Scandinavia

Scandinavia (skănˌdĭnāˈvēə) [key], region of N Europe. It consists of the kingdoms of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark; Finland and Iceland are usually considered part of Scandinavia. Physiographically, Denmark belongs to the North European Plain rather than to the geologically distinct Scandinavian peninsula (which is part of the ancient Baltic Shield), occupied by Norway and Sweden. Sometimes the word "Norden" is applied to the five countries because it avoids the physiographic and cultural limitations of the word Scandinavia. The Scandinavian peninsula (c.300,000 sq mi/777,000 sq km) is c.1,150 mi (1,850 km) long and from 230 to 500 mi (370–805 km) wide and is bordered by the Gulf of Bothnia, the Baltic Sea, the Kattegat and Skagerrak straits, the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean. It is mountainous in the west (rising to 8,104 ft/2,470 m at Glittertinden, S Norway) and slopes gently in the east and the south. The region was heavily glaciated during the Ice Age; Jostedalsbreen (W Norway), the largest glacier of mainland Europe, is a remnant of the great ice sheet. The peninsula's western coast is deeply indented by fjords. Short, swift-flowing streams drain to the west, while long parallel rivers and numerous lakes are found in the east; Vänern and Vättern, both in S Sweden, are among Europe's largest lakes. Nearly a quarter of the peninsula lies N of the Arctic Circle, reaching its northernmost point in Cape Nordkyn, Norway. The climate varies from tundra and subarctic in the north, to humid continental in the central portion, and to marine west coast in the south and southwest. The region's best farmland is in S Sweden. The peninsula is rich in timber and minerals (notably iron and copper), and has a great hydroelectricity generating capacity. Its coastal waters are important fishing grounds. Large petroleum and natural-gas deposits have been found off Norway's coast in the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Population is concentrated in the southern part of the peninsula; Stockholm and Göteborg (both in Sweden) and Oslo (Norway) are the largest cities. Except for the Sami (Lapps) and Finns in the north and east, the Scandinavian peoples speak a closely related group of Germanic languages—Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Faeroese, and Swedish. The oldest Germanic literature (see Old Norse literature) flourished in Scandinavia, especially in Iceland.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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