The history of Sweden involves the division of the country into provinces. There are 25 provinces that exist for cultural, geographical and historical reasons but they do not have any administrative power. Generally provinces do not correspond to the counties except for some, such as Blekinge County and Gotland County. The borders of the provinces have been the same for centuries.
Many years ago Sweden was divided into four lands:
•Götaland (still part of Sweden)
•Svealand (still part of Sweden)
•Österland (now part of Finland)
•Norrland (now part of Sweden and Finland)
Today although these groups of land do not have any administrative power, they still may be referred to in cultural remembrance and colloquial language and they consist of:
•Götaland only became part of Sweden from the late Middle Ages according to Old Norse and Old English sources. It has much farm land and forests and this area of the country includes the two largest lakes and two largest national islands. This part of Sweden comprises of ten provinces in southern Sweden.
Provinces referred to in this part of the country are: Bohuslän, Blekinge, Dalsland, Gotland, Halland, Öland, Östergötland, Scania (Skåne), Småland and Västergötland.
•Svealand was the original Sweden according to Old Norse and Old English sources. Svealand comprises of six provinces located in middle parts of Sweden. The capital, Stockholm, is situated in the part referred to as Svealand.
The provinces in this area of the country are: Dalarna, Närke, Södermanland, Uppland, Värmland and Västmanland.
•Norrland is mainly rural and is home to about 12% of the Swedish population. It is by far colder than other parts of the country. It boasts being the site of the country’s highest mountain, Mount Kebnekaise located in northern Norrland. In this part of Sweden there is much wild habitat including forests. Norrland comprises of nine provinces in central and northern Sweden.
Most of the major rivers in Norrland have been utilised for water power to supply the main source of the country’s hydroelectric power.
Provinces in this part of Sweden that are referred to include: Ångermanland, Gästrikland, Hälsingland, Härjedalen, Jämtland, Lappland, Medelpad, Norrbotten and Västerbotten.
There are different levels of government in Sweden. The lower level local government are managed by the 290 municipalities. A municipality may cover a city or town and adjacent areas. The municipalities are responsible for many local matters such as schooling, public transport, healthcare, emergency and planning services. These local municipalities are organised into the 21 upper level government counties.
The counties are the administrative and political sub divisions of Sweden at first level. Although in bygone days Sweden was divided into provinces, to begin a more modern administration Count Axel Oxenstierna began the foundation of implementing counties in 1634. Throughout the years the boundaries of counties have merged or changed.
Among the government organisations of a county there is:
•County Administrative Board led by a governor. The board is selected by the government, in order for the board to manage administration in accordance with national political targets.
•County Council is basically a group discussing municipal matters.
Each county has a capital city and its own coat of arms. There is currently discussion in the Swedish government about merging the counties into larger ones, which may consequently result in there being about 6 or 9 national counties.
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