Greenland is an island in the North Atlantic, the largest in the world, intermittently populated throughout history by Inuit peoples for at least the last 4,500 years and, also intermittently and in demographic minority, by Scandinavian people for the last 1,000 years. Denmark annexed Greenland in the 18th century; later it imposed a system of colonial rule under which the indigenous Inuit were marginalized and oppressed.
The colonial era officially came to an end in 1953, when Greenland became a Danish county and Danish citizenship was granted to the Inuit. Still, cultural assimilation policies continued. As a reaction to this, the growth of the Greenlandic nationalism led to the establishment of an autonomous government in 1979, which in 2009 was expanded. Ever since, Greenlandic institutions have been managing most of the island’s affairs. With a weak population (less than 60,000 inhabitants), sovereignty proponents believe that exploiting the island’s vast natural resources will be enough to eventually sustain an independent state.
89% of the population (2017 data) is Greenland-born; 11% is born abroad. The majority of those born in Greenland are Inuit, the minority are people of European Danish background. Outside Danish, the three largest nationalities in the island are Philippine, Icelandic, and Thai.
Degree of self-government
The Greenlandic Self-Government Act of 2009 grants the country wide powers —close to full internal self-government— in the legislative, executive and judicial branches, and gives the Greenlandic government the ability to establish foreign relations. The act also establishes Greenlandic as the only official language, and recognizes Greenland’s right to self-determination, including full independence.
Since autonomy was granted in 1979, votes to pro-independence parties have been steadily increasing, reaching some 70%-80% in present times. The Greenlandic government is drafting a Constitution proposal for the island.
Government: Siumut, Partii Naleraq, Atassut and Nunatta Qitornai coalition (since 2016)
Prime Minister: Kim Kielsen (Siumut), since 2014
Distribution of seats in Parliament (31 members). 2018 election:
Siumut (pro-independence, centre-left) - 9
Inuit Ataqatigiit (pro-independence, left) - 8
Democrats (unionist, centre-right) - 6
Partii Naleraq (pro-independence, centre) - 4
Atassut (ambiguous, centre-right) - 2
Cooperation Party (unionist, liberal) - 1
Nunatta Qitornai (pro-independence) - 1
(Last updated May 2018.)