Svalbard and Jan Mayen - SJ - SJM - Europe

Last updated: April 09, 2024
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Svalbard Factbook Data

Dependency status

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

Geographic coordinates

78 00 N, 20 00 E

Sex ratio


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

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than West Virginia


The archipelago may have been first discovered by Norse explorers in the 12th century; the islands served as an international whaling base during the 17th and 18th centuries. Norway's sovereignty was internationally recognized by treaty in 1920, and 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.

Environment - current issues

ice floes are a maritime hazard; past exploitation of mammal species (whale, seal, walrus, and polar bear) severely depleted the populations, but a gradual recovery seems to be occurring

Military and security forces

no regular military forces


revenues: NA

expenditures: NA


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

etymology: the name in Norwegian means Longyear Town; the site was established by and named after John LONGYEAR, whose Arctic Coal Company began mining operations there in 1906


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


3,587 km

Exchange rates

Norwegian kroner (NOK) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
8.308 (2017 est.)
8.0646 (2016 est.)
8.0646 (2015)
8.0646 (2014 est.)
6.3021 (2013 est.)

Executive branch

chief of state: King HARALD V of Norway (since 17 January 1991); Heir Apparent Crown Prince Haakon MAGNUS (son of the king, born 20 July 1973)

head of government: Governor Lars FAUSE (since 24 June 2021); Assistant Governor Solvi ELVEDAHL (since 1 May 2020)

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

Flag description

the flag of Norway is used


none (territory of Norway)

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

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Land use

agricultural land: 0% (2018 est.)

other: 100% (2018 est.)

Legal system

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 grant certain rights to citizens and corporations of signatory nations; as of June 2017, 45 nations had ratified the Svalbard Treaty

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Longyearbyen Community Council (15 seats; members directly elected by majority vote to serve 4-year-terms); note - the Council acts very much like a Norwegian municipality, responsible for infrastructure and utilities, including power, land-use and community planning, education, and child welfare; however, healthcare services are provided by the state

elections: last held on 9 October 2023 (next to be held in October 2027)

election results: seats by party - Liberal 7, Labor 3, Social Liberal 3, Conservative 2

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

continental shelf: extends to depth of exploitation

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

International organization participation


Natural resources

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

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

Economic overview

high-income Norwegian island economy; major coal mining, tourism, and research sectors; recently established northernmost brewery; key whaling and fishing base; home to the Global Seed Vault

Political parties and leaders

Conservative [Celine ANDERSSEN]
Green [Pal BERG]
Labor [Arild OLSEN]
Liberal [Terje AUVENIK]
Progress [Jorn DYBDAHL]
Social Liberals []

Ports and terminals

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

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Svalbard Undersea Cable System is a twin submarine communications cable which connects Svalbard to the mainland of Norway (2022)

domestic: the Svalbard Satellite Station - connected to the mainland via the Svalbard Undersea Cable System - is the only Arctic ground station that can see low-altitude, polar-orbiting satellites; it provides ground services to more satellites than any other facility in the world (2022)

international: country code - 47-790; the Svalbard Undersea Cable System is a twin communications cable that connects Svalbard to mainland Norway; the system is the sole telecommunications link to the archipelago (2019)


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

Government type

non-self-governing territory of Norway

Military - note

Svalbard is a territory of Norway, demilitarized by treaty on 9 February 1920; Norwegian military activity is limited to fisheries surveillance by the Norwegian Coast Guard (2024)

Country name

conventional long form: none

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

etymology: 12th century Norse accounts speak of the discovery of a "Svalbard" - literally "cold shores" - but they may have referred to Jan Mayen Island or eastern Greenland; the archipelago was traditionally known as Spitsbergen, but Norway renamed it Svalbard in the 1920s when it assumed sovereignty of the islands


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

Map references

Arctic Region

Internet country code


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

National anthem

note: as a territory of Norway, "Ja, vi elsker dette landet" is official (see Norway)
This is an audio of the National Anthem for Svalbard. The national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition - usually in the form of a song or hymn of praise - that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, or struggles of a nation or its people. National anthems can be officially recognized as a national song by a country's constitution or by an enacted law, or simply by tradition. Although most anthems contain lyrics, some do not.


see Norway

Population distribution

the small population is primarily concentrated on the island of Spitsbergen in a handful of settlements on the south side of the Isfjorden, with Longyearbyen being the largest

Ethnic groups

Norwegian 61.1%, foreign population 38.9% (consists primarily of Russians, Thais, Swedes, Filipinos, and Ukrainians) (2021 est.)

note: foreigners account for almost one third of the population of the Norwegian settlements, Longyearbyen and Ny-Alesund (where the majority of Svalbard's resident population lives), as of mid-2021


Norwegian, Russian

major-language sample(s):
Verdens Faktabok, den essensielle kilden for grunnleggende informasjon. (Norwegian)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.
Norwegian audio sample

Disputes - international

Norway-Russia: after 40 years of on-again, off-again negotiations, the two countries signed an agreement in September 2010, defining their maritime boundaries in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean; the border extends the countries’ land border northward beyond the islands in the Barents Sea and into the Arctic Ocean, but the exact distance northward was not specified; because the area is considered the high seas, the passage of naval and commercial vessels will be unaffected; once their legislatures ratify the agreement, both countries will have the green light for oil and natural gas exploration in their newly defined maritime areas; Russia objects to Norway’s establishment in 1977 of the Fishery Protection Zone around the Svalbard Islands, extending Norwegian sovereignty to the shelf around the archipelago; Svalbard is strategically important – as a gateway from the Berents Sea to the North Atlantic – and its waters provide rich fishing grounds


highest point: Newtontoppen 1,717 m

lowest point: Arctic Ocean 0 m

Age structure

0-14 years: NA

15-64 years: NA

65 years and over: NA

Physicians density


Contraceptive prevalence rate


Current health expenditure



total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: NA

youth dependency ratio: NA

elderly dependency ratio: NA

potential support ratio: NA

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

Labor force

1,590 (2013)

Net migration rate

-5.57 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

18,600 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Total fertility rate



2,926 (January 2021 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)



total: 62,045 sq km

land: 62,045 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes Spitsbergen and Bjornoya (Bear Island)


total: 40 km (2020)

Infant mortality rate

total: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Refined petroleum products - exports

4,488 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Death rate


Birth rate


Children under the age of 5 years underweight


Life expectancy at birth

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Education expenditures


Population growth rate

-0.03% (2019 est.)