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The Kingdom of Norway, generally referred to as Norway, is a sovereign state mostly situated in the western part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. It also includes the island of Jan Mayen, a volcanic island and the archipelago of Svalbard, both located in the Arctic Ocean.

The capital is Oslo and the official languages are Norwegian and Sami, a Uralic language spoken by the Sami people. The constitutionally official religion is the Church of Norway, which is a Lutheran denomination.

Although the Viking Age is said by some to have begun in the 8th century, Norway was not a united country yet but rather many small kingdoms. Rather than what we think of today as kings, Norway's kings were actually the individual heads of clans.

The Norwegian Vikings had longships as well as navigational skills, which made traveling long distances easier. They traveled extensively to trade, to colonize, and eventually to raid other villages.

They were well outfitted, with chain mail armor and sturdy weapons and they had a distinct advantage over Christians they raided, in that they believed that those killed in battle would go to Valhalla.

The first Viking raid, in 793, was against the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, a tidal island off he coasts of England. They sacked the monastery and, according to Alcuin, "The church of St Cuthbert is spattered with the blood of the priests of God, stripped of all its furnishing, exposed to the plundering of pagans."

This raid became the beginning of what historians call the Viking Age.

Aside from the gold, silver, and other valuables the Vikings collected, they also brought back thralls, or slaves, who were brought back to Norway to work on the farms. This was important to them because they were at sea too often to work their farms. The Norwegian women were in charge of farm management.

The Vikings discovered Iceland late in the 9th century. The uninhabited island was divvied up between 400 Norse chieftains. Because their land was not especially suitable for farming, they colonized and settled lands which had good farming soil, including the Faroe Islands, Shetland, and Hebrides. They established settlements in Ireland and founded the first cities there, including Dublin, before being driven out by a Celtic alliance.

Harald Fairhair declared himself king of much of Norway in 872 after a sea battle. He required authority over all of the clans, and those who refused to submit left the country and had their possessions confiscated and had to leave.

Norwegian Viking Erik the Red led a group of Icelanders to Greenland where they would settle. in the 980s. In 1000, his son, Lief Erickson, discovered Vinland, which is now called Newfoundland. He did not establish a settlement there.

In 1015, King Olav II was successful in beginning the Christianization of Norway. He destroyed the pagan temples, and built churches. But the chieftains were afraid that they would be robbed of their power as pagan priests if the Christianization were allowed to continue. Both sides met on the battlefield, and King Olav was killed.

During the 13th century, Iceland and Greenland formed a union with Norway, then Iceland accepted the rule of Norway. The Black Plague hit Norway, killing two-thirds of the population and Denmark, Sweden, and Norway united under one monarch. in the 14th century. In 1660, Peace of Copenhagen solidified the boundaries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. In 1905, Norwegian parliament proclaimed independence from Sweden.

Norway declared neutrality as World War I was starting, and in 1915, Germans torpedoed the Norwegian ship Regin. Women in Norway won the right to vote in 1918. Norway lost control over Greenland as Denmark gained it in 1924.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Norway remained neutral, but German forces invaded the country and attacked the ports in 1940. Now occupied by Nazi Germany, Norway found itself under martial law. Between 1942 and 1943, 767 Norwegian Jews were sent to Auschwitz, while more than 1,100 Norwegian Jews fled to Sweden. When Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945, there were more than 360,000 German soldiers in Norway.

Between May of 1945 and August of 1948, more than 90,000 cases of alleged treason were brought against Norwegians. Most were people accused of aiding and abetting the Nazi German occupiers, betraying the resistance fighters, personally profiting from the war, or other disloyalty. More than 28,750 people were arrested and questioned, and between 5,000 and 6,000 were still in jail at the of August 1956. Prosecutors called for the death penalty in 200 treason cases, but only 40 of the arrestees were sentenced to death with 35 being carried out and 5 being sentenced to death in Poland for their actions in Norway. Former Prime Minister Vidkun Quisling, who collaborated with the Nazis throughout the war, was among those who were executed by firing squad.



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