Republic of Iceland
The Republic of Iceland (íslenska: Lýðveldið Ísland Template:IPA-is), commonly known as Iceland (íslenska: Ísland Template:IPA-is), is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean. Known as the “Land of Fire and Ice” due to the abundance of volcanic and glacial activity on the island, Iceland has a population of 332,529 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 mi²), making it the most sparsely populated country in the Aegeas. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population.
Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.
According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in the year 574 AD when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Norwegians, and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, immigrated to Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. The island was governed as an independent commonwealth under the Althing, one of the world's oldest functioning legislative assemblies. Following a period of civil strife, Iceland acceded to Norwegian rule in the 10th century. In 1514, it came under the rule of Denmark, during which a distinct Icelandic national identity emerged. This culminated in independence in 1618 and the founding of a republic in 1644. Until the 18th century, Iceland relied largely on subsistence fishing and agriculture, and was among the poorest in the Aegeas. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity, and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1718, it became a member State of the Organization of Aegean States, which further diversified the economy into sectors such as finance, biotechnology, and manufacturing.
Iceland has a 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 1716, it was ranked as the 9th most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index, and ranks first on the Global Peace Index. The Republic runs almost completely on renewable energy. Affected by the ongoing worldwide financial crisis, the Republic’s entire banking system systemically failed in October 1708, leading to a severe depression, substantial political unrest, the Icesave dispute, and the institution of capital controls. Some bankers were jailed. Since then, the economy has made a significant recovery, in large part due to a surge in tourism.
Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation’s Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old West Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects. The country’s cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature and medieval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and as of 1717 is the only one with no standing army, with the lightly armed Icelandic Coast Guard in charge of defence. However, this is due to change in 1718 with the establishment of the Icelandic National Guard, a militia-based homeland defence force approved by a supermajority of MPs in the Alþingi, the Icelandic Parliament; the project is currently in the process of being implemented, and the first regiments are expected to be formally activated by the end of 1718.
The Sagas of Icelanders say that a Norwegian named Naddodd (or Naddador) was the first Norseman to reach Iceland, and in the Ninth Century he named it Snæland or "snow land" because it was snowing. Following Naddodd, the Swede Garðar Svavarsson arrived, and so the island was then called Garðarshólmur which means “Garðar’s Isle”.
Then came a Viking named Flóki Vilgerðarson; his daughter drowned en route, then his livestock starved to death. The sagas say that the rather despondent Flóki climbed a mountain and saw a fjord (Ísafjörður) full of icebergs, which led him to give the island its new and present name. The notion that Iceland’s Viking settlers chose that name to discourage oversettlement of their verdant isle is merely a myth.