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Iceland,is a Nordic island country marking the juncture between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.The country has a population of 321,857 and a total area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), which makes it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.The capital and largest city is Reykjavík,with the surrounding areas in the southwestern region of the country being home to two-thirds of the country's population. Reykjavik is the most northern capital in the world. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.
According to Landnámabók, the European settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent Norse settler on the island.Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. During the following centuries, Norsemen settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic was declared in 1944.
Until the 20th century, the Icelanders relied largely on fishing and agriculture, and the country was one of the poorest and least developed in the world. Industrialisation of the fisheries and aid through the United States' Marshall Plan following World War II brought prosperity and, by the 1990s, Iceland had developed as one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which supported diversification of the economy into economic and financial services.