North America / Greenland (Denmark)

Nuuk

Nuuk,formerly Godthåb, is the capital of Greenland, the northernmost capital in North America, and the largest city in Greenland. Its present name is the Kalaallisut for "Cape", from its position at the end of the Nuup Kangerlua fjord on the eastern shore of the Labrador Sea. Nuuk is the largest cultural and economic center in Greenland. The major cities closest to the capital are Iqaluit and St. John's in Canada and Reykjavik in Iceland. Nuuk is the seat of government for the Sermersooq municipality. In January of 2010, it had a population of 15,469, making it one of the smallest capital cities in the world by population.

The site has a long history of habitation. The area around Nuuk was first occupied by the ancient pre-Inuit, Paleo-Eskimo people of the Saqqaq culture as far back as 2200 BC when they lived in the area around the now abandoned settlement of Qoornoq. For a long time it was occupied by the Dorset culture around the former settlement of Kangeq but they disappeared from the Nuuk district before AD 1000. The Nuuk area was later inhabited by Viking explorers in the 10th century, and shortly thereafter by Inuit peoples. Inuit and Norsemen both lived with little interaction in this area from about 1000 until the disappearance of the Norse settlement for uncertain reasons during the 15th century.

The statue of Hans Egede in Nuuk.The city proper was founded as the fort of Godt-Haab in 1728 by the royal governor Claus Paarss, when he relocated the missionary and merchant Hans Egede's earlier Hope Colony (Haabets Koloni) from Kangeq Island to the mainland. At that time, Greenland was formally still a Norwegian colony under the united Dano-Norwegian Crown, but the colony had not had any contact for over three centuries. Paarss's colonists consisted of mutinous soldiers, convicts, and prostitutes and most died within the first year of scurvy and other ailments. In 1733 and 1734, a smallpox epidemic killed most of the native population as well as Egede's wife. Hans Egede went back to Denmark in 1736 after 15 years in Greenland, leaving his son Poul to continue his work. Godthaab became the seat of government for the Danish colony of South Greenland,[when?] while Godhavn (modern Qeqertarsuaq) was the capital of North Greenland until 1940 when the administration was unified in Godthaab.In 1733, Moravian missionaries received permission to begin a mission on the island; in 1747, there were enough converts to prompt the construction of the Moravian Brethren Mission House and the formal establishment of the mission as New Herrnhut (Danish: Nye-Hernhut). This became the nucleus for present-day Nuuk as many Greenlanders from the southeastern coast left their territory to live at the mission station. From this base, further missions were established at Lichtenfels (1748), Lichtenau (1774), Friedrichsthal (1824), Umanak (1861), and Idlorpait (1864), before they were discontinued in 1900 and folded into the Lutheran Church of Denmark. Around 1850, Greenland and especially the area around Nuuk were in crisis. The Europeans had brought diseases and a culture that conflicted with the ways of the native Greenlanders. Many Greenlanders were living in poverty. In 1853, Hinrich Johannes Rink came to Greenland and perceived that the Greenlanders had lost much of their culture and identity under Danish influence. In response, in 1861, he started the Atuagagdliutt, Greenland's first newspaper, with a native Greenlander as editor. This newspaper based in Nuuk later became very significant for the Greenlandic identity.During World War II, there was a reawakening to Greenlandic national identity. Greenlanders shared a written language and assembled a council under Eske Brun's leadership in Nuuk. In 1940 an American and a Canadian Consulate were established in Nuuk. Under new regulations in 1950, two councils amalgamated into one. This Countryside Council was abolished on May 1, 1979, when the city of Godthåb was renamed Nuuk by the Greenland Home Rule government. As in Greenland as a whole, Nuuk is populated today by both Inuit and Danes. Currently over a third of Greenland's total population lives in the Nuuk Greater Metropolitan area.

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