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Iceland (Icelandic: Ísland) is an island country in the North Atlantic, between Greenland and Norway, formerly a possession of Denmark. It is culturally considered to be part of Europe. Iceland is 300 kilometres east of Greenland and 1000 kilometres west of Norway. There are about 320,000 people who live in Iceland, which has an area of 103,000 km².
The first people who lived on Iceland are thought to have been Irish monks. They came to Iceland around the year 800.
In the 9th century, Norsemen went to live in Iceland. The first Norseman who lived in Iceland was Flóki Vilgerðarson. He was also the one who gave Iceland its name. Ingólfur Arnarson, a chieftain from Norway went to live in South West Iceland. He founded the city of Reykjavík.
In 930, the Icelandic rulers wrote a constitution. They created the Althing, a kind of parliament in a place called Þingvellir. Therefore, Iceland is the oldest existing republic.
In 985, Erik the Red was sent away from the island because he had killed someone. He sailed to the west and discovered Greenland. Eric's son Leif Ericson discovered America in the year 1000. He called it Vinland. The voyages of Eric, Leif and others were written down in the sagas (long stories).
In 1262, Iceland became part of Norway. This lasted for 400 years. In 1662, it became part of Denmark. (...)
When Germany took over Denmark on April 9 1940, the Althing decided that Icelanders should rule the country themselves, but they did not declare independence yet. British and later American soldiers occupied Iceland to prevent it from being attacked by the Germans. In 1944, Iceland finally became fully independent. (...)
In 1980, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was elected president of Iceland. She was the first woman ever to be elected president of a country.
The people in Iceland are mostly of Scandinavian origin. The language they speak is Icelandic. The language has not changed much in 1,000 years, so Icelanders are still able to read the sagas about the Vikings without many problems.
There are no real surnames on Iceland. Children get the first name of their father (sometimes mother) with -s+son if it's a boy, and -s+dóttir if it's a girl. For example, a man named Jón Stefánsson has a son named Fjalar. Fjalar's last name will not be Stefánsson like his father's, it will become Fjalar Jónsson. The same goes for women. Jón Stefánsson's daughter Kata would not have the last name Stefánsson, she would have the name Jónsdóttir. In most countries people use to call other people by their surname, but in Iceland people call other people by their first name. So when people talk about Halldór Ásgrímsson they do not call him Ásgrímsson, but Halldór.
Iceland is very geologically active and combined with large amounts of rain and snow caused by the warm waters of the gulf stream current which flow toward it, many interesting and unusual geographic features have developed which make it different from any other island so close to the Arctic Circle.
Some of these features are Iceland's numerous mountains, volcanoes, hot springs, rivers, small lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and geysers. The word geyser is, in fact, derived from Geysir, the name of a particularly famous geyser on the southern side of the island. Glaciers cover approximately 11% of the island and the largest, Vatnajökull, is up to 1 km thick and, by far, the largest glacier in Europe.