $2.5Â billion.
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 DavÃÃ° Oddsson and his aides from the bank through changes in law. DavÃÃ° was removed on 26 February 2009 in the wake of protests outside the Central Bank.
Thousands of Icelanders have moved from the country after the collapse, and many of those moved to Norway. In 2005, 293 people moved from Iceland to Norway; in 2009, the figure was 1,625. In April 2010, the Icelandic Parliamentâs Special Investigation Commission published the findings of its investigation, revealing the extent of control fraud in this crisis. By June 2012, Landsbanki managed to repay about half of the Icesave debt.
According to Bloomberg, Iceland is on the trajectory of 2% unemployment as a result of crisis-management decisions made back in 2008, including allowing the banks to fail.
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 13,034Â km (8,099Â mi) of administered roads, of which 4,617Â km (2,869Â mi) are paved and 8,338Â km (5,181Â mi) are not. A great number of roads remain unpaved, mostly little-used rural roads. The road speed limits are 50Â km/h (31Â mph) in towns, 80Â km/h (50Â mph) on gravel country roads and 90Â km/h (56Â mph) on hard-surfaced roads. Iceland currently has no railways.
Route 1, or the Ring Road (Icelandic: ÃjÃ³Ã°vegur 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 1,337Â km (831Â mi) long with one lane in each direction, except near larger towns and cities and in the HvalfjÃ¶rÃ°ur Tunnel (also the site of a toll) 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 KeflavÃk International Airport, which serves ReykjavÃk and the country in general. It is 48Â km (30Â mi) to the west of ReykjavÃk. Domestic flights, flights to Greenland and the Faroe Islands, and business flights operate mostly out of ReykjavÃk Airport, which lies in the city centre. Most general aviation traffic is also in ReykjavÃk. 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 KeflavÃk International Airport and the biggest airfield is Geitamelur, a four-runway field around 100Â km (62Â mi) east of ReykjavÃk, dedicated exclusively to gliding. There are a number of international airlines that fly to and from Iceland regularly.
Renewable sourcesâ"geothermal and hydropowerâ"provide effectively all of Iceland's electricity and around 85% of the nation's total primary energy consumption, with most of the remainder consisting of imported oil products used in transportation and in the fishing fleet. Iceland expects to be energy-independent by 2050. Iceland's largest geothermal power plants are HellisheiÃ°i and Nesjavellir, while KÃ¡rahnjÃºkar Hydropower Plant is the country's largest hydroelectric power station. When the KÃ¡rahnjÃºkavirkjun started operating, Iceland became the world's largest electricity producer per capita.
Icelanders emit 6.29Â 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 cells. It is also one of a few countries currently capable of producing hydrogen in adequate quantities at a reasonable cost, because of Iceland's plentiful renewable sources of energy.
On 22 January 2009, Iceland announced its first round of offshore licences for companies wanting to conduct hydrocarbon exploration and production in a region northeast of Iceland, known as the Dreki area. Two exploration licenses have been awarded.
As of 2012, the government of Iceland is in talks with the government of United Kingdom about the possibility of constructing a high-voltage direct-current connector for transmission of electricity between the two countries. Such a cable would give Iceland access to a market where electricity prices have generally been much higher than those in Iceland. Iceland has considerable renewable energy resources, especially geothermal energy and hydropower resources, and most of the potential has not been developed, partly because there is not enough demand for additional electricity generation capacity from the residents and industry of Iceland, but the United Kingdom is interested in importing inexpensive electricity from renewable sources of energy, and this could lead to further development of the energy resources.
Education and science
The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture is responsible for the policies and methods that schools must use, and they issue the National Curriculum Guidelines. However, playschools, primary schools, and lower secondary schools are funded and administered by the municipalities. The government does allow citizens to Home educate their children, however under a very strict set of demands. Students must stick to the government mandated curriculum, and the parent teaching must acquire a government approved teaching certificate.
Nursery school, or leikskÃ³li, 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 grunnskÃ³li, 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 16Â 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, although an exemption may be considered by the Minister of Education.
Upper secondary education, or framhaldsskÃ³li, follows lower secondary education. These schools are also known as gymnasia in English. Though not compulsory, 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, which has its main campus in central ReykjavÃk. Other schools offering university-level instruction include ReykjavÃk University, University of Akureyri, Agricultural University of Iceland and BifrÃ¶st University.
An OECD assessment found 64% of Icelanders aged 25â"64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, which is lower than the OECD average of 73%. Among 25â"34Â year-olds, only 69% have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, significantly lower than the OECD average of 80%. Nevertheless, Iceland's education system is considered to be of excellent quality: the Programme for International Student Assessment currently ranks it as the 16th best performing, above the OECD average. Students were particularly proficient in reading and math.
According to a 2013 Eurostat report by the European Commission, Iceland spends around 3.11% of its GDP on scientific research and development (R&D), over 1 percentage point higher than the EU average of 2.03%, and has set a target of 4% to be reached by 2020. A 2010 UNESCO report found that out of 72 countries that spend the most on R&D (100Â million US dollars or more), Iceland ranked 9th by proportion of GDP, tied with Taiwan, Switzerland, and Germany and ahead of France, the UK, and Canada.
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 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 origin.
Iceland has extensive genealogical records dating back to the late 17th century and fragmentary records extending back to the Age of Settlement. The biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics has funded the creation of a genealogy database which attempts to cover all of Iceland's known inhabitants. It views the database, called ÃslendingabÃ³k, 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 40,000â"60,000 in the period ranging from initial settlement until the mid-19th century. During that time, cold winters, ash fall from volcanic eruptions, and bubonic plagues adversely affected the population several times. There were 37 famine 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 1783â"84, the population reached a low of about 40,000. Improving living conditions have triggered a rapid increase in population since the mid-19th centuryâ"from about 60,000 in 1850 to 320,000 in 2008. Iceland has a relatively young population for a developed country, with one out of five people being 14Â years-old or younger. With a fertility rate of 2.1, Iceland is one of only a few European countries with a birth rate sufficient for long-term population growth (see table on the left).
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. Around 19,000 people (6% of the population) held foreign citizenship. Polish people make up the largest minority group by a considerable margin, and still form the bulk of the foreign workforce. About 8,000 Poles now live in Iceland, 1,500 of them in FjarÃ°abyggÃ° where they make up 75% of the workforce who are constructing the FjarÃ°arÃ¡l aluminium plant. The recent increase in immigration has been credited to a labour shortage due to the booming economy at the time, as well as to the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people from the countries that were a part of the 2004 enlargement of the European Union. Large-scale construction projects in the east of Iceland (see KÃ¡rahnjÃºkar Hydropower Plant) 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 ReykjavÃk, the northernmost national capital in the world. The largest towns outside the Greater ReykjavÃk area are Akureyri and ReykjanesbÃ¦r, although the latter is relatively close to the capital.
Some 500 Icelanders under the leadership of Erik the Red colonised Greenland among the existing paleo-Eskimo inhabitants in the late 10th century. The total population reached a high point of perhaps 5,000 and developed independent institutions before disappearing by 1500. People from Greenland attempted to set up a colony at Vinland in North America, but it was abandoned in the face of hostility from the indigenous residents. Emigration to the United States and Canada began in the 1870s. As of 2006, Canada had over 88,000 people of Icelandic descent, while there are more than 40,000 Americans of Icelandic descent, according to the 2000 US census.
Iceland's 10 most populous urban areas:
Iceland's official written and spoken language is Icelandic, a North Germanic language descended from Old Norse. In grammar and vocabulary, it has changed less from Old Norse than the other Nordic languages; Icelandic has preserved more verb and noun inflection, and has to a considerable extent developed new vocabulary based on native roots rather than borrowings from other languages. The puristic tendency in the development of Icelandic vocabulary is to a large degree a result of conscious language planning, in addition to centuries of isolation. Icelandic is the only living language to retain the use of the runic letter Ã in Latin script. The closest living relative of the Icelandic language is Faroese.
Icelandic Sign Language was officially recognised as a minority language in 2011. In education, its use for Iceland's deaf community is regulated by the National Curriculum Guide.
English and Danish are compulsory subjects in the school curriculum. Both languages are widely understood and spoken. Other commonly spoken languages are Swedish, Norwegian, German and French. Danish is mostly spoken in a way largely comprehensible to Swedes and Norwegiansâ"it is often referred to as skandinavÃska (i. e. Scandinavian) in Iceland.
Rather than using family names, as is the usual custom in most western nations, Icelanders carry patronymic/matronymic surnames, patronyms being far more commonly practiced. Patronymic last names are based on the first name of the father, while matronymic names are based on the first name of the mother. These follow the person's given name, e.g. ElÃsabet JÃ³nsdÃ³ttir ("ElÃsabet, JÃ³n's daughter" (JÃ³n, being the father)) or Ã"lafur KatrÃnarson ("Ã"lafur, KatrÃn's son" (KatrÃn being the mother)). Consequently, Icelanders refer to one another by their given name, and the Icelandic telephone directory is listed alphabetically by first name rather than by surname.
Iceland has a universal health care system that is administered by its Ministry of Welfare (Icelandic: VelferÃ°arrÃ¡Ã°uneytiÃ°) and paid for mostly by taxes (85%) and to a lesser extent by service fees (15%). Unlike most countries, there are no private hospitals, and private insurance is practically nonexistent.
A considerable portion of the government budget is assigned to health care, and Iceland ranks 11th in health care expenditures as a percentage of GDP and 14th in spending per capita. Over all, the countryâs health care system is one of the best performing in the world, ranked 15th by the World Health Organization. According to an OECD report, Iceland devotes far more resources to healthcare than most industrialised nations. As of 2009, Iceland had 3.7 doctors per 1,000 people (compared with an average of 3.1 in OECD countries) and 15.3 nurses per 1,000 people (compared with an OECD average of 8.4).
Icelanders are among the worldâs healthiest people, with 81% reporting to be in good health, according to an OECD survey. Although it is a growing problem, obesity is not as prevalent as in other developed countries, infant mortality is one of the lowest in the world, and the proportion of the population that smokes is lower than the OECD average. The average life expectancy is 81.8 (compared to an OECD average of 79.5), the 4th highest in the world.
Additionally, Iceland has a very low level of pollution, thanks to an overwhelming reliance on cleaner geothermal energy, a low population density, and a high level of environmental consciousness among citizens. According to an OECD assessment, the amount of toxic material in the atmosphere is far lower than any other industrialised country measured.
Icelanders have freedom of religion under the constitution of Iceland, though the Church of Iceland, a Lutheran body, is the state church. The Registers Iceland keeps account of the religious affiliation of every Icelandic citizen. In 2015, Icelanders were divided into religious groups as follows:
- 73.8% members of the Church of Iceland.
- 11.7% members of some other Christian denomination.
- 7.1% other and not specified
- 5.6% unaffiliated
- 1.5% members of non-Christian denomination.
- 0.3% members of the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association
Iceland is a very secular country: as with other Nordic nations, religious attendance is relatively low. The above statistics represent administrative membership of religious organisations, which does not necessarily 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. A Gallup poll conducted in 2012 found that 57% of Icelanders considered themselves "a religious person", 31% consider themselves "a non religious person", while 10% define themselves as "a convinced atheist", placing Iceland among the top 10 atheist populations in the world.
Icelandic culture has its roots in North Germanic traditions. Icelandic literature is popular, in particular the sagas and eddas that were written during the High and Late Middle Ages. Centuries of isolation have helped to insulate the country's Nordic culture from external influence; a prominent example is the preservation of the Icelandic language, which remains the closest to Old Norse of all modern Scandinavian languages.
In contrast to other Nordic countries, Icelanders place relatively great importance on independence and self-sufficiency; in a public opinion analysis conducted by the European Commission, over 85% of Icelanders found independence to be "very important," compared to 47% of Norwegians, 49% of Danes, and an average of 53% for the EU25. Icelanders also have a very strong work ethic, working some of the longest hours of any industrialised nation.
According to a poll conducted by the OECD, 66% of Icelanders were satisfied with their lives, while 70% believed that their lives will be satisfying in the future. Similarly, 83% of people in Iceland reported having more positive experiences in an average day than negative ones, compared to an OECD average of 72%, which makes Iceland one of the happiest countries in the OECD. A more recent 2012 survey found that around three quarters of respondents stated they were satisfied with their lives, compared to a global average of about 53%.
Iceland is liberal with regard to LGBT rights issues. In 1996, the Icelandic parliament passed legislation to create registered partnerships for same-sex couples, conferring nearly all the rights and benefits of marriage. In 2006, parliament voted unanimously to grant same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual 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, making Iceland one of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. 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 optionâ"identical to the existing situation for opposite-sex couples.
Icelanders are known for their deep sense of community: an OECD survey found that 98% believe they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, higher than in any other industrialised country. Similarly, only 6% reported "rarely" or "never" socializing with others. This high level of social cohesion is attributed to the small size and homogeneity of the population, as well as to a long history of harsh survival in an isolated environment, which reinforced the importance of unity and cooperation.
Egalitarianism is highly valued among the people of Iceland, with income inequality being among the lowest in the world. The constitution explicitly prohibits the enactment of noble privileges, titles, and ranks. Everyone is addressed by their first name. As in other Nordic countries, equality between the sexes is very high; Iceland is consistently ranked among the top three countries in the world for women to live in.
Iceland's best-known classical works of literature are the Icelanders' sagas, prose epics set in Iceland's age of settlement. The most famous of these include NjÃ¡ls saga, about an epic blood feud, and GrÃ¦nlendinga saga and EirÃks saga, describing the discovery and settlement of Greenland and Vinland (modern Newfoundland). Egils saga, LaxdÃ¦la saga, Grettis saga, GÃsla saga 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 of HallgrÃmur PÃ©tursson, and rÃmur, rhyming epic poems. Originating in the 14th century, rÃmur were popular into the 19th century, when the development of new literary forms was provoked by the influential, National-Romantic writer JÃ³nas HallgrÃmsson. In recent times, Iceland has produced many great writers, the best-known of whom is arguably HalldÃ³r Laxness, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955 (the only Icelander to win a Nobel Prize thus far). Steinn Steinarr was an influential modernist poet during the early 20th century who remains popular.
Icelanders are avid consumers of literature, with the highest number of bookstores per capita in the world. For its size, Iceland imports and translates more international literature than any other nation. Iceland also has the highest per capita publication of books and magazines, and around 10% of the population will publish a book in their lifetimes.
The distinctive rendition of the Icelandic landscape by its painters can be linked to nationalism and the movement for home rule and independence, which was very active in the mid-19th century.
Contemporary Icelandic painting is typically traced to the work of ÃÃ³rarinn ÃorlÃ¡ksson, who, following formal training in art in the 1890s in Copenhagen, 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 ÃsgrÃmur JÃ³nsson, who together with ÃÃ³rarinn created a distinctive portrayal of Iceland's landscape in a romantic naturalistic style. Other landscape artists quickly followed in the footsteps of ÃÃ³rarinn and ÃsgrÃmur. These included JÃ³hannes Kjarval and JÃºlÃana SveinsdÃ³ttir. 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 that dominates the Icelandic environment. Einar HÃ¡konarson 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 part of the trend of self-organised spaces, exhibitions and projects. The Living Art Museum, ReykjavÃk Municipal Art Museum, ReykjavÃk Art Museum and the National Gallery of Iceland are the larger, more established institutions, curating shows and festivals.
Icelandic music is related to Nordic music, and includes vibrant folk and pop traditions, medieval music group Voces Thules, alternative and indie rock bands The Sugarcubes and Of Monsters and Men, jazz fusion band Mezzoforte, musicians BjÃ¶rk and EmilÃana Torrini, and post-rock band Sigur RÃ³s. The national anthem of Iceland is LofsÃ¶ngur, written by MatthÃas Jochumsson, with music by SveinbjÃ¶rn SveinbjÃ¶rnsson.
Traditional Icelandic music is strongly religious. Hymns, both religious and secular, are a particularly well-developed form of music, due to the scarcity of musical instruments throughout much of Iceland's history. HallgrÃmur PÃ©tursson wrote many Protestant hymns in the 17th century. Icelandic music was modernised in the 19th century, when MagnÃºs Stephensen brought pipe organs, which were followed by harmoniums. Other vital traditions of Icelandic music are epic alliterative and rhyming ballads called rÃmur. RÃmur are epic tales, usually a cappella, which can be traced back to skaldic poetry, using complex metaphors and elaborate rhyme schemes. The best known rÃmur poet of the 19th century was SigurÃ°ur BreiÃ°fjÃ¶rÃ° (1798â"1846). A modern revitalisation of the tradition began in 1929 with the formation of IÃ°unn.
Icelandic contemporary music consists of a big group of bands, ranging from pop-rock groups such as Bang Gang, Quarashi and Amiina to solo ballad singers like Bubbi Morthens, Megas and BjÃ¶rgvin HalldÃ³rsson. Independent music is very strong in Iceland, with bands such as mÃºm, The Sugarcubes, HAM, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur RÃ³s, and Viking metal band SkÃ¡lmÃ¶ld, as well as solo artists EmilÃana Torrini and Mugison.
Some Icelandic jazz musicians and jazz bands have earned a reputation outside Iceland. Perhaps best known is the jazz fusion band Mezzoforte and Los Angeles-based jazz vocalist Anna MjÃ¶ll. Many Icelandic artists and bands have enjoyed international success, most notably BjÃ¶rk and Sigur RÃ³s but also Quarashi, Hera, Ampop, MÃnus and mÃºm. The main music festival is arguably Iceland Airwaves, an annual event on the Icelandic music scene, where Icelandic bands along with foreign ones play in the clubs of ReykjavÃk for a week. Electronic musicians include ones such as Thor and GusGus.
Iceland's largest television stations are the state-run SjÃ³nvarpiÃ° and the privately owned StÃ¶Ã° 2 and SkjÃ¡rEinn. Smaller stations exist, many of them local. Radio is broadcast throughout the country, including some parts of the interior. The main radio stations are RÃ¡s 1, RÃ¡s 2, X-iÃ° 977, Bylgjan and FM957. The daily newspapers are MorgunblaÃ°iÃ° and FrÃ©ttablaÃ°iÃ°. The most popular websites are the news sites VÃsir and Mbl.is.
Iceland is home to LazyTown (Icelandic: LatibÃ¦r), a children's television programme created by MagnÃºs Scheving. 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 GarÃ°abÃ¦r.
In 1992 the Icelandic film industry achieved its greatest recognition hitherto, when FriÃ°rik ÃÃ³r FriÃ°riksson was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for his film, Children of Nature. Actress GuÃ°rÃºn S. GÃsladÃ³ttir, who is Icelandic, played one of the major roles in Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's 1986 film, The Sacrifice. Anita Briem, known for her performance in Showtime's The Tudors, is also Icelandic. Briem starred in the 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth, which shot scenes in Iceland. The 2002 James Bond movie Die Another Day is set for a large-part in Iceland. Christopher Nolan's 2014 film, Interstellar was also filmed in Iceland for some of its scenes.
On 17 June 2010, the parliament passed the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a resolution proposing greater protection of free speech rights and the identity of journalists and whistle-blowers, the strongest journalist protection law in the world. According to a 2011 report by Freedom House, Iceland is one of the highest ranked countries in press freedom.
CCP Games, developers of the critically acclaimed EVE Online and Dust 514, is headquartered in ReykjavÃk. CCP Games hosts the third most populated MMO in the world, which also has the largest total game area for an online game.
Iceland has a highly developed internet culture, with around 95% of the population having internet access, the highest proportion in the world. Iceland ranked 12th in the World Economic Forum's 2009â"2010 Network Readiness Index, which measures a country's ability to competitively exploit communications technology. The United Nations International Telecommunication Union ranks the country 3rd in its development of information and communications technology, having moved up four places between 2008 and 2010. In February 2013 the country (ministry of the interior) was researching possible methods to protect children in regards to Internet pornography, claiming that pornography online is a threat to children as it supports child slavery and abuse. Strong voices within the community expressed concerns with this, stating that it is impossible to block access to child pornography without compromising the freedom of speech.
Much of Iceland's cuisine is based on fish, lamb, and dairy products, with little to no utilization of herbs or spices. Due to the island's climate, fruits and vegetables are not generally a component of traditional dishes, although the use of greenhouses has made them more common in contemporary food. Ãorramatur is a selection of traditional cuisine consisting of many dishes, and is usually consumed around the month of Ãorri, which begins on the first Friday after 19 January. Traditional dishes also include skyr, hÃ¡karl (cured shark), cured ram, singed sheep heads, and black pudding. Puffin is considered a local delicacy that is often prepared through broiling.
Breakfast usually consists of pancakes, cereal, fruit, and coffee, while lunch may take the form of a smÃ¶rgÃ¥sbord. The main meal of the day for most Icelanders is dinner, which usually involves fish or lamb as the main course. Seafood is central to most Icelandic cooking, particularly cod and haddock but also salmon, herring, and halibut. It is often prepared in a wide variety of ways, either smoked, pickled, boiled, or dried. Lamb is by far the most common meat, and it tends to be either smoke-cured (known as hangikjÃ¶t) or salt-preserved (saltkjÃ¶t). Many older dishes make use of every part of the sheep, such as slÃ¡tur, which consists of offal (internal organs and entrails) minced together with blood and served in sheep stomach. Additionally, boiled or mashed potatoes, pickled cabbage, green beans, and rye bread are prevalent side dishes.
Coffee is a popular beverage in Iceland, and is drunk at breakfast, after meals, and with a light snack in mid-afternoon. Coca-Cola is also widely consumed, to the extent that the country is said to have one of the highest per capita consumption rates in the world. Iceland's signature alcoholic beverage is BrennivÃn (literally "burnt (i.e. distilled) wine"), which is similar to Scandinavian akvavit. It is a type of vodka made from distilled potatoes and flavoured with either caraway seeds or angelica. Its potency has earned it the nickname svarti dauÃ°i ("Black Death").
Sport is an important part of Icelandic culture, as the population is generally quite active. The main traditional sport in Iceland is GlÃma, a form of wrestling thought to have originated in medieval times.
Popular sports include association football, track and field, handball and basketball. Handball is often referred to as the national sport, and Iceland's men's national team is ranked among the top 12 in the world. Icelandic women excel at football relative to the size of the country, with the national team ranked 15th by FIFA. In 2014 Iceland men's national basketball team qualified into the EuroBasket 2015 for the first time in the country history.
Iceland has excellent conditions for skiing, fishing, snowboarding, ice climbing and rock climbing, although mountain climbing and hiking are preferred by the general public. Iceland is also a world-class destination for alpine ski touring and Telemark skiing, with the Troll Peninsula in Northern Iceland being the main centre of activity. Although the country's environment is generally ill-suited for golf, there are nevertheless lots of golf courses throughout the island, and Iceland holds the world record for most golf courses per capita with around 5000 individuals per golf course. Iceland regularly hosts an international tournament known as the Arctic Open. Iceland has also won the most competitions for World's Strongest Man, with eight titles shared evenly between MagnÃºs Ver MagnÃºsson and JÃ³n PÃ¡ll Sigmarsson.
Swimming is popular in Iceland. Geothermally heated outdoor pools are widespread, and swimming courses are a mandatory part of the national curriculum. Horseback riding, which was historically the most prevalent form of transportation on the island, remains a common pursuit for many Icelanders.
The oldest sport association in Iceland is the ReykjavÃk Shooting Association, founded in 1867. Rifle shooting became very popular in the 19th century with the encouragement of politicians and nationalists who were pushing for Icelandic independence. To this day, it remains a significant pastime.
Iceland has also produced many chess masters and hosted the historic World Chess Championship 1972 in ReykjavÃk during the height of the Cold War. As of 2008, there have been nine Icelandic chess grandmasters, a considerable number given the small size of the population. Bridge is also popular, with Iceland participating in a number of international tournaments. Iceland won the world bridge championship (the Bermuda Bowl) in Yokohama, Japan, in 1991 and took second place (with Sweden) in Hamilton, Bermuda, in 1950.
- Index of Iceland-related articles
- List of international rankings
- List of island countries
- New Iceland in Manitoba, Canada
- Outline of Iceland
- Wilcox, Jonathan and Latif, Zawiah Abdul (2007). Cultures of the World: Iceland. Marshall Cavendish. ISBNÂ 978-0-7614-2074-3.Â
- Jonsson, Asgeir (2008). Why Iceland? How One of the World's Smallest Countries Became the Meltdown's Biggest Casualty. McGrawâ"Hill Professional. ISBNÂ 978-0-07-163284-3.Â
- Jonsson, Ivar (2012) 'Explaining the Crisis of Iceland â" A Realist Approach' in Journal of Critical Realism, 11,1.
- HeiÃ°arsson, Jakob Oskar (2015) 'Iceland - My Small Island'.
- Gateway to Iceland
- Government Offices of Iceland
- Guide to Iceland
- Icelandic Government Information Center & Icelandic Embassies
- Visit IcelandÂ â" the official Icelandic Tourist Board
- Iceland entry at The World Factbook
- Iceland entry at EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica
- Iceland from UCB Libraries GovPubs
- Iceland at DMOZ
- Iceland from the BBC News
- Wikimedia Atlas of Iceland
- Geographic data related to Iceland at OpenStreetMap
- Incredible Iceland: Fire and IceÂ â" slideshow by Life magazine
- The Norse in the North Atlantic: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Memorial University of Newfoundland.
- A Photographerâs View of Iceland Documentary produced by Prairie Public Television
- vifanordÂ â" a digital library that provides scientific information on the Nordic and Baltic countries as well as the Baltic region as a whole