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Norway's elongated shape, its numerous internal geographical barriers, and the often widely dispersed and separated settlements are all factors that have strongly influenced the structure of the country's administrative subdivisions. This structure has varied over time and is subject to continuous review. 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.[1]

Formal subdivisions

There are three levels of political administration in Norway:

As the infrastructure for travel and communication has improved over the years, so the benefits of further consolidation have remained under review. The number of municipalities has decreased from 744 in the early 1960s to today's 442, and more mergers are planned. Similarly, the political responsibilities of the counties have decreased, and there was talk earlier of combining them into 5–9 regions by 2010. Although those specific plans did not come to fruition, a similar scheme is again under consideration in 2018.[3]

Within the government administration, there are a few exceptions to the county subdivisions:


Main article: Counties of Norway

County municipality

Main article: County municipality (Norway)

A geopolitical map of Counties in Norway, exhibiting its 11 first-order subnational divisions (fylker or "counties")
A geopolitical map of Counties in Norway, exhibiting its 11 first-order subnational divisions (fylker or "counties")

A county municipality (Norwegian: Fylkeskommune) is the public elected body that is responsible for certain public administrative and service tasks within a county. Each county is governed as a county municipality, with the exception of Oslo, which is both a municipality and a county municipality. The main responsibility of the county municipalities are upper secondary schools, dental care, public transport, county roads, culture, cultural heritage management, land use planning and business development.

The main body of each county municipality is the county council (fylkesting), elected by direct election by all legal residents every fourth year. The county councils typically have 30-50 members and meet about six times a year. They are divided into standing committees and an executive board (fylkesutvalg), that meet considerably more often. Both the council and executive board are led by the Chairman of the County Council or County Mayor (fylkesordfører).

The national government, formally the King, is represented in each county by a county governor (Norwegian: Fylkesmann). This office mainly functions as a supervising authority over the county and municipality administrations, and their decisions can be appealed to him.


Main article: Municipalities of Norway

Municipalities are the atomic unit of local government and are responsible for primary education (through 10th grade), outpatient health services, senior citizen services, some social services, zoning, economic development, and municipal roads. Law enforcement and church services are provided at a national level in Norway. The main body of each municipality is the municipality council (kommunestyre), elected by direct election by all legal residents every fourth year.


Three municipalities, Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger, are divided into boroughs. In Oslo and Stavanger, they elect their own political council.[citation needed] They are part of the municipal organization, but have a certain amount of influence in issues regarding health, education and naming.

Integral territories

Jan Mayen

Main article: Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Both Svalbard and Jan Mayen are "part of the Kingdom of Norway", although they are not allocated to a particular county and have not been declared as dependencies.[4] Svalbard and Jan Mayen is administered outside of the fylker system.


Main article: Dependencies of Norway

Norway has three dependent territories (Norwegian: biland), all uninhabited and located in the Southern Hemisphere. Bouvet Island is a Subantarctic island in the South Atlantic Ocean.[5] Queen Maud Land is a sector of Antarctica which spans between 20° west and 45° east.[6] Peter I Island is a volcanic island located 450 kilometres (280 mi) off the coast of Ellsworth Land of continental Antarctica.[7] Both Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land are south of 60°S and are thus part of the Antarctic Treaty System. While the treaty states that the claims are not affected by the treaty, only the other countries with claims recognize Norwegian sovereignty on the island.[8] The dependencies are administration by the Polar Affairs Department of the Ministry of Justice and the Police in Oslo.[9] Norwegian criminal law, private law and procedural law applies to the dependencies, in addition to other laws that explicitly state they are valid on the island.[10]

Informal subdivisions

Municipalities and counties of Norway
Municipalities and counties of Norway


Main article: Regions of Norway

Norway is generally divided into five regions (Norwegian: landsdel), which largely represent areas with a common language and culture: Northern Norway, Trøndelag, Western Norway, Southern Norway and Eastern Norway. Regions hold no official status in the government, but is used for organizing some public organizations, including the Norwegian Public Roads Administration and the regional health authorities. Central Norway is a region which consists of Trøndelag and Møre og Romsdal. Trøndelag and Northern Norway is collectively known as Nordenfjells. Sápmi is an area which spans into Sweden, Finland and Russia and is defined as the "homeland" of the Sami. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute uses different regions, corresponding to the weather patterns.

List of regions
Region Counties
Northern Norway Nordland, Troms og Finnmark
Trøndelag Trøndelag
Western Norway Møre og Romsdal, Vestland, Rogaland
Southern Norway Agder
Eastern Norway Oslo, Viken, Vestfold og Telemark, Innlandet


Main article: Districts of Norway

Districts (Norwegian: distrikt) represent an unofficial area organized by common language, culture or geographical barriers. Their boundaries are subjective and some areas may be regarded as belonging to multiple districts. Districts are larger than municipalities and smaller than counties, although some districts may span across county borders. Some districts form a hierarchy where a district can be subdivided into multiple lesser districts.

Settlements and rural areas

Statistics Norway uses the term "settlement" for any collection of at least 200 people who live close together. Outside of these there may be rural areas which have an unofficial border. Sometimes these are defined by school districts. Cities are often divided into boroughs, which may or may not have[clarification needed]


Regions in Norway before 2019
Regions in Norway before 2019

Municipal independence was established in 1838. The introduction of self-government in rural districts was a major political change. The Norwegian farm culture (bondekultur) that emerged came to serve as a symbol of national resistance to the forced union with Sweden. The legislation of 1837 gave both the towns and the rural areas the same institutions: a minor change for the town, but a major advance for the rural communities.

The composition and number of municipalities, their functions, and the existence and functions of the counties are being continuously debated. However, there are currently no plans for reform.

See also


  1. ^ "Dette er Norges nye regioner". Archived from the original on 9 March 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Kristiansund + Frei = Sant" (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 20 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-09.
  3. ^ Notwegian government website: Regionreform (in Norwegian)
  4. ^ Arlov, Thor B. (1994). A short history of Svalbard. Oslo: Norwegian Polar Institute. p. 68. ISBN 82-90307-55-1.
  5. ^ "Svalbard". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 11 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  6. ^ "Dronning Maud Land" (in Norwegian). Norwegian Polar Institute. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Peter I Øy". Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  8. ^ "The Antarctic Treaty". Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty. Archived from the original on 15 April 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  9. ^ "Polar Affairs Department". Norwegian Ministry of the Environment. Archived from the original on 8 August 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Lov om Bouvet-øya, Peter I's øy og Dronning Maud Land m.m. (bilandsloven)" (in Norwegian). Lovdata. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2011.