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Greenland Facts

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What is Greenland?
Greenland is an autonomous constituent country in the Kingdom of Denmark, and the largest island in the world that is not a continent.
Greenland is a dependency of the Kingdom of Denmark. Greenland is known locally as Kalaallit Nunaat, and is inhabited by indigenous Inuit people as well as people of Danish descent.

When was Greenland colonized?
Erik the Red, or Erik Thorvaldsson from Scandinavia, is credited with being the first European to settle the island in the 10th century, after being exiled. The Inuits arrived in the 13th century, settling in other parts of the coast. The Norse abandoned their settlements in the 15th century, probably because of harsh conditions and lack of food sources. The Danish-Norweigians arrived in the 18th century, after years of exploration to attempt to relocate the lost Nordic settlements. Greenland became a Danish colony in on January 14, 1814.

This was followed by periods of occupation by both Nazi Germany and the United States during World War II before it finally became part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953. Greenland joined the European Union with Denmark in 1973, but eventually left in 1985 because of the EU’s fishing restrictions. Greenland was allowed self-government in 1979 (home rule), and voted to increase their autonomy in 2008. Responsibility for their own internal affairs was granted in 2009. Denmark continues to handle Greenland’s foreign affairs, security, and finances.

What form of government does Greenland have?
Greenland has a parliamentary democracy within the constitutional monarchy of the Kingdom of Denmark.

How did Greenland get its name?
Erik the Red gave Greenland its name in hopes of enticing settlers to move to the island, which they believed was beautiful and green. He had been exiled from his homeland, Iceland, for murder, and when he returned to Iceland he lured people to help him build a colony on Greenland.

Where is Greenland?
Greenland is considered part of North America, located between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean. Greenland is situated northeast of Canada, its nearest neighbor, and west of Iceland.

Though Greenland is geographically North American, it is politically and culturally associated with Europe.

How big is Greenland?
Greenland is the 12th largest country in the world, with a size of 2,166,086 square kilometers, making it the world’s largest island that is not a continent.

What are the main features of Greenland’s geography?
Greenland is the world’s largest island that is not a continent, though some scientists believe that Greenland is actually an archipelago connected by ice.

Most of Greenland (about 81%) is covered in ice, except for a narrow strip of coastline around the island, where all Greenland’s cities are located. The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest ice sheet on Earth, behind the Antarctic Ice sheet. The weight of the ice sheet had caused much of Greenland to sink about 300 meters below sea level.

Greenland is home to a vast national park, which covers up about 46% of the island in the northeast corner. Northeast Greenland National park is both the largest and farthest north national park in the world.

How many timezones does Greenland have?
Greenland spans four time zones.
Atlantic Time Zone (UTC-04:00)
West Greenland Time Zone (UTC-03:00)
East Greenland Time Zone (UTC-01:00)
Western European Time Zone (UTC+00:00)

What is the population of Greenland?
Greenland is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with a population of approximately 57,000.

What is the capital of Greenland?
The capital of Greenland is called Nuuk, which means “the promontory.” The city is also known as Godthab, meaning “good hope” in Danish, and is one of the smallest capital cities in the world.

What ethnic groups make up Greenland’s population?
About 89% of Greenland’s population are Inuit, an indigenous group of the Arctic regions. Danish is the next largest ethnic group of Greenland.

What are the predominant religions of Greenland?
Protestant Christianity, especially Evangelical Lutheranism, is the most commonly practiced religion in Greenland, at over 90% of the population. Traditional Inuit religions are practiced by a minority of the population.

What languages are spoken in Greenland?
Greenlandic and Danish are both official languages of Greenland. Greenlandic is a the language of the early peoples of Greenland, and is also known as Eskimo-Aleut, or more specifically East Inuit. There are three main dialect groups of Greenlandic, of which Kalaallisut is the official Greenlandic language.

English is also spoken in Greenland as a second or third language.

What are the administrative divisions of Greenland?
Greenland is divided into four municipalities:
  • Kujalleq
  • Qaasuitsup
  • Qeqqata
  • Sermersooq

What is the national holiday of Greenland?
The national day of Greenland is celebrated on June 21 every year. The day is the longest day of the year marking the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. The island was a colony of Denmark in 1776 and was granted home rule in the year 1979. Dissatisfied by the conditions, many voters in the island moved the government for greater autonomy. On June 21, 2009 the move for a separate country accompanied by self-rule was granted. The national day is declared a public holiday in the country.

Who are the political leaders of Greenland?
Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II is represented in Greenland by High Commissioner Mikaela Engell. The Prime Minister is Kim Kielsen.

What does Greenland’s flag design represent?
Using the colors of the Danish flag, Greenland’s flag is meant to represent the Sun reflecting off Greenland’s ice.

What are the main aspects of Greenland’s economy?
Greenland’s largest economic sector is fishing, which is subsidized by Denmark. Its main exports are fish, shrimp, and crabs. Other significant industries are government, mining, and tourism. Agriculture, including vegetables, sheep, and reindeer are also important to Greenland’s economy.

What currency is used in Greenland?
Greenland uses the Danish krone, though a Greenlandic krone has been planned for use within the country as a variant of the Danish krone. 
ACOD~20120924

Last Updated on June 19, 2015


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