Kingdom of Denmark

Sovereign: Queen Margrethe II (1972)

Prime Minister: Lars Lokke Rasmussen (2015)

Land area: 16,359 sq mi (42,370 sq km); total area: 16,639 sq mi (43,094 sq km)1

Population (2014 est.): 5,569,077 (growth rate: 0.22%); birth rate: 10.22/1000; infant mortality rate: 4.1/1000; life expectancy: 79.09

Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Copenhagen, 1.206 million

Monetary unit: Krone

National name: Kongeriget Danmark

Current government officials

Languages: Danish, Faroese, Greenlandic (Inuit dialect), German; English is the predominant second language

Ethnicity/race: Scandinavian, Inuit, Faroese, German, Turkish, Iranian, Somali

National Holiday: Constitution Day, June 5

Religions: Evangelical Lutheran (official) 80%, Muslim 4%, other (denominations of less than 1% each, includes Roman Catholic, Jehovah's Witness, Serbian Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Baptist, and Buddhist) 16% (2012 est.)

Literacy rate: 99%

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $211.3 billion; per capita $37,800. Real growth rate: 0.1%. Inflation: 0.8%. Unemployment: 6%. Arable land: 57.99%. Agriculture: barley, wheat, potatoes, sugar beets; pork, dairy products; fish. Labor force: 2.795 million; agriculture 2.6%, industry 20.3%, services 77.1% (2013 est.). Industries: iron, steel, nonferrous metals, chemicals, food processing, machinery and transportation equipment, textiles and clothing, electronics, construction, furniture and other wood products, shipbuilding and refurbishment, windmills, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment. Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, fish, salt, limestone, stone, gravel and sand. Exports: $106 billion (2013 est.): machinery and instruments, meat and meat products, dairy products, fish, chemicals, furniture, ships, windmills. Imports: $98.45 billion (2013 est.): machinery and equipment, raw materials and semimanufactures for industry, chemicals, grain and foodstuffs, consumer goods. Major trading partners: Germany, Sweden, UK, U.S., Netherlands, Norway, China (2012).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 2.431 million (2012); mobile cellular: 6.6 million (2012). Broadcast media:strong public-sector television presence with state-owned Danmarks Radio (DR) operating 4 channels and publicly-owned TV2 operating roughly a half dozen channels; broadcasts of privately-owned stations are available via satellite and cable feed; DR operates 4 nationwide FM radio stations, 15 digital audio broadcasting stations, and about 15 web-based radio stations; approximately 250 commercial and community radio stations are operational (2007). Internet hosts:4.297 million (2012). Internet users: 4.75 million (2009).

Transportation: Railways: total: 2,667 km km (2011). Highways: total: 73,197 km; paved: 73,197 km (includes 1,111 km of expressways) (2011). Waterways: 400 km (2010). Ports and harbors: Aalborg, Aarhus, Copenhagen, Ensted, Esbjerg, Fredericia, Kalundborg. Airports: 92 (2013 est.).

Transportation: Railways: total: 2,667 km km (2012). Highways: total: 73,929 km; paved: 73,929 km (includes 1,143 km of expressways) (2012). Waterways: 400 km (2010). Ports and harbors: Aalborg, Aarhus, Copenhagen, Ensted, Esbjerg, Fredericia, Kalundborg. Airports: 80 (2010 est.).

International disputes: Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm; Faroese continue to study proposals for full independence; sovereignty dispute with Canada over Hans Island in the Kennedy Channel between Ellesmere Island and Greenland; Denmark (Greenland) and Norway have made submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental shelf (CLCS) and Russia is collecting additional data to augment its 2001 CLCS submission.

1. Excluding Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Major sources and definitions

Outlying Territories of Denmark

Flag of Denmark

Geography | Government | History


Smallest of the Scandinavian countries (half the size of Maine), Denmark occupies the Jutland peninsula, a lowland area. The country also consists of several islands in the Baltic Sea; the two largest are Sjælland, the site of Copenhagen, and Fyn.


Constitutional monarchy.


From 10,000 to 1500 B.C., the population of present-day Denmark evolved from a society of hunters and fishers into one of farmers. Called Jutland by the end of the 8th century, its mariners were among the Vikings, or Norsemen, who raided western Europe and the British Isles from the 9th to 11th century.

The country was Christianized by Saint Ansgar and Harald Blaatand (Bluetooth)—the first Christian king—in the 10th century. Harald's son, Sweyn, conquered England in 1013. Sweyn's son, Canute the Great, who reigned from 1014 to 1035, united Denmark, England, and Norway under his rule; the southern tip of Sweden was part of Denmark until the 17th century. On Canute's death, civil war tore apart the country until Waldemar I (1157–1182) reestablished Danish hegemony in the north.

In 1282, the nobles won the Great Charter, and Eric V was forced to share power with parliament and a Council of Nobles. Waldemar IV (1340–1375) restored Danish power, checked only by the Hanseatic League of north German cities allied with ports from Holland to Poland. Denmark, Norway, and Sweden united under the rule of his daughter Margrethe in 1397. But Sweden later achieved autonomy and in 1523, under Gustavus I, independence.

Denmark supported Napoléon, for which it was punished at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 by the loss of Norway to Sweden. In 1864, the Prussians under Bismarck and the Austrians made war on Denmark as an initial step in the unification of Germany. Denmark was neutral in World War I.

Occupied Denmark Saves Its Jews

In 1940, Denmark was invaded by the Nazis. King Christian X reluctantly cautioned his fellow Danes to accept the occupation, but there was widespread resistance. Denmark was the only occupied country in World War II to save all its Jews from extermination by smuggling them out of the country.

Beginning in 1944, Denmark's relationship with its territories changed substantially. In that year, Iceland declared its independence from Denmark, ending a union that had existed since 1380. In 1948, the Faroe Islands, which had also belonged to Denmark since 1380, were granted home rule, and in 1953, Greenland officially became a territory of Denmark.

Denmark Closes Its Doors to Refugees

In 2001, the dominant Social-Democrat Party lost to Anders Fogh Rasmussen of the center-right Liberal Party, which formed a coalition with the Conservative Party. Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen, author of From Socialist to Minimalist State, is a strong proponent of privatization, deregulation, and limited government. Immigration to Denmark fell dramatically in 2002, after Fogh Rasmussen instituted Europe's most restrictive laws for asylum seekers. Because of Denmark's social welfare benefits, the country had become a much-sought-after haven for refugees. In Feb. 2005, Fogh Rasmussen won a second term as prime minister.

In Feb. 2006, the publication of political cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad set off a series of outraged demonstrations and riots in a number of Muslim countries. At least a dozen died in the protests.

Fogh Rasmussen was narrowly elected to a third term in early elections in Nov. 2007. Rasmussen's close win forced him to broaden his coalition government to include the recently formed pro-immigration party, New Alliance.

First Female Prime Minister Elected

In Sept. 2011, Social Democrat leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt won a narrow majority in parliament to become Denmark's first female prime minister. Thorning-Schmidt's campaign platform combined tax raises, increased public spending, and a promise to roll back tough immigration laws. In parliament, the center-left won 89 seats in Denmark's 179-seat parliament over 86 for the center-right parties. Turnout was high at 87.7%. The prime minister's new government included Villy Søvndal as foreign minister, Nick Hækkerup as defense minister, Margrethe Vestager as interior minister, and Bjarne Corydon as finance minister.

Worst Terrorist Attack in Thirty Years

In Feb. 2015, two separate terrorist attacks killed two people. In the first attack, on Feb. 14, a gunman fired into a cafe where Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was speaking. Vilks, who is on a list of Al-Qaeda targets for his Prophet Muhammad caricature, was unharmed in the attack. However, one man was killed, and three police officers were wounded. The gunman escaped, setting off a manhunt by police.

The following morning, another attack happened outside a synagogue. One man was killed, and two officers were wounded. The gunman escaped and police continued the manhunt. Later in the day, police shot and killed the suspect during a shootout.

Details emerged about the gunman, Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, in the days after the attacks. He was released from jail two weeks before the incidents. He had been in prison for attacking a train passenger with a knife. Details suggested that El-Hussein may have been radicalized while in jail. The two shootings were the worst terrorist attack in Denmark since the 1985 bombings of the Great Synagogue and the Northwest Orient airlines office in Copenhagen, which killed one person and injured twenty-six others.

In June 2015 parliamentary elections, Denmark's center-right opposition took control after a strong showing from an anti-immigration party that wants to limit the influence of the European Union on the country. Former Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen pulled together an opposition bloc to get the 90 seats needed for the majority in parliament. Rasmussen would succeed Helle Thorning-Schmidt as prime minister. He previously served in the position from April 2009 through Oct. 2011.

See also Danish dependencies.
See also Encyclopedia: Denmark .
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Denmark
Statistics Denmark .


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