Europe :: Svalbard
  • Introduction :: Svalbard
  • Background:
    The archipelago may have been first discovered by Norse explorers in the 12th century; the islands served as an international whaling base during the 17th and 18th centuries. Norway's sovereignty was internationally recognized by treaty in 1920, and five years later it officially took over the territory. In the 20th century coal mining started and today a Norwegian and a Russian company are still functioning. Travel between the settlements is accomplished with snowmobiles, aircraft, and boats.
  • Geography :: Svalbard
  • 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: 62,045 sq km
    land: 62,045 sq km
    water: 0 sq km

    note: includes Spitsbergen and Bjornoya (Bear Island)

    country comparison to the world: 126
    Area - comparative:
    slightly smaller than West Virginia
    Land boundaries:
    0 km
    Coastline:
    3,587 km
    Maritime claims:
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    contiguous zone: 24 nm
    continental shelf: extends to depth of exploitation
    exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
    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:
    rugged mountains; much of the upland areas are ice covered; west coast clear of ice about half the year; fjords along west and north coasts
    Elevation:
    0 m lowest point: Arctic Ocean
    1717 highest point: Newtontoppen
    Natural resources:
    coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, phosphate, wildlife, fish
    Land use:
    agricultural land: 0% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 0% (2011 est.)
    forest: 0% (2011 est.)
    other: 100% (2011 est.)
    Population distribution:
    the small population is primarily concentrated on the island of Spitsbergen in a handful of settlements on the south side of the Isfjorden, with Longyearbyen being the largest
    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:
    ice floes are a maritime hazard; past exploitation of mammal species (whale, seal, walrus, and polar bear) severely depleted the populations, but a gradual recovery seems to be occurring
    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
  • People and Society :: Svalbard
  • Population:
    2,583 (July 2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 230
    Ethnic groups:
    Norwegian 59.8%, Russian and Ukrainian 20.4%, other 19.4% (primarily Swedish, Thai, and Philippine) (2016 est.)
    Languages:
    Norwegian, Russian
    Population growth rate:
    -0.03% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 198
    Population distribution:
    the small population is primarily concentrated on the island of Spitsbergen in a handful of settlements on the south side of the Isfjorden, with Longyearbyen being the largest
    Sex ratio:
    NA
    Infant mortality rate:
    total: NA
    male: NA
    female: NA
    Life expectancy at birth:
    total population: NA (2017 est.)
    male: NA (2017 est.)
    female: NA (2017 est.)
    Total fertility rate:
    NA
  • Government :: Svalbard
  • Country name:
    conventional long form: none
    conventional short form: Svalbard (sometimes referred to as Spitsbergen, the largest island in the archipelago)
    etymology: 12th century Norse accounts speak of the discovery of a "Svalbard" - literally "cold shores" - but they may have referred to Jan Mayen Island or eastern Greenland; the archipelago was traditionally known as Spitsbergen, but Norway renamed it Svalbard in the 1920s when it assumed sovereignty of the islands
    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:
    non-self-governing territory of Norway
    Capital:
    name: Longyearbyen
    geographic coordinates: 78 13 N, 15 38 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)
    Citizenship:
    see Norway
    Executive branch:
    chief of state: King HARALD V of Norway (since 17 January 1991); Heir Apparent Crown Prince Haakon MAGNUS (son of the king, born 20 July 1973)
    head of government: Governor Kjerstin ASKHOLT (since 1 October 2015); Assistant Governor Berit SAGFOSSEN (since 1 April 2016)
    elections/appointments: none; the monarchy is hereditary; governor and assistant governor responsible to the Polar Department of the Ministry of Justice
    Legislative branch:
    description: unicameral Longyearbyen Community Council (15 seats; members directly elected by majority vote to serve 4-year-terms); note - the Council acts very much like a Norwegian municipality, responsible for infrastructure and utilities, including power, land-use and community planning, education, and child welfare; however, healthcare services are provided by the state
    elections: last held on 6 October 2015 (next to be held in October 2019)
    election results: seats by party - Conservatives 5, Labor Party 5, Liberals 3, Green Party 2; composition - men 10, women 5, percent of women 33.3%
    Judicial branch:
    none; note - Svalbard is subordinate to Norway's Nord-Troms District Court and Halogaland Court of Appeal, both located in Tromso
    Political parties and leaders:
    Svalbard Conservative Party [Kjetil FIGENSCHOU]
    Svalbard Green Party [Helga Bardsdatter KRISTIANSEN, Espen Klungseth ROTEVATN]
    Svalbard Labor Party [Arild OLSEN]
    Svalbard Liberal Party [Erik BERGER]
    International organization participation:
    none
    Flag description:
    the flag of Norway is used
    National anthem:

    note: as a territory of Norway, "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" is official (see Norway)

  • Economy :: Svalbard
  • Economy - overview:

    Coal mining, tourism, and international research are Svalbard's major industries. Coal mining has historically been the dominant economic activity, and the Spitzbergen Treaty of 9 February 1920 gives the 45 countries that so far have ratified the treaty 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 engaging in this are Norwegian and Russian. Low coal prices have forced the Norwegian coal company, Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani, to close one of its two mines and to considerably reduce the activity of the other. Since the 1990s, the tourism and hospitality industry has grown rapidly, and Svalbard now receives 60,000 visitors annually.

    The settlements on Svalbard were established as company towns, and at their height in the 1950s, the Norwegian state-owned coal company supported nearly 1,000 jobs. Today, only about 300 people work in the mining industry.

    Goods such as alcohol, tobacco, and vehicles, normally highly taxed on mainland Norway, are considerably cheaper in Svalbard in an effort by the Norwegian Government to entice more people to live on the Arctic archipelago. By law, Norway collects only enough taxes to pay for the needs of the local government; none of tax proceeds go to the central government.

    GDP - real growth rate:

    NA

    Labor force:
    1,590 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 228
    Budget:
    revenues: NA
    expenditures: NA
    Taxes and other revenues:
    NA
    Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
    NA
    Exports:

    NA

    Imports:

    $NA

    Exchange rates:
    Norwegian kroner (NOK) per US dollar -
    8.308 (2017 est.)
    8.0646 (2016 est.)
    8.0646 (2015)
    8.0646 (2014 est.)
    6.3021 (2013 est.)
  • Energy :: Svalbard
  • Crude oil - production:
    194,300 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 36
    Crude oil - exports:
    16,070 bbl/day (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 53
    Crude oil - imports:
    0 bbl/day (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 200
    Refined petroleum products - consumption:
    80,250 bbl/day (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 87
    Refined petroleum products - exports:
    4,488 bbl/day (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 93
    Refined petroleum products - imports:
    18,600 bbl/day (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 127
    Natural gas - production:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 203
    Natural gas - consumption:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 204
    Natural gas - exports:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 192
    Natural gas - imports:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 195
  • Communications :: Svalbard
  • Telephone system:
    general assessment: modern, well-developed (2017)
    domestic: the Svalbard Satellite Station - connected to the mainland via the Svalbard Undersea Cable System - is the only Arctic ground station that can see low-altitude, polar-orbiting satellites; it provides ground services to more satellites than any other facility in the world (2017)
    international: country code - 47-790; the Svalbard Undersea Cable System is a twin communications cable that connects Svalbard to mainland Norway; the system is the sole telecommunications link to the archipelago (2017)
    Broadcast media:
    the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) began direct TV transmission to Svalbard via satellite in 1984; Longyearbyen households have access to 3 NRK radio and 2 TV stations (2008)
    Internet country code:
    .sj
  • Transportation :: Svalbard
  • Airports:
    4 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 190
    Airports - with paved runways:
    total: 1 (2013)
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2013)
    Airports - with unpaved runways:
    total: 3 (2013)
    under 914 m: 3 (2013)
    Heliports:
    1 (2013)
    Ports and terminals:
    major seaport(s): Barentsburg, Longyearbyen, Ny-Alesund, Pyramiden
  • Military and Security :: Svalbard
  • Military branches:
    no regular military forces
    Military - note:
    Svalbard is a territory of Norway, demilitarized by treaty on 9 February 1920; Norwegian military activity is limited to fisheries surveillance by the Norwegian Coast Guard
  • Transnational Issues :: Svalbard
  • 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