First discovered by the Norwegians in the 12th century, the islands served as an international whaling base during the 17th and 18th centuries. Norway's sovereignty was recognized in 1920; five years later it officially took over the territory.
Northern Europe, islands between the Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, Greenland Sea, and Norwegian Sea, north of Norway
78 00 N, 20 00 E
1,970 (July 2012 est.)
0-14 years: NA
15-64 years: NA
65 years and over: NA
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Svalbard (sometimes referred to as Spitzbergen)
territory of Norway; administered by the Polar Department of the Ministry of Justice, through a governor (sysselmann) residing in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen; by treaty (9 February 1920) sovereignty was awarded to Norway
Telephones - main lines in use:
general assessment: probably adequate
domestic: local telephone service
international: country code - 47-790; satellite earth station - 1 of unknown type (for communication with Norwegian mainland only)
Airports - with paved runways:
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2012)
no regular military forces
Military - note:
Svalbard is a territory of Norway, demilitarized by treaty on 9 February 1920
Coal mining is the major economic activity on Svalbard. The treaty of 9 February 1920 gave the 41 signatories equal rights to exploit mineral deposits, subject to Norwegian regulation. Although US, UK, Dutch, and Swedish coal companies have mined in the past, the only companies still mining are Norwegian and Russian. The settlements on Svalbard are essentially company towns. The Norwegian state-owned coal company employs nearly 60% of the Norwegian population on the island, runs many of the local services, and provides most of the local infrastructure. There is also some hunting of seal, reindeer, and fox.
Despite recent discussions, Russia and Norway dispute their maritime limits in the Barents Sea and Russia's fishing rights beyond Svalbard's territorial limits within the Svalbard Treaty zone.