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Wales, country and principality, part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, united politically, legally, and administratively with England, and occupying a broad peninsula on the western side of the island of Great Britain. Wales also includes the island of Anglesey, which is separated from the mainland by the narrow Menai Strait. Wales is bounded on the north by the Irish Sea; on the east by the English counties of Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire; on the south by the Bristol Channel; and on the west by the St George s Channel and Cardigan Bay. The maximum north-south length of the Welsh mainland is about 220 km (137 mi); in an east-west direction the width of the country varies between 60 and 155 km (36 and 96 mi). The total area of Wales is 20, 760 sq km (8, 015 sq mi). Cardiff is the capital, largest city, and principal seaport of Wales.
The chief urban areas of Wales are the cities of Cardiff (population, 2000 estimate, 327, 500), the capital, principal seaport, and commercial centre; Swansea (2000 estimate, 230, 300), a seaport and industrial centre; Newport (1996 estimate, 136, 789), an industrial centre that achieved city status in 2002 as part of Queen Elizabeth II s jubilee celebrations; Wrexham (1991, 40, 614); and Rhondda Cynon Taff (2001, 231, 952), the former centre of the Welsh coal-mining industry and now mainly a suburban residential area with some light industry.
The River Dee, which rises in Lake Bala, the largest natural lake in Wales, and flows through northern Wales into England and then the Irish Sea, is one of the country s principal rivers. The others are the Wye and the Severn, which both begin near Aberystwyth, flow eastward into England, and then turn south to empty into the Bristol Channel. In the south, many of the rivers flow through steep valleys, including the Usk, Teifi, and Towy. The main river of the north, apart from the Dee, is the Clwyd.
Both English and Welsh are official languages.
English is spoken by most of the population, but according to the 2001 census more than per 30 cent of the population has one or more skill in Welsh. This is defined as either understanding spoken Welsh, speaking Welsh, reading Welsh, or writing in Welsh. This makes a total population figure of nearly 240, 000 with at least one skill in the Welsh language. There is much regional variation, however, with over 76 per cent of the population being qualified in the Welsh language in the north-west of the country in Gwynedd and less than 13 per cent in Monmouthshire on the English borders in the south-east. This revival is in part due to the inclusion of Welsh in the school curriculum since 1970 (see Education below), to the establishment of a Welsh language television station in 1982, and to a general resurgence of interest in Welsh culture. Official support for the language after many years of agitation by Welsh nationalists and proponents of the Welsh language has also increased. ...

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