Republic of Iceland

Lveldi Ísland

CAPITAL : Reykjavík

FLAG : The national flag, introduced in 1916, consists of a red cross (with an extended right horizontal), bordered in white, on a blue field.

ANTHEM : O Gu vors lands (O God of Our Land).

MONETARY UNIT : The new króna ( K ), introduced 1 January 1981 and equivalent to 100 old krónur, is a paper currency of 100 aurar. There are coins of 5, 10, and 50 aurar and 1, 10 and 50 krónur, and notes of 10, 50, 100, 500, 1,000 and 5,000 krónur. SK 1 = $0.01319 (or $1 = K 75.8) as of May 2003.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : The metric system is used.

HOLIDAYS : New Year's Day, 1 January; First Day of Summer, April; Labor Day, 1 May; National Holiday, 17 June; Bank Holiday, August; Christmas, 25–26 December. Movable religious holidays include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension, and Whitmonday. Half-holidays are observed on Christmas Eve, 24 December, and New Year's Eve, 31 December.



The population is almost entirely Icelandic, descended from the original settlers, who came chiefly from Norway (with a mixture of Scots and Irish) in the late 9th and early 10th centuries.


Iceland is the only NATO member with no military force of its own, although the government does maintain a coast guard with four patrol craft manned by 120 personnel. US forces (1,640) and Dutch forces (16) are stationed in Iceland.


Iceland became a member of the UN on 19 November 1946 and belongs to ECE and all the non-regional specialized agencies except UNIDO. It also belongs to the Council of Europe, EFTA, NATO, the Nordic Council, OECD, and other intergovernmental organizations. It is a signatory of the Law of the Sea and a member of the WTO.


There are no forests of commercial value, and the existing trees (ash, birch, aspen, and willow) are small; only about 1% of the total land area is considered forested. The originally extensive birch forests were cut down for firewood and to clear land for grazing sheep. In recent years, the remaining woods have been protected and reforestation has begun. Imports of forestry products amounted to about $65.7 million in 2000.


The total number of dwellings in the mid-1990s was 95,800. In 1992, 1,591 dwellings were completed, and 1,467 dwellings were started. Most rural buildings were at one time made of turf, then of wood, and most recently of stone and concrete. In the towns, turf houses long ago gave way to wooden ones, but for some decades most new housing has been concrete. Virtually all dwellings have electricity, piped water, and central heating.


Iceland has no territories or colonies.


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Hastrup, Kirsten. Nature and Policy in Iceland, 1400–1800. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Images of Contemporary Iceland: Everyday Lives and Global Contexts. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1996.

International Smoking Statistics: A Collection of Historical Data from 30 Economically Developed Countries. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Jochens, Jenny. Women in Old Norse Society. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Karlsson, Gunnar. The History of Iceland. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Magnusson, Magnus. The Icelandic Sagas. London: Folio Society, 2002.

National Policies and Agricultural Trade: Country Study: Iceland. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1995.

Roberts, David. Iceland. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1990.

Ross, Margaret Clunies (ed.). Old Icelandic Literature and Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Tulinius, Torfi H. The Matter of the North: The Rise of Literary Fiction in Thirteenth-Century Iceland. Odense, Denmark: Odense University Press, 2002.

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