Greenland

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This article is a part of Altverse.
This article is part of the Altverse universe.
Kingdom of Greenland
Kongeriget Grønland
Flag of Greenland
Coat of arms of Greenland
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: "Vort ældgamle land under isblinkens bavn" (Danish)
"You Our Ancient Land" (English)
Greenland edcp relief location map.jpg
Capital Godthåb
Official languages Danish
Recognised regional languages Greenlandic, Norwegian
Ethnic groups (2020) Greenlanders and other Europeans (57%)
Greenlandic Inuit (43%)
Demonym Greenlandic or Greenlander
Government Parliamentary constitutional monarchy
• Monarch
Margrethe II
Frederik Hakonsen
Viktor Andreasen
Legislature Parliament
Establishment
• Paleo-Eskimo settlement
26th century BC
10th century
1262
1814
• Home rule
1910
1918
Area
• Total
2,166,086 km2 (836,330 sq mi)
Population
• 2020 census
65,092
GDP (PPP) 2020 estimate
• Total
$3.74 billion
GDP (nominal) 2020 estimate
• Total
$2.806 billion
HDI (2016) Increase .786
high
Currency Greenlandic krone (GKK)
Time zone (UTC+0)
Date format dd-mm-yyyy
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .gl

Greenland (Danish: Grønland), officially the Kingdom of Greenland (Danish: Kongeriget Grønland), is a Nordic country on the world's largest island, located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It is the 12th largest country in the world but one of the least populated, with 65,092 inhabitants, due to the severe Arctic climate and three-quarters of the landmass being covered by the world's only permanent ice sheet outside of Antarctica. Slightly more than half of the population are Greenlanders, a North Germanic people primarily descended from Danes, Norwegians, and other Europeans, with a large minority of Greenlandic Inuit. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe (specifically Norway and Denmark, the colonial powers, as well as the nearby island of Iceland) for more than a millennium. The largest city and capital is Godthåb, located in the southern portion of the island where most of Greenland's population is concentrated.

Greenland has been inhabited at intervals over at least the last 4,500 years by Arctic peoples whose forebears migrated there from what is now Canada. Norsemen settled the uninhabited southern part of Greenland beginning from its discovery in 986 AD, who previously settled Iceland to escape persecution from the King of Norway and his central government. Inuit peoples arrived in the 13th century. Contact with Europe was disrupted and became sporadic as Norway was hit by the Black Death in the 15th century and entered a severe decline, at which point the Nordic colonies in Greenland also suffered losses from a harshening environment and lack of supplies. By the time contact was reestablished by Portuguese explorers arriving around 1500, the surviving Nordic Greenlanders had become self-governing and had no desire to submit to the Norwegian crown. Greenland would nonetheless come under the rule of Denmark–Norway, and later the independent kingdom of Denmark after 1814. Nationalism was reignited in the 19th century as in the rest of Europe and in nearby Iceland, and home rule was granted in 1910 to Greenland by the Danish. The country gained independence in December 1918, when Denmark recognised Greenland as a sovereign state in a personal union, which has been inherited by Skandinavia and is headed by the Skandinavian monarch. Since the end of World War II, the Kingdom of Greenland has been a neutral country.

In the 21st century, Greenland is a Nordic social democracy with a high-income economy with a very high standard of living. In recent years Greenland has seen increased tourism and is known for numerous archeological and historic sites, including the millennia-old Norse colonies and much older Paleo-Eskimo settlements. The kingdom is a member of the League of Nations, Conference of American States, Nordic Council, World Trade Organization, and the World Bank. Greenland has a personal union with Skandinavia and a special relationship with it and other Northern European countries. Since 2004 it has been increasing its ties with North American states through its membership in the Conference of American States, having left the European Economic Community in 1985 (which Greenland had been part of due to its connection to Skandinavia).

Name[edit]

The explorer Erik the Red named the island Greenland (Grœnland in Old Norse, Grænland in modern Icelandic, Grønland in modern Danish and Norwegian) - in effect as a marketing device. Both the Book of Icelanders (Íslendingabók, a medieval account of Icelandic history from the 12th century onward) and the Saga of Eric the Red (Eiríks saga rauða, a medieval account of his life and of the Norse settlement of Greenland) state that Erik said that it would encourage people to go there that the land had a good name."

The name of the country in the Inuit Greenlandic language is Kalaallit Nunaat ("land of the Kalaallit").

History[edit]

Early Paleo-Eskimo cultures[edit]

A polar bear carving dating back to the Dorset culture

In prehistoric times, Greenland was home to several successive Paleo-Eskimo cultures known today primarily through archaeological finds. The earliest entry of the Paleo-Eskimo into Greenland is thought to have occurred about 2500 BC, most of them coming from the North American mainland, who, in turn, were descended from Siberians that migrated into Canada thousands of years before that. From around 2500 BC to 800 BC, southern and western Greenland were inhabited by the Saqqaq culture. Most finds of Saqqaq-period archaeological remains have been around Disko Bay, including the site of Saqqaq, after which the culture is named. From 2400 BC to 1300 BC, the Independence I culture existed in northern Greenland. It was a part of the Arctic small tool tradition. Towns, including Deltaterrasserne, started to appear.

Around 800 BC, the Saqqaq culture disappeared and the Early Dorset culture emerged in western Greenland and the Independence II culture in northern Greenland. The Dorset culture was the first culture to extend throughout the Greenlandic coastal areas, both on the west and east coasts. It lasted until the total onset of the Thule culture in 1500 AD. The Dorset culture population lived primarily from hunting of whales and caribou.

Norse settlement[edit]

The Hvalsey Church, one of the best reserved remains of an early Norse settlement, c. 12th century
The Kingittorsuaq Runestone from the 13th or 14th century, with Old Norse writing

Europeans became aware of Greenland's existence, probably in the early 10th century, when Gunnbjörn Ulfsson, sailing from Norway to Iceland, was blown off course by a storm and sighted some islands off Greenland. During the 980s, explorers led by Erik the Red set out from Iceland and reached the southwest coast of Greenland, found the region uninhabited, and subsequently settled there. They shared the island with the late Dorset culture inhabitants who occupied the northern and western parts, and later with the Thule culture that entered from the north. Relations between the Norse colonists and the Arctic peoples remained peaceful, with the Norse being mostly indifferent to them. Norse Greenlanders submitted to Norwegian rule in 1261 under the Kingdom of Norway (872–1397). Later the Kingdom of Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark in 1380, and from 1397 was a part of the Kalmar Union.

According to the sagas, the Icelanders had exiled Erik the Red for three years for committing murder, c. 982. He sailed to Greenland, where he explored the coastline and claimed certain regions as his own. He then returned to Iceland to persuade people to join him in establishing a settlement on Greenland. This date has been approximately confirmed by radiocarbon dating of remains at the first settlement at Brattahlid, which yielded a date of about 1000. The Norse established settlements along Greenland's fjords. Excavations have shown that the fjords at that time were surrounded by forests of 4- to 6-metre tall birch trees and by hills covered with grass and willow brush. They settled in three separate locations in south-western Greenland: the larger Eastern Settlement, the smaller Western Settlement, and the still smaller Middle Settlement (often considered part of the Eastern one).

The economy of the Norse Greenlanders depended on a combination of pastoral farming with hunting and some fishing. Farmers kept cattle, sheep and goats – shipped into the island – for their milk, cheese and butter, while most of the consumed meat came from hunted caribou and seals. Both individual farmers and groups of farmers organised summer trips to the more northerly Disko Bay area where they hunted walruses, narwhals and polar bears for their skins, hides and ivory. Besides being used to make garments and shoes, these resources also functioned as a form of currency, as well as making up the most important export commodities. The settlements carried on a trade in ivory from walrus tusks with Europe, as well as exporting rope, sheep, seals, wool and cattle hides (according to one 13th-century account). The climate became increasingly colder in the 14th and 15th centuries, during the period of colder weather known as the Little Ice Age.

These Nordic settlements lost contact with Europe during the early 15th century around the time the Black Death reached Norway. After 1408 few written records mention the settlers. The Danish cartographer Claudius Clavus seems to have visited Greenland in 1420, according to documents written by Nicolas Germanus and Henricus Martellus, who had access to original cartographic notes and a map by Clavus. The Norse colonists lived on their own and increased trade with the indigenous peoples. Over the years of no contact, the Norse Greenlanders became functionally independent the European mainland, although some trade with Iceland continued.

Danish recolonization[edit]

A 1747 Danish map of Greenland

Most of the old Norse records concerning Greenland were removed from Trondheim to Copenhagen in 1664 and subsequently lost, probably in the Copenhagen Fire of 1728. Various European expeditions reached parts of Greenland around 1500 and encountered the Norse Greenlanders. Christian I of Denmark purportedly sent an expedition to the region under Hans Pothorst and Didrik Pining to Greenland in 1472 or 1473; Henry VII of England sent another under John Cabot in 1497 and 1498; Manuel I of Portugal sent a third under Gaspar Corte-Real in 1500 and 1501. Records by the Portuguese indicate they encountered some of the Norse inhabitants of the Eastern Settlement, and the Greenlanders' own accounts also confirm the arrival of several European ships.

Meanwhile, following Sweden's exit from the Kalmar Union, the remaining states in the personal union were reorganized into Denmark-Norway in 1536. In protest against foreign involvement in the region, the Greenlandic polar bear was included in the state's coat of arms in the 1660s, even though Greenland was functionally independent.

Politics[edit]

Greenland is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy that is in a personal union with Skandinavia and recognizes the Skandinavian monarch as its head of state, which is currently King Frederik II. However, the role of the monarch is purely symbolic and his interests in the country are represented by the High Commissioner. The head of government and effective leader is the Prime Minister of Greenland, who leads the central executive branch and its main body, the cabinet, which is usually referred to as The Government (regering) in Greenland. The legislature is a unicameral Parliament (Landstinget), which consists of 31 members that are elected every four years using proportional representation. For most of Greenland's history the Parliament and the Government have both been dominated by the Conservative People's Party.

As a member state of the Conference of American States, Greenland also has 10 seats on the American Parliament that are elected on the basis of each one of Greenland's five regions as multiple-member constituencies.

Government[edit]

The cabinet of Greenland, more commonly known as the Government (Regering in Danish or Naalakkersuisut in Greenlandic Inuit) in Greenland, is the main decision making body in Greenland's political system and consists of 10 members – including the prime minister, the ministers of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Nordic Cooperation, Natural Resources and Environment, Finance and Economic Development, Health and Social Welfare, Education and Culture, Agriculture, Housing and Transport, and Greenland's permanent representative to the League of Nations. The Government is headed by the Prime Minister of Greenland. The formation of the Government takes place by the Parliament, which has mostly been dominated by the Conservative People's Party, but also includes other representatives of other parties at times.

Legislature[edit]

The Parliament (Landstinget or Inatsisartut in Greenlandic Inuit) of Greenland is a unicameral legislature with 31 members elected for four-year terms. It is headed by a presidency of 4 members of the parliament, one of whom is the chairman.

It is the successor of the Greenland Provincial Council (Grønlands Landsråd) of the Kingdom of Denmark, consisting of 13 members and led by a royally-appointed governor, which was established in 1910 and reformed into a parliament in 1919 after the country's independence. Prior to that this body had been further divided between North and South Greenland Provincial Councils from around 1728 until the granting of home rule in 1910.

Foreign relations[edit]

Greenland is a member of several international organisations, most notably including the League of Nations (LN), Conference of American States (CAS), Nordic Defence Cooperation (Nordefco), Nordic Council, Arctic Council, and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Greenland is a neutral state and the kingdom's foreign policy is based on that status.

Greenland has 28 embassies and other diplomatic representations abroad. There are Greenlandic embassies in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Brazoria, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, the Eurasian Commonwealth, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Japan, the Maritime Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Northeast Union, Panama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sierra, Skandinavia, Spain, Superior, the United Commonwealth, and the United Kingdom.

Greenland also maintains permanent missions to the League of Nations, the Conference of American States, and the European Union.

Military[edit]

Greenlandic Coast Guard vessel Kong Frederik on the coast of Greenland

Greenland is one of the few countries in the world with no standing army, instead security is maintained by the militarised Greenlandic Coast Guard and a number of counterterrorism and police special operations units. The duties of the Greelandic Coast Guard include customs enforcement, border control, law enforcement, shipping inspection, environmental protection, and search and rescue, along Greenland's 44,087 km shoreline. The organisation has 942 personnel, six patrol boats (three Agdlek-class, two Knud Rasmussen-class, and one Flyvefisken-class), and ten helicopters as of 2018. The country's national airline, Air Greenland, also makes its aircraft available for Coast Guard operations when they are needed. The Greenlandic Coast Guard works closely with the Royal Danish Navy, and many of its officers receive an education at the Royal Danish Naval Academy.

Law enforcement on land, not including territorial waters, is the responsibility of the Greenlandic Police, an agency that is administered by the National Police Commissioner on behalf of the Ministry of Interior. The organisation is subdivided on the basis of the five regions of Greenland, with a police directorate in each region. The Greenlandic police had 586 personnel as of 2018.

The Thule Air Base located in northeastern Greenland, administratively part of Knud Rasmussen Land, has been continued to be operated by the Air Force of the Kingdom of Sierra since being established during World War II.

In March 2020, Prime Minister Andreasen announced that the kingdom would establish a Home Guard as a gendarmerie and national defence force, which will be through by conscription of Greenlandic males.

Geography[edit]

Kaffeklubben Island, the northernmost piece of land on Earth and administratively part of Erik the Red's Land

Greenland is the world's largest non-continental island and the third-largest country in North America, after Canada and Superior. It is between latitudes 59° and 83°N, and longitudes 11° and 74°W. Greenland is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Greenland Sea to the east, the North Atlantic Ocean to the southeast, the Davis Strait to the southwest, Baffin Bay to the west, the Nares Strait and Lincoln Sea to the northwest. The nearest countries are Canada, to the west and southwest across Nares Strait and Baffin Bay; and Iceland, southeast of Greenland in the Atlantic Ocean.

Landscape of the eastern coast

The average daily temperature of Godthåb varies over the seasons from −5.1 to 9.9 °C (23 to 50 °F)[73] The total area of Greenland is 2,166,086 km2 (836,330 sq mi) (including other offshore minor islands), of which the Greenland ice sheet covers 1,755,637 km2 (677,855 sq mi) (81%) and has a volume of approximately 2,850,000 km3 (680,000 cu mi). The highest point on Greenland is Gunnbjørn Fjeld at 3,700 m (12,139 ft) of the Watkins Range (East Greenland mountain range). The majority of Greenland, however, is less than 1,500 m (4,921 ft) in elevation. The weight of the ice sheet has depressed the central land area to form a basin lying more than 300 m (984 ft) below sea level, while elevations rise suddenly and steeply near the coast.

The ice flows generally to the coast from the centre of the island. A survey led by French scientist Paul-Emile Victor in 1951 concluded that, under the ice sheet, Greenland is composed of three large islands. This is disputed, but if it is so, they would be separated by narrow straits, reaching the sea at Ilulissat Icefjord, at Greenland's Grand Canyon and south of Nordostrundingen.

All towns and settlements of Greenland are situated along the ice-free coast, with the population being concentrated along the west coast. Some settlements have been establish further inland on the ice sheet, originating mostly as scientific research stations.

Administrative divisions[edit]

The Kingdom of Greenland is divided into five regions, which themselves are divided into TBD districts. The current administrative structure of the country was established in 1952. Prior to that, since the late 18th century the country was divided into two larger regions for statistical purposes—North and South Greenland. That system had remained in place from around the 1720s until 1952, with the 68°N latitude being the dividing border between the two. Most of Greenland's population was concentrated in the South, and that region was the most explored. That system was reorganised as more parts of Greenland were explored and developed in the decades since the country gained independence from Denmark.

Greenland-muni.svg

Name Municipality center Coat of Arms Population Area (km²)
Knud Rasmussen Land Jakobshavn Qaasuitsup-coat-of-arms.svg 17,498 522,700
King Frederik VI Land Julianehåb Qeqqata-coat-of-arms.svg 8,103 32,000
Clarinetania Holsteinsborg Coat of arms of Nanortalik.svg 9,584 177,900
King Christian IX Land Godthåb Sermersooq-coat-of-arms.png 24,868 531,900
Erik the Red's Land Danmarkshavn Kujalleq-coat-of-arms.svg 4,824 972,000

Economy[edit]

Energy[edit]

Transportation[edit]

Air and boat lines are the main forms of transportation in Greenland, as the coasts have many fjords and the interior is largely frozen, making the possibility of a road or railway network across the country impractical. Very few countryside roads have been built, but this has been increasing since the mining industry in Greenland has become more developed. Some railways exist on the local level, mainly to assist with mining.

Air Greenland is the main domestic airline in Greenland operating small aircraft and helicopters, having partnerships with DAT, Scandinavian Airlines, and Icelandair for international flights to Denmark and Iceland. Occasionally Air Greenland operates flights to Rainier, Superior, and other American countries. Boat services, which are the primary means of transportation between cities other than aircraft, are operated by the government's Royal Arctic Line.

Demographics[edit]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Residents in Greenland by ethnicity
Affiliation % of Greenland's population
Greenlanders and other Europeans 57 57
 
Greenlandic Inuit 43 43
 
Total 100 100
 

According to the 2020 national census, Greenland has a population of 65,092. The biggest ethnic group, 37,085 people or about 57% of the population, are Greenlanders, who are considered to be a unique North Germanic ethnic group that are descended mostly from Danes but also Norwegians and other European peoples that emigrated to Greenland. Many of them trace their lineage back to the original Norse colonists that arrived on the island one thousand years ago. The Greenlanders continue to hold the political, financial, and social control over Greenland. About 43% of the population are Greenlandic Inuit (including European-Inuit mixed).

Religion[edit]

Catholicism arrived in Greenland with the first Norse settlers around the year 1000, who built some of the first churches in the western hemisphere. Since the colonies were cut off from Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries, the surviving Norsemen did not undergo the Protestant Reformation, and subsequent attempts to convert the population to Protestantism after contact was reestablished did not lead to any significant change. The majority of Greenland's population, about 57,700 people (89%), are registered Catholics. The next largest religious group are Protestants, numbering about 2,500 (4%), while about 1% of the population are other Christian denominations. The Catholic Church in Greenland is administratively part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of the Arctic Pole, currently headed by Bishop Erik Jonas Andersen. Another 1% of the population, mostly Inuit living in rural areas, still practice Inuit spiritual beliefs, while 3% are agnostic or atheist and 2% represent other religions.

Culture[edit]

Greenlandic culture today is based mainly on Scandinavian culture, as that is where the majority of its population traces its descent to, along with a blend of Inuit culture.

Sport[edit]

Sport is an important part of Greenlandic culture, as the population is generally quite active. Popular sports include association football, track and field, handball and skiing. Handball is often referred to as the national sport, and Greenland's men's national team was ranked among the top 20 in the world in 2001. In recent decades, combat sports like judo and taekwondo have gained new popularity in Greenland, though the country is not considered a major judo power.

Greenland has excellent conditions for skiing, fishing, snowboarding, ice climbing and rock climbing, although mountain climbing and hiking are preferred by the general public. Although the environment is generally ill-suited for golf, there is a golf course in Nuuk.

See also[edit]