Status: A self-governing part of the Danish Kingdom
Population: 51,018 (2018 estimate)
Area: 538 square miles
Currency: 100 orya = 1 Faroe króna ($1 U.S. = 15 kr) Danish coins are used.
The Faroes are 17 inhabited volcanic islands halfway between Norway and Iceland in the North Atlantic. Remains of some settlements date from the fifth century, but the current settlement of the Faroes began about 820 A.D. by Norwegians fleeing an overbearing king. They became a province of Norway about 1035. Denmark and Norway were united in 1380. The union was dissolved in 1814, when Denmark — on the wrong side in the Napoleonic wars — was forced to cede Norway to Sweden. The Faroes — after 800 years of Norwegian rule — went to Denmark.
This 1975 90-øre stamp, Scott 13, shows the Faroe Islands as pictured on a map from 1673.
The Danish attempt to abolish the Faroe’s age-old parliament and suppress the Faroese language eventually led to the birth of nationalism. A Faroese student in Denmark is credited with designing the first Faroese flag in 1919 and hanging it from his dorm window. The Danes refused to recognize it, but during World War II Denmark was occupied by the Germans, and the Faroes by the British. Needing to tell Faroese fishing vessels from those of enemy-held Denmark, the British authorized use of the 1919 flag. WWII boosted independence in other ways, too. Because the Germans occupied Denmark, most Faroese functions were administered locally, and also required the Faroes to issue a currency backed by the British pound.
A Faroese flag appears on a 1976 160ø stamp marking postal independence, Scott 22.
After the war the Danes held a referendum offering the islanders a choice between home rule and independence. Outright independence narrowly won. This unexpected result alarmed the Danes, and the King invalidated the referendum. In 1948, the Faroes were made a “self-governing community” within Denmark and the transfer of authorities from Copenhagen was accelerated. Today, Defense and Foreign Affairs are the two responsibilities retained by Denmark.
Faroe Islands puffins are profiled on this 1976 180ø Seabird stamp, Scott 37.
Since the 19th century, the Faroes used Danish stamps, and the first Faroese postage came due to Scandinavian practicality, not nationalism. On January 1, 1919, Denmark had a two-øre increase in the domestic letter rate. New stamps did not arrive in time from Copenhagen, so Torshavn was authorized to overprint a current definitive and to bisect 4-øre Numerals of 1913. These provisionals were used until the end of January when the new stamps arrived.
Master-engraver Czeslaw Slania captured a Ram on this 1979 25-krone stamp, Scott 42.
WWII created a similar situation. New Faroese currency required new stamps unavailable from German-occupied Denmark, so the authorities surcharged five current definitives. After the war, the use of Danish stamps resumed. On January 30, 1975, the Faroes took responsibility for the postal service, marked by the issuance of an attractive set of 14 stamps. Today, use of the postal service is changing with declining requirements for stamps for first-class mail. Post offices are being closed, mail service reduced and home delivery is now only two or three times a week.