Magazine article Scandinavian Review

Birth of a Nation

Magazine article Scandinavian Review

Birth of a Nation

Article excerpt

IT WAS 1918, A PARTICULARLY momentous one in modern history. The First World War came to an end, Russia's Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks, and an unprecedented global flu epidemic claimed the lives of more than 20 million, more than were killed during the four years of the war. Small wonder, then, that such events overshadowed what was happening on a then remote island along the southern fringes of the Arctic Circle.

Iceland is the youngest and least populated country in Europe and has a very brief history. The earliest settlers did not set foot on it until near the end of the first millennium. Throughout the Viking times and days of the sagas and eddas the country changed hands, so to speak, many times and Iceland was largely a subservient land. By the mid 1800s, however, an independence movement started rising, and by 1874 Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and home rule.

But it wasn't until December 1, 1918, that Iceland signed an agreement with Denmark called the Act of Union, which recognized Iceland as a fully sovereign state-the Kingdom of Iceland-in a personal union with the Danish king. Under the Act, Iceland established its own flag but Denmark was to handle Iceland's foreign affairs and defense. And Denmark was to give notice to the world that it was permanently neutral. The Act was to be up for revision in 1940 and could be revoked in three years if agreement could not be reached. By the 1930s, the consensus in Iceland was to seek complete independence.

Then came World War II, during which Iceland was part of neutral Denmark. …

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