The kingdom of Denmark has, despite its relatively small size, often punched above its weight internationally.
Vikings raiding from Denmark and the other Nordic nations changed the course of 9th- and 10th-century European history; in the Middle Ages, the Union of Kalmar united all of Scandinavia under Danish leadership.
In recent times, Denmark has been known for its modern economy and extensive welfare system, while enjoying an often difficult relationship with the European Union.
The Danes rejected the euro as the national currency in a referendum in September 2000. Analysts believe that Danish fears of loss of political independence and national sovereignty outweighed any economic arguments about the benefits of joining the eurozone.
Denmark's euroscepticism put it at odds with many of its European partners seven years previously when Danish voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty which proposed monetary union and a common European defence force.
Denmark had to be granted opt-outs from these provisions before the treaty was approved in 1993.
At a glance
- Politics: Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark's first female PM, took office after 2011 elections ended a decade of centre-right rule
- Economy: Denmark, an EU member, has rejected the euro but pegs the krone to the single currency. The economy is services-based
- International: Denmark has backed key international peacekeeping efforts. Danish soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
The Social Democrats led a string of coalition governments for most of the second half of the last century in a country generally known for its liberal traditions.
Poul Schluter then became the first Danish prime minister from the Conservative People's Party in 1982, leading a centre-right coalition until 1993, when he was succeeded by the Social Democrat Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.
A new centre-right coalition headed by Anders Fogh Rasmussen came to power in November 2001 promising tighter immigration controls.
A third successive centre-right Rasmussen, Lars Lokke, took over as prime minister in April 2009. His government, dependent as it is on the right-wing populist People's Party to push through legislation, has witnessed immigration and integration emerge as major issues of public debate.
Denmark's progressive tightening of its immigration laws has led to charges that its strict rules violate European norms.
The country has won plaudits for its healthy economy. Its employment levels are the envy of many industrialised countries and it accommodates a competitive economic edge as well as a generous social security system.
Danish television and cinema have won international recognition, not least for their willingness to experiment. Through the late 1990s and early 2000s the Dogme movement directors often used hand-held cameras to dynamic effect in a conscious reaction against high-tech, big-budget cinema.
Greenland and the Faroe Islands are self-governing territories of Denmark.