Lapland is mountainous in N Norway and Sweden, reaching its highest point (6,965 ft/2,123 m) in Kebnekaise (Sweden), and consists largely of tundra in the northeast. There are also extensive forests and many lakes and rivers. The climate is arctic and the vegetation is generally sparse, except in the forested southern zone. Lapland is very rich in mineral resources, particularly in high-grade iron ore at Gällivare and Kiruna (Sweden), in copper at Sulitjelma (Norway), and in nickel and apatite in Russia. Kirkenes and Narvik (both in Norway) are the chief maritime outlets for Scandinavian Lapland, and Murmansk is the port for Russian Lapland. The region abounds in sea and river fisheries and in aquatic and land fowl. Reindeer are essential to the economy there is a growing tourist industry in the region.
Little is known of their early history, and they have proved to have no genetic resemblance to any other peoples. It is believed that they came from central Asia and were pushed to the northern extremity of Europe by the migrations of the Finns, Goths, and Slavs. They may have assumed their Finnic language in the last millennium BC Though mainly conquered by Sweden and Norway in the Middle Ages, the Sami long resisted Christianization, which was completed only in the 18th cent. by Russian and Scandinavian missionaries, and elements of their traditional shamanism survived despite being banned.
See V. Stalder, Lapland (1971) and N.-A. Valkeapaa, Greetings from Lappland: The Sami—Europe's Forgotten People (1983).
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Scandinavian Political Geography
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