The provinces of Sweden (Swedish: Sveriges 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. Dialects and folklore rather follows the provincial borders than the borders of the counties.
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. Since 1884 all the provinces are also ceremonial duchies, but as such have no administrative or political functions.
The provinces of Sweden are still used in colloquial speech and cultural references, and can therefore not be regarded as an archaic concept. The main exception is Lapland where the population see themselves as a part of Västerbotten or Norrbotten, based on the counties. Two other exceptions are Stockholm and Gothenburg, where the population see themselves as living in the city, not in a province, since both cities have province borders through them.
English and other languages occasionally use Latin names as alternatives to the Swedish names. The name Scania for Skåne predominates in English. Some purely English exonyms, such as the Dales for Dalarna, East Gothland for Östergötland, Swedish Lapland for Lappland and West Bothnia for Västerbotten (and corresponding forms) are common in English literature. Swedes writing in English have long used Swedish-language name forms only.
The origins of the provincial divisions lay in the petty kingdoms that gradually became more and more subjected to the rule of the Kings of Sweden during the consolidation of Sweden. Until the country law of Magnus Ericson in 1350, each of these lands still had its own laws with its own assembly (the thing), and in effect governed themselves. The historical provinces were considered duchies, but newly conquered provinces added to the kingdom either received the status of a duchy or a county, depending on their individual importance.
After the separation from the Kalmar Union in 1523 the Kingdom incorporated only some of its new conquests as provinces. The most permanent acquisitions stemmed 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 for two or three centuries. Norway, in personal union with Sweden from 1814 to 1905, 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 to be recognized as a province in its own right. It was granted a coat of arms as late as in 1995.
Some scholars suggest that Sweden revived the province concept in the 19th century.
Historically, Sweden was seen as containing four "lands" (larger regions):
In the Viking age and earlier, Götaland and Svealand consisted of a number of petty kingdoms that were more or less independent; Götaland in the Iron Age and Middle Ages did not include Scania and other provinces in the far south which were part of Denmark. The leading tribe of Götaland in the Iron Age was the Geats; the main tribe of Svealand, according to Tacitus ca 100 AD, was the Suiones (or the "historical Swedes"). "Norrland" was the overall denomination for all of the unexplored northern parts, the outward boundaries of which and control by the Swedish king were weakly defined into the early modern age. Österland ("Eastern land"; the name had early gone out of use) in southern and central Finland formed an integral part of Sweden. In 1809 Finland was annexed by Russia, reunited with some frontier counties annexed several decades earlier to form the Grand Duchy of Finland, and becoming in 1917 the independent country of Finland.
The borders of these regions have changed several times throughout history, adapting to changes in national borders, and Norrland, Svealand and Götaland are only parts of Sweden and have never superseded the concept of the 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 were 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 coats of arms for Estonia, Livonia, Ingria, Narva, Pomerania, Bremen and Verden, as well as coat of arms for the German territories Kleve, Sponheim, Jülich, Ravensberg and Bayern.
Since most of the historical Swedish provinces did not have set coats of arms at the time of Gustav Vasa's death, they were promptly created and granted. However, some of the coats 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 coats of arms appearing below is thus different from 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 King in Council on January 18, 1884. This established that all Swedish provinces carry ducal crowns, while the Finnish provincial arms still discriminated between ducal and county status. A complication was that the representation of Finnish ducal and county coronets resembled 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 the individual lands or provinces.
Götaland (Gothia, Gothenland) 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.
Svealand (Swealand) consists of the following six provinces in middle Sweden. Until 1812 Värmland was a part of Götaland.
Norrland (Northland) consists today of nine provinces in northern and central Sweden. Until 1645 the provinces of Jämtland and Härjedalen were parts of Norway. Swedish Lapland was united with Finnish Lapland as Lapland until 1809. Norrbotten was separated from Västerbotten and developed as a province of its own during the 19th century.
Blekinge (Swedish pronunciation: [²bleːkɪŋɛ]) is one of the traditional provinces of Sweden (landskap), situated in the south of the country. It borders Småland, Scania and the Baltic Sea. It is the country's second-smallest province by area (only Öland is smaller), and the smallest province located on the mainland.
The name "Blekinge" comes from the adjective bleke, which corresponds to the nautical term for "dead calm".Gästrikland
Gästrikland is a historical province or landskap on the eastern coast of Sweden. It borders Uppland, Västmanland, Dalarna, Hälsingland and the Gulf of Bothnia. Gästrikland is the southernmost of the Norrland provinces.
Other used forms of the name is Gestricia, Gastrikland. Before 1900, the spelling was officially Gestrikland in Swedish.Halland
Halland is one of the traditional provinces of Sweden (landskap in Swedish), on the western coast of Sweden. It borders Västergötland, Småland, Scania and the sea of Kattegat. Until 1645 and the Second Treaty of Brömsebro, it was part of the Kingdom of Denmark.Hälsingland
Hälsingland (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈhɛlːsɪŋland] (listen)), sometimes referred to as Helsingia in English, is a historical province or landskap in central Sweden. It borders Gästrikland, Dalarna, Härjedalen, Medelpad and the Gulf of Bothnia. It is part of the land of Norrland.Härjedalen
Härjedalen (Swedish pronunciation: [²hærjɛˌdɑːlɛn] (listen); Norwegian: Herjådalen, Herjedalen) is a historical province or landskap in the centre of Sweden. It borders the country of Norway as well as the provinces of Dalarna, Hälsingland, Medelpad, and Jämtland. The province originally belonged to Norway, but was ceded to Sweden in the Treaty of Brömsebro, 1645.Lapland (Sweden)
Lappland, often anglicised as Lapland (Swedish: Lappland, Northern Sami: Sápmi, Finnish: Lappi, Latin: Lapponia), is a province in northernmost Sweden. It borders Jämtland, Ångermanland, Västerbotten, Norrbotten, Norway and Finland. Nearly a quarter of Sweden's land area is in Lappland.
Lappland originally extended eastward. However, in 1809 the Russian Empire annexed the eastern part of the Swedish realm, and created the Grand Duchy of Finland, which in effect split Lappland into a Swedish part and a Finnish part, both of which still exist today.Medelpad
Medelpad (Listen ) is a historical province or landskap in the north of Sweden. It borders Hälsingland, Härjedalen, Jämtland, Ångermanland and the Gulf of Bothnia.
The province is a part of Norrland and as such considered to be Northern Sweden, although the province geographically is located in the middle of Sweden. It is a common misconception that the name "Medelpad" ("middle land" or "middle ground") reflects this, but the name actually refers to the fact that most of the province lies between its two rivers Ljungan and Indalsälven.Norrbotten
Norrbotten (Swedish: [²nɔrːˌbɔtːɛn]), known in English as North Bothnia, is a Swedish province (landskap) in northernmost Sweden. It borders south to Västerbotten, west to Swedish Lapland, and east to Finland.Närke
Närke (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈnærkɛ] (listen)) is a Swedish traditional province, or landskap, situated in Svealand in south central Sweden. It is bordered by Västmanland to the north, Södermanland to the east, Östergötland to the southeast, Västergötland to the southwest, and Värmland to the northwest. Närke has a surface area of 4,126 km² and a total population of 208,376.Småland
Småland (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈsmoːland] (listen)) is a historical province (landskap) in southern Sweden.
Småland borders Blekinge, Scania (Swedish: Skåne), Halland, Västergötland, Östergötland and the island Öland in the Baltic Sea. The name Småland literally means Small Lands. The Latinized form Smolandia has been used in other languages. The highest point in Småland is Tomtabacken, at 377 metres (1,237 ft).Södermanland
Södermanland, sometimes referred to under its Latin form Sudermannia or Sudermania, is a historical province or landskap on the south eastern coast of Sweden. It borders Östergötland, Närke, Västmanland and Uppland. It is also bounded by lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea.
In Swedish, the province name is frequently shortened to Sörmland.
Södermanland means "Southern man land". It was used as a directional reference to lake Mälaren, compared to Uppland (north) and Västmanland (west). Prince Alexander of Sweden is Duke of Södermanland.Uppland
Uppland (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈɵpːland] (listen)) is a historical province or landskap on the eastern coast of Sweden, just north of Stockholm, the capital. It borders Södermanland, Västmanland and Gästrikland. It is also bounded by lake Mälaren and the Baltic sea. On the small uninhabited island of Märket in the Baltic, Uppland has a very short and unusually shaped land border with Åland, an autonomous province of Finland.
The name literally means up land, a name which is commonly encountered in especially older English literature as Upland. Its Latinised form, which is occasionally used, is Uplandia. Uppland is famous for having the highest concentration of Runestones in the world, with as many as 1,196 inscriptions in stone left by the Vikings.Västerbotten
Västerbotten (Swedish: [²vɛsːtɛrˌbɔtːɛn] (listen)), known in English as West Bothnia or Westrobothnia, is a province (landskap) in the north of Sweden, bordering Ångermanland, Lapland, North Bothnia, and the Gulf of Bothnia. It is known for the cheese named after the province.Västergötland
Västergötland (Swedish: [²vɛsːtɛrˌjøːtland] (listen)), also known as West Gothland or the Latinized version Westrogothia in older literature, is one of the 25 traditional non-administrative provinces of Sweden (landskap in Swedish), situated in the southwest of Sweden.
Västergötland is home to Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden, which is situated along a short stretch of the Kattegat strait. The province is bordered by Bohuslän, Dalsland, Värmland, Närke, Östergötland, Småland and Halland, as well as the two largest Swedish lakes Vänern and Vättern. Crown Princess Victoria is Duchess of Västergötland.Västmanland
Västmanland (Listen ) is a historical Swedish province, or landskap, in middle Sweden. It borders Södermanland, Närke, Värmland, Dalarna and Uppland.
The name comes from "West men", referring to the people west of Uppland, the core province of early Sweden.Ångermanland
Ångermanland is a historical province (landskap) in the northern part of Sweden. It is bordered (clockwise from the north) by Swedish Lapland, Västerbotten, the Gulf of Bothnia, Medelpad and Jämtland. Prince Nicolas of Sweden is Duke of Ångermanland.
The name is derived from the Old Norse anger, which means "deep fjord" and is a reference to the deep mouth of the Ångerman River (Ångermanälven). In earlier times the province was known, in medieval Latin, as Angermannia.Öland
Öland (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈøːland] (listen), known in Latin as Oelandia, and sometimes written Øland in other Scandinavian languages, and Oland internationally) is the second largest Swedish island and the smallest of the traditional provinces of Sweden. Öland has an area of 1,342 square kilometres (518 square miles) and is located in the Baltic Sea just off the coast of Småland. The island has 26,000 inhabitants. It is separated from the mainland by the Kalmar Strait and connected to it by the 6-kilometre (3.7 mi) Öland Bridge, which opened on 30 September 1972.Östergötland
Östergötland (Swedish pronunciation: [²œsːtɛrˌjøːtland] (listen); English exonym: East Gothland) is one of the traditional provinces of Sweden (landskap in Swedish) in the south of Sweden. It borders Småland, Västergötland, Närke, Södermanland and the Baltic Sea. In older English literature, one might also encounter the Latinized version, Ostrogothia. The corresponding administrative county, Östergötland County, covers the entire province and parts of neighbouring provinces.