Provinces of Sweden

Provinces of Sweden

The provinces of Sweden, "landskap", are historical, geographical and cultural regions. Sweden has 25 provinces and they have no administrative function, but remain historical legacies and the means of cultural identification.

Several of them were subdivisions of Sweden until 1634, when they were replaced by the counties of Sweden ("län"). Some were conquered later on from Denmark-Norway. Others like the provinces of Finland were lost. Lapland is the only province acquired through colonization.

In some cases, the administrative counties correspond almost exactly to the provinces, as is Blekinge to Blekinge County and Gotland, which is a province, county and a municipality. While not exactly corresponding with the province, Härjedalen Municipality is beside Gotland the only municipality named after a province. In other cases, they do not, which then enhances the cultural importance of the provinces. In addition, the administrative units are subject to continuous changes – several new counties were for instance created in the 1990s – while the provinces have had their historical borders outlined for centuries.

The provinces of Sweden are still used in colloquial speech and cultural references, while for example the provincial "Småländskt glasblåseri", referring to Småland glass-blowing manufactures, is an accepted formulation, the county counterpart "Kalmarskt glasblåseri" would be regarded as a misnomer. The provinces of Sweden can therefore not be regarded as an anachronistic concept. The main exception is Lapland where the population see themselves as a part of Västerbotten or Norrbotten, based on the counties.


*Dalarna ("Dalecarlia"*)
*Gotland ("Gotlandia"*)
*Närke ("Nerike"*)
*Skåne ("Scania"*)

* Latin forms used occasionally in the English and some other non-Swedish languages.


The origins of the provincial divisioning lays in the petty kingdoms that were gradually more and more submitted to the rule of the King of Sweden during the consolidation of Sweden. Until the country law of Magnus Ericson in the 1360s, each of these lands still had its own laws with its own assembly (the thing), and in effect governed themselves. The historical provinces were held as duchies, but newly conquered provinces added to the kingdom either received the status of a duchy or a county, depending on its importance.

Of the conquests made after the separation from the Kalmar Union in 1523 only some were incorporated as provinces. The most permanent acquisitions were from the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658, in which the former Danish Scanian lands – the provinces of Skåne, Blekinge, Halland and Gotland – along with the Norwegian Bohuslän, Jämtland and Härjedalen, became Swedish and gradually integrated. Other foreign territories were ruled as Swedish Dominions under the Swedish monarch, in some cases lasting for two or three centuries. Norway was in personal union with Sweden from 1814 to 1905, but never became an integral part of Sweden.

The division of Västerbotten that took place with the cession of Finland caused Norrbotten to emerge as a county, and eventually being recognized as a province in its own right. It was granted a coat of arms in 1995.

History provinces according to lands

Sweden was historically divided into the four lands:
* Götaland (Sweden)
* Svealand (Sweden, one province in Finland)
* Österland (Finland)
* Norrland (Sweden and Finland)

Götaland and Svealand consisted before c. 1000 AD of petty kingdoms: The main tribe of Götaland was the Geats; the main tribe of Svealand was the Suiones (or the "historical Swedes"). Norrland was the denomination for all the unexplored northern parts. Österland (the name had early come out of use) in Finland, was an integral part of Sweden, but was in 1809 annexed by Russia as the Grand Duchy of Finland, and since 1917 the independent country Finland. The borders of these regions have changed several times throughout history and Norrland, Svealand and Götaland are only "parts" of Sweden, a collective of provinces.


At the funeral of King Gustav Vasa (Gustav I) in 1560 some early versions of coats of arms for 23 of the provinces listed below were displayed together for the first time, most of them having been created for that particular occasion. Erik XIV of Sweden modeled the funeral processions for Gustav Vasa on the continental renaissance funerals of influential German dukes, who in turn may have styled their display of power on Charles V's funeral procession, where flags where used to represent each entry in the long list of titles of the dead. Having only three flags as a representation of the entities Svealand, Götaland and Wends mentioned in Vasa's title, "King of Sweden, the Goths and the Wends", would have been diminutive in comparison with the pompous displays of ducal power on the continent, so flags were promptly created to represent each of the provinces. At the funeral of Charles X Gustav more flags were added to the procession, namely the coat of arms for Estonia, Livonia, Ingria, Narva, Pommerania, Bremen and Verden, as well as coat of arms for the German cities Kleve, Sponheim, Jülich, Ravensburg and Bayern.

Since most of the historical Swedish provinces did not have set coat of arms at the time of Gustav Vasa's death, they were promptly created and granted. However, some of the coat of arms designed for the occasion were short-lived, such as the beaver picked to represent Medelpad, the wolverine in the coat of arms for Värmland and the rose adorned coat of arms for Småland. Östergötland was for the occasion represented by two coats of arms, one with a Västanstång dragon and one with a Östanstång lion. The current coat of arms for Östergötland, listed below, was created in 1884. The savage representing Lappland was not used in Vasa's procession, but was adopted as a coat of arms at the funeral procession of Charles IX in 1612, where the savage was initially black. The current coat of arms for Lappland, with a red, club-carrying man, was created in 1949. The list of coat of arms appearing below is thus different than the funeral procession flags, and consists of more recent inventions, many created during a period of romantic nationalism in the 19th century.

After the separation of Sweden and Finland the traditions for respective provincial arms diverged, most noticeably following an order by the Privy Council on January 18, 1884. This established that that all "Swedish" provinces carry ducal crowns, while the "Finnish" provincial arms still distinguished between ducal and county dignity. A complication was that the representation of Finnish ducal and county coronets resemble Swedish coronets of a lower order, namely county and baronial. The division of Lapland necessitated a distinction between the Swedish and the Finnish arms.

For more information, see Lands of Sweden or articles on respective land or province.


Götaland consists of ten historical provinces located in the southern part of Sweden. Until 1645 Gotland and Halland were parts of Denmark. Furthermore, until 1658 Blekinge and Scania were parts of Denmark and Bohuslän part of Norway.






Skåne ("Scania")






Svealand consists of the following six provinces:








Norrland consists today of nine provinces. Until 1645 the provinces of Jämtland and Härjedalen were parts of Norway. Swedish Lapland was united with Finnish Lapland as Lapland until 1809. Norrbotten developed as a province of its own during the 19th century










ee also

*Lists of unofficial regions by country
*Lands of Sweden
*Dominions of Sweden
*Historical provinces of Finland
*Counties of Sweden

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