Counties of Norway
Norway is divided into 11 administrative regions, called counties (singular Norwegian: fylke, plural Bokmål: fylker; Nynorsk: fylke from Old Norse: fylki from the word "folk", Northern Sami: fylka, Southern Sami: fylhke, Lule Sami: fylkka, Kven: fylkki) which until 1918 were known as amter. The counties form the first-level administrative divisions of Norway and are further subdivided into 356 municipalities (kommune, pl. kommuner / kommunar). The island territories of Svalbard and Jan Mayen are outside the county division and ruled directly at the national level. The capital Oslo is considered both a county and a municipality.
|Counties of Norway|
Norges fylker (Bokmål)
Noregs fylke (Nynorsk)
In 2017 the government decided to abolish some of the counties and to merge them with other counties to form larger ones, reducing the number of counties from 19 to 11, which was implemented on 1 January 2020. However, two of the newly merged counties (Viken and Troms og Finnmark) have seen popular opposition before, during, or after the mergers, and have stated their desire to split up again, with one (Vestfold og Telemark) seeing opposition in the area of one of the two former counties constituting it. Some opposition parties have stated their willingness to undo any of the aforementioned mergers if they win a majority in the next general election if the residents of the area so choose.
List of counties
Below is a list of the Norwegian counties, with their current administrative centres. Note that the counties are administered both by appointees of the national government and to a lesser extent by their own elected bodies. The county numbers are from the official numbering system ISO 3166-2:NO, which originally was set up to follow the coastline from the Swedish border in the southeast to the Russian border in the northeast, but with the numbering has changed with county mergers.
The island territories of Svalbard and Jan Mayen lie outside of the county system of Norway. Svalbard is administered by the Governor of Svalbard, and Jan Mayen is administered by the County Governor of Nordland (but not part of Nordland).
|ISO-code||County||Administrative centre(s)||Most populous municipality||Governor||Mayor||Area (km2)||Pop.||Official language form|
|03||Oslo||City of Oslo||Valgerd Svarstad Haugland||Marianne Borgen (SV)||454.12||693,494||Neutral|
|11||Rogaland||Stavanger||Bent Høie||Marianne Chesak (Ap)||9,377.10||479,892||Neutral|
|15||Møre og Romsdal||Molde||Ålesund||Rigmor Brøste||Jon Aasen (Ap)||14,355.62||265,238||Nynorsk|
|18||Nordland||Bodø||Tom Cato Karlsen||Kari Anne Bøkestad Andreassen (Sp)||38,154.62||241,235||Neutral|
|30||Viken||Oslo, Drammen, Sarpsborg||Bærum||Valgerd Svarstad Haugland||Roger Ryberg (Ap)||24,592.59||1,241,165||Neutral|
|34||Innlandet||Hamar||Ringsaker||Knut Storberget||Even Aleksander Hagen (Ap)||52,072.44||371,385||Neutral|
|38||Vestfold og Telemark||Skien||Sandefjord||Per Arne Olsen||Terje Riis-Johansen (Sp)||17,465.92||419,396||Neutral|
|42||Agder||Kristiansand||Stein Arve Ytterdahl||Arne Thomassen (H)||16,434.12||307,231||Neutral|
|46||Vestland||Bergen||Lars Sponheim||Jon Askeland (Sp)||33,870.99||636,531||Nynorsk|
|Steinkjer||Trondheim||Frank Jenssen||Tore O. Sandvik (Ap)||42,201.59||468,702||Neutral|
|54|| Troms og Finnmark
Romsa ja Finnmárku Tromssa ja Finmarkku
|Tromsø||Elisabeth Aspaker||Ivar B. Prestbakmo (Sp)||74,829.68||243,311||Neutral|
Responsibilities and significance
Every county has two main organisations, both with underlying organisations.
- The county municipality (no: Fylkeskommune) has a county council (Norwegian: Fylkesting), whose members are elected by the inhabitants. The county municipality is responsible mainly for some medium level schools, public transport organisation, regional road planning, culture and some more areas.
- The county governor (no: Fylkesmannen) is an authority directly overseen by the Norwegian government. It surveills the municipalities and receives complaints from people over their actions. It also controls areas where the government needs local direct ruling outside the municipalities.
Fylke (1st period)
From the consolidation to a single kingdom, Norway was divided into a number of geographic regions that had its own legislative assembly or Thing, such as Gulating (Western Norway) and Frostating (Trøndelag). The second-order subdivision of these regions was into fylker, such as Egdafylke and Hordafylke. In 1914, the historical term fylke was brought into use again to replace the term amt introduced during the union with Denmark. Current day counties (fylker) often, but not necessarily, correspond to the historical areas.
Fylke in the 10th-13th centuries
- Raumafylke (Glåmdalen, Romerike, Solør)
- Heinafylke (Gjøvik, Hedmarken)
- Hadafylke (Hadeland, Land, Toten)
Counties not attached to a thing:
Finnmark (including northern Troms), the Faroe Islands, the Orkney Islands, Shetland, the Hebrides, Isle of Man, Iceland and Greenland were Norwegian skattland ("taxed countries"), and did not belong to any known counties or assembly areas.
Syssel in 1300
From the end of the 12th century, Norway was divided into several syssel. The head of the various syssel was the syslemann, who represented the king locally. The following shows a reconstruction of the different syssel in Norway c. 1300, including sub-syssel where these seem established.
- Borgarsysle (two parts)
- Romerike (two parts, "northern" and "southern")
- Hedmark (two parts, "northern" and "southern")
- "north of Åmot"
- "south of Åmot"
- "north of Ruste"
- "south of Ruste"
- Hadeland (later Ringerike, two parts, "northern" and "outer")
- Valdres and Hallingdal (two parts)
- Numedal and Telemark?
- Tverrdalane and Modum?
- Oslosysle (northern lut and western lut)
- Eastern part (later Nedenes)
- Agder Midtsysla
- "north of the fjord"
- "south of the fjord"
- Hordaland (Nordhordland? and Sunnhordland?)
- Sogn (two parts?)
- Northern part? (later Fosen)
- "upper half" (Overhalla)
- "lower half (later Njardøy)
- Hålogaland (two parts)
From 1308, the term len (plural len) in Norway signified an administrative region roughly equivalent to today's counties. The historic len was an important administrative entity during the period of Dano-Norwegian unification after their amalgamation as one state, which lasted for the period 1536–1814.
At the beginning of the 16th century the political divisions were variable, but consistently included four main len and approximately 30 smaller sub-regions with varying connections to a main len. Up to 1660 the four principal len were headquartered at the major fortresses Bohus Fortress, Akershus Fortress, Bergenhus Fortress and the fortified city of Trondheim. The sub-regions corresponded to the church districts for the Lutheran church in Norway.
Len in 1536
- Båhus len (later termed Bohuslän after Denmark-Norway ceded it to Sweden by the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658)
- Akershus len
- Trondheim len
- Bergenhus len (which included Northern Norway)
These four principal len were in the 1530s divided into approximately 30 smaller regions. From that point forward through the beginning of the 17th century the number of subsidiary len was reduced, while the composition of the principal len became more stable.
Len in 1660
From 1660 Norway had nine principal len comprising 17 subsidiary len:
- Akershus len
- Tunsberg len
- Bratsberg len
- Agdesiden len
- Stavanger len
- Bergenhus len
- Trondheim len
- Nordlandene len
- Vardøhus len
With the royal decree of February 19, 1662, each len was designated an amt (plural amt) and the lenmann was titled amtmann, from German Amt (office), reflecting the bias of the Danish court of that period.
Amt in 1671
After 1671 Norway was divided into four principal amt or stiftsamt and there were nine subordinate amt:
Amt in 1730
From 1730 Norway had the following amt:
- Laurvigen county
- Jarlsberg county
Amt in 1760
- Akershus stiftamt
- Opplands amt
- Akershus amt
- Smålenenes amt
- Laurvigen county
- Jarlsberg county
- Bratsberg amt (eastern half)
- Agdesiden stiftamt
- Bratsberg amt (western half)
- Nedenes amt
- Lister and Mandal amt
- Stavanger amt
- Bergenhus stiftamt
- Romsdal amt (southern half)
- Trondheim stiftamt
- Romsdal amt (northern half)
- Nordlands amt
- Vardøhus amt
Fylke (2nd period)
From 1919 each amt was renamed a fylke (plural fylke(r)) (county) and the amtmann was now titled fylkesmann (county governor).
- Østfold fylke
- Akershus fylke
- Oslo fylke
- Hedmark fylke
- Oppland fylke
- Buskerud fylke
- Vestfold fylke
- Telemark fylke
- Aust-Agder fylke
- Vest-Agder fylke
- Rogaland fylke
- Bergen fylke, merged into Hordaland fylke in 1972
- Hordaland fylke
- Sogn og Fjordane fylke
- Møre og Romsdal fylke
- Sør-Trøndelag fylke, merged into Trøndelag fylke in 2018
- Nord-Trøndelag fylke, merged into Trøndelag fylke in 2018
- Trøndelag fylke, created in 2018
- Nordland fylke
- Troms fylke
- Finnmark fylke
The county numbers are from the official numbering system ISO 3166-2:NO, which originally was set up to follow the coastline from the Swedish border in the southeast to the Russian border in the northeast, but with the numbering has changed with county mergers. The number 13, 16 and 17 were dropped, and the number 50 was added to account for changes over the years. The lack of a county number 13 is due to the city of Bergen no longer being its own county, and is unrelated to fear of the number 13.
|ISO-code||County||Administrative centre||Area (km2)||Pop. (2016)||County|
after 1 January 2020
|03||Oslo||City of Oslo||454.07||660,987||Oslo|
|07||Vestfold||Tønsberg||2,225.08||245,160||Vestfold og Telemark|
|13||Not in use from 1972 onwards|
|14||Sogn og Fjordane||Hermansverk||18,623.41||109,623|
|15||Møre og Romsdal||Molde||15,101.39||265,181||Møre og Romsdal|
|16||Not in use from 2018 onwards|
|17||Not in use from 2018 onwards|
|19||Troms||Tromsø||25,862.91||164,613||Troms og Finnmark|
- Formerly used for Bergen county, merged into Hordaland on 1 January 1972
- Formerly used for Nord-Trøndelag (#17) and Sør-Trøndelag (#16) counties, merged as Trøndelag on 1 January 2018
- Steinkjer is the administrative centre, but the county mayor is seated in Trondheim. Steinkjer and Trondheim are sometimes named as co-capitals
Fylke (3rd period)
- New fylker
- Troms og Finnmark, by merging Finnmark and Troms counties in 2020
- Nordland, no change, same as Nordland county
- Trøndelag, no change, same as Trøndelag county
- Møre og Romsdal, no change, same as Møre og Romsdal county
- Vestland, by merging Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane counties in 2020
- Rogaland, no change, same as Rogaland county
- Agder, by merging Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder counties in 2020
- Vestfold og Telemark, by merging Vestfold and Telemark counties in 2020
- Innlandet, by merging Hedmark and Oppland counties in 2020
- Viken, by merging Akershus, Buskerud, and Østfold counties in 2020
- Oslo, no change, same as Oslo county
- "Dette er Norges nye regioner". vg.no. Archived from the original on 9 March 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
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- Lars Roede, "Viken og Innlandet: Amatørmessige logoer og uhistoriske navn," Aftenposten, 11 January 2020
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- Danielsen (et al.), 1991, p. 77
- Christian III, king of Denmark-Norway, carried out the Protestant Reformation in Norway in 1536.
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