Norway is divided into 15 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 both a county and a municipality.

Counties of Norway
Norges fylker (Bokmål)
Noregs fylke (Nynorsk)
CategoryUnitary unit
Number15 counties (as of 2024-01-01)
AreasSmallest (including water): Oslo, 454.12 km2 (175.34 sq mi)
Largest (including water): Innlandet, 52,072.44 km2 (20,105.28 sq mi)

In 2017, the Solberg 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.[1] This sparked popular opposition, with some calling for the reform to be reversed. The Storting voted to partly undo the reform on 14 June 2022, with Norway to have 15 counties from 1 January 2024.[2] Three of the newly merged counties, namely Vestfold og Telemark, Viken[3][4] and Troms og Finnmark,[5] were dissolved and the old counties existing before the reform re-established with a few minor changes as some municipalities merged across former county borders and some switched counties during the 2020 local government reform (Kommunereformen i Norge [no]).

List of counties edit

Below is a list of the Norwegian counties, with their current administrative centres. 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).

County ISO-code Adminis­trative centre Most populous municipality Governor Mayor Area (km2) Pop. Electoral district(s) Official language form
  Oslo NO-03 City of Oslo Valgerd Svarstad Haugland Anne Lindboe (H) 454.12 700,000 Oslo Neutral
  Rogaland NO-11 Stavanger Bent Høie Marianne Chesak (Ap) 9,377.10 475,000 Rogaland Neutral
  Møre og Romsdal NO-15 Molde Ålesund Else-May Norderhus Jon Aasen (Ap) 14,355.62 270,000 Møre og Romsdal Nynorsk
  Nordland NO-18 Bodø Tom Cato Karlsen Kari Anne Bøkestad Andreassen (Sp) 38,154.62 239,000 Nordland Neutral
  Østfold NO-31 Sarpsborg Fredrikstad Valgerd Svarstad Haugland Sindre Martinsen-Evje (Ap) 4,180.7 299,647 Østfold Neutral
  Akershus NO-32 Oslo Bærum Valgerd Svarstad Haugland Thomas Sjøvold (H) 4,918.0 630,752 Akershus Neutral
  Buskerud NO-33 Drammen Valgerd Svarstad Haugland Tore Opdal Hansen (H) 14,908.0 284,955 Buskerud Neutral
  Innlandet NO-34 Hamar Ringsaker Knut Storberget Even Aleksander Hagen (Ap) 52,072.44 375,000 Hedmark
  Vestfold NO-39 Tønsberg Sandefjord Fred-Ivar Syrstad (acting) Anne Strømøy (H) 2,167.7 253,555 Vestfold Neutral
  Telemark NO-40 Skien Fred-Ivar Syrstad (acting) Sven Tore Løkslid (Ap) 15,298.16 175,546 Telemark Neutral
  Agder NO-42 Kristiansand Gina Lund Arne Thomassen (H) 16,434.12 299,000 Aust-Agder
  Vestland NO-46 Bergen Liv Signe Navarsete Jon Askeland (Sp) 33,870.99 632,000 Hordaland
Sogn og Fjordane
NO-50 Steinkjer Trondheim Frank Jenssen Tomas Iver Hallem (Sp) 42,201.59 465,000 Nord-Trøndelag
  Troms NO-55 Tromsø Elisabeth Aspaker Kristina Torbergsen (Ap) 26,189.43 168,340 Troms Neutral
  Finnmark NO-56 Vadsø Alta Elisabeth Aspaker Hans-Jacob Bønå (H) 48,637.43 75,540 Finnmark Neutral

Responsibilities and significance edit

Every county has two main organisations, both with underlying organisations.

  1. The county municipality (Fylkeskommune) has a county council (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.
  2. The county governor (Statsforvalteren) 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.

History edit

Fylke (1st period) edit

From the consolidation to a single kingdom, Norway was divided into a number of geographic regions that each 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 edit

Counties (folkland) under the Borgarting, located in Viken with the seat at Sarpsborg:[6]

Counties (first three fylke, last two bilandskap) under the Eidsivating, located in Oplandene with the seat at Eidsvoll:[6]

Counties under the Gulating, located in Vestlandet with the seat at Gulen:[7]

Counties under the Frostating, located in Trøndelag with the seat at Frosta:

Counties not attached to a thing:

Finnmark (including northern Troms), the Faroe Islands, the Orkney Islands, Shetland (the Shetland Islands), the Hebrides, the Isle of Man, Iceland and Greenland were Norwegian skattland ("taxed countries"), and did not belong to any known counties or assembly areas.

Syssel edit

Syssel in 1300 edit

From the end of the 12th century, Norway was divided into several syssel. The head of the 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.[8]

Len edit

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[9]–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.[10] The sub-regions corresponded to the church districts for the Lutheran church in Norway.

Len in 1536 edit

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.[citation needed]

Len in 1660 edit

From 1660 Norway had nine principal len comprising 17 subsidiary len:

Len written as län continues to be used as the administrative equivalent of county in Sweden to this day. Each len was governed by a lenman.[11]

Amt edit

With the royal decree of 19 February 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.[citation needed]

Amt in 1671 edit

After 1671 Norway was divided into four principal amt or stiftsamt and there were nine subordinate amt:

Amt in 1730 edit

From 1730 Norway had the following amt:

At this time there were also two counties (grevskap) controlled by actual counts, together forming what is now Vestfold county:

Amt in 1760 edit

In 1760 Norway had the following stiftamt and amt:[12]

Fylke (2nd period) edit

Counties of Norway between 1972 and 2018

From 1919 each amt was renamed a fylke (plural fylke(r)) (county) and the amtmann was now titled fylkesmann (county governor).

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 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.

In 2018, Sør-Trøndelag was merged with Nord-Trøndelag into the new county of Trøndelag, and several followed.

ISO-code County Admini­strative centre Area (km2) Pop. (2016) County after
1 January 2020
County after
1 January 2024
01   Østfold Sarpsborg 04,180.69 290,412   Viken   Østfold
02   Akershus Oslo 04,917.94 596,704   Akershus
06   Buskerud Drammen 14,910.94 278,028   Buskerud
03   Oslo City of Oslo 00.454.07 660,987   Oslo
04   Hedmark Hamar 27,397.76 195,443   Innlandet
05   Oppland Lillehammer 25,192.10 188,945
07   Vestfold Tønsberg 02,225.08 245,160   Vestfold og Telemark   Vestfold
08   Telemark Skien 15,296.34 172,527   Telemark
09   Aust-Agder Arendal 09,157.77 115,873   Agder
10   Vest-Agder Kristiansand 07,276.91 182,922
11   Rogaland Stavanger 09,375.97 470,907   Rogaland
12   Hordaland Bergen 15,438.06 517,601   Vestland
13 Not in use from 1972 onwards [a]
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 [b]
17 Not in use from 2018 onwards [b]
18   Nordland Bodø 38,482.39 241,948   Nordland
19   Troms Tromsø 25,862.91 164,613   Troms og Finnmark   Troms
20   Finnmark Vadsø 48,631.04 075,886   Finnmark
50   Trøndelag [b] Steinkjer[c] 41,254.29 450,496   Trøndelag
  1. ^ Formerly used for Bergen county, merged into Hordaland on 1 January 1972
  2. ^ a b c Formerly used for Nord-Trøndelag (#17) and Sør-Trøndelag (#16) counties, merged as Trøndelag on 1 January 2018
  3. ^ 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) edit

In 2017, the Norwegian government announced the merge of the existing 19 fylker into 11 new fylker by 2020. As a result, several government responsibilities were transferred to the new regions.[13]

New counties
  • Troms og Finnmark, by merging Finnmark and Troms counties in 2020. Disestablished in 2023, split into Finnmark and Troms counties.
  • Nordland, no change, same as Nordland county.
  • Trøndelag, by merging Nord-Trøndelag and Sør-Trøndelag counties in 2018.
  • 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 Telemark and Vestfold counties in 2020. Disestablished in 2023, split into Telemark and Vestfold counties.
  • Innlandet, by merging Hedmark and Oppland counties in 2020.
  • Viken, by merging Akershus, Buskerud, and Østfold counties in 2020. Disestablished in 2023, split into Akershus, Buskerud, and Østfold counties.
  • Oslo, no change, same as Oslo county.

See also edit

References edit

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ "Dette er Norges nye regioner". 21 February 2017. Archived from the original on 9 March 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Fylkesinndelingen fra 2024". 5 July 2022.
  3. ^ Lilleås, Heidi Schei (October 2019). "Monica Mæland om Viken-dramaet: Vil ikke spekulere". Nettavisen.
  4. ^ Lars Roede, "Viken og Innlandet: Amatørmessige logoer og uhistoriske navn", Aftenposten, 11 January 2020
  5. ^ Grønning, Trygve (2021-03-17). "Fylkesrådslederen om sammenslåingen: – Staten har påført oss dype sår". NRK (in Norwegian Bokmål). Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  6. ^ a b "Lagting og lagsogn frem til 1797". Borgarting lagmannsrett. Archived from the original on 2011-11-21.
  7. ^ "Frå lagting til allting". Gulatinget. Archived from the original on 2015-04-09.
  8. ^ Danielsen (et al.), 1991, p. 77
  9. ^ Christian III, king of Denmark-Norway, carried out the Protestant Reformation in Norway in 1536.
  10. ^ Kavli, Guthorm (1987). Norges festninger. Universitetsforlaget. ISBN 82-00-18430-7.
  11. ^ Jesperson, Leon, ed. (2000). A Revolution from Above? The Power State of 16th and 17th Century Scandinavia. Odense University Press. ISBN 87-7838-407-9.
  12. ^ Danielsen (et al.), 1991, p. 153
  13. ^ moderniseringsdepartementet, Kommunal- og (7 July 2017). "Regionreform". Archived from the original on 23 March 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.

Bibliography edit

  • Danielsen, Rolf; Dyrvik, Ståle; Grønlie, Tore; Helle, Knut; Hovland, Edgar (2007) [1991]. Grunntrekk i norsk historie (1 ed.). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. ISBN 978-82-00-21273-7.