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10 mai 2011 2 10 /05 /mai /2011 04:57

Iceland officially Republic of Iceland (Lýðveldið Ísland) is a European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km2 (39,769 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Reykjavík, with the surrounding areas in the southwestern region of the country being home to two-thirds of the national population. HP 448007-001 battery

Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterised by sand 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.HP Pavilion DV7 battery

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanentNorwegian settler on the island.Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the following centuries, people of Norse and Gaelicorigin settled in Iceland. HP DV6-1120SA battery

From 1262 to 1918 it was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic populationrelied largely on fisheries and agriculture. In 1994, the nation became party to an agreement that established the European Economic Area, thus allowing it to diversify from fishing to economic and financial services.HP DV6-1210SA battery

Iceland has a free market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries, while maintaining a Nordic welfare system providinguniversal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. In recent years, Iceland has been one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. Compaq CQ50 battery

In 2010, it was ranked as the 17th most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index, and the fourth most productive country per capita.  In 2008, political unrest occured as the nation's banking system systematically failed.

Iceland is a developed and technologically advanced society.HP Pavilion DV8 battery

According to Freedom of the Press, Iceland has the most free press in the world. Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Norse heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse (particularly from Western Norway) and Gaelic settlers.Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is closely related to Faroese and some West Norwegian dialects.Sony VGP-BPS13 battery

The country's cultural heritage includes traditional cuisine, poetry, and the medieval Icelanders' sagas. Currently, Iceland has the smallest population among NATO members and is the only one with no standing army.HP Pavilion TX1000 battery

Settlement and the Commonwealth 874–1262

One theory suggests the first people to have visited Iceland were members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission or hermits, also known as Papar, 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.HP Pavilion DV3500  battery

The first known permanent Norse settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, 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 land had been claimed and the Althing, a legislative and judiciary parliament, was founded as the political hub of the Icelandic Commonwealth.HP HDX X18-1005EA battery

Christianity was adopted circa 999–1000. 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. Compaq PF723A battery

Possession of Iceland passed to Denmark-Norway around 1380, when the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united in the Kalmar Union. In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society whose subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture.HP G6000 battery

The Black Death swept Iceland in 1402–04 and 1494–95, first time killing as high 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 began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. HP Compaq Business Notebook NW9440 battery

The last Catholic bishop in Iceland (before 1968), Jón Arason, 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.Compaq Evo N800W battery

A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around a third of the population. In 1783 the Laki 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 in which around a quarter of the population died. Compaq Evo N620C battery

The Independence Movement 1814–1918

In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of 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, particularlyManitoba in Canada.HP Pavilion DV7 battery

About 15,000 out of a total population of 70,000 left. However, a new national consciousness was revived, inspired by romantic and nationalist ideas from Continental Europe, particularly those of Scottish romantics Alex Cheesebro and Patrick Carrol[22]and an Icelandic independence movement arose under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson. HP Pavilion DV2745SE battery

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

Kingdom of Iceland 1918–1944

The Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918, valid for 25 years, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with the King of Denmark. HP Pavilion DV5-1211EM battery

The Government of Iceland took control of its foreign affairs and established an embassy in Copenhagen. However, it requested that Denmark should handle Icelandic foreign policy toward countries other than Denmark. Danish embassies around the world then displayed two coats of arms and two flags: those of the Kingdom of Denmark and those of the Kingdom of Iceland.HP Compaq 490306-001 battery

During World War II, Iceland joined Denmark in asserting neutrality. After the German occupation of Denmark on 9 April 1940, the Althingi declared that the Icelandic Government should assume the Danish king's duties and take over foreign affairs and other matters previously handled by Denmark.HP 520 battery

A month later, British Armed Forcesoccupied Iceland, violating Icelandic neutrality. In 1941, the occupation of Iceland was taken over by the United States so that Britain could use its troops elsewhere.

On 31 December 1943, the Act of Union Agreement expired after 25 years. HP TouchSmart TX2-1150EG battery

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 as the first President.HP Compaq 491278-001 battery

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. On 5 May 1951, a defense agreement was signed with the United States. Compaq Presario CQ70 battery

American troops returned to Iceland, as the Iceland Defense Force, and remained throughout the Cold War, finally leaving on 30 September 2006.

The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialization of the fishing industry and the Marshall aidprogramme. HP Pavilion DV6000 battery

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 liberalized when Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994.Compaq Presario CQ71 battery

During the period 2003–07, 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, which extended into 2009. The crisis has resulted in the greatest migration from Iceland since 1887.HP Pavilion DV7-1290EO battery

Geography

Iceland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, mostly south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small island of Grímsey off Iceland's northern coast. Iceland lies between latitudes 63° and 67° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.Compaq Presario CQ50-105EL battery

Though Iceland is nearer to Greenland (North America) 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 (420 km (261 mi)). HP Compaq 572190-001 battery

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 101,826 km2(39,315 sq mi) but the entire country is 103,000 km2 (39,768.5 sq mi) in size, of which 62.7% is tundra.HP Pavilion DV6373EA battery

There are thirty minor islands in Iceland, including the lightly populated island of Grímsey and the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Lakes and glaciers cover 14.3%; only 23% is vegetated. The largest lakes are Þórisvatn(Reservoir): 83–88 km2 (32.0–34.0 sq mi) and Þingvallavatn: 82 km2 (31.7 sq mi); other important lakes include Lögurinn and Mývatn. HP Pavilion DV2820EA battery

Jökulsárlón 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 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. HP Compaq Business Notebook 6735S battery

Iceland marks the boundary between both the Eurasian Plate and theNorth American Plate since it has been created by rifting, and accretion through volcanism, along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge—where the two plates meet.

Many fjords punctuate its 4,970 km-long coastline, which is also where most settlements are situated. Compaq Presario 300 battery

The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, 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, Hafnarfjörður and Garðabær, Reykjanesbær, where the international airport is located, andAkureyri, in northern Iceland.HP Pavilion DV7-2085EL battery

The island of Grímsey just south of the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland.Iceland has three national parks: Vatnajökull National Park,Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Þingvellir National Park.

Geology

A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it.HP Compaq Business Notebook TC4400 battery

This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, notably Hekla, Eldgjá, Herðubreið and Eldfell. Volcanic eruptions are experienced somewhere in Iceland on an average of once every five years. The volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 caused a famine that killed nearly a quarter of the island's population;HP Pavilion ZD8227 battery

the eruption caused dust clouds and haze to appear over most of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa for several months afterward.

There are also many geysers in Iceland, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, as well as the famousStrokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes. HP Compaq HSTNN-LB51 battery

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, and the harnessing of many rivers and waterfalls for hydroelectricity, most residents have inexpensive hot water and home heat. HP Compaq 491278-001 battery

The island itself is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silicalava associated with effusive volcanism as has occurred also in Hawaii. Iceland, however, has a variety of volcanic types , many producing more evolved lavas such as rhyolite and andesite.

Surtsey, one of the youngest islands in the world, is part of Iceland.HP DV9700 battery

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 Eyjafjallajökull in the south of Iceland erupted for the first time since 1821, forcing 600 people to flee their homes.Compaq CQ35-100 battery

Further 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.

Climate

The climate of Iceland's coast is subpolar oceanic. Sony VGP-BPS11 battery

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 climate include theAleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, and Tierra del Fuego, although these regions are closer to the equator. HP Pavilion DV6-1223EO Battery

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. Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/L Battery

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.Sony VGN-CR11M Battery

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 (?36.4 °F) 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 (?12.1 °F) on 21 January 1918.Sony VGN-NR11Z Battery

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, which came to the island at the end of the ice age, walking over the frozen sea. Sony VGN-NR11S Battery

On rare occasions, bats who 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 exists.There are no native or free living reptiles or amphibians on the island.Sony VGN-NR110E Battery

Phytogeographically, Iceland belongs to the Arctic province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the territory of Iceland belongs to the ecoregion of Iceland boreal birch forests and alpine tundra.Sony VGN-NR110E/T Battery

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), Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and Common Juniper (Juniperus communis) and other smaller trees.Sony VGN-NR110E/S Battery

When the island was first settled, it was extensively forested. In the late twelfth-century Íslendingabók, Ari the Wisedescribed it as "forested from mountain to sea shore". Permanent human settlement greatly disturbed the isolated ecosystem of thin, volcanic soils and limited species diversity. Sony VGN-NR110E/W Battery

The forests were heavily exploited over the centuries for firewood and timber.Deforestation, climatic deterioration during the Little Ice Age and overgrazing by sheep, caused a loss of critical topsoil due to erosion. Today, many farms have been abandoned and three-quarters of Iceland's forty thousand square miles are affected by soil erosion, seven thousand square miles so seriously as to be useless.Sony VGN-CR11SR Battery

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 new foreign species.

The animals of Iceland include the Icelandic sheep, cattle, chicken, goat, the sturdy Icelandic horse, and the Icelandic sheepdog.Sony VGN-CR11Z Battery

Many varieties of fish live in the ocean waters surrounding Iceland, and the fishing industry 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, mink, mice, rats, rabbits and reindeer.Polar bears occasionally visit the island, travelling on icebergs from Greenland.Sony VGN-CR11S Battery

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, skuas, and kittiwakes nest on its sea cliffs.

Commercial whaling is practised intermittently along with scientific whale hunts.Sony VGN-CR11M Battery

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 the Japanese market could absorb. In negotiations with Marc Wall, Economic Minister-Counselor at the US embassy in Tokyo, Sony VGN-CR11E Battery

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 multi-party system. Sony VGN-CR21E Battery

The biggest parties are the Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin), the centre-right Independence Party (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) and the Left-Green Movement (Vinstrihreyfingin – grænt framboð). Other political parties with seats in the Althing are the centrist Progressive Party (Framsóknarflokkurinn) and The Movement (Hreyfingin).Sony VGN-CR21S Battery

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

Government

Iceland is a representative democracy and a parliamentary republic. The modern parliament, Alþingi (English: Althing), was founded in 1845 as an advisory body to the Danish monarch. Sony VGN-CR21Z Battery

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.Sony VGN-CR21SR Battery

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 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. Sony VGN-CR31SR Battery

The current president is Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. The head of government is the prime minister (currently Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir) who, together with the cabinet, is responsible for executive government. The cabinet is appointed by the president after a general election to the Althing;Sony VGN-CR31S Battery

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. Sony VGN-CR31E Battery

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 who had been installed in that position by the Althing in 1941) did appoint a non-parliamentary government.Sony VGN-CR31Z Battery

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. Sony VGN-CR41Z Battery

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 as president, the country's first directly elected female head of state. Sony VGN-CR41S Battery

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. Sony VGN-CR41E Battery

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 and Reykjavík South (city regions);Sony VGN-CR41SR Battery
  • Southwest (four geographically separate suburban areas around Reykjavík);
  • Northwest and Northeast (north half of Iceland, split); and,
  • South (south half of Iceland, excluding Reykjavík and suburbs).Sony VGN-CR42ZR Battery

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.Sony VGN-CR42Z Battery

Iceland's 23 counties are, for the most part, historical divisions. Currently, Iceland is split up among 26 magistrates (sýslumenn, singular sýslumaður) who represent government in various capacities. Among their duties are tax collection, administering bankruptcy declarations, and performing civil marriages.Sony VGN-CR42S Battery

After a police 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. Sony VGN-CR42E Battery

These are the actual second-level subdivisions 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, the second one. Sony Vaio VGN-CR11S/L Battery

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, and it participates in intergovernmental co-operation through the Nordic Council.Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/P Battery

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 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.Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/R Battery

EU officials mentioned 2011 or 2012 as possible accession dates. Iceland is also a member of the UN, NATO, EFTA and OECD.

Military

Iceland has no standing army. The U.S. Air Force maintained four to six interceptors at the Keflavík base, until 30 September 2006 when they were withdrawn. Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/W Battery

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 controversy in Iceland, deploying a Coast Guard EOD team to Iraq which was replaced later by members of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E/L Battery

Iceland has also participated in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia. Despite the ongoing financial crisis the first new patrol ship for decades was launched on 29 April 2009.

Icelanders remain especially proud of the role Iceland played in hosting the historic 1986 Reagan–Gorbachev summit in Reykjavík, which set the stage for the end of the Cold War. Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E/P Battery

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 1952–1956 due to the extension of Iceland's fishing zone from 3 to 4 nmi (5.6 to 7.4 km; 3.5 to 4.6 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;Sony Vaio VGN-CR21S/L Battery

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 ($40,112). Sony Vaio VGN-CR21S/P Battery

Except for its abundant hydroelectric and geothermal power, 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:Sony Vaio VGN-CR21S/W Battery

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.

While Iceland is a highly developed country, until the 20th century it was among the poorest countries in Western Europe.Sony Vaio VGN-CR21Z/N Battery

However, strong economic growth has led Iceland to be ranked first in the United Nations' Human Development Index report for 2007/2008,and the 14th longest-living nation with a life expectancy at birth of 80.67 years. Many political parties remain opposed to EU membership, primarily due to Icelanders' concern about losing control over their natural resources.Sony Vaio VGN-CR21Z/R Battery

The national currency of Iceland is the Icelandic króna (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. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, including softwareproduction, biotechnology, and financial services. Sony Vaio VGN-CR220E/R Battery

Despite the decision to resume commercial whale hunting in 2006, the tourism sector is expanding, with the recent trends in ecotourism and whale-watching. Iceland'sagriculture industry consists mainly of potatoes, green vegetables (in greenhouses), mutton and dairy products.Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/B Battery

The financial centre is Borgartún in Reykjavík, hosting a large number of companies and three investment banks. Iceland's stock market, the Iceland Stock Exchange (ISE), was established in 1985.

Iceland ranked 5th in the Index of Economic Freedom 2006 and 14th in 2008. Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/P Battery

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 is not more than 35.72%, and there are many deductions. The corporate tax rate is a flat 18%, one of the lowest in the world.Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/R Battery

Other taxes include a value-added tax; a net wealth tax 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. Taxpayers pay various subsidies to each other, HP Pavilion DM3 battery

similar to European countries with welfare state, but the spending is less than in most European countries.

Despite low tax rates, overall taxation and consumption is still much higher than countries such as Ireland.HP Pavilion DM4 battery

According to OECD, agricultural support is the highest among OECD countries and an impediment to structural change. Also, health care 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.HP Pavilion DV6-1210SA battery

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.

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. Dell N3010 battery

Before the crash of the three largest banks in Iceland, Glitnir, Landsbanki 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. Dell Inspiron N4010 battery

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, stated that the state did not intend to take over any of the banks' foreign debts or assets.Dell INSPIRON 9100 battery

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.Dell XPS 1340 battery

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. Dell Inspiron 1464 battery

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. Dell Inspiron 1564 battery

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 have moved from the country after the collapse, and many of those moved to Norway. Dell Inspiron 1720 battery

In 2005, 293 people moved from Iceland to Norway; 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.Dell Inspiron Mini 12 battery

Iceland has 13,034 km (8,099 mi) of administered roads, of which 4,617 km (2,869 mi) are paved and 8,338 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.Dell LATITUDE D800 battery

Iceland currently has no railways.

Route 1, 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.Dell Inspiron 6400 AC Adapter

This paved road is 1,337 km (831 mi) long with one lane in each direction, except near larger towns and cities and in the Hvalfjörður Tunnel 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.SONY VAIO VGN-FW31Z Battery

The main hub for international transport is Keflavík International Airport, 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, which lies in the city centre. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31M Battery

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.SONY VAIO VGN-FW31B Battery

Energy

Renewable sources—geothermal and hydro power—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. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31E Battery

Iceland expects to be energy-independent by 2050. Iceland's largest geothermal power plants are Hellisheiði and Nesjavellir, while Kárahnjúkavirkjun is the country's largest hydroelectric power station.

Icelanders emit 10.0 tonnes of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases per capita, which is higher than many European nations. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery

This is partly due to the wide use of personal transport and a large fishing fleet and by the number of heavy industries (Aluminium smelting and Ferro-silicone processing). Iceland is one of the few countries that have filling stations dispensing hydrogen fuel for cars powered by fuel cells. Sony VGP-BPS21 Battery

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.

Iceland has never produced oil or gas. Sony VGP-BPS21A Battery

On January 22, 2009, Iceland announced its first round of offshore licences for companies wanting to conducthydrocarbon exploration and production in a region northeast of Iceland, known as the Dreki area.Sony VGP-BPS21/S Battery

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, the playschools and the primary and lower secondary schools are funded and administered by the municipalities.Sony VGP-BPS21A/B Battery

Nursery school, 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.SONY VGP-BPS21 Battery

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.SONY VGP-BPS21A Battery

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 exemption may be considered by the Minister of Education.SONY VGP-BPS21B Battery

TheProgramme for International Student Assessment, 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. SONY VGP-BPS21/S Battery

These schools are also known as gymnasia 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. SONY VGP-BPS21A/B Battery

The largest seat of higher education is the University of Iceland, which has its main campus in central Reykjavík. Other schools offering university-level instruction include Reykjavík University, University of Akureyri and Bifrost University.SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery

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 and genetic analyses.SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery

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. SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery

The biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics has funded the creation of a genealogy 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.SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery

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 plaguesadversely affected the population several times.Toshiba Satellite 1200 Battery

According to Bryson (1974), 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 1783–84 the population reached a low of about 40,000.tellite-m300-series-laptop-battery.htm">Toshiba Satellite M300 Battery

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. Toshiba Satellite A200 Battery

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 where they make up 75% of the workforce who are building the Fjarðarál aluminium plant.Sony VGP-BPS21 battery

The recent surge in immigration has been credited to alabour shortage because of the booming economy at the time, while restrictions on the movement of people from theEastern European countries that joined the EU / European Economic Area in 2004 have been lifted. Sony VGP-BPS14 battery

Large-scale construction projects in the east of Iceland (see Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Project) 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.Sony VGP-BPL8 battery

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 and Reykjanesbær, although the latter is relatively close to the capital.Sony VGP-BPS22 battery

Greenland was first settled by some 500 Icelanders under the leadership of Erik the Red 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, Sony VGP-BPS11 battery

but these attempts to colonise North America 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 descent.  There are more than 40,000 Americans of Icelandic descent according to the 2000 US census. Sony VGP-BPS9 battery

Language

Iceland's official written and spoken language is Icelandic, a North Germanic language descended from Old Norse. It has changed less from Old Norse than the other Nordic languages, 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. Sony VGP-BPS10 battery

It is the only living language to retain therunic letter Þ. The closest living language to Icelandic is Faroese. In education, the use of Icelandic Sign Language for Iceland's deaf community is regulated by the National Curriculum Guide.

English is widely spoken as a secondary language. Danish is also widely understood and spoken.Toshiba PA3399U-2BRS battery

Studying both languages is a mandatory part of the compulsory school curriculum. Other commonly spoken languages are German, Norwegian and Swedish. 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. Toshiba Satellite T4900 Battery

Rather than using family names, as is the custom in all mainland European nations, the Icelanders use patronymics. The patronymic follows the person's given name, e.g. Ólafur Jónsson ("Ólafur, Jón's son") or Katrín Karlsdóttir ("Katrín, Karl's daughter"). Consequently, the Icelandic telephone directory is listed alphabetically by first name rather than by surname.Toshiba Satellite L305 Battery

[edit]Religion

Icelanders enjoy freedom of religion under the constitution, though the National Church of Iceland, a Lutheran body, is the state church. The National Registry keeps account of the religious affiliation of every Icelandic citizen. In 2005, Icelanders were divided into religious groups as follows:SONY VGN -FZ210CE Battery

  • 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.Dell Precision M70 Battery
  • 2.5% members of the Roman Catholic Church, which has a Diocese of Reykjavík (see also Bishop of Reykjavík (Catholic)).

The remaining 2.9% includes around 20–25 other Christian denominations while around 1% belong to non-Christian religious organisations. The largest non-Christian denomination is Ásatrúarfélagið, a neopagan group. Acer Aspire One battery 10400mAh

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.Dell RM791 battery

Culture

Icelandic culture has its roots in Norse traditions. Icelandic literature is popular, in particular the sagas and eddas which were written during the High and Late Middle Ages. Dell Inspiron E1505 battery

Icelanders place relatively great importance on independence and self-sufficiency; in a European Commission 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. Dell Studio 1737 battery

Some traditional beliefs remain today; for example, some Icelanders either believe in elves or are unwilling to rule out their existence.

Iceland is progressive in terms of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) matters. Dell Inspiron 300M Battery

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. Dell Latitude E4200 Battery

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. 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. Dell Latitude E5400 Battery

Literature

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 includeNjáls saga, about an epic blood feud, and Grœnlendinga saga and Eiríks saga, describing the discovery and settlement of Greenland and Vinland (modernNewfoundland). Sony VGN-FW139E/H battery

Egils saga, Laxdæla saga, Grettis saga, Gísla 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 Hallgrímur Pétursson, and rímur, rhyming epic poems.Sony VGN-FW11M Battery

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 writer Jónas Hallgrímsson. In recent times, Iceland has produced many great writers, the best-known of which is arguably Halldór Laxness who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955. Sony VGN-FW11S Battery

Steinn Steinarr 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.Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Battery

Contemporary Icelandic painting is typically traced to the work of Þórarinn Þorláksson, 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. Dell Latitude D620 Battery

Several other Icelandic men and women artists studied at The Danish Royal Academy of Arts at that time, including Ásgrímur Jónsson, 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. Dell Latitude D830 Battery

These included Jóhannes Kjarval and Júlíana Sveinsdóttir. 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.Toshiba Satellite M60 battery

Einar Hákonarson 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.Dell Studio 1457 Battery

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.Dell Latitude D610 Battery

The Living Art Museum, Reykjavík Municipal Art Museum, Reykjavik Art Museum and the National Gallery of Iceland are the larger, more established institutions, curating shows and festivals.

Icelandic architecture draws from Scandinavian influences. Dell Studio 1457 Battery

The scarcity of native trees resulted in traditional houses being covered by turf.

Music

Icelandic music is related to Nordic music, and includes vibrant, folk and pop traditions, including medieval music group Voces Thules, alternative rock bandThe Sugarcubes, singers Björk and Emiliana Torrini, and post-rock band Sigur Rós. Dell Studio 1450 Battery

The national anthem of Iceland is Lofsöngur, written by Matthías Jochumsson, with music by Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson.

Traditional Icelandic music is strongly religious. Hallgrímur Pétursson wrote many Protestant hymns in the 17th century. Dell Inspiron 1320n Battery

Icelandic music was modernised in the 19th century, when Magnús Stephensen brought pipe organs, which were followed by harmoniums.

Other vital traditions of Icelandic music are epic alliterative and rhyming ballads called rímur. SONY VGP-BPS13AS Battery

Rímur are epic tales, usually a cappella, which can be traced back to skaldic poetry, using complex metaphors and elaborate rhyme schemes. The best known rímur poet of the 19th century was Sigurður Breiðfjörð(1798–1846). A modern revitalisation of the tradition began in 1929 with the formation of the organisation Iðunn.SONY VGP-BPS13A/S Battery

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 Björgvin Halldórsson. Independent music is also very strong in Iceland, with bands such as múm, Gusgus,Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós  SONY VGP-BPS13B/B Battery

(of which lead singer Jón Þór Birgisson also has prominent success with bands Jónsi and Jónsi & Alex), as well as solo artistsEmiliana Torrini and Mugison being fairly well-known outside Iceland.

Many Icelandic artists and bands have had great success internationally, SONY VGP-BPS13A/B Battery

most notably Björk and Sigur Rós but also Quarashi, Hera, Ampop, Mínus andmúm. The main music festival is arguably Iceland Airwaves, an annual event on the Icelandic music scene, where Icelandic bands along with foreign ones occupy the clubs of Reykjavík for a week.SONY VGP-BPS13/S Battery

Electronic music has risen highly amongst the Icelandic people, with producers like Thor and GusGus.

Media

Iceland's largest television stations are the state-run Sjónvarpið and the privately owned Stöð 2, Skjár einn and ÍNN. SONY VGP-BPS8 Battery

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 2 and Bylgjan. The daily newspapers are Morgunblaðið and Fréttablaðið. The most popular websites are the news sites Vísir and Mbl.is. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ38M Battery

Iceland is home to LazyTown (Icelandic: Latibær), a children's television programme created by Magnús 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 Garðabær.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31Z Battery

Actress Anita Briem, known for her performance in Showtime's The Tudors, is Icelandic. Briem starred in the 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth, which shot scenes 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, the strongest journalist protection law in the world.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31M Battery

Cuisine

Most of Iceland's cuisine is based on fish, lamb, and dairy products. Þorramatur 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. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31J Battery

Traditional dishes also include skyr, cured ram scrota, cured shark, singed sheep heads, and black pudding. One of the most traditional dishes is hákarl, which consists of shark's head which is left buried underground toferment for several months, then consumed with extreme caution.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31B Battery

Sports

Sport is an important part of Icelandic culture. The main traditional sport in Iceland is Glíma, a form of wrestling thought to have originated in medieval times.

Popular sports include association football, track and field, handball and basketball.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31E Battery

Handball is often referred to as the national sport, andIceland's team 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 18th by FIFA.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ480E Battery

Iceland has excellent conditions for skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing and rock climbing (much of the volcanic rock is, however, too brittle), 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 center of activity. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ460E Battery

Iceland also has the most World's Strongest Man competition wins, with 12 titles shared evenly between Magnús Ver Magnússon and Jon Pall Sigmarsson.

The oldest sport association in Iceland is the Reykjavík Shooting Association, founded in 1867.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ340E Battery

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 practiced in the country.

The architecture of Iceland draws from Scandinavian influences and, traditionally, was influenced by the lack of native trees on the island. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ220E Battery

As a result, grass- and turf-covered houses were developed. Later on, the Swiss chalet style became a prevailing influence in Icelandic architecture as many timber buildings were constructed in this way. Stone and later concrete were popular building materials, the latter especially with the arrival of functionalism in the country. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ180E Battery

Contemporary architecture in Iceland draws its influences from many sources, with styles varying greatly around the country.

Turf houses

The original turf houses constructed by the original settlers of Iceland (from the west coast of Norway) were based on Viking longhouses (langhús). Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/T Battery

The exterior turf walls were lined internally with a wooden frame, which was then panelled, with the roof resting on two rows of pillars dividing the internal space. The main room of the house was known as the skáli, consisting of a central open hearth and two raised platforms, known as set. Similar designs of longhouse have been found across Scandinavia, the Faroes and the Scottish isles, as well as Greenland. Sony VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery

Later houses included an additional living space, the stofa, and would be accompanied by smaller outhouses.[2] This layout also incorporated a pantryand lavatory. Over the years, the layout became more compartmentalised, eventually to include a baðstofa (a heated sauna room). Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery

In response to the colder Icelandic climate, the sleeping area was eventually moved into the baðstofa.[3] The design evolved as the entrance was moved between the living room and main room; all the rooms in the house were joined by a central passageway, this layout was known as a gangabær. Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery

This was possibly in response to a deteriorating climate, and, as timber supplies dwindled, people went back to living in the one-room baðstofa layout.

Around 1791, under Danish interest, a gable-fronted design (burstabær) was proposed by Guðlaugur Sveinsson,which became widespread in the south of Iceland where the climate is warmer. Sony VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery

An example of this design is the Glaumbær turf farmhouse at Skagafjordur Folk Museum which was opened in 1952 at the Glaumbær Farm.[4].

By 1900 the design was evolving still, seeing such additions as the framhús, a kind of timber porch at the front entrance of buildings.[SONY VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery

Today grasshouses are no longer constructed in Iceland (construction stopped in the mid-20th century), and the few remaining examples are generally open to public as open-air museums.[2] There is some evidence to suggest a Celtic influence in early Icelandic architecture in the form of stone roundhouses and sheepcotes, however much of this is still shaded in obscurity.[SONY VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery]

Medieval age

With the arrival of Christianity in Iceland in 1000, construction began on numerous impressive churches. A majority were probably constructed out of turf, but there were also numerous timber-framed churches, however not much remains of these buildings today.SONY VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery

The first stone churches appeared in around in the 18th century, quite late considering the significant lack of timber on the island (even access to driftwood was not widespread) .

The church in Hólar, the largest to be built out of stone, is pictured to the right.SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery

Stone buildings

Many high-quality stone buildings were erected in the 18 century, the very first being a mansion on Viðey, made completely out of Icelandic stone. These were some of the first buildings in Iceland to actually be constructed by trained architects, who were from Denmark, as these buildings were constructed for the Danish authorities. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery

The craftsmen involved in the construction of these buildings were also foreign. Icelandic stone buildings from this period were inherently similar to those in Denmark, save the use of timber to clad the roofs instead of slate. This type of building was considered very expensive, and is seen in many official buildings such as Bessastaðir (the presidential residence) and Alþingishúsið in Reykjavík.SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery

Sooner or later, this type of building was discontinued.

Many Icelanders were themselves encouraged to learn the craft of masonry during the stone construction boom period, leading to the building of many stone houses which mimicked the design of Icelandic turf houses.[SONY VAIO VGN-FZ21E Battery]

Urbanization arrives

Urbanization also began to appear for the first time around the 18th century, when Danish merchants set up permanent trading posts for themselves. The timber for constructing these residential and commercial premises was mostly prefabricated and imported.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ18 Battery

These timber-framed buildings had high pitched roofs and low walls, and they were tarred on the outside making them dark in appearance.

With the movement towards independence from Denmark and the implementation of Icelandic free trade, more diverse architectural styles and influences were brought to the island. HP Pavilion DV8000 battery

Classical influences can be seen in timber buildings from the 19th century, these buildings were often two-storey and had higher walls. Details such as the layout of fenestration on the building drew from classical traditions. A few buildings in this style remain today.HP Pavilion DV6000 battery

As the 20th century dawned, Swiss chalet style architecture was brought indirectly to Iceland under Norwegian influence. Settling in the Austurland and Westfjords, they brought with them prefabricated houses which they then erected there. The buildings tended to be taller and with large windows, unlike anything of the styles that had prevailed in Iceland beforehand. HP Pavilion DV8000 battery

Notable features of these buildings were the friezes above doors and windows, and eaves which projected out above the walls. Here the distinctive Icelandic use of corrugated iron (imported from England), in place of external cladding, was born. The Swiss chalet style was the dominant force in Icelandic architecture in the early 20th century. HP Pavilion DV6000 battery

The use of timber was banned in urban areas after great fires in Reykjavík and Akureyri around this time.

20th century and continuing urbanisation

Independence movements in Iceland gained a lot of support during the early part of the 20th century, when the country was awarded home rule from Denmark. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ Battery

Urbanisation began in earnest as the population moved out en masse from rural areas with new technological developments. These social changes had a profound effect upon the architecture of the period.

Concrete was first used on a major scale as a building material in this period and became extremely popular as an easy and economical construction material.HP PAVILION DV8000 Battery

The material has shaped Icelandic architecture from this period. With the arrival of concrete came the first qualified Icelandic architect,Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, who had at first designed in the Swiss chalet style but soon moved on to working in concrete. His first works in concrete resembled closely the stone buildings of earlier times. HP PAVILION DV6000 Battery

Characteristically urban buildings began emerging during this time, such as Austurstræti 16 (designed by Guðjón Samúelsson) which were concrete constructions. Samúelsson went on to become the leading Icelandic architect of the time. Referencing traditional Icelandic architectural styles, he revived the gable-fronted house design in concrete.HP Pavilion dv8000 battery

This influence can be seen in stylised form in the National Theatre of Iceland building, for example. Samúelsson was also the designer of Hallgrímskirkja, one of the tallest structures in Iceland, which was modelled on cliff faces.

The functionalist architectural style arrived in Iceland in the 1930s, brought by younger architects who would later have great influence on the urban planning of the country.HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery

Unusually, functionalism was not met with as much controversy as it was in other countries at the time. Early functionalist buildings in the country resembled those elsewhere in Europe, but conventional interior layouts being their differentiating feature. Many neighbourhoods would later be built up using the functionalist aesthetic as their guide.Sony VGP-BPL15 battery

The buildings were made distinctively Icelandic with the use of local minerals andseashells as dashing. Whole residential districts were dashed in this way. After World War II, larger houses with higher roofs began to appear, with a variety of decorative features marking a departure from the functionalist aesthetic.Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery

The next wave of architectural style to arrive was modernism, appearing after the country’s gain of independence from Denmark. Influential architects created modernist buildings with low roofs and large windows and large, smooth expanses of colour (in contrast to the dashing style which was popular earlier). Sony VGP-BPL9 battery

Modernist architecture commanded a modernist interior to boot, and so here began a strong furniture industry. New building techniques led to the construction of concrete high-rises in Reykjavík. Here new movements began to show up, such as an increase in popularity of open plan interiors.[Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery]

In addition to new styles and influences arriving, a sentiment for the conservation of existing older buildings was founded, with newfound interest in traditional handicrafts. Criticism of modern Icelandic architecture appeared at this time, pointing out energy-wasting designs and drawing from traditional building techniques such as steep pitched roofs to find solutions.[Sony VGP-BPS13A/B battery]

Contemporary architecture

In recent years, many larger-scale plans have been put forward for both projects in Reykjavík and Kópavogur. Many of these projects were proposed during the boom period before the financial crisis, including Iceland’s first skyscrapers, the Höfðatorg and Smáratorg towers.Sony VGP-BPS13/S battery

Many of the taller buildings in the Reykjavík area look out of place when compared with their contemporaries, for example traditional wooden houses neighbour the Höfðatorg tower. Other projects include the Reykjavík Concert Hall, currently under construction, whose ambitious plans had originally included a world trade centre.Sony VGP-BPS13 battery

Funding for the concert hall became insecure with the economic crisis, although the Icelandic government has promised the project will be completed with state funding.

Style

The architecture of Iceland is mainly low-rise, with many low tower blocks and two- or three-storey buildings with pitched roofs predominating. Dell Studio 1555 battery

Houses and smaller municipal buildings were traditionally wooden-framed, and clad in wooden planks or corrugated metal. Often they were painted in traditional bright colours  Many architectural influences can be seen, notably in the capital, such as the once-popular Swiss chalet style.Dell KM958 battery

Icelandic art has been built on northern European traditions of the nineteenth century, but developed in distinct directions in the twentieth century, influenced in particular by the unique Icelandic landscape as well as by Icelandic mythology and culture.Dell XPS M1210 Battery

Origins of contemporary Icelandic visual art

Contemporary Icelandic painting is typically traced to the work of Þórarinn Þorláksson, 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.SONY VAIO VGN-FW33GW Battery

Þorláksson was not the only Icelandic artist learning in Denmark at that time: there were several Icelanders, both men and women, at the Academy in the closing years of the century, and these included Ásgrímur Jónsson, who together with Þorláksson created a distinctive portrayal of their home country's landscape in a romantic naturalistic style.SONY VAIO VGN-FW21Z Battery

Landscape painting

The distinctive rendition of the Icelandic landscape by its painters can be linked to nationalism and the movement toward home rule and independence, which was very active in this period. Other landscape artists quickly followed in the footsteps of Þorláksson and Jónsson. These included Jóhannes Kjarval, Jón Stefánsson, and Júlíana Sveinsdóttir. SONY VAIO VGN-FW21M Battery

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.SONY VAIO VGN-FW21L Battery

The emergence of abstract art

Abstract art became prominent in Iceland in the mid-twentieth century, spearheaded by artists such as Svavar Guðnason and Nína Tryggvadóttir. Dell Latitude E6400 ATG Battery

However some of the country's prominent artists working in that period eschewed abstractionism, such as Gunnlaugur Scheving who instead favoured narrative content and an approach to colour and form possibly influenced by fauvism and cubism; and Louisa Matthíasdóttir, based in New York, who learned from abstract expressionism but nevertheless painted from life.Asus M52N Battery

The return of figurative art

Einar Hákonarson's show in 1968 distinguished itself from its Icelandic art scene then current as Hákonarson’s paintings were pop, figurative and expressionistic. This exhibition brought the figure back into the Icelandic painting, which had been dominated by the abstract art for years.[SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery]

Hakonarson said he was more influenced by feeling for nature, rather than by trying to paint a specific part of it.

Icelandic art from the late twentieth century

The portrayal of the landscape through visual art has remained a prominent (perhaps the most prominent) theme in Icelandic art to the present day, often reflected in the exhibitions at the country'snational gallery.Ibm THINKPAD X200 Battery

Its 2007 summer exhibition, for example, was called "Alas Nature!" and described as an exhibition which "aims to examine nature in a different light and from a different angle from what is generally accepted". Debate has occurred within the artistic community as to whether an appropriate balance has been struck in the support of galleries and public institutions for different media, traditions and subjects in Icelandic visual art.[Ibm THINKPAD X200 Battery]

The culture of Iceland is rich and varied as well as being known for its literary heritage which stems from authors from the 12th to 14th centuries. Other Icelandic traditional arts include weaving, silversmithing, and wood carving. Ibm THINKPAD X200 Battery

The Reykjavík area has several professional theatres, a symphony orchestra, an opera, and a large amount of art galleries, bookstores, cinemas, and museums. There are also four active folk dance ensemble in Iceland. Iceland's literacy rate is among the highest in the world, and a love of literature, art, chess, and other intellectual pursuits is widespread.HP Pavilion DV7 battery

Attitudes and customs

Icelanders generally have a traditional liberal Nordic outlook, similar to other Nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden. Yet, an important key to understanding Icelanders and their culture (and which differentiates them from the majority of their contemporary Nordic peoples) is the high importance they place on the traits of independence and self-sufficiency.Compaq CQ50 battery

In the June 2005 European Commission Eurobarometer 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.

Icelanders are proud of their Viking heritage and Icelandic language and take great care to preserve their traditions and language.HP Pavilion DV8 battery

Modern Icelandic remains close to the Old Norse spoken in the Viking Age. For example, the word for computer (an introduced object) is tölva which combines the ancient terms for number and seer.

Until the Christianisation of Iceland, many traditional Viking beliefs were strongly held, remnants of which remain today.Sony VGP-BPS13 battery

According to a 2005 New York Times article, the majority of Icelanders either believe in elves or are unwilling to rule out their existence.[2] There are a number of accounts of roads that have been re-routed and building plans redesigned or abandoned to avoid disturbing rocks where elves are said to live.HP DV9700 battery

Icelandic society and culture has a high degree of gender equality, with many women in leadership positions in government and business. Iceland also has a highly progressive gay rights legislation, with couples having been able to register civil unions since 1996, adopt since 2006 and marry since 2010. Compaq CQ35-100 battery

Women retain their names after marriage, since Icelanders generally do not use surnames butpatronyms or (in certain cases) matronyms. See Icelandic name for further discussion.

Iceland also has the most extensive and progressive child protection law.HP Pavilion DV6-1223EO Battery

The new Children's Act, passed in March 2003, and effective as of November 1, 2003, not only places Iceland on the list of twenty-five nations that have outlawed spanking, the act also outlaws verbal and emotional abuse and makes child protection a priority. Physical or mental violence is punishable by imprisonment and/or fine, and there is no legal defense.Sony VGP-BPS11 battery

In 2006, Iceland was ranked as the fourth happiest nation in the world by an independent scientific study.

Local and national festivals include the annual National Day, celebrating the country's independence in 1944, Sumardagurinn fyrsti which celebrates the first day of summer, and Sjómannadagurinnwhich is held every June to pay tribute to the country's seafaring past.HP 448007-001 battery

Religion

Religion in Iceland was initially the Viking religion that believed in Norse mythology. Later the nation became half-Christian and then more fully Christian. This increasing Christianisation culminated in the Pietism period when non-Christian entertainments were discouraged. Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/L Battery

At present the population is overwhelmingly, if nominally, Lutheran. However there are also Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses,Mormons, Muslims and others. There are also folk beliefs concerning elves that do not rise to the level of religion, but have gained some note. Dell Inspiron 6400 AC Adapter

Cuisine

Iceland offers wide varieties of traditional cuisine. Þorramatur (food of the þorri) is the Icelandic national food. Nowadays þorramatur is mostly eaten during the ancient Nordic month of þorri, in January and February, as a tribute to old culture. Þorramatur consists of many different types of food. Dell LATITUDE D800 battery

These are mostly offal dishes like pickled ram's testicles, putrefied shark, singed sheep heads, singed sheep head jam, blood pudding, liver sausage (similar to Scottish haggis) and dried fish (often cod or haddock) with or without butter.Apple A1280 battery

Much of the cuisine centres around Iceland's fishing industry. Traditional dishes include Hákarl (putrefied shark), graflax (salmon marinated in salt and dill), hangikjöt (smoked lamb), hrútspungar(pickled ram's testicles), and slátur (sausages made from sheep entrails).Apple A1281 battery

A popular food is skyr made of cultured skim milk, in the summer time it may be served with bilberries as a dessert. Brennivinis an Icelandic liquor made from potatoes and caraway.

Leisure

Though changing in the past years, Icelanders remain a very healthy nation. Dell Latitude E6400 battery

Children and teenagers participate in various types of leisure activities. Popular sports today are mainly soccer, athletics, handball and basketball. Sports such as golf, tennis, swimming, chess and horseback riding on Icelandic horsesare also popular.

Chess is a popular type of recreation favored by the Icelanders’ Viking ancestors. HP Pavilion DV6-1020ED Battery

The country's chess clubs have created many chess grandmasters including Friðrik Ólafsson, Jóhann Hjartarson, Margeir Pétursson, and Jón Loftur Árnason. Glíma is a form of wrestling that is still played in Iceland, thought to have originated with the Vikings. HP 6510B battery

Swimming and horseback riding are popular as well as leisure activities without competition. Golf is especially common; around 1 in 8 Icelanders play the sport. Team handball is often referred to as a national sport, Iceland's team is one of the top ranked teams in the world, HP 6530B battery

and Icelandic women are surprisingly good at football compared to the size of the country, the national team ranked the eighteenth best by FIFA.

Ice and rock climbing are a favorite among many Icelanders, for example to climb the top of the 4,167-foot (1,270 metre) Þumall peak in Skaftafell National Park is a challenge for many adventurous climbers,HP 6710B battery

but mountain climbing is considered to be more suitable for the general public and is a very common type of leisure activity. Hvítá, among many other of the Icelandic glacial rivers, attracts kayakers and river rafterers worldwide.HP NC4400 battery

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