A greeting from Ambassador Krutnes
Celebrating freedom and defending democracy
Anniken Ramberg Krutnes
Norway’s Ambassador to the United States
I send you my warmest wishes for a wonderful May 17. As you likely know, this is Norway’s Constitution Day—a big event for us Norwegians! Every year, we celebrate the anniversary of our constitution, which was signed on this day back in 1814, 209 years ago.
Like the U.S. Constitution, ours is one of the oldest in the world that’s still in effect—and was in fact inspired by that famous American document. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Treaty of Kiel stipulated that Norway should be ruled over by Sweden, a change from the Danish rule that we had been under for more than 450 years. Though it had been centuries since Norway was last independent, the treaty angered many people, who rejected the idea that they could suddenly become the subjects of another nation.
So, 40 miles north of Oslo at a house in Eidsvoll, a constitution was drawn up by 112 Norwegians with a bold vision. The Grunnlov, as we call it, laid the foundation for a democratic society with an emphasis on sovereignty, human rights, and the separation of powers.
Eventually, after some debate and conflict in 1814, Norway still ended up in a union with Sweden. This would continue until full independence in 1905. (I would encourage any history buffs to learn more about this era, as it makes for some fascinating reading.) However, Swedish Crown Prince Carl Johan did accept the Grunnlov as a way for Norwegians to determine their own values and freedoms. The ideas they expressed were so powerful that even today, this constitution forms the backbone of Norwegian society.
Of course, Norway shares many of these ideas with the United States, another great defender of democracy, human rights, and rule of law. Our bilateral relationship, which has only grown in strength since our countries’ cooperation during World War II, is bolstered by our shared values. Citizens in both countries are given the freedom to speak out against injustice, to receive due process under the law, to live as we choose, to raise families in peace, and to express ourselves without fear of state-sanctioned violence or retaliation.
Our brothers and sisters in Ukraine are currently facing a world where all of these rights are under threat. It has been well over a year since Russia brutally and unprovokedly attacked their nation. In that time, we have seen an incredible response by Ukraine, NATO, and the West. Norway and the United States are among those who have come together to support Ukraine’s defense, meeting Russia’s aggression with an unanticipated strength and unity. It is clear that we will continue to do so for as long as it takes.
Commenting on the anniversary of the war, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt remarked, “For a full year now, we have firmly supported the Ukrainian people’s fight to win back their country. Our aim is to achieve peace based on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is not just an existential matter for Ukraine – it is also essential for safeguarding our future in a peaceful, democratic Europe.”
Today and on May 17, I encourage readers of The Norwegian American to reflect on the precious and fragile gift that is life in a democratic society.
In these times, it is more important than ever before to celebrate the rights that this affords us. When democracy is threatened, we must all contribute to the task of defending it, doing our utmost to preserve our liberties for future generations. We can never sit back comfortably and expect democracy to flourish without our help. It needs every single one of us to ensure its health and longevity.
Happy Norwegian Constitution Day!
This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.