Svalbard facts on every entity in the world

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. In the 20th century coal mining started and today a Norwegian and a Russian company are still functioning. Travel between the settlements is accomplished with snowmobiles, aircraft, and boats.



Northern Europe, islands between the Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, Greenland Sea, and Norwegian Sea, north of Norway

Geographic coordinates

78.00° N, 20.00° E

Area 125/257

total: 62,045 sq km

land: 62,045 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes Spitsbergen and Bjornoya (Bear Island)

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than West Virginia

Land boundaries

0 km


3,587 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 4 nm

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm unilaterally claimed by Norway but not recognized by Russia


arctic, tempered by warm North Atlantic Current; cool summers, cold winters; North Atlantic Current flows along west and north coasts of Spitsbergen, keeping water open and navigable most of the year


rugged mountains; much of the upland areas are ice covered; west coast clear of ice about half the year; fjords along west and north coasts


mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Arctic Ocean 0 m

highest point: Newtontoppen 1,717 m

Natural resources

coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, phosphate, wildlife, fish

Land use

agricultural land: 0%

arable land 0%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 0%

forest: 0%

other: 100% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land


Natural hazards

ice floes often block the entrance to Bellsund (a transit point for coal export) on the west coast and occasionally make parts of the northeastern coast inaccessible to maritime traffic

Environment - current issues


Geography - note

northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway; consists of nine main islands; glaciers and snowfields cover 60% of the total area; Spitsbergen Island is the site of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a seed repository established by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Norwegian Government

People and Society

Ethnic groups

Norwegian 55.4%, Russian and Ukrainian 44.3%, other 0.3% (1998)


Norwegian, Russian

Population 232/238

1,872 (July 2014 est.)

Population growth rate 201/233

-0.03% (2014 est.)

Sex ratio


Infant mortality rate

total: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Life expectancy at birth

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Total fertility rate



Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Svalbard (sometimes referred to as Spitsbergen, the largest island in the archipelago)

Government type



name: Longyearbyen

geographic coordinates: 78.13° N, 15.38° E

time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October


none (territory of Norway)

Legal system

the laws of Norway where applicable apply only the laws of Norway made explicitly applicable to Svalbard have effect there; the Svalbard Act and the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act, and certain regulations, apply only to Svalbard; the Spitsbergen Treaty and the Svalbard Treaty grants certain rights to citizens and corporations of signatory nations


see Norway

Executive branch

chief of state: King HARALD V of Norway (since 17 January 1991)

head of government: Governor Kjerstin ASKHOLT (since 1 October 2015); Assistant Governor Lars Erik ALHEIM

elections/appointments: none; the monarchy is hereditary; governor and assistant governor responsible to the Polar Department of the Ministry of Justice

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Longyearbyen Community Council (15 seats; members elected by direct vote to serve four-year-terms)

elections: last held on 6 October 2015 (next to be held October 2019)

election resulta: seats by party - Conservatives 5, Green Party 2, Labor Party 5, Liberals 3

note: the Council's main reponsibilities are infrastructures and utilities, including power, land-use and community planning, education, and child welfare; however, healthcare services are provided by the state

Judicial branch

highest court(s): none; note - Svalbard is subordinate to Norway's Nord-Troms District Court and Halogaland Court of Appeal, both located in Tromso

Political parties and leaders

Svalbard Conservative Party; Svalbard Green Party [ Espen Klungseth ROTEVATN]; Svalbard Labor Party [ Chjristin KRISTOFFERSEN]; Svalbard Liberal Party

Political pressure groups and leaders


International organization participation


Flag description

the flag of Norway is used

National anthem

note: as a territory of Norway, "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" is official (see Norway)


Economy - overview

Coal mining, tourism, and international research are Svalbard's major revenue sources. Coal mining is the dominant economic activity and a 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 engaging in this are Norwegian and Russian. The settlements on Svalbard were established as company towns, and at their height in the 1950s, the Norwegian state-owned coal company supported around 1,000 jobs. Today, around 300 people work in the mining industry. Since the 1990s the tourism and hospitality industry has grown rapidly and Svalbard now receives 60,000 visitors annually. Goods such as alcohol, tobacco, and vehicles, normally highly taxed on mainland Norway, are considerably cheaper in Svalbard in an effort by the Norwegian government to entice more people to live on the Arctic archipelago. By law, the Norway collects only enough taxes to pay for the needs of the local government; none of tax proceeds go to Norway.

GDP - real growth rate


Labor force 229/233

1,590 (2013)




Taxes and other revenues

NA% of GDP

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

NA% of GDP



Exchange rates

Norwegian kroner (NOK) per US dollar -

7.88 (2015)

5.88 (2013)

5.88 (2013)

5.82 (2012)

5.61 (2011)


Crude oil - production 39/214

194,300 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 60/214

16,070 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 129/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 83/212

80,250 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 95/214

4,488 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 115/213

18,600 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 132/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 197/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 185/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 137/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)


Telephone system

general assessment: adequate

domestic: local telephone service

international: country code - 47-790; satellite earth station - 1 of unknown type (for communication with Norwegian mainland only) (2005)

Broadcast media

the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) began direct TV transmission to Svalbard via satellite in 1984; Longyearbyen households have access to 3 NRK radio and 2 TV stations (2008)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 1, FM 1 (plus 2 repeaters), shortwave 0 (1998)

Television broadcast stations


Internet country code



Airports 190/236

4 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 3

under 914 m: 3 (2013)


1 (2013)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Barentsburg, Longyearbyen, Ny-Alesund, Pyramiden

Military and Security

Military branches

no regular military forces

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

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