For other uses, see Iceland (disambiguation).

The Republic of Iceland (Icelandic: Lveldi sland) is an island nation in the northern Atlantic Ocean between Greenland, Norway, and the British Isles.

Lýðveldið Ísland
Flag of Iceland Iceland: Coat of Arms
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Location of Iceland
Official language Icelandic
Capital and largest city Reykjavk
President lafur Ragnar Grmsson
Prime Minister Halldr sgrmsson
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 107th
103,125 km
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
Ranked 169th
 - Sovereignty
 - Republic

1 December 1918
17 June 1944
GDP (2003)
  - Total (PPP)
  - Total
  - GDP/capita (PPP)
  - GDP/capita

$9 billion (127th)
$15 billion (87th)
$35,686 (5th)
$52,063 (4th)
Currency Icelandic Krna
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem Lofsngur
Internet TLD .is
Calling Code +354


Main article: History of Iceland

Iceland remained one of the world's last larger islands uninhabited by humans, until it was first settled by Scandinavian and Celtic immigrants during the late 9th and 10th century. It boasts the world's oldest parliament, Alingi (English: Althing), which was established in 930, although it has not run continuously since that date. Some literary evidence suggests that Irish monks may have been living in Iceland before the arrival of Nordic settlers but no archaeological evidence backs this up.

Iceland remained independent for over 300 years, and was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark, formally as a Norwegian crown colony until 1814 when the united kingdoms of Denmark and Norway were separated by the treaty of Kiel, and Iceland was kept by Denmark as a dependency. Limited home rule was granted by the Danish government in 1874, and protectorate-like independence and sovereignty over domestic matters followed in 1918, foreign relations and defence remained in the authority of the Danes until the World War II occupation of Denmark by Nazi Germany in 1940 and the occupation of Iceland by the allied powers in 1941. The Danish king remained the De jure sovereign of the nation until 1944, when the current republic was founded in the absence of Danish authority.

The new republic became a charter member of NATO in 1949 and signed a treaty with the United States in 1950 to take responsibility for the defense of Iceland. The US still operate a military base in Keflavk today, based on this agreement, but Iceland has no armed forces of its own. The economy of Iceland remained dependant of fisheries in the post-war decades and the country has had several clashes with its neighbours over this vital resource, most notably the Cod Wars with the British. The economy has become more diverse recently owing to large investments in heavy industry such as aluminum smelting and deregulation and privatization in the financial sector. Iceland is a member of the EU's Common market through the EEA but has never applied for membership of EU.


Main article: Politics of Iceland

The parliament, Alingi, was founded in 1845 as an advisory body to the Danish king. It was widely seen as a reestablishment of the assembly founded in 930 in the Commonwealth period and suspended in 1799. It has currently 63 members, each of whom is elected by the population every four years. The president of Iceland is a largely ceremonial office that serves as a diplomat, figurehead and head of state. The head of government is the prime minister, who, together with his cabinet, takes care of the executive part of government. The cabinet is appointed by the president after general elections to Alingi; however, this process is usually conducted 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 Alingi). Only when the party leaders are unable to reach a conclusion by themselves in reasonable time does the president exercise this power and appoint the cabinet himself. This has never happened since the republic was founded in 1944, but in 1942 the regent of the country (Sveinn Bjrnsson, who had been installed in that position by the Alingi in 1941) did appoint a non-parliamentary government. The regent had, for all practical purposes, the position of a president, and Sveinn Bjrnsson actually went on to become the country's first president in 1944. The governments of Iceland have almost always been coalitions with two or more parties involved, due to the fact that a single political party has not received a majority of seats in Alingi in the republic period. The extent of the political powers possessed by the office of the president are 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.

The president is elected every four years (last 2004), the cabinet is elected every four years (last 2003) and town council elections are held every four years too (last 2002).

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Administrative division


Main article: Municipalities of Iceland

There are 95 municipalities in Iceland that govern most local matters like schools, transportation and zoning.


Main article: Counties of Iceland

The 23 counties are mostly a historic division. Today Iceland is split up between 26 Magistrates that are the highest authority over the local police (except in Reykjavk where there is a special office of police commissioner) and carry out administrative functions such as declaring bankruptcy and marrying people outside of the church.

District Courts

Iceland is split up into eight district court jurisdictions. According to a United Nations document on Iceland:

The Law on the Separation of Judicial and Executive Powers at the District Level No. 92/1989 laid the foundation for a changed judicial system. The law established eight district courts, one in each electoral area of the country. These courts have jurisdiction in civil as well as criminal cases, issue bankruptcy decisions and resolve disputes which arise during magistrates' major proceedings. Judicial authorities also resolve all disputes concerning the extent of administrative powers. After 1 July 1992 district court judges perform only judicial functions. The judicial authority previously wielded by magistrates outside Reykjavik has now been transferred to the new district courts.

List of District Courts

  1. Reykjavk District Court
  2. Reykjanes District Court
  3. West District Court
  4. Westfjords District Court
  5. Northwest District Court
  6. Northeast District Court
  7. East District Court
  8. South District Court


Main article: Constituencies of Iceland

Until 2003, the constituencies for the parliament elections were the same as the district court jurisdictions but by an amendment to the constitution they were changed so that today there are only 6 constituencies. The change was made in order to balance the weight of different districts of the country since a vote cast in the sparsely populated areas around the country would count much more than a vote cast in the Reykjavk city area. The imbalance between districts has been reduced by the new system but it still exists.

Map of Iceland


Main article: Geography of Iceland & List of settlements in Iceland

Iceland is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, just south of the arctic circle, which passes through the small island Grimsey off the north coast of Iceland, but not through Iceland itself.

Iceland is located on a geological hot spot on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The combination of being both on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and on a hot spot means that the island is extremely geologically active. It has many active volcanoes, notably Hekla. Around 10% of the island is glaciated. Iceland has many geysers (itself an Icelandic word) and the widespread availability of geothermal power means residents of most towns have hot water and home heat for a low price. (See also: Volcanoes of Iceland) Electricity is generally very cheap because of the many rivers and waterfalls which are also used for the generation of electrical power. (See also: Rivers of Iceland, Waterfalls of Iceland, Lakes of Iceland)

The island itself has many fjords along the coastline, where also most towns are situated, because the island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland are a cold uninhabitable desert. The main towns are the capital Reykjavk, Keflavk, where the national airport is situated, and Akureyri. The island of Grmsey, on the Arctic Circle contains the northernmost habitation of Iceland. (See also: Fjords of Iceland)

Unlike neighbouring Greenland, Iceland is considered to be a part of Europe, not of America. The island is the world's 18th largest island.

The island has four national parks: Jkulsrgljfur National Park, Skaftafell National Park, Snfellsnes National Park and ingvellir.


Main article: Military of Iceland

The Republic of Iceland has no regular armed forces. Defence is provided by a predominantly U.S. manned NATO base in Keflavk. Iceland has a Coast Guard (Landhelgisgslan) and a SWAT team which is called Srsveitin (Task Force), commonly known as Vkingasveitin (Viking Squad), and is under the command of the Reykjavk chief of police.


Main article: Economy of Iceland

The economy depends heavily on the fishing industry, which provides over 60% of export earnings and employs 8% of the work force. In the absence of other natural resources (except for abundant hydro-electric and geothermal power), Iceland's economy is vulnerable to changing world fish prices. The economy remains sensitive to declining fish stocks as well as to drops in world prices for its main exports: fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon. Although the Icelandic economy is heavily dependant on fishing it is constantly becoming less important as the travel industry, the technology industry and various other industries grow.

The only natural resource conversion is the manufacture of cement. Most buildings are concrete with expensive imported wood used only sparingly and where necessary.

The centre-right government plans to continue its policies of reducing the budget and current account deficits, limiting foreign borrowing, containing inflation, revising agricultural and fishing policies, diversifying the economy, and privatising state-owned industries. The government remains opposed to EU membership, primarily because of Icelanders' concern about losing control over their fishing resources.

Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, and new developments in software production, biotechnology, and financial services are taking place. The tourism sector is also expanding, with the recent trends in ecotourism and whale-watching. Growth slowed between 2000 and 2002, but the economy expanded by 4.3% in 2003 and grew by 5.2% in 2004. The unemployment-rate of 2.5% (4th quarter 2004) is the second lowest in the European Economic Area after Liechtenstein.

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Main article: Demographics of Iceland

The isolated location of Iceland has resulted in limited immigration and limited genetic inflow in its human population over hundreds of years. The resulting genetic similarity is being exploited today for genetic studies.

The language spoken is Icelandic, a Scandinavian language, and the religion is predominantly Lutheran.


Icelanders enjoy freedom of religion as stated by the constitution, however church and state are not separated and the Church of Iceland, a Lutheran body, is the state church. In 2004 Icelanders were divided into religious groups as follows:

The remaining 6.5% is divided between several Christian sects, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses, Bah' as well as tiny Buddhist and Muslim and satr communities.

Most Icelanders are very liberal in their religious beliefs and do not attend church regularly.


Main article: Culture of Iceland

Some famous Icelanders include pop singer Bjrk; avant-garde rock band Sigur Rs; and novelist Halldr Laxness, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1955. Also, the former world chess champion Bobby Fischer became an Icelandic citizen on March 21, 2005. Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy has been a citizen since 1972.

Iceland's literacy rate is among the highest in the world, and the love of literature, chess, and other intellectual pursuits is widespread.

Icelandic society and culture are very "woman friendly" with women in leadership positions in government and business. Women retain their names after marriage, since Icelanders generally don't use family names. Instead, children are named after their parents, usually the father but sometimes the mother: Jn, son of Halldr, would be Jn Halldrsson; Sigrur, daughter of Pll, would be Sigrur Plsdttir.

Iceland has world renowned nightlife. Downtown Reykjavk has many clubs and pubs that often have live bands playing.

Rampant alcoholism, and its effects on employment, toll on interpersonal relationships/violence, and marital/family issues, are continuing social problems.

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Miscellaneous facts about Iceland

  • Number of hot springs: 800
  • It is mandatory to keep the headlights on while driving, even in daylight.
  • In 2004, British citizens made up the single largest group of tourists to Iceland (60,000) followed by Americans (48,000).

Miscellaneous topics

External links


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1. Country partly in Asia. 2. Usually assigned to Asia geographically, but often considered European for cultural and historical reasons.

ang:sland ar:ايسلندا bg:Исландия bs:Island ca:Islndia cs:Island cy:Gwlad yr I da:Island de:Island et:Island el:Ισλανδία es:Islandia eo:Islando fr:Islande gd:Innis Tile gl:Islandia ko:아이슬란드 hr:Island io:Islando id:Islandia is:sland it:Islanda he:איסלנד la:Islandia lv:Islande lt:Islandija li:Iesland hu:Izland ms:Iceland zh-min-nan:Peng-tē nl:IJsland nds:Island ja:アイスランド nb:Island pl:Islandia pt:Islndia ro:Islanda ru:Исландия simple:Iceland sl:Islandija fi:Islanti sv:Island tl:Island uk:Ісландія yi:איסלאַנד zh:冰岛


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