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Satellite photo of Scandinavia, February 2003

Scandinavia is a group of countries in northern Europe. Scandinavia has Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Some people also think Finland is part of Scandinavia and that Iceland and the Faroe Islands should count.[1] Most of the time, "Scandinavia" is used to mean places where people speak Scandinavian languages, also called North Germanic languages or Nordic. The Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, and Faroese) are very similar to each other, and many Scandinavians understand parts of the other languages because they are alike. Finnish is not part of the North Germanic language group.

What people mean when they say "Scandinavia" depends on what they think is important at the time. When people talk about about maps, natural land formations and how the economy works, they may say Finland is part of Scandinavia but Iceland is not. When people talk about history and what languages people speak, they say Iceland is part of Scandinavia but Finland is not.[1]

The Scandinavian Peninsula is a large peninsula reaching west from northern Europe over the north side of the Baltic Sea. Norway, Sweden and some of Finland are on this peninsula. However, Denmark is considered part of Scandinavia in the ethnic sense more often than Finland is. This is because Danish is a Scandinavian language but Finnish is not.

"Nordic countries" include Norway, Sweden, Denmark (including the Faroe Islands), Finland, and Iceland. These five countries use the Nordic Council to work together on political and cultural activities. Denmark, Sweden, and Finland are also members of the European Union, but only Finland is part of the eurozone, meaning that it uses the Euro as its money. The other Nordic countries still use their own money, called krone or krona (from the word "crowns"). Norway and Iceland, which are not members of the EU, are members of NATO and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Only Denmark, Sweden and Finland are members of both the EU and NATO.

  The most common usage: the three monarchies Denmark, Norway and Sweden
  An extended usage, including Finland, Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands

Geography[change | change source]

Most of the Scandinavian Peninsula has only a few people in it. It has large forests of pine, birch, and spruce trees. The western and northern parts are mountainous. The Scandinavian mountains are some of the oldest in the world. The tallest mountain is Galdhøpiggen in Norway. Denmark (43,098 km2) is the smallest of the Scandinavian countries. It is more densely populated, and most of the land is farmland. Sweden (449,964 km2) is the largest of the Scandinavian countries. It has the most lakes, and the landscape ranges from plains in the south to mountains in the west (along the border with Norway) to tundra in the north. The far north of Scandinavia and Finland is called Lapland, where the Sámi live. Some of them still herd reindeer, but most Sami live in modern houses and have modern jobs, like other Scandinavians.

Vikings[change | change source]

The most famous group of Scandinavians were the Vikings of the Middle Ages. The Vikings attacked and raided but they were also traders, traveling to Ukraine and starting trade routes to the Middle East.

Vikings from Norway were explorers, crossing the North Atlantic in their longships. They came to Iceland and Greenland and built towns and farms there. The Norwegian explorers also came to the east coast of Canada. They built at least one town there, but it did not last into modern times.[2]

The Vikings from Denmark came to England, where they affected the history and politics and the English language. Danish raiders attacked England many times with great violence. Sometimes the Danes would ask that the English pay them to go away. These payments were called "Danegeld" (Danish gold). The priests and bishops of churches on the east coast of England wrote a famous prayer: "deliver us, O Lord, from the wrath of the Norsemen!" "Norsemen" is another way to say "men from the north," or the Danes.[3][4]

Scandinavians in fiction and theater[change | change source]

Much later, in the 19th century (1800s), Richard Wagner and other artists in the Romantic period made operas and other artwork about ancient Germanic culture. They liked the Vikings because they were not Greeks or Romans. They were the first to have the idea of Vikings wearing helmets with wings or horns on them and drinking out of hollowed-out animal horns. Some ancient Germans wore helmets with horns on them, but real Vikings did not. Wagner and his partners dressed the actors in the opera Ring des Nibelungen so they would look like ancient Germans and so the audience would feel like modern Germans came from medieval Vikings.[5][6]

History[change | change source]

During the 10th through 13th centuries, when the Christian religion spread through Scandiavia, modern countries started to form there. They came together into three kingdoms:

  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Norway

These three Scandinavian kingdoms made the Kalmar Union in 1387 under Queen Margaret I of Denmark. In 1523, Sweden left the union. Because of this, civil war started in Denmark and Norway. Then, the Protestant Reformation happened, and Catholic and Protestant Christians fought each other. After things settled, the Norwegian Privy Council was abolished: it assembled for the last time in 1537. Denmark and Norway formed another union in 1536, and it lasted until 1814. It turned into the three modern countries Denmark, Norway and Iceland.

The borders between Denmark, Sweden and Norway came to the shape they have today in the middle of the 17th century. In the 1645 Treaty of Brömsebro, Denmark–Norway gave some land to Sweden: the Norwegian provinces of Jämtland, Härjedalen and Idre & Särna and the Baltic Sea islands of Gotland and Ösel (in Estonia). The 1658 Treaty of Roskilde forced Denmark–Norway to give the Danish provinces Scania, Blekinge, Halland, Bornholm, and the Norwegian provinces of Båhuslen and Trøndelag to Sweden. In 1660, the Treaty of Copenhagen forced Sweden to give Bornholm and Trøndelag back to Denmark–Norway.

Finland used to be part of Sweden in medieval times. During the wars fought by Napoleon, it became part of Russia.

Other websites[change | change source]

Media related to Scandinavia at Wikimedia Commons

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Scandinavia". Britannica. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  2. Craig Cippola (October 18, 2017). "Vikings in Canada". Royal Ontario Museum. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  3. "Danegeld". Oxford English Dictionaries. Archived from the original on November 22, 2021. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  4. "Norse". Oxford English Dictionaries. Archived from the original on October 29, 2020. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  5. Phil Edwards; Christophe Haubersin (April 29, 2016). "Vikings never wore horned helmets. Here's why people thought they did". Vox. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  6. Roberta Frank. "The Invention of the Viking Horned Helmet". Retrieved January 4, 2020.