The Faroe Islands are an island group and archipelago under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark, situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Norway and Iceland. The total area is approximately 1,400 km² (540 sq mi) with a 2010 population of almost 50,000 people.
While, politically, the islands form a largely self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark, their remoteness from Denmark and also from their neighbours has enabled them to preserve their own identity, culture and language. They have their own government and parliament.
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.
The weather is maritime, quite changeable and totally dominated by the Gulf Stream which encircles the islands and moderates the climate giving an annual average range between 3 C in winter and 11 C in summer. In sheltered valleys the temperature can often reach into the high teens; however, the highest temperature ever recorded in the islands is a balmy 22 C. The Faroes also lie in the stormiest part of the North Atlantic, directly in the path of the majority of Atlantic depressions, and as a result are cloudy, wet and windy throughout the year.
A standard meal consists of a starch (usually boiled potatoes), a meat (mutton, fish, pilot whale, fowl), and a fat (tallow, blubber, butter, or margarine). Meats are wind-cured or boiled. The main, midday meal ordinarily is eaten in the kitchen, as are breakfast and supper. Snacks are taken at work in midmorning and mid-afternoon, and at any time of day visitors are offered tea or coffee with cakes, cookies, or bread and butter. There is no native tradition of restaurant dining or café going. There are no explicit food taboos, although some things, such as shellfish, are considered unpalatable.
Faroese consider themselves "ordinary people" living in "a small country." The primary symbols of national identity are the language, the local past, and the natural environment as these are articulated in oral and written literature, folk and scholarly historiography, and appreciations of the natural setting of social life. Other symbols include the flag (a red cross with a blue border on a white field, internationally recognized in 1940), the ancient tradition of ballad-dancing, the grindadráp (pilot whale slaughter), the old-fashioned garb sometimes worn on holidays, and the national bird, the oystercatcher.
In 1849 the Danish parliament incorporated the islands as a ‘county’ of Denmark. This provoked strong independence movements, which were re-ignited by the British occupation of the islands during WWII. In 1948 the Danish compromise was to upgrade the Faroes’ status to the ‘self-governing community within the Kingdom of Denmark’ which it remains today.
During the Middle Ages, the Faroe Islands were greatly influenced by the North Sea countries, especially through the Hanseatic merchants in Bergen. With the Reformation the Danish king increased his control of the trade and established a trade monopoly, operated by different merchants and companies, but from 1709 taken over by the king himself through the Royal Trade Monopoly.
According to Irish missionary Brendan, Celtic monks were already living in eremitic seclusion on the Faroes by the 6th century. Their isolation was ended from around AD800 when the first Norse farmers arrived. The farmers’ independence dwindled with the often forceful imposition of Christianity, and the isles became part of the Kingdom of Norway in 1035. The first bishops’ seat was established in Kirkjubøur.
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.
This group of 18 islands, of which 17 are inhabited, is located in the North Atlantic about 200 mi (322 km) northwest of the Shetland Islands. They were settled by the Vikings, the ancestors of the modern-day Faroese, in the 8th century. The Faroese language is derived from Old Norse. The islands joined Denmark in 1386 and have been part of the Danish kingdom ever since. The Faroes have had home rule, under Danish authority, since 1948.