About Denmark

The climate is in the temperate zone. The winters are not particularly cold, with mean temperatures in January and February of 0.0 °C, and the summers are cool, with a mean temperature in August of 15.7 °C. Denmark has an average of 121 days per year with precipitation, on average receiving a total of 712 mm per year; autumn is the wettest season and spring the driest. Grenen near Skagen, Denmark's northmost point Because of Denmark's northern location, the length of the day with sunlight varies greatly. There are short days during the winter with sunrise coming around 9:00 a.m. and sunset 4:30 p.m., as well as long summer days with sunrise at 4:00 a.m. and sunset at 10 p.m.The shortest and longest days of the year have traditionally been celebrated.

The celebration for the shortest day corresponds roughly with Christmas (Danish: jul), and modern celebrations concentrate on Christmas Eve, 24 December. The Norse word jól is a plural, indicating that pre-Christian society celebrated a season with multiple feasts. Christianity introduced the celebration of Christmas, resulting in the use of the Norse name also for the Christian celebration. Efforts by the Catholic Church to replace this name with kristmesse were unsuccessful. The celebration for the longest day is Midsummer Day, which is known in Denmark as sankthansaften (St. John's evening). Celebrations of Midsummer have taken place since pre-Christian times.


GDP (2008): $342.9 billion (current prices and exchange rates, source: Statistics Denmark). Annual growth rate (real terms, 2008.): -1.1%. Per capita GDP (2008): $62,015 (current prices and exchange rates). Agriculture and fisheries (2.3% of GDP, 2008): Products--meat, milk, grains, seeds, hides, fur skin, fish and shellfish. Industry (21.8% of GDP, 2008): Types--industrial and construction equipment, food processing, electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, furniture, textiles, windmills, and ships.

Natural resources: North Sea--oil and gas, fish. Greenland--fish and shrimp, potential for hydrocarbons and minerals, including zinc, lead, molybdenum, uranium, gold, platinum. The Faroe Islands--fish, potential for hydrocarbons.

Trade (2008, goods): Exports--$114.892 billion: industrial production/manufactured goods 73.0% (of which machinery and instruments were 25.5%, and fuels, chemicals, etc. 13.3%); agricultural products and others for consumption 11.8% (pork and pork products 4.3% of total export); fish and fish products 2.1%. Imports--$109.727 billion: raw materials and semi-manufactures 42.6%; consumer goods 28.6%; capital equipment 11.6%; transport equipment 8.1%; fuels 7.9%. Major trade partners, exports--Germany 17.6%, Sweden 14.5%, U.K. 8.3%, Norway 6%, U.S. 5.5%, Holland 4.4%. Major trade partners, imports--Germany 21.2%, Sweden 14.2%, Holland 6.8%, U.K. 5.2%, Norway 4.7%, U.S. 3.2%. Official exchange rate: 5.0986 kroner=U.S. $1 (2008 average).

The Danes, a homogeneous Gothic-Germanic people, have inhabited Denmark since prehistoric times. Danish is the principal language. English is a required school subject, and fluency is high. A small German-speaking minority lives in southern Jutland; a mostly Inuit population inhabits Greenland; and the Faroe Islands have a Nordic population with its own language. Education is compulsory from ages seven to 16 and is free through the university level.

Although religious freedom is guaranteed, the state-supported Evangelical Lutheran Church has a membership of 83% of the population. Several other Christian denominations, as well as other major religions, find adherents in Denmark. Islam is now the second-largest religion in Denmark, with the number of Muslims in Denmark estimated at slightly more than 4% of the population.

During the Viking period (9th-11th centuries), Denmark was a great power based on the Jutland Peninsula, the Island of Zealand, and the southern part of what is now Sweden. In the early 11th century, King Canute united Denmark and England for almost 30 years.

Viking raids brought Denmark into contact with Christianity, and in the 12th century, crown and church influence increased. By the late 13th century, royal power had waned, and the nobility forced the king to grant a charter, considered Denmark's first constitution. Although the struggle between crown and nobility continued into the 14th century, Queen Margrethe I succeeded in uniting Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland under the Danish crown. Sweden and Finland left the union in 1520; however, Norway remained until 1814. Iceland, in a "personal union" under the king of Denmark after 1918, became independent in 1944.

Area: 43,094 sq. km. (16,639 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Cities: Capital--Copenhagen (pop. 518,574 in Copenhagen and 1,662,189 in the Capital Region). Other cities--Aarhus (302,618), Aalborg (196,292), Odense (187,929). Terrain: Low and flat or slightly rolling; highest elevation is 173 m. (568 ft.). Climate: Temperate. The terrain, location, and prevailing westerly winds make the weather changeable. *Excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands

Type: Constitutional monarchy. Constitution: June 5, 1953. Branches: Executive--queen (head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative--unicameral parliament (Folketing). Judicial--appointed Supreme Court. Political parties (represented in parliament): Venstre (Liberal), Social Democratic, Danish People’s, Socialist People’s, Conservative, Social Liberal, New Alliance, Unity List. Suffrage: Universal adult (18 years of age). Administrative subdivisions: 5 regions and 98 municipalities.

Cultural Achievements

Denmark's rich intellectual heritage has made multifaceted contributions to modern culture the world over. The discoveries of astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), geologist, anatomist, and bishop, Blessed Niels Steensen (1639-86--beatified in 1988 by Pope John Paul II), and the brilliant contributions of Nobel laureates Niels Bohr (1885-1962) to atomic physics and Niels Finsen (1860-1904) to medical research indicate the range of Danish scientific achievement. The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), the philosophical essays of Soeren Kierkegaard (1813-55), and the short stories of Karen Blixen (pseudonym Isak Dinesen; 1885-1962) have earned international recognition, as have the symphonies of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931).

Danish applied art and industrial design have won so many awards for excellence that the term "Danish Design" has become synonymous with high quality, craftsmanship, and functionalism. Among the leading lights of architecture and design was Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971), the "father of modern Danish design." The name of Georg Jensen (1866-1935) is known worldwide for outstanding modern design in silver, and "Royal Copenhagen" is among the finest porcelains. No 'short list' of famous Danes would be complete without the entertainer and pianist Victor Borge (1909-2000), who emigrated to the United States under Nazi threat in 1940, and had a worldwide following when he died a naturalized U.S. citizen in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the age of 91.

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