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keskiviikko 9. maaliskuuta 2016

Iceland, Cool Facts #102

<= 101. Norway                                                                                                         103. Singapore => 

1. Founders of Iceland  

Norwegian Vikings created the first permanent settlements in Iceland. Ingolfur Arnarson is said to be the first Scandinavian settler in Iceland when he built his homestead in 874 near the present-day Reykjavik. 

The first inhabitants of Iceland were Celtic monks from Ireland though. They had arrived to Iceland in the 700s and created settlements, which they had abandoned somewhere between 770-880 according to the carbon dating results. 

Many Norwegian people followed Ingolfur Arnarson to Iceland and from there the Norwegian Vikings travelled to Greenland, Faroe Islands and North America to establish settlements. 

These settlements became parts of the Norwegian Kingdom before they were ceded to Denmark in 1814, except the settlements in North America which were short-lived. 

Painting of Ingolfur Arnatson by Johan Peter Raadsig

2. Ties to Norway 

Ties to Norway can be seen in the Icelandic flag, language and history. 

The Norwegians settled Iceland which was an independent state until 1262, when Iceland was brought under Norwegian rule, which lasted until 1814. 

The Icelandic flag resembles the people about their Norwegian origins as they are the descendants of Norwegian Vikings and Celtic women, which the Vikings brought to the island. The flag has the same design and colors but only in reverse order than in the Norwegian flag. 

The Icelandic language has evolved from the Old Norse that the Norwegian Vikings spoke, who settled Iceland.
Flags with the Nordic Cross

3. Althing 

Althing is said to be one of the oldest parliamentary systems in the world together with Swedish Jamtamot of Jämtland County. 

In 930 the Althing was founded in Thingvellir as an outdoor assembly laying the foundation for an independent national existence in Iceland. It was the general assembly of the Icelandic Commonwealth where the country's most powerful leaders decided about important things. 

For example Christianity became the national religion of Iceland after the decision of the Althing in 1000. 

All free men were allowed to participate the assemblies and the Althing was at the time the main event of the year attracting large crowds of all sorts of people from farmers, traders, craftsmen to storyteller and travelers. 

Even after the Union with Norway in 1262 the Althing continued its existence in Thingvellir until 1799. When the Althing was restored 45 years later in 1844 it moved to Reykjavik and the current parliament building was built in 1881. 

Vikings marching to Althing

4. Hard Times in Iceland

The remote location and harsh condition have limited the population growth in Iceland over the centuries. The current population of Iceland is about 330,000. 

The Black Death one devastating cause of the declining population growth in the 1400s: 

50-60% of the Icelandic people died in the plague pandemia in 1402-1404
30-50% of the Icelandic people died in the plague pandemia in 1494-1495 

1600s Economic growth slowed down when Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland

1783-1784 Laki eruption

20-25% of the Icelandic people are estimated to have died during the "Mist Hardships" referring to the times when Laki volcanic fissure erupted over an eight-month period pouring out basalt lava and poisonous clouds. 

Over 50% of the livestock is estimated to have died causing a famine, which killed the 20-25% of the Icelandic people. The eruption caused also a drop in global temperature causing crop failures in Europe and maybe even droughts in India were a consequence of the result.

Globally the eruption is estimated to have killed over 6 million people. It affected people around the world.

5. Icelandic Economy

The Icelandic economy relies heavily on its geography. 

Fishing has been Iceland's leading industries for centuries and about 75% of the export revenues come from fishing products. Expanding their fishing zone Iceland fell into "Cod Wars" with United Kingdom between 1958-1976. 

In livestock products Iceland is self-supporting, but other foodstuff must be imported. 

Energy is very cheap in Iceland, which has many sources of energy with its volcanic terrain. Hot springs are used to warm up the greenhouses and geothermal energy is Iceland's most important source of energy. 

Imported bauxite is refined into aluminum, which is possible to do with a profit because of Iceland's cheap energy.

Nesjavellir geothermal power station

700s Celtic monks from Ireland were the first inhabitants in Iceland before they abandoned it somewhere between 770 and 880
870 Swedish Viking Gardar Svavarsson was the first to circumnavigate Iceland
874 Norwegian Ingolfur Arnarson built his homestead in present-day Reykjavik and many other settlers followed him
930 Althing, a legislative and judicial assembly was established to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth
986 The lack of arable land was an impetus to the settlement of Greenland
1000 around the years 999-1000 Christianity was adopted in Iceland
1262 After internal struggles independence was lost and Iceland was brought under Norwegian rule
1380 Denmark and Norway unite, Iceland keeps internal autonomy but Denmark was now in charge of foreign affairs
1397 Sweden, Norway and Denmark create the Kalmar Union
1402-1404 Black Death plague pandemia killed 50-60% of the Icelandic population
1415 Possession of Iceland passed to the Kalmar Union
1494-1495 Black Death plague pandemia killed 30-50% of the Icelandic population
1523 Sweden leaves the Kalmar Union, Iceland remains as a Norwegian dependency as a part of Denmark-Norway 
1550 The last Catholic bishop Jon Arason was beheaded with his two sons, subsequently the country became Lutheran which was part of the Protestant Reformation by the King Christian III of Denmark
1600s Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland slowing down the economic growth
1783 Laki volcano erupted and in the following years during the "Mist Hardships" over half of the livestock died causing a famine, which killed about a quarter of the population
1800 The Danes abolished the Althing causing the awakening of the Icelandic nationalism 
1814 After the Napoleonic Wars Denmark-Norway was broken up as Norway was ceded to Sweden but Denmark kept Norway's old possessions like Iceland as Danish dependencies
1843 The national movement led by Jon Sigurdsson pressured the Danes to abolish the trade monopoly and the operation of Althing started again
1874 Iceland was granted a constitution and limited home rule by Denmark 
1918 The Danish-Icelandic Act of Union recognized Iceland as a fully sovereign state in a personal union with Denmark, the Danish king remained in charge of Iceland's foreign policy
1940 After the German occupation of Denmark the British invaded and occupied Iceland violating its neutrality. The occupation was then taken over by the United States and the British left Iceland, USA used Iceland as a base delivering war equipment to Europe
1944 Iceland became independent after a four-day plebiscite, where 97% voted for independence. Sveinn Björnsson became the first president
1949 Iceland became a Nato member
1951 Iceland signed a defense agreement with USA, the last US forces withdrew in 2006
1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir became Europe's first female president
2001 Iceland deregulated banks which lead to the failure of the country's entire banking system in 2008 causing severe depression and substantial political unrest

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