The Scandinavian Peninsula is the largest peninsula in Europe. It is approximately 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) long and between approximately 370–805 km (230-500 mi) wide.
The Scandinavian mountain range generally defines the borders between the three countries, although it also continues into the central parts of southern Norway. The peninsula is bordered by several bodies of water including:
Its highest elevation was Glittertinden in Norway at 2,470 m (8,104 ft) above sea level, but since the glacier at its summit partially melted , the highest elevation is at 2,469 m (8,101 ft) at Galdhøpiggen, also in Norway. These mountains also house the largest glacier on mainland Europe, Jostedalsbreen. About one quarter of the peninsula lies north of the Arctic Circle, with the northernmost point at Cape Nordkyn. The climate across the peninsula varies from tundra (Köppen: ET) and subarctic (Dfc) in the north, with cool marine west coast climate (Cfc) in northwestern coastal areas reaching just north of Lofoten, to humid continental (Dfb) in the central portion, and to marine west coast (Cfb) in the south and southwest. The region is rich in timber, iron and copper with the best farmland in southern Sweden. Large petroleum and natural-gas deposits have been found off Norway's coast in the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Scandinavian Peninsula occupies part of the Baltic Shield, a stable and large crust segment formed of very old, crystalline metamorphic rocks. Most of the soil covering this substrate was scraped by glaciers during continental glaciation, especially in the northern part, where the shield is nearest the surface. As a consequence of this scouring, the elevation and the climate, a very small percentage of land is arable (3% in Norway). The glaciers also deepened river valleys, which were invaded by the sea when the ice melted, creating the famous fjords. In the south the glaciers deposited many sedimental deposits, configuring a very chaotic landscape.
Although the Baltic Shield is largely stable and resistant to the influences of other neighboring tectonic formations, the weight of nearly four kilometers of ice sheet caused the terrain to sink down. When the ice sheet disappeared, the shield rose again, a tendency that continues to this day at a rate of about 1 meter per century. Conversely, the south part has tended to sink down to compensate, causing the flooding of the Low Countries and Denmark.
The crystalline substrate and absence of soil exposes mineral deposits of metals, like iron, copper, nickel, zinc, silver and gold.
The northern and central part of the peninsula is partially inhabited by the Sami, often referred to as "Lapps" or "Laplanders". In the earliest recorded periods they occupied the arctic and subarctic regions as well as the central part of the peninsula as far south as Dalarna, Sweden. They speak the Sami language, a non-Indo-European language of the Finno-Ugric family, which is related to Finnish and Estonian. The other inhabitants of the peninsula, according to ninth century records, were the Norwegians on the west coast of Norway, the Danes in what is now southern and western Sweden and southeastern Norway, the Svear in the region around Mälaren as well as a large portion of the present day eastern seacoast of Sweden and the Geats in Västergötland and Östergötland. These peoples spoke closely related dialects of an Indo-European language, Old Norse. Although political boundaries have shifted, these peoples still are the dominant populations in the peninsula in the early 21st century.
Although the Nordic countries look back on more than 1000 years of history as distinct political entities, the international boundaries came late and emerged gradually. It was not until the middle of 17th century that Sweden secured an outlet on the Kattegat and control of the south Baltic coast. The Swedish and Norwegian boundaries were finally agreed to and marked out in 1751. The Finnish and Norwegian border on the peninsula was established after extensive negotiation in 1809, and the common Norwegian-Russian districts were not partitioned until 1826. Even then the borders were still fluid, with Finland gaining access to the Barents Sea in 1920, but ceding this territory to Russia in 1944.
Denmark, Sweden and Russia dominated political relations within the Scandinavian Peninsula for centuries, with Iceland, Finland and Norway only gaining full independence in the 20th century.