Greenland is an autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark located east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago between the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. While part of the North American continent, Greenland is more culturally associated with Europe, particularly Norway and Denmark.
Greenland is the 12th largest country in the world in terms of area, with a population density of only 0.026 people per square kilometer, which ranks last in the world. Most Greenlanders live in the fjords in the southwest of the main island, where the climate is milder.
Greenland has a population of just shy of 57,000. 88% of Greenlanders are Greenlandic Inuit, which includes mixed persons. The rest of are white European descent, mostly Greenland Danes. There are also thousands of Greenlandic Inuit in Denmark proper. Most Greenlanders are Lutheran.
In Greenlandic (or Kallallisut), the country is Kalaallit Nunaat, or "land of the Kalaallit," who are the indigenous Greenlandic Inuit people who live in the western part of the country.
The languages of Danish and Greenlandic have been used officially since the country established home rule in 1979 and most people can speak both languages, although Kalaallisut became the only official language in 2009. Danish remains the most widely used language in the country's administration and higher education.
Greenland has the highest suicide rate in the world and the nation faces other pressing social issues, including high rates of alcoholism, HIV, and unemployment.
Greenland was home to many Paleo-Eskimo people in prehistoric times, with the first settlement in the area occurring around 2500 BC. Around 986 AD, the west coast of Greenland was settled by Norwegians and Icelanders through the arrival of 14 boats led by Erik the Red. This group created three settlements known as the Eastern Settlement, the Western Settlement and the Ivittuut, or Middle Settlement, on fjords. The island was shared with the late Dorset culture and the Thule culture to the north.
The settlements thrived for a long time but eventually disappeared in the 1400s, likely due to the declining temperatures with the onset of the Little Ice Age, famine and increasing conflicts with the local Inuit peoples.
In 1500, King Manuel I of Portugal sent an explorer, Corte-Real, to Greenland looking for a Northwest Passage to Asia. Corte-Real found the sea frozen and headed south, arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador and supplying new information about Greenland's southern coastline.
In the early 17th century, King Christian IV of Denmark sent expeditions to Greenland to find the lost eastern Norse settlement and reestablish Danish sovereignty over the island. The expeditions were largely unsuccessful. While the Norse settlements died off and the area came under the control of the Inuit groups, Denmark never relinquished its claims to the island that it inherited from the Norwegians, asserting its sovereignty over the island in the 18th century.
The Treaty of Kiel in 1814 dissolved the union between Norway and Denmark and Norway occupied the eastern coast of Greenland as Erik the Red's Land in 1931. Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940, severing the island's connection to Denmark. A year later, the United States occupied the island to defend it from invasion from Germany, and this occupation continued until 1945.
The U.S. was allowed to re-establish its air base on the island in 1950 and its colonial status ended when the island was incorporated as a country in 1953, which gave Danish citizenship to Greenlanders. Greenlanders were recognized as separate people under international law in 2009.
- Greenland is the largest island in the world, with more than 75% of its land area covered by the only contemporary ice sheet outside of Antarctica.
- Greenland is the world's least densely populated country.
- The name Greenland comes from early Scandinavian settlers. It is said that Erik the Red moved to the region after being exiled from Iceland for manslaughter and named the region Greenland in hopes the nice name would attract more people.
- The capital, Nuuk, is one of the world's smallest capital cities by population and the world's northernmost country capital.