Faeroe Islands

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Faeroe Islands

Faeroe Islands or Faröe Islands (both: fâr´ō), Dan. Færøerne, Faeroese Føroyar, group of volcanic islands (2005 est. pop. 47,000), 540 sq mi (1,399 sq km), Denmark, in the N Atlantic, between Iceland and the Shetland Islands. There are 18 main islands and a few small, uninhabited islands. The largest islands are Streymoy, on which the group's capital, Tórshavn, is situated, and Østerø. The Faeroes are high and rugged and have only sparse vegetation. The climate is relatively mild because of the influence of the North Atlantic Drift; there are frequent storms and much fog.

The population is Scandinavian and almost totally Lutheran; they speak Faeroese (a Germanic language derived from Old Norse and related to Danish) and Danish. The inhabitants depend mainly on fishing and to a lesser extent on sheep raising, shipbuilding, and fish farming. Fish, animal feeds, stamps, and ships are exported, while consumer goods, raw materials, machinery, and fuels are imported. The chief fishing ports are Vágur, Tórshavn, and Klaksvíg. The potential for petroleum production is being explored.

The Faeroes are a self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark; they are governed under the Danish constitution of 1953. The Danish monarch, represented by a high commissioner, is the head of state. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is elected by the legislature. The cabinet is appointed by the prime minister. The 32 members of the unicameral Faeroese Parliament or Logting are popularly elected to four-year terms.

History

The earliest known inhabitants were Celtic. In the 8th cent. AD the islands were settled by Norsemen. In the early 11th cent. they became part of the kingdom of Norway and were Christianized. The population was nearly wiped out by an outbreak of black plague in the 14th cent. and was soon after replaced by Norwegian settlers. Along with Norway, the Faeroes passed under Danish rule in 1380, and they remained Danish after the Treaty of Kiel (1814) transferred Norway from the Danish to the Swedish crown. A nationalist movement in the 19th cent. led to the revival of Faeroese, a language akin to Icelandic, and there is an extensive native literature.

In World War II, Great Britain established (1940) a protectorate over the islands after the German occupation of Denmark. After the war there was considerable sentiment for full independence, and following a plebiscite in 1946, the islands' parliament proclaimed independence. The Danish king dissolved the Lagting, and after a new parliament was elected, the proclamation was reversed. However, in 1948 the Faeroese obtained home rule from Denmark. Since 1953 they have sent two representatives to the Danish parliament. The Faeroes did not join the European Community (EC; now the European Union, EU) with Denmark in 1972 because it would have opened their fishing waters to other EC members. In 1977 the fishing limit was extended to 200 nautical mi (370 km). A unilaterial increase by the Faeroese in 2013 in their herring catch led to an EU ban on Faeroese herring. Sentiment in favor of independence remains strong among many islanders.

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