Denmark (i/ˈdɛnmɑrk/; Danish: Danmark, ), officially the Kingdom of Denmark (Danish: Kongeriget Danmark, ), is a sovereign state in Northern Europe, with two additional overseas constituent countries also forming integral parts of the kingdom; the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic and Greenland in North America. Denmark proper is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, located southwest of Sweden, with which it is connected by the Øresund Bridge, and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. The country consists of a large peninsula, Jutland, and many islands, most notably Zealand, Funen, Lolland, Falster and Bornholm, as well as hundreds of minor islands often referred to as the Danish Archipelago.
The Kingdom of Denmark is a constitutional monarchy organised in the form of a parliamentary democracy, with its seat of government in the capital city of Copenhagen. The kingdom is unitary, with powers to manage internal affairs being devolved from the central government to Greenland and the Faroe Islands; this polity is referred to as the rigsfællesskab (the Danish Realm). Denmark proper is the hegemonial area, where judicial, executive, and legislative power reside. The Faroe Islands are defined to be a community of people within the kingdom, and the Greenlandic people are defined as a separate people with the right to self-determination. One of the results of this arrangement is that Denmark became a member of the European Union in 1973, but both Greenland and the Faroe Islands have opted to remain outside of the EU.
Originally the home of the Vikings, Norse seafaring explorers who invaded and settled in many parts of Europe and Russia, Denmark emerged as a unified kingdom in the Middle Ages. Denmark's later history has particularly been influenced by its geographical location between the North and Baltic seas. This meant that it was between Sweden and Germany and thus at the center of the mutual struggle for control of the Baltic Sea; before the digging of the Kiel Canal, water passage to the Baltic Sea was possible only through the three channels known as the Danish straits. Denmark was long in disputes with Sweden over control of Skånelandene (Scanian War) and Norway, and in disputes with the Hanseatic League over the duchies of Schleswig (a Danish fief) and Holstein (a German fief). Eventually Denmark lost the conflicts and ended up ceding first Skånelandene to Sweden and later Schleswig-Holstein to the German Empire. Denmark obtained Greenland and the Faroe Islands in 1814 after the dissolution of a personal union with Norway, although the Danish monarchy, which had ruled over both Norway and Denmark, had been in possession of the colonies since the fourteenth century.
A founding member of the United Nations, NATO and the OECD, Denmark is also a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. With a highly developed mixed market economy and a large welfare state, Denmark ranks as having the world's highest level of income equality, and has the one of the world's highest per capita income. It has frequently ranked as the happiest and least corrupt country in the world. In 2011, Denmark was listed 16th on the Human Development Index (8th on the inequality-adjusted HDI), 3rd on the Democracy Index and 2nd on the Corruption Perceptions Index. The national language, Danish, is closely related to Swedish and Norwegian, with which it shares strong cultural and historical ties. Denmark, along with Sweden and Norway, is part of the cultural region known as Scandinavia and is also a member of the Nordic Council.