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The Nordic countries or Nordics are a geographical and cultural region in Northern Europe and the North Atlantic, where they are most commonly known as Norden (lit., "The North"). They consist of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, including their associated territories (Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands).
The population of the Nordic countries are mainly Scandinavian or Finnish, with Greenlandic Inuit and the Sami people as minorities. Of today's native languages, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese are Germanic languages. The non-Germanic languages spoken are Finnish, Greenlandic and several Sami languages. The main religion is Lutheran Christianity.
The Nordic countries have much in common in their way of life, history, their use of Scandinavian languages and social structure. Politically, Nordic countries do not form a separate entity, but they co-operate in the Nordic Council. Especially in English, Scandinavia is sometimes used as a synonym for the Nordic countries, but that term more properly refers to the three monarchies of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Scandinavian Peninsula on the other hand covers mainland Norway and Sweden as well as the northernmost part of Finland.
At 3,425,804 square kilometers, the combined area of the Nordic countries would form the 7th-largest country in the world. Uninhabitable icecaps and glaciers comprise about half of this area, mostly in Greenland. In January 2013, the region had a population of around 26 million people. The Nordic countries cluster near the top in numerous metrics of national performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life, and human development.
Although the area is linguistically heterogeneous, with three unrelated language groups, the common linguistic heritage is one of the factors making up the Nordic identity. The North Germanic languages Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are considered mutually intelligible. These languages are taught in school throughout the Scandinavian countries. Swedish, for example, is a mandatory subject in Finnish schools, since Finland by law is a bilingual country. Danish is mandatory in Faroese and Greenlandic schools, as these insular states are a part of the Danish Realm (Rigsfællesskabet). Iceland also teaches Danish, since Iceland too was a part of the Danish Realm until 1918. Beside these and the insular Scandinavian languages Faroese and Icelandic, which are also North Germanic languages, there are the Finnic and Sami branches of the Uralic languages, spoken in Finland and in northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, respectively, and Greenlandic, an Eskimo–Aleut language, spoken in Greenland.
The Nordic countries also share, more or less, the Nordic model of economy and social structure: market economy is combined with strong labour unions and a universalist welfare sector financed by heavy taxes. There is a high degree of income redistribution and little social unrest.