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Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.

Official name:

Republic of Iceland



Government type:

constitutional republic


280,798 (July 2003 est.)


Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken

Official Currency:

Icelandic krona (ISK)

Currency code:



total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km


temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers

Map of Iceland

map of Iceland