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Scandinavia - Marriage, Living Apart Together, Divorce

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The Scandinavian peninsula is made up of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Sometimes these countries are linked with the Nordic countries—traditionally including Finland and Iceland—and in the late twentieth century these countries were sometimes linked with the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as England and Scotland. This entry will examine marriage and family in Scandinavia, Finland, and Iceland, using Sweden for comparisons.

Defined by the number of inhabitants, all these countries are small. Sweden is the largest, with a population of 9 million and Iceland is the smallest, with a population of approximately 250,000.

Historically, Scandinavia and Iceland were known for the Vikings, famous for their fighting and conquering habits. However, the Vikings—in the eighth through the tenth centuries—were mostly farmers and tradesmen. Since that time the population remained fairly homogeneous, with some immigration, mainly from Germany and France, between the fifteenth through the nineteenth century. However, the population has become less homogeneous with immigration, mainly refugees, from the near and far East.

Around year 1000 CE, a number of Scandinavian kingdoms converted to Christianity—but it was many years before they became fully Christian. FIGURE 1 Martin Luther was a powerful influence in the sixteenth century, and the Lutheran Church became the sole religion until freedom of religion became the norm in the mid-nineteenth century. Nevertheless, non-Christians and non-Lutherans remain small minorities in Scandinavia.


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