Iceland /ˈaɪslənd/ (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]), sometimes referred to in full as the Republic of Iceland (Lýðveldið Ísland), is a Nordic island country marking the juncture between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The country has a population of 325,671 and a total area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), which makes it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. 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 country's population. Reykjavík is the most northern capital in the world. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly 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 Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent Norse settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. During the following centuries, Norsemen settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic was declared in 1944.
Until the 20th century, the Icelanders relied largely on fishing and agriculture, and the country was one of the least developed in the region. Industrialisation of the fisheries and aid through the United States' Marshall Plan following World War II brought prosperity and, by the 1990s, Iceland had developed as one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification of the economy into economic and financial services. In 2008, affected by the worldwide crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed, resulting in substantial political unrest. In the wake of the crisis, Iceland instituted "capital controls" that made it impossible for many foreigners to get their money out of the country, causing a dispute with foreign investors. The economy has since then made a significant recovery.
Iceland 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 high 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 Norse heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old Norse and is closely related to Faroese and some West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, poetry, and the medieval Icelanders' sagas. Among NATO members, Iceland has the smallest population and is the only one with no standing army. Its lightly armed Coast Guard is in charge of its defences.
|Latitude: 65°0'0" N; Longitude: 18°0'0" W;|
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