Svalbard

Introduction First discovered by the Norwegians in the 12th century, the islands served as an international whaling base during the 17th and 18th centuries. Norway's sovereignty was recognized in 1920; five years later it officially took over the territory.
History

Vikings may have discovered Svalbard as early as the 12th century. Traditional Norse accounts exist of a land known as Svalbarð - literally "cold shores" (but this land might also have been Jan Mayen, or a part of eastern Greenland). The Dutchman Willem Barents made the first indisputable discovery of Svalbard in 1596. The islands served as an international whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Greenland whale was extirpated from this region. From 1611 to the 1800s whaling took place off the western coast of Spitsbergen, by Belgian, British, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish ships. They also provided the headquarters for many Arctic exploration expeditions.

At the beginning of the 20th century, American, British, Swedish, Russian and Norwegian companies started coal mining. Norway's sovereignty was recognized by the Svalbard Treaty of 1920 with an addition that there would be limited military use of Svalbard and that the other nations retained the rights to their settlements; five years later Norway officially took over the territory. Some historians claim that Norway was given sovereignty as compensation for its Merchant Fleet losses during World War I, when the Norwegian Merchant fleet played an important role supplying the UK. Only Norwegian and Russian settlements survived World War II.

From the late 1940s to the early 1980s the geology of the Svalbard archipelago was investigated by teams from Cambridge University and other universities (e.g., Oxford University), led by Cambridge geologist W. Brian Harland. Many of the geographical features of the isles are named after the participants in these expeditions, or were given names by them linked to places in Cambridge (see Norwegian Polar Institute).

The name of the largest island in the archipelago, Spitsbergen (Dutch for "Jagged mountains") was formerly used to refer to the entire archipelago, while the main island was called West Spitsbergen.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, islands between the Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, Greenland Sea, and Norwegian Sea, north of Norway
Geographic coordinates: 78 00 N, 20 00 E
Map references: Arctic Region
Area: total: 61,020 sq km
land: 61,020 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: includes Spitsbergen and Bjornoya (Bear Island)
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than West Virginia
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 3,587 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 4 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm unilaterally claimed by Norway but not recognized by Russia
Climate: arctic, tempered by warm North Atlantic Current; cool summers, cold winters; North Atlantic Current flows along west and north coasts of Spitsbergen, keeping water open and navigable most of the year
Terrain: wild, rugged mountains; much of high land ice covered; west coast clear of ice about one-half of the year; fjords along west and north coasts
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Arctic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Newtontoppen 1,717 m
Natural resources: coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, phosphate, wildlife, fish
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (no trees; the only bushes are crowberry and cloudberry) (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: ice floes often block the entrance to Bellsund (a transit point for coal export) on the west coast and occasionally make parts of the northeastern coast inaccessible to maritime traffic
Environment - current issues: NA
Geography - note: northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway; consists of nine main islands; glaciers and snowfields cover 60% of the total area; Spitsbergen Island is the site of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a seed repository established by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Norwegian Government
Politics

Svalbard is completely controlled by the Kingdom of Norway and is part of it. The Svalbard Treaty recognizes Norwegian sovereignty over Svalbard. However Norway's power over Svalbard has some limitations in taxation, environmental conservation, non-discrimination and certain military activity.

Svalbard was made a part of Norway by a Norwegian act in 1925, thus Svalbard is not a Norwegian dependency. However, under the terms of the treaty, citizens of signatory states have rights to exploit mineral deposits and other natural resources "on a footing of absolute equality". As a result, a permanent Russian settlement, more or less autonomous, grew up at Barentsburg. Another Russian settlement at Pyramiden was abandoned by a Russian mining firm in January 1998.

According to Per Sefland, Norway's governor on the archipelago, the Svalbard Treaty of February 9, 1920 implies that "If you're able to find a job, you have the right according to the treaty to come here." The treaty states: "The nationals of all the high contracting parties [signatories] shall have equal liberty of access and entry for any reason or object whatever to the waters, fjords and ports of the territories." Therefore, some immigrants who have been denied residence in EU countries have relocated to Svalbard.

People Population: 2,165 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: NA
15-64 years: NA
65 years and over: NA
Population growth rate: -0.023% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: NA (2008 est.)
Death rate: NA (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: NA
Infant mortality rate: total: NA
male: NA
female: NA (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: NA
male: NA
female: NA (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: NA (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0% (2001)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 0 (2001)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 0 (2001)
Ethnic groups: Norwegian 55.4%, Russian and Ukrainian 44.3%, other 0.3% (1998)
Languages: Norwegian, Russian
Literacy: NA
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Svalbard (sometimes referred to as Spitzbergen)
Dependency status: territory of Norway; administered by the Polar Department of the Ministry of Justice, through a governor (sysselmann) residing in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen; by treaty (9 February 1920) sovereignty was awarded to Norway
Government type: NA
Capital: name: Longyearbyen
geographic coordinates: 78 13 N, 15 33 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Independence: none (territory of Norway)
Legal system: the laws of Norway, where applicable, apply
Executive branch: chief of state: King HARALD V of Norway (since 17 January 1991)
head of government: Governor Per SEFLAND (since 1 October 2005); Assistant Governor Rune Baard HANSEN (since 2003)
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor and assistant governor responsible to the Polar Department of the Ministry of Justice
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: none
Flag description: the flag of Norway is used
Seed Vault The Norwegian government has built a "doomsday" seed bank to store seeds from as many of the world's crop varieties and their botanical wild relatives as possible. The bank was created by hollowing out a 120-meter tunnel on Spitsbergen cut into rock with a natural temperature of −6˚C, refrigerating it to −18˚C, and then storing seeds donated by the 1,400 crop repositories maintained by countries around the world. The vault has top security blast-proof doors and two airlocks. The number of seeds stored depends on the number of countries participating in the project. The point of this project is to prevent the diversity of agricultural crops currently stored (typically in the form of seed) in seed banks from becoming extinct as a result of accident, mismanagement, equipment failure, war or natural disaster, or due to a regional or global catastrophe, such as global warming.
Economy Economy - overview: Coal mining is the major economic activity on Svalbard. The treaty of 9 February 1920 gave the 41 signatories equal rights to exploit mineral deposits, subject to Norwegian regulation. Although US, UK, Dutch, and Swedish coal companies have mined in the past, the only companies still mining are Norwegian and Russian. The settlements on Svalbard are essentially company towns. The Norwegian state-owned coal company employs nearly 60% of the Norwegian population on the island, runs many of the local services, and provides most of the local infrastructure. There is also some hunting of seal, reindeer, and fox.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $NA
GDP - real growth rate: NA%
Labor force: NA
Budget: revenues: $25.07 million
expenditures: $NA (2004 est.)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 57.9984%
hydro: 42.0016%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0%
Exports: $197.6 million (2004)
Imports: $NA
Economic aid - recipient: $8.2 million from Norway (1998)
Currency (code): Norwegian krone (NOK)
Currency code: NOK
Exchange rates: Norwegian krones (NOK) per US dollar - 5.8396 (2007), 6.4117 (2006), 6.4425 (2005), 6.7408 (2004), 7.0802 (2003)
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: NA
Telephone system: general assessment: probably adequate
domestic: local telephone service
international: country code - 47-790; satellite earth station - 1 of unknown type (for communication with Norwegian mainland only)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 1 (plus 2 repeaters), shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: NA
Television broadcast stations: NA
Televisions: NA
Internet country code: .sj
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 13 (Svalbard and Jan Mayen) (2000)
Internet users: NA
Transportation Airports: 4 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 3
under 914 m: 3 (2007)
Heliports: 1 (2007)
Ports and terminals: Barentsburg, Longyearbyen, Ny-Alesund, Pyramiden
Military Military branches: no regular military forces
Military - note: Svalbard is a territory of Norway, demilitarized by treaty on 9 February 1920
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: despite recent discussions, Russia and Norway dispute their maritime limits in the Barents Sea and Russia's fishing rights beyond Svalbard's territorial limits within the Svalbard Treaty zone