Iceland, officially the Republic of Iceland (Ísland or Lýðveldið Ísland; ˈliðvɛltɪθ ˈistlant) is a country in northern Europe, comprising the island of Iceland and its outlying islets in the North Atlantic Ocean between the rest of Europe and Greenland. It is the least populous of the Nordic countries and the second smallest; it has a population of about 313,000 and a total area of 103,000 km². Its capital and largest city is Reykjavík.
Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale; this defines the landscape in various ways. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterized by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a temperate climate relative to its latitude and provides a habitable environment and nature.
The settlement of Iceland began in 874 when, according to Landnámabók, the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norwegian settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the next centuries, people of Nordic and Gaelic origin settled in Iceland. Until the twentieth century, the Icelandic population relied on fisheries and agriculture, and was from 1262 to 1944 a part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies. In the twentieth century, Iceland's economy and welfare system developed quickly.
As of 2007, Iceland is the most developed country in the world according to the Human Development Index and one of the most egalitarian, according to the calculation provided by the Gini coefficient.. Based upon a mixed economy where service, finance, fishing and various industries are the main sectors, it is also the fourth most productive country per capita. Icelanders have a rich culture and heritage, and the country is a candidate for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council. Iceland is a member of the UN, NATO, EFTA, EEA and OECD, but not of the European Union.
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