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Greenland (Greenlandic: Kalaallit Nunaat, meaning "the humans' land"; Danish: Grønland, meaning "Greenland") is a self-governed Danish territory. Though geographically and ethnically an Arctic island nation associated with the continent of North America, politically and historically Greenland is closely tied to Europe. The Atlantic Ocean borders Greenland's southeast; the Greenland Sea is to the east; the Arctic Ocean is to the north; and Baffin Bay is to the west. The nearest countries are Iceland, east of Greenland in the Atlantic Ocean, and Canada, to the west and across Baffin Bay. Greenland is the world's largest island, and is the largest dependent territory by area in the world. It also contains the world's largest national park.
About 81% of its surface is covered by ice, known as the Greenlandic ice cap, the weight of which has depressed the central land area to form a basin lying more than 300 m [1,000 ft] below the surrounding ocean. Nearly all Greenlanders live along the fjords in the south-west of the main island, which has a milder climate. Most Greenlanders have both Kalaallit (Inuit) and Scandinavian ancestry, and speak Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) as their first language. Greenlandic is spoken by about 50,000 people, which is more than all the other Eskimo-Aleut languages combined. A minority of Danish migrants with no Inuit ancestry speak Danish as their first language. Both languages are official, with the West Greenlandic dialect forming the basis of the official form of Greenlandic.
There is an on-going diplomatic sovereignty dispute between Canada and Greenland (represented internationally by Denmark) over the tiny Hans Island.
Greenland was one of the Norwegian Crown colonies from the 11th century until 1814. At that time, the Kingdom of Norway and Denmark (the Norwegian King having succeeded to the Danish throne a few centuries earlier; see Denmark-Norway) found itself on the losing side of the Napoleonic Wars. In gratitude to Sweden for her assistance in defeating Napoleon (and as a consolation for the recent loss of Finland to Russia), mainland Norway and certain Norwegian territories were transferred to Sweden — thus, the personal union of Norway and Denmark ended. The crown colonies of Greenland, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, however, remained part of the reorganised "Kingdom of Denmark."
Greenland became an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953. It was granted home rule by the Folketing (Danish parliament) in 1978. The law went into effect on May 1, 1979. The Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, remains Greenland's Head of State. Greenlandic voters subsequently chose to leave the European Economic Community upon achieving self-rule.
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